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Honda CBR650F review, test ride

12th Sep 2015 1:10 pm

After an initial eyes-on approach, here’s a more detailed hands-on review of Honda’s long awaited CBR 650F.

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Honda announced the CBR 650F as India bound some years before. Speaking to top management of the big H in New Delhi at the time, we learnt they were to assemble in India, eyeing a target price around a sensible Rs 7 lakh, on-road. Back then, there was little competition in this segment, with only early bird Kawasaki present with their Ninja 650R, not even in the same league, being a twin where the CBR is an in-line four.

Change remains the one true constant though, and so, the CBR 650F has today run into aggressively priced in-line four rivals, Benelli’s 600i and 600 GT, apart from impressive bikes that sit a small step higher, Triumph’s highly regarded Street Triple (in-line 3 engine) and Kawasaki’s top value-for-money Z800, a potent all-rounder that’s also an in-line four.

So how does the Honda CBR 650F fit in?

The CBR 650F looks impressive, with a mature, sporty air. However, Honda’s been unable to capitalize on a styling edge they held with earlier CBR bikes seen till around 2000, those making more dashing looking sportsbikes. The CBR 650F has a ‘V’ shaped headlight set in a raked fairing that gives the bike a conservative fascia, and looks a touch too sedate, more so when beside contemporaries.

The CBR 650F comes with a tapered, see through visor that’s a boon when riding the bike at high speeds, which the CBR 650F is so capable of. The speedometer is broad, well laid-out and all-digital, yet somehow looks a tad old fashioned. The new Honda comes with a reach adjustable front brake lever, the clutch side lacking this, both well finished in machined alloy. Switchgear is top drawer, smoothly shaped and nice to operate, with the pass light operated by pressing on the high and low beam toggle. There’s even a hazard warning button, and engine-kill switch. The CBR 650F comes with clip-on handlebars and fairing mounted mirrors that are easy to adjust, and offer adequate rear view. 

The CBR 650F’s overall proportions match up to a good, adult-sized sportsbike, as seen in its large, superbly shaped fuel-tank, which offers comfortable thigh grip when cornering.

The generously padded seat is single piece, low enough for even a shorter rider to appreciate, while the pillion sits slightly higher. At rear, no grab-bars leave the CBR 650F tail neat, and cleaner looking, while grab recesses are integrated into the cowl.

Styling for the flanks and rear is excellent, with smooth, flowing lines. The CBR 650F fairing opens smartly to expose its engine casings. Black has been used extensively to contrast the bike, and you get a cropped under-belly exhaust and shiny swingarm bringing up the rear.

As expected, Honda has ensured quality and fit-finish stay top-class on the new CBR 650F.

 

 

The CBR650F comes with a button-started, four-stroke, 648.7cc, in-line four cylinder engine. It’s one of the few in-line four cyl. bikes in the class, and offers the inimitable, addictive sound and character those familiar with such multi-cylinder ‘in-lines’ seldom switch from. The latest Honda engine is liquid-cooled, with fuel-injection and puts out 85.3 bhp at 11,000rpm, with peak torque 6.4kgm twisting through the crankshaft at 8,000rpm. As you’d expect, the CBR 650F is a silken smooth performer, that delivers seamless, step-free acceleration when thrashed and you quick-shift up through the gears, accompanied by a soft, yet potent sounding exhaust scream.

The Honda readily revs to around 11,000rpm, and blasts through a broad powerband with ample grunt available from anywhere over 4,000rpm. The CBR 650F comes with a six-speed gearbox, allied to a smooth working, perfectly sprung clutch, that isn’t too heavy to operate in urban Indian conditions.

Performance is scintillating on this refined new Honda, with genuine 200kph plus speeds coming up effortlessly when roads allowed, and the CBR 650F not falling as far behind the full size litre-class superbike brigade as you might expect. The CBR 650F zipped from 0-100kph in an impressive 4.23 seconds during our acceleration tests, smashing past 160kph in 9.59secs and still accelerating relentlessly as it cleaved through 200kph in 19.47s. That’s enough power to cut your teeth on before graduating to the bigger league bikes today available in India.

The CBR 650F comes with a steel spar frame, supported by an alloy swingarm. 17 inch rims are standard front and rear. The new Honda’s riding position is spot on for this class of bike, sporty, yet without an overly aggressive lean-in to the bars, allowing regular use of the bike, plus the occasional long distance touring outing. In terms of dimensions, the new CBR is more compact than a Kawasaki Ninja 650. It isn’t however light, weighing 215kg, and you sometimes