There's a time-honoured recipe for a middleweight all-rounder: take a previous-generation Supersports engine (suitably detuned), put it in an easy-to-make tubular frame with bargain-basement, bought-in brakes and suspension and voila! - a 600cc commuter and weekend playtoy with enough voomah to scare most born-agains at practically no development cost.
But sometimes the whole is more than the sum of its parts, as with the Yamaha FZ6R. The basics are just that - basic. The engine is a castrated version of the previous-generation R6 that pushes out a claimed 48.6kW at 9800 rpm - compared to the R6's 92kW at 13 000rpm - and 60Nm at a user-friendly 8200 rather than 68.8 at 11 500.
The frame is tubular mild steel, the brakes straight out of the 1970's and the only adjustment on the (pretty firm) suspension is rear pre-load but the frame geometry is as good as on the Triple Tuning Fork brand's top sport bikes, the ergonomics superb and the styling anything but pedestrian.
The result is a sweet-handling little bike with character, a seating position as relaxed as its power delivery and even a full fairing, for only R78 000 - nearly 30 grand less than an R6.
Please note that this is not the high-tech, Eurocentric FZ600 Fazer but an altogether different bike (albeit with a downtuned version of the same engine) aimed specifically at the North American market.
One look as the bike comes towards you will give away its transatlantic heritage: both front indicators stay on all the time as running lights but inside each housing there's a brake-light bulb rather than a single-filament light so it flashes even brighter to indicate a turn - very eye-catching (as I'm sure it's meant to be) and very American.
Initially I was ambivalent about the test bike's colour scheme - who wants to be seen on a pearl white street-bike with pink and grey graphics? - but the graphics neat and restrained and the finish way better than I expected from a budget bike.
It's certainly different and it grew on me.
There's no clear-coat over the graphics and the lower fairing panels are paper-thin but that's a Yamaha thing - the range-topping R1 is the same at more than double the price.
The 599cc transverse four runs smoothly right up to the limiter at 12 500rpm with no discernable power band - although the bike's acceleration is more authoritative with more than 7000rpm on the big analogue rev-counter.
The FZ6R ran quickly up to 170km/h and topped out at a true 198km/h with 11 300 showing on the rev-counter and 209km/h on the digital speedo - 5.2 percent out.
It was also rock steady at full chat and the steep little windscreen provided good protection - a trick sports-bike designers are learning from the big off-roaders.
More importantly, the four 32mm Mikuni throttle bodies are set up for smooth response at low revs, making this one of the few fuel-injected fours that's easy to ride at low speed in heavy traffic - and the bike returned a creditable 5.9 litres/100km over a weeks' commuting and a flat-out morning of performance tests and general hooning.
The classic R-series, vertically stacked gearbox is as notchy as that of its parent bike at low revs, but much better when the cogs are spinning freely, and the chain final drive has less lash than the current R6.
The brakes are real bargain-bin stuff - twin-piston Akebono floating callipers in front and a single-piston Nissin on the back. There's not a lot of initial bite and performance testing provoked some fade but they work well for commuting and the occasional foray into the twisties.
The FZ6R is set up for fairly conservative handling and turns in a little slower than I would expect given its compact 1440mm wheelbase. That, however, will probably be welcomed by the born-agains and weekend warriors at whom this bike is aimed - and the bikes settles down nicely once leaned in, with no wallowing on long bends.
It's also superbly comfortable; what looks like fairly radical ergonomics turns out to be a very relaxed, slightly forward-leaning seating position with a wide, deeply padded saddle and reasonable accommodation for an adult pillion that includes decent grab handles.
Or you could just bungee a rucksack on to the grab-rail and take off for a week or two - the FZ6R is that comfortable. Oh, and those neat mirrors on unusually tall stems work superbly.
It may be a budget bike with non-adjustable suspension and sturdy tubular-steel where the Hot Stuff has vacuum-cast alloy but, unless you're addicted to track days, this may be all the 600 you'll ever want.
Price: R78 000
Bore x stroke: 65.5 x 44.5mm.
Compression ratio: 12.2:1.
Valvegear: DOHC with four overhead valves per cylinder.
Power: 48.6kW at 9800rpm.
Torque: 60Nm at 8200.
Induction:Mikuni electronic fuel-injection with four 32mm throttle bodies.
Ignition: Digital electronic.
Clutch: Cable-operated multiplate wet clutch.
Transmission: Six-speed constant-mesh gearbox with final drive by chain.
Front: 41mm Soqi conventional cartridge forks.
Rear: Soqi monoshock adjustable for preload.
Front: Dual 298mm discs with Akebono twin-piston floating callipers.
Rear: 245mm disc with Nissin single-piston floating calliper.
Front: 120/70 - 17 tubeless.
Rear: 160/60 - 17 tubeless.
Seat height: 785mm.
Wet weight: 212kg.
17.3 litres, 6.1 litres/100km (measured).
Two years unlimited distance warranty.
Kawasaki ER-6f - R69 995
Honda CB600F - R83 999
Bike from: Linex Yamaha, Cape Town.