First came the Aprilia RS 660, then the Yamaha R7 and now the CFMoto 450SR… is the small-to-middleweight sportsbike class on the cusp of a big revival?

You may not have heard, but it turns out that reports of the middleweight sportsbike’s death have been greatly exaggerated

After a long period of steady decline as rising prices, more demanding insurance premiums and unnecessary excess killed off the likes of the Yamaha R6, Triumph Daytona and Suzuki GSX-R600, the glimmers of a new dawn could be breaking on the horizon for the segment.

Spurred on by the launch of the brilliant new Aprilia RS 660, we’ve since seen the Yamaha R7 arrive as a more affordable, less intimidating alternative to the R.(I.P)6, while Kawasaki has recently added the Ninja 400 to join the 650 and CFMoto now offer a 450cc version of its SR sportsbike.

Indeed, with 1000cc-plus becoming pricier and more extreme by the generation, perhaps the time has come to accept that less might mean more this time around… at least on the sportsbike front.

Top 10 Middleweight Sportsbikes of 2023

10. Zero SR/S

PriceBatteryBHPTorqueWeightSeat HeightRange£23,99517.3kWh110bhp190Nm235kg787mm142 mls

While Energica may have pioneered the notion that electric and sportsbike can work in rapidly accelerating harmony, for now the Energica Ego sits at the more premium end of the fully-faired spectrum.

As such, it has been left to that other veritable ‘veteran’ electric two-wheel brand, Zero Motorcycles, to fulfil a rather less intimidating EV sportsbike brief with the Zero SR/S.

A sportier, more filled out take on the well-proven – albeit ageing – SR/F roadster, the Zero SR/S stands out from its sister model, though its bulky bodywork and dated finish around the headlights makes it appear dowdier than it really should.

Indeed, it’s not a great first impression, particularly if it comes before you learn it also wears a price tag of £23,995. Making it the most expensive model in this Top 10 by almost £10k, of course you’ll gather back the savings in low running costs. But with its most like-for-like rivals – such as the Honda CBR650R and Kawasaki Ninja 650 – coming in a full £16,000 cheaper than the Zero, you’d have to really love the environment to justify that canyon-sized margin.

9. KTM RC390

PriceEngineBHPTorqueWeightSeat HeightFuel Cap.£5,699373cc43bhp37Nm @7000rpm166kg824mm13 L

It may be doing the business in MotoGP right now but has been without a proper punchy sportsbike in its range since the demise of the quirky-turned-cult RC8 990cc V-twin superbike. However, KTM hasn’t entirely abandoned its racing credentials with the RC 390 (and smaller RC 125) offering learner legal thrills lower down the range.

Better still, a fresh second generation model is now on sale in the UK boasting tidied up looks – including colourways inspired by its MotoGP effort – and more generous kit levels. 

The modifications are less extensive under the skin, meaning a punchy 44bhp 375cc single can still be found in held in a dinky, slimline chassis. Formerly limited by its tiny, cramped ergonomics, the latest generation KTM RC390 is far less compromising, yet remains a slingshot faster than almost anything down tight and twisty B-roads. 

8. Honda CBR650R

PriceBatteryBHPTorqueWeightSeat HeightRange£8,499649cc94bhp63Nm @9500rpm208kg810mm15.4 L

If Honda’s affordable, four-cylinder middleweight sports offering reminds of the classic all-round brilliance of the CBR600F which proved so popular throughout the 1990s then that’s entirely deliberate. 

A more affordable, novice-friendly foil to the then full-on supersports CBR600RR, it was also to revive the spirit of the original CBR600F and succeeded due to its blend of practicality, sporting ability and affordability.

Further updates came in 2014 (to 650cc) and 2017 (extra power and other refinements) and in 2019 was renamed the Honda CBR650R gaining, like the CBR500R above, Fireblade mimicking styling. It’s been a big success, as well, partly due to the fact that it combined Honda’s engineering prowess with enough of the hallowed Fireblade blessing, added a four-cylinder engine and kept the price reasonable.

It won’t blow you away but it’s not for ambitious novices either – call it the Goldilocks of the Top 10 here.

