PCP Heroes Shootout, Versys 650 vs Scrambler vs MT-07 !

Reach into the pocket where you keep your spare change. Have a rummage – steady now – and see what you can muster. Let’s call it £3.50. What can you get with that? A fancy coffee? A lunchtime meal deal? Or a brand-new 2015 motorcycle like Versys 650, Scrambler or even MT-07 ?

Put that pittance aside each day and it’s £100 a month. For dozens of new bikes, that’s the monthly payment on a Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) finance deal. Now, we’re not daft enough to ignore the initial deposit, or the optional balloon payments after three years, and PCP isn’t right for everybody. But instead of traditional finance more and more riders are using PCP, borrowing just a fraction of a bike’s value, and making some great machines – like the adaptable Kawasaki Versys 650, striking Ducati Scrambler and last year’s Bike of the Year, the Yamaha MT-07 – surprisingly affordable. So then. Lukewarm bean water in a paper cup, or one of these in your garage?

Kawasaki Versys 650

With a Ducati Scrambler to one side and Yamaha’s MT-07 to the other, Kawasaki’s Versys 650 looks like it might be lacking something. The MT is immediately a riot to ride; the Scrambler’s appeal so obvious it barely needs the ignition key. But dig a little deeper and it’s clear the Versys doesn’t come up short at all.

Quite the contrary. After the other two bikes, the Versys feels massively more substantial. Its riding position is taller, grander, and far more welcoming. It’s the only one that makes a 6ft rider feel well accommodated. The seat, for example, is the broadest and plushest. And its height advantage – two inches above the Scrambler’s saddle – also adds welcome legroom between bum and footpegs.

Bars are wide, like the Ducati’s, but the rest of the Versys does so much more to protect the rider. The tank comes up higher and flares out giving knees somewhere to shelter. And when the adjustable screen is wound up to full height, it deflects wind so effectively you can even wave your hand in front of your visor and find nothing but a pocket of still air.

All of this makes Kawasaki’s Versys far less tiring to ride than the other two bikes. Taking advantage of that trait is a petrol tank that’s 50% bigger than the others. The 21-litre capacity means 200 miles between fill-ups is virtually guaranteed. Other improvements for 2015 make it a solid touring choice too. The engine is now rubber mounted at both the front and rear sides, cutting down how much tingly vibration from the 180° parallel twin reaches the rider.

The list of tricks in the Versys’s back pocket keeps coming. It’s the only bike here with a reasonable amount of room for a pillion, and the only one with a remote preload adjuster on the shock to let you tailor it for two. Near-invisible slots on the grabrails are ready to take a pair of solid plastic panniers – and if that’s not enough storage, a top box is an option too. It’s almost as if this bike has been built to be ridden places. Fancy that.

In fact, if that sounds good, then there’s even a Grand Tourer version. This adds the full three-piece luggage set, handguards, spotlights, a gear indicator and a 12V socket. It brings the price up to £8135, but that’s still only a few quid more than the Scrambler Urban Enduro – and the Versys packs a far more useful-looking list of bolt-on bits. But don’t let all this practical praise fool you into thinking the Versys is a cut-price straight-line tourer or bland, worthy commuter. The Versys has – no, really – a properly entertaining side. It might be carrying the most timber of this trio, but at 216kg it’s still relatively light. Its high centre of gravity helps it flick sharply into turns too, with no shortage of ground clearance. There’s no lack of steering precision either, thanks to its 17in sports-touring tyres.

The motor is probably the element of the Versys that makes the least fuss. Kawasaki reckon they have rewarded the ER-6-based 649cc twin with an extra 5bhp this year, but I’d be surprised if many made it any further than the brochure. It’s the least impressive motor here, with neither the Scrambler’s thumping gravitas nor the MT’s firepower. What the Versys does offer, at least, is an even flexibility from tickover to the 10.000 RPM redline. Gearing is pleasantly short too, helping it pull through the revs while rarely feeling laboured or overwhelmed.

Genuine faults are minimal, though the one that stands out is the lack of a centrestand. There’s no use looking in the Kawasaki catalogue either – it’s missing there too. In its defence, neither the Scrambler nor MT have one, but it’s more of an omission for the Versys given its obvious daily and/or distance intentions.

