Take a Diversion

Press Association motorcycling correspondent JANE OMOROGBE considers the latest offering from Yamaha.

Yamaha Diversion 2013

Press Association motorcycling correspondent JANE OMOROGBE considers the latest offering from Yamaha.

THE Diversion feels like an old friend. The faithful sort that knows just what you need, when you need it.

It doesn’t need to splash out on expensive technology or shout about how cool it is. There is no pretence, just honesty – and its integrity is what keeps the Diversion competitive in the middleweight market.

The original 1992 Diversion was on the dull side of practical and Yamaha was arguably taking a gamble in reusing the name as it had become synonymous with a worthy but tepid motorcycle. But the latter version, introduced in 2009 to replace the FZ6, gave a new, more positive meaning to the name.

I lived with an XJ6 Diversion F during 2010 and by the end of that year, I had learned that it is truly versatile with a very low seat, is more than capable of doing serious distance, has nimble handling that’s barely affected by over-packed panniers and the suspension is fine, albeit built to a budget.

Jumping back onto the still-low saddle is like catching up with an old pal, but time plays tricks on memories. It stretches them and glosses over the dull bits. So is the ‘Divvy’ really as good as I remember, especially when compared directly with the competition?

After only a few minutes I’m already mentally ticking boxes. It’s just what I expected, a smooth, reliable and constant power delivery that’s as user-friendly as a bottle of water. If the Divvy had arms it would wrap them around you in a protective, reassuring hug, loosening its hold as you gain experience and confidence. It’s the ideal novice bike.

Yamaha Diversion 2013As long as you’re not too tall, that is. The seat height is significantly lower than those of its nearest rivals and sits more on a par with smaller starter bikes like the Kawasaki Ninja 300. Obviously, that’s just fine if you’ve got short legs but otherwise prepare for your knees to rest higher than your hips as if you’re sinking into a deflating armchair. But that’s the only significant downside and it’s one that can be sorted with an aftermarket solution.

The footpeg vibrations tickle the soles of your feet even through heavy winter boots if you nail up the throttle in the first three gears, but show a little more consideration by changing up earlier and the buzzing disappears.

The Divvy looks trendy and modern without being overly fashion-conscious and has practical elements such as useful pillion grab rails that double as bungee hooks and a centre stand – which never proves a problem for ground clearance unless you’re riding on a track, or perhaps pretending that you are.

The dash is clear and uncomplicated, albeit lacking a gear indicator.

Essentially the Diversion is a very cleverly-planned compromise, especially compared with its close rivals, the Suzuki GSX650 and Kawasaki’s ER6-F ABS. The engine may churn out 7bhp less than the Suzuki, but then the Yamaha weighs 23kg less, so the difference in power in real terms is irrelevant.

In the real world, the Yamaha proves to be a zippy little thing. Its mirrors aren’t as stylish as the Kawasaki’s but they are far more effective and, although they’re exactly the same shape as the Suzuki’s, they don’t look anywhere near as dated thanks to the Diversion’s generally sharper design. But the real appeal is how the bike behaves. It has such an ease about it, whether you’re diving into bends at speed or pottering through a village.

Yamaha Diversion 2013The engine is versatile enough for lazy riders and yet it’s fizzy and excitable in the midrange and above. The handling is neutral and natural, slow-speed manoeuvres are totally effortless and flicking through bends feels spontaneous. The bike needs no persuasion to tip from one side to the other.

Although the Diversion’s engine delights in a sporty chase, the suspension clearly has its limitations. Its softness is cushioning and welcoming on our normal, badly-surfaced roads, but riding with a little more vigour is the only time the Divvy starts to feel like a budget bike. That said, my build may have put a little too much strain on the bike’s capabilities.

Other than the 785mm high seat, which is just too low for taller bikers, the Yamaha is a tidy, complete and competent middleweight motor. It’s the bike I’d naturally choose for scratching around town or commuting in traffic. It’s just so tractable and polite, switching lines at a moment’s notice, scrubbing off speed and doing the distance. It’s a proper little battler and is as likeable as ever.