7. Kawasaki Ninja 400

PriceEngineBHPTorqueWeightSeat HeightFuel Cap.£6,099399cc45bhp37Nm @8000rpm168kg785mm14 L

We may have said ‘sayonara’ to the ZX-6R in recent times, but Kawasaki is not abandoning its racing heritage as it prepares to introduce the Kawasaki ZX-4R four-pot screamer to its range later in the year.

Though it will almost certainly feature in this top ten at some stage, we’ll complete our due diligence and wait until it lands in our sticky hands for now and instead sate ourselves with its more mild mannered, yet also much. more affordable sibling, the Kawasaki Ninja 400.

Just as the athletic Ninja 650 was to the Extreme CrossFit that was the ZX-6R, the Ninja 400 is less intimidating and more refined to ride every day, with the 399cc engine making the most of its light weight and eager 45bhp to ensure brisk progress.

It’s well built and there is no mistaking those vibrant green hues, but at £6,099, the Kawasaki Ninja 400 is great value, making it the ideal choice for those looking to trade up from a 125 or 250cc.

6. CFMoto 450SR

PriceEngineBHPTorqueWeightSeat HeightFuel Cap.£6,199450cc50bhp39Nm @7600rpm168kg795mm14 L

CFMoto is the latest manufacturer to dip its toe into sportsbike waters with its latest addition being the 450SR, which joins the entry-level 300SR in the range.

Inspired by the rakish and striking CR-21 concept, the 450SR remains faithful(ish) to the prototype with its sharp, aggressive family face – one that will spread across next to the 800NK due soon – and a low-key handsomeness to its compact proportions.

Under the skin, the 450cc engine will max out at 50bhp, giving it a slight power edge over its closest rivals, the Honda CBR500R and Kawasaki Ninja 650, while it will undercut them in the showroom too at a reasonable £6,199. 

For that you get some surprisingly premium kit as standard, such as the Brembo brakes, a 5″ TFT dashboard and Bluetooth connectivity, while it is also available in A2 licence friendly configuration.

5. Yamaha R7

PriceEngineBHPTorqueWeightSeat HeightFuel Cap.£8,900689cc72bhp67Nm @6500rpm188kg835mm13 L

The Yamaha R6 is dead… long live the Yamaha R7?

Having initially resisted the purge sweeping across the supersport class that claimed its Suzuki and Triumph rivals, the axe finally came down on the brilliant but expensive R6 in 2020, Yamaha scaling it back to track-only RACE trim.

However, Yamaha’s rich ‘R’ sportsbike bloodline remains plentiful with the launch of the R7, which acts as its de facto replacement. In reality, they are only loosely related with the Yamaha R7 best described as a ‘warm’ sportsbike with its 682cc engine toning down the shrill with a modest but eager-to-please 72.3bhp, though it does a decent job of replicating its involving riding dynamics.

And anyway, if those performance figures – and the somewhat divisive design – do spark a welling up of misty-eyes, the Yamaha R7’s price tag of £8,200 – some £4k cheaper than the R6 – should dry those peepers pretty quickly.

4. Kawasaki Ninja 650

PriceEngineBHPTorqueWeightSeat HeightFuel Cap.£7,649649cc67bhp64Nm @6700rpm193kg790mm15 L

As a twin cylinder, novice-friendly, middleweight sportster, the Kawasaki Ninja 650 may not exactly boast headline-grabbing stats like those around it, but look a little closer and you’ll find a temptingly great value, warm-to-hot lively sportsbike.

Following the latest round of annual nip-and-tucks, the 2023 MY Kawasaki Ninja 650 has risen in price recently to nestle in at £7,649 but it remains a quality machine offering up plenty of fun from its 67bhp 649cc twin-cylinder engine, enough to ensure it lives up to its rich Ninja bloodline.

Thriving on keen revs, the Ninja 650 consolidates this with a well balanced chassis that – though not as honed as the ZX-6R – remains an entertaining accompaniment on the twisty stuff.

