I was also thinking of the Honda NC750X. It was the prime contender for me, but I‘m a 50 year old computer geek. So buying something that is the pinnacle of reliability and efficiency, but would probably be boring as Hell, wasn’t what I wanted to go for. A1 all-road commuter material, though.
My best friend has been riding his DR650 to work, and hardly ever did he hit any gravel. He's been loving it, just as I love my SV650S. If the dirt is packed and kinda even, with proper tires it should be just fine, but I have to say that if I had to choose a bike for dual-purpose, I'd go with a dual-purpose bike like the DR650. I have taken my heavy cruiser on dirt roads before, that were not maintained, with rocks, ruts and tree roots sticking out... it's fine when I only do a few miles, a few times a year when I go camping. If I were to do it daily, nah, I'd take a pass.
Okierider: go with your gut. The worst that will happen if you go with the SV, is that you won't love its handling in the dirt, and you'll go buy something else and keep the SV for highway riding, or sell it and make someone else happy. If you change the tires to 80/20 type, keep the old ones to toss them in if you end up selling the bike.
Took my first ‘long’ ride (140 miles) with my father on his VStrom yesterday. I had planned to avoid them, but I took a wrong turn at one point, and the choice was to backtrack, or take a dirt road for several miles. He wasn’t confident, but he’s got big block tires on the VStrom. And I wanted the experience… The SV was surprisingly composed on multiple surfaces! Only a little squirrely on loose gravel. Good on the dirt. Touchy on wet, slippery clay… But I was able to keep the speed at around 30-40mph and stay upright. Bottomed the forks twice on potholes I couldn’t avoid, though. Father said from behind that his bike felt the same as it did on pavement, owing to the tires, but he was surprised mine stayed pretty straight…
Had a good chuckle afterwards, though. 14 year old me would have flown over that road at 60+ on my old KZ400 or his Shadow 750! Ah, to be 140 lbs and have reflexes again! 😄