In the Indian two wheeler market, the segment which has shown the most rapid growth in recent times is the middleweight sportsbike category. The segment, which was limited to only a couple of motorcycles a year or two before, is now filled with motorcycles ranging from naked roadsters to cruisers.
But we Indians have a thing for full fairings, which makes the faired sportsbikes the hot favorites among all the sportsbikes available in the middleweight segment. It is the reason why every other manufacturer wants to have its own share of success in this very segment. Only till last year, the segment was limited to only two bikes in the Indian market, Kawasaki Ninja 650 and Hyosung GT 650R. Both these motorcycles had their own stints of success in the recent past, which thus have made them recognizable names in the Indian two wheeler market.
But now, the segment has seen the arrival of more contemporary motorcycles in the form of Benelli TNT 600 GT and Honda CBR 650F. Unlike the previously available motorcycles in this space, both these new entrants offer a very new experience with fresher designs and more importantly, more refined and powerful four cylinder engines. With the game spicing up like never before, let’s have a look on all these four middle weight sportsbikes, and based on their distinctive credentials, let’s find out which motorcycle gains the top spot among the four.
Being the newest motorcycle on the block, the Honda CBR 650F offers you the freshest design of the lot. The sharp creases and bulbous stance gives it the proper big bike feel, but it lacks the furiousness usually associated with the CBR family of supersports. It is a toned down sports tourer with the CBR prefix, but nevertheless, it looks smart and premium from which ever angle you look at it. The CBR 650F is the only motorcycle here, which comes with a uniquely laid out two part fully digital instrument console. It also comes with Honda’s trademark security system, which is usually present only in Honda’s flagship superbikes. Being a Honda, it is safe to expect high quality fit and finish on the CBR 650F.
Like the CBR 650F, the Kawasaki Ninja 650 too is a toned down sports tourer with the ‘Ninja’ suffix, which is usually given to the bikes with razor sharp looks and performance. The Ninja 650 is the only bike in this comparison to come with dual headlamps on its front fairing. It also comes with a minimalist looking part digital instrument console, though we would have liked the fully digital instrument console which was present on the erstwhile Ninja 650R. All the Kawasakis, ranging from the small Z250 to the mammoth Ninja ZX-14R offer high levels of fit and finish, and thankfully, the Ninja 650 doesn’t disappoint on that front.
The Benelli TNT 600 GT holds the distinction of the only motorcycle here, which comes with a half fairing instead of a full fairing. Nevertheless, it looks smart and has an unconventional air to it. The high mounted headlamp with the projector unit as well as fuel tank, along with the minimal side body panels, gives it a profile of the combination of a sport tourer and an adventure motorcycle. The part digital instrument console on the TNT 600 GT is pretty informative, but looks a bit dated. The motorcycle does not feel as plush as the aforementioned Japanese duo, but nevertheless, feels premium enough for a motorcycle of this class.
The Hyosung GT 650R is the oldest motorcycle in the comparison, which is the reason why it is beginning to show its age. Though the company has repeatedly tweaked the design of the motorcycle as well as refreshed it with new body colors, but the fact that the original design has remained unchanged all these years, makes a dent in its overall appeal. Nevertheless, the bike looks purposeful with its big bike like feel. The part digital instrument console of the GT 650R too looks seriously outdated.
While the CBR 650F and TNT 600 GT come with a single piece seat, the Ninja 650 and GT 650R offer you split seats as standard. Also, the CBR 650F and GT 650R come equipped with split handlebars, but the Ninja 650 and TNT 600 GT come with a single piece handlebar. The projector headlamp is present on the TNT 600 GT and GT 650R, but not on the more sophisticated ones, CBR 650F and Ninja 650. The GT 650R is the only motorcycle here in the comparison which doesn’t come with an underbelly exhaust.
Powering the Ninja 650F is a four stroke, inline four, liquid cooled, 649cc motor, which dismisses the claim of the TNT 600 GT of being the only four cylinder middleweight sports tourer in the Indian two wheeler market. This Honda engine is accomplished enough to squeeze out 87 PS of power and 63 Nm of torque, which makes it the most powerful engine in the comparison. Also, given the fact that it is a Honda, it can be safely said that this engine scores highest when it comes to refinement and build quality.
Refinement and build quality are the two traits which can be attached to the engine of Kawasaki Ninja 650 as well. The engine, though missing out on two cylinders when compared to that of the CBR 650F, still sounds smooth and refined even at higher revs, but then, this is now the least powerful motorcycle in the middleweight sport tourer category. This four stroke, parallel twin, liquid cooled, 649cc engine puts out 72.1 PS of power and 64 Nm of torque.
The Benelli TNT 600 GT has the smallest engine in this comparison, but its power output makes it withstand its competition. The four stroke, inline four, liquid cooled, 600cc motor of this motorcycle makes 85 PS of power and 54.6 Nm of torque. Though it lacks the extreme refinement of the Honda and Kawasaki mills, but it makes up for it through the intoxicating exhaust note, which is simply the best in this company.
The Hyosung GT 650R was one of the very first motorcycles to give the Indians the joy of riding a twin cylinder middleweight motorcycle. The four stroke, V-twin, water cooled, 647cc produces 74 PS of power and 61 Nm of torque. The motorcycle feels properly fast on all conditions, but the power delivery is non-uniform, which the newer riders would take some time to get used to. The refinement levels are not on par with those of the Kawasaki and Honda, but nevertheless, feel under composure and control.
The engines on all these four motorcycles come mated to a 6-speed gearbox with the universal shifting pattern of 1-down and 5-up. Out of all these motorcycles, it is the gearbox of the Ninja 650 which can be said as the smoothest gearshift experience.