In this company the Versys may be short on raw appeal. It’s clearly the least characterful, but its more purposeful and more adaptable remit is just as valid as either of the other two bikes. After a day’s testing on all three machines, when all I want to do is get home as easily and as quickly as possible, there’s barely a moment’s hesitation before stepping towards the Versys.

Kawasaki Versys 650 Specs

Engine : Four stroke, Parallel Twin, DOHC 8-Valve, Liquid Cooled
Capacity : 649 cc
Bore x Stroke : 83 X 60 mm
Compression Ratio : 10,6 : 1
Induction : Fuel Injection
Max Power : 51 kW / 69 HP @ 8.500 RPM
Max Torque : 64 N.m @ 7.000 RPM
Transmission / Drive : 6-Speed / Chain

Frame : Steel Diamond
Front Suspension : 41mm Upside Down Forks, Adjustable Preload and Rebound
Rear Suspension : Monoshock, Adjustable Preload
Front Brakes : 2 x 300 mm Disc, 2-Pot Calipers
Rear Brakes : Single 220 mm Disc, 1-Pot Caliper
Front Tyre : 120/70 - ZR17
Rear Tyre : 160/60 - ZR17

Wheel base : 1.415 mm
Seat Height : 840 mm
Wet Weight : 216 Kg
Fuel Capacity : 21 Litres / 5.5 gal
Economy : 44 mpg / 250 miles
Top Speed : 123,11 mph

Ducati Scrambler Urban Enduro

Behold the most polarising bike of 2015. Judging by the reaction from some riders Ducati’s Scrambler is either a bang-on-trend, whistful nod to the innocent days of uncorrupted, air-cooled simplicity, or it’s a cynical, artificial, style-over-substance cash cow.

But whichever side you fall on, a ride on the Ducati Scrambler is guaranteed to nudge you away from your expectations. Anticipate it to be gutless, and you’ll discover how much harder it grunts from tickover than the Kawasaki Versys 650. Reckon it’ll be outgunned by Yamaha’s rorty MT-07 and you’ll be staggered to find the two bikes share identical power and torque figures. Yet the biggest surprise of all comes from following a Scrambler through town. Folk can’t help but turn their heads. Kids. Mums and dads. Old folk. Everyone. Normal people stop and stare, point, whisper, walk up to it in the street. Following the Scrambler on either of the other bikes, you can’t help but feel a pang of jealousy. You might as well be invisible.

Some of the extra attention might be because this is the Urban Enduro version. It gets faux-military green paint, engine bash plate, high front mudguard, fork protectors, spoked wheels, handlebar brace, mesh-style headlight protector – and that crucial custom-bike must-have, the brown seat. Ribbed for your pleasure. "Urban Enduro" is, surely, an intentional contradiction, unless they expect you to start going straight over roundabouts, feet-up through sponsored flowerbeds. But it’s a handsome thing, standing out from dull streets with obvious, rugged character. No wonder non-motorcyclists are intrigued.

Look past the impressive aesthetics, however, and the Scrambler’s dynamic is more of a mixed bag. The riding position sits you confidently in control, with a low seat height and tall, wide bars reached over a long, thin, surprisingly low petrol tank. It’s a riding position designed for tame town speeds. Here it works brilliantly – both feet reach the floor with ease, the upright stance avoids neck-ache, and the bike feels like it must be light simply because you can see so little of it from onboard.

But pick the speed up and that open, expanded position becomes hard work. Holding speed on an open A-road is quickly tiring. By motorway speeds you become a full-on mainsail, dragging and flapping into the headwind rather than slipping through it. The wide bars do at least mean the low-speed agility is retained, giving easy steering, the Scrambler rolling into turns with a sense that its centre of gravity is somewhere down level with the footpegs.

The sole, four-piston front brake is fine, but the suspension is downright disappointing. The lack of adjustment on the forks and shock suggests it may be budget, but the ride quality is what tells you it’s truly cheap. Bumps that the Versys soaks up and the MT-07 cheerily bounces across are simply crashed straight through by the Scrambler, the impact passed directly to the rider.