3. MV Agusta F3 800

PriceEngineBHPTorqueWeightSeat HeightFuel Cap.£14,840798cc147bhp88Nm @10,100rpm186kg830mm16.5 L

Poised, exotic, irresistible, the MV Agusta F3 800 represents the premium in mid-capacity sportsbikes, proving as elegant as it is raucous on the road and the track.

With the 675cc succeeded now by the larger, more powerful and altogether more suitable 798cc triple-cylinder engine, the F3 delivers a silky smooth 147bhp to outspent its rivals here and even keep up with the 1000cc big boys too.

Willed along by a welcome thrust of meaty torque, the MV Agusta F3 800 may not be as nimble and sure-footed as the less powerful, yet still riotously fun Aprilia RS 660, but if your deal is feeling special as well as thrilled, then the F3 800 wins hands down…. even at £14,840.

2. Honda CBR500R

PriceEngineBHPTorqueWeightSeat HeightFuel Cap.£6,599471cc47bhp43Nm @6500rpm192lg785mm17 L

Its engine may be packing 150cc less than the sister CBR650R but the sensibility and value of Honda’s fantastic 500 platform dressed as a mini-Fireblade means the Honda CBR500R would be our pick of the midi-sportsbikes from ‘Big Red’.

If anything, the two models occupy much of the same market space and from a distance are relatively hard to tell apart. However, while the CBR650R offers two more cylinders than its younger brother, the CBR500R is light and nimble enough to make the most of its twin-cylinder set-up.

Benefitting from being available to A2 licence holders, the CBR500R delivers the fun factor in droves and certainly looks the part, while the 47bhp engine is revvy and eager enough to encourage you to push on.

Better still, the fact it is £2,000 cheaper than its larger sibling makes CBR500R the no-brainer choice between the two in our eyes.

1. Aprilia RS 660

PriceEngineBHPTorqueWeightSeat HeightFuel Cap.£9,500659cc100bhp67Nm @8500rpm183kg820mm15 L

Few motorcycles have generated as much buzz as the Aprilia RS 660 in recent years, so when we finally got our chance to throw a leg over it at the official press launch, let’s just say there was hype… 

There are many reasons why the Aprilia RS 660 is potentially so pivotal. It doesn’t have a direct rival in that it steers away from the ZX-6R/R6 shrunken superbike for the road model, but with 100hp and weighing only 169kg it is more potent – and expensive – than a 650 Ninja/CBR650R.

The result is a model that deserves to stand in its own unique place and one that could well inspire other manufacturers to shuffle things closer to its low weight, responsive useable power and exceptional handling model, though Aprilia does raise the bar a little further by cramming in all manner of clever tech to make its RSV4 big brother proud.

There is a lot riding on the RS 660 – because it will spawn a whole family of models including a Tuono naked and Tuareg ADV – but Aprilia can be safe in the knowledge it has not only nailed this one, it might have just saved the entire class altogether!

*prices correct at the time of publication [April 2023]

 Top 10 Middleweight Sportsbikes of 2023 | Key Specifications and Technical Details Comparison

 Price f’mEngineBHPTorqueWeightSeat HeightFuel Cap10Zero SR/S£23,99517.3kWh110bhp190Nm235kg787mm142 mls9KTM RC390£5,699373cc43bhp37Nm @7000rpm166kg824mm13 L8Honds CBR650R£8,499649cc94bhp63Nm @9500rpm208kg810mm15.4 L7Kawasaki Ninja 400£6,099399cc45bhp37Nm @8000rpm168kg785mm14 L6CFMoto 450SR£6,199450cc50bhp39Nm @7600rpm168kg795mm14 L5Yamaha R7£8,900689cc72bhp67Nm @6500rpm188kg835mm13 L4Kawasaki Ninja 650£7,649649cc67bhp64Nm @6700rpm193kg790mm15 L3MV Agusta F3 800£14,840798cc147bhp88Nm @10,100rpm186kg830mm16.5 L2Honda CBR500R£6,599471cc47bhp43Nm @6500rpm192lg785mm17 L1Aprilia RS 660£9,500659cc100bhp67Nm @8500rpm183kg820mm15 L