RIDE AND HANDLING
When it comes to suspension bits, the Honda CBR 650F offers the most conventional setup, with 41mm hydraulic telescopic forks at the front and 7-step adjustable monoshock at the rear. The suspension is tuned for giving the perfect balance between hardcore riding and daily city riding duties, as it set on a bit softer side. The motorcycle comes with 17.3 liters of fuel tank and weighs a total of 215 kg.
The Kawasaki Ninja 650 exactly the CBR 650F, when it comes to suspension, as this middleweight Kawasaki also comes with 41mm hydraulic telescopic forks at the front and 7-step adjustable monoshock at the rear. Kawasaki chose not to instill the sharp dynamics of the ZX-6R in this motorcycle, but has made it the perfect sport tourer which can be easily used as one’s daily practical motorcycle. The Ninja 650 may be the lightest motorcycle in this comparison at 211 kg, but also has the smallest fuel tank at just 15 liters.
The Benelli TNT 600 GT offers the most sophisticated suspension setup of inverted hydraulic telescopic forks at the front and an adjustable monoshock at the rear. Much like the other two bikes above, the TNT 600 GT’s suspension setup is set on a bit softer side, which along with the upright seating posture, makes it a perfect companion for long highway rides. The 243 kg kerb weight is the only downside here, but the 27 liter fuel tank further adds up in its credentials of a motorcycle made for munching long miles.
The Hyosung GT 650R may be the oldest motorcycle here, but it offers the sportiest suspension of the lot. The motorcycle comes with inverted hydraulic telescopic forks at the front and an adjustable monoshock at the rear, which unlike the other three motorcycles in this comparison, are set on a slightly stiffer side. This curbs its comfort levels for daily riding duties, but gives it the most spirited ride. At 215 kg, the motorcycle is well weighted too, whereas the 17 liter fuel tank gives it an adequate range too.
All the motorcycles here come with dual disc brakes at the front and a single disc brake at the rear, with the CBR 650F and the Ninja 650 offering petal shaped pattern for the discs. Apart from the CBR 650F, none of the bikes offer ABS, even as optional equipment. Both the CBR 650F as well as TNT 600 GT offer the widest set of rubbers – 120/70 x 17 front tyre and 180/55 x 17 rear tyre.
PRICE AND VALUE
Being the most sophisticated motorcycle in this comparison and the track record of Honda of pricing its motorcycles at a premium over other motorcycles, it is pretty obvious that the CBR 650F is the priciest motorcycle of the lot. At Rs. 7.3 lakh, it is the most expensive motorcycle among the four bikes here in comparison, but offers you the most complete package as well. Sadly, it is available in only one paint scheme, Pearl Metalloid White.
On the other end of the spectrum, the other Japanese motorcycle in this comparison, the Ninja 650 is the most affordable motorcycle of the lot. At Rs. 5.2 lakh, it easily undercuts every other motorcycle in this comparison. Like the CBR 650F, the Kawasaki Ninja 650 is also available in only one color option – Lime Green with Matte Black.
The TNT 600 GT was the first motorcycle to come with four cylinder engine in this segment, but with the help of local assembly through CKD route, it was easy for Benelli to price it competitively in the Indian market. The motorcycle is available at Rs. 5.45 lakh, making it one of the most value for money motorcycles in the Indian market. The only non-Asian motorcycle in this comparison, the TNT 600 GT is available in three different color options – Verde Army (Matte Grey), Bianco (White) and Nero (Black).
The Hyosung GT 650R was one of the very first middleweight motorcycles in the Indian two wheeler, which was locally assembled on the Indian soil, through the CKD route. This has helped Hyosung to price it at a very competitive point of Rs. 5.3 lakh. The motorcycle has recently received a minor cosmetic facelift, which is now available in two different color options – Titanium Red and Titanium Black.
All these motorcycles are made in India with the help of parts being sourced from out of India, thus following CKD (Completely Knocked Down) route.
Out of all these four motorcycles in this comparison, the Hyosung GT 650 R is the oldest bike in existence in the Indian market. Though the motorcycle looks like how a proper big bike should look, but it’s almost ten year old design with minimal changes have made it a less desirable motorcycle in the process of the advent of more contemporary motorcycles from the established rival manufacturers. Also, the motorcycle misses out on a lot of modern features like advanced digital meters with comprehensive information and ABS, which makes even more dated.
Like the GT 250R, the Kawasaki Ninja 650 too is present in the Indian market for many years, since the time when the first Ninja 650R arrived in the Indian market. The motorcycle feels premium, and like every other Japanese motorcycle, feels rock solid and offers high quality fit and finish. But in today’s day and age, the three year old design of the Ninja 650 needs one more facelift, which should help in arousing its appeal. The motorcycle too misses on a lot of equipment, but then, its competitive pricing eases out the matters.
The Benelli TNT 600 GT may be an all new motorcycle from a rather unheard brand in the Indian context, but it offers the most unique proposition in the segment. The half fairing, upright seating position with uniquely styled body panels make it an overall distinctive package which is best suited for long highway runs. The motorcycle, even after having some rough edges here and there, feels like a proper premium Italian motorcycle. The looks may not entice everyone, with a subjective appeal to it, but then its practicality and amount of kit will surely appeal to those who prefer function over form.
Which brings us to the Honda CBR 650F. Yes, it is the most expensive motorcycle of the lot, but then, there are a couple of reasons to justify why it’s the best and most practical motorcycle of the lot. The CBR 650F now holds the title of being the most affordable four cylinder fully faired motorcycle in the country. It looks smart, has a very capable and excellently refined engine, offers a ride quality which is the best of both the worlds and gives the best braking experience, courtesy the ABS offered as standard. The only dent in the overall package is the hefty price tag, but then, that’s a premium which Honda commands of its engineering prowess and the finesse which the CBR 650F offers to one.