At least the motor’s pulses are far more pleasing. There’s a lovely throbby feel from the familiar, 803cc two-valve V-twin. Power is concentrated up to 6000rpm, losing interest quickly thereafter. The clutch is light, though the gearbox could be slicker – there are false neutrals hiding, especially between fifth and sixth. Elsewhere, there’s plenty to like about the Scrambler. One pleasing detail is the way the single throttle cable and brake line arc deliberately from the right twistgrip up, round and over the clock, down behind the headlight. The clock unit itself is neat and modest, a small offset circle, yet its simple shape holds a modern LCD display. And the headlight, another apparently simple roundel, actually holds four white LED strips around its circumference. There’s even more smart modernity under the seat, where a USB charging socket lies waiting to save the day when you forget your phone charger.

Approach the Scrambler thinking it’ll cover distance like a Versys, or handle with the flair of an MT-07, and you’ll leave convinced there’s too much pose and not enough poise. But expect it to be a genuinely easy-going bike to be enjoyed and appreciated in other ways, and you, the Scrambler, and the countless sets of admiring eyes will all get along just fine.

Ducati Scrambler Urban Enduro Specs

Engine : Four stroke, 90° L-Twin, Desmodromic 4-Valve, Air Cooled
Capacity : 803 cc
Bore x Stroke : 88 x 66 mm
Compression Ratio : 11 : 1
Induction : Fuel Injection
Max Power : 55 kW / 74.8 HP @ 8.250 RPM
Max Torque : 68 N.m @ 5.750 RPM
Transmission / Drive : 6-Speed / Chain

Frame : Steel Trellis
Front Suspension : 41mm Upside Down Forks
Rear Suspension : Monoshock, Adjustable Preload
Front Brakes : Single 330 mm Disc, 4-Pot Caliper
Rear Brakes : Single 245 mm Disc, 1-Pot Caliper
Front Tyre : 110/90 - ZR18
Rear Tyre : 180/55 - ZR17

Wheel base : 1.445 mm
Seat Height : 790 mm
Wet Weight : 192 Kg
Fuel Capacity : 13,5 Litres / 3.57 gal
Economy : 49 mpg / 145 miles
Top Speed : 123 mph

Yamaha MT-07

It says a phenomenal amount about the MT-07 that, when it first landed last year, riders started discussing it in the same breath as Triumph’s sensational Street Triple. On paper the Yamaha should have been a closer match for more modest middleweights such as Kawasaki’s ER-6n and Suzuki’s Gladius. But on raw fun factor alone, the MT proudly squared up to a machine that totally overshadowed it on power and, more importantly, price.

But that’s a credit to how the MT-07 makes you feel. It’s a small, light, potent bundle of energy ready to be unleashed whenever and wherever. And most of that magic lies in the peppy 689cc parallel twin. Its pistons fire 270 degrees apart, which means that while it’s closer in design to the Versys’s engine, it’s nearer in feel and sound to the Scrambler’s V-twin.

That said, the Yamaha’s centrepiece clearly feels a lot more modern than the Ducati’s. The MT-07 gains and sheds revs far faster, feels smoother and even uses less petrol while it’s doing it. The resulting surge of drive is not to be taken lightly. Open the Yamaha’s throttle hard in first gear and speed is gathered so instantly that the rear half of the bike just shifts the front wheel clean out of its way.

Crucially, this endlessly addictive punch gets all the engine basics too: high-fidelity fuelling at low revs and small throttle openings is hiccup-free; at motorway speeds it feels calm, even and vibe-free; and the power deliver blends both bottom-end stomp and high-revving excitement to keep all kinds of riders happy. The rest of the bike is just as new as the engine, though in places it doesn’t feel quite so advanced. The glamourless steel frame is largely hidden away, with plastic covers between seat and footpeg masquerading as solid swingarm sideplates. Suspension is about as basic as it gets with right-way-up damper-rod forks and a simple rear shock adjustable for preload only. The ride quality is the softest here – more forgiving than the harsh Ducati, but with less damping and a little more recovery time required than the Versys.

While there’s little flashy about the chassis components, their sum total works brilliantly. The shortest wheelbase here, the least trail and the lightest all-up weight conspire to make the MT-07 delightfully quick-steering. It darts from side to side with utter glee, cheerfully overcoming any potential effects of its surprisingly wide 180-section rear tyre. Of the three bikes here the MT feels the most confident in corners, helped by the fact the whole bike is very compact. The bars are almost too narrow, and the bike is so slim in the middle your ankles feel like they could almost touch in places.

The bike’s modest proportions are made to feel subliminally smaller than they really are by the fiddly, tiny, rinky-dink switchgear. There aren’t many irritations on an MT-07 but these are right up there. An ugly excess of thread hanging out the back of the chain adjusters is another, and the stubbornly small 14-litre petrol tank a third.

At least there are plenty of positive distractions, such as the impressive all-digital dash unit. It’s the most comprehensive set of clocks here, combining the most sophisticated appearance with the most complete spread of information, including both a fuel gauge and a gear indicator.

The clocks are a sharp reminder that, for all its focus on fun and games, the MT shouldn’t be written off as a plaything. It would excel as a cross-town commuter too. While the Scrambler has the urban image (and, in this case, the name), the Yamaha is easier to ride in traffic. Gearchanges are smoother, the engine pickup more predictable, and the lack of width makes it easier to filter.

It is telling that Yamaha are in the process of expanding the MT-07 platform with new bikes to rival both the Scrambler and Versys more directly. They’ve just unveiled the retro-styled XSR700, and have recently been caught testing a half-faired Tracerstyle model version too. As it is, the MT-07 is a game-changing, standard-defining machine, and one of the most compelling new bike bargains available today. If that same success is going to be applied to even more bikes, it’s very promising indeed.

Yamaha MT-07 Specs

Engine : Four stroke, Parallel twin cylinder, DOHC 8-Valve, Liquid Cooled
Capacity : 689 cc
Bore x Stroke : 80 x 68.6 mm
Compression Ratio : 11.5: 1
Induction : Fuel injection,
Max Power : 55 kW / 74.8 HP @ 9.000 RPM
Max Torque : 68 N.m @ 6.500 RPM
Transmission / Drive : 6-Speed / Chain

Frame : Steel Diamond
Front Suspension : 41mm Telescopic Forks
Rear Suspension : Monoshock, Adjustable Preload
Front Brakes : 2 x 282 mm Discs 4-Pot Calipers
Rear Brakes : Single 245 mm Disc 1-Pot Caliper
Front Tyre : 120/70 ZR 17M/C(58W) (Tubeless)
Rear Tyre : 180/55 ZR 17M/C(73W) (Tubeless)

Wheel base : 1.400 mm
Seat Height : 805 mm
Wet Weight : 182 Kg
Oil Capacity 3.0 Litres
Fuel Capacity : 14 Litres / 3.7 gal
Economy : 55 mpg / 170 miles
Top Speed : 134.85mph


This isn’t the kind of comparison where one bike can really "win". These three machines are made for different reasons, and so bought by different riders with different intentions. Instead, what ties them together is the enormous variety and quality of new bikes available for less than £100 a month.

Kawasaki’s Versys 650 will be the most overlooked, despite also being the most capable. Flexible, frugal, agile and comfortable, it genuinely puts several bigger, more expensive all-rounders to shame. It’s a great all-rounder, yet crucially still fun.

You couldn’t ride half as far on the Ducati Scrambler, but you’d be twice as popular when you arrived. Few bikes have an appeal that spreads beyond other motorcyclists, and the pride of ownership this generates is immeasurable. However, it’s Yamaha’s MT-07 that continues to truly standout, and demonstrate why it was achieve the 2014 Bike Of The Year. It’s rewritten middleweight expectations and, with other variants to come, will continue to do so.

The verdict ? Truly brilliant new bikes really are more affordable than ever before.


Kawasaki Versys 650 : £6885

Yamaha MT-07 : £5885 OTR (£7411 as tested)

Ducati Scrambler Enduro : £8131

Typical Finance (base model bikes)

Kawasaki Versys 650 with K-Options PCP: £1200 dep, 36 months £98.26, final cost £2777 – total £7514.36

Yamaha MT-07 With MiYamaha PCP: £1177 dep, 36 month £95.58, final cost £2348 – total £6965.88

Ducati Scrambler Enduro with Ducati TriOptions PCP: £1623.30 dep, 36 months £99, final cost £4199 – total £9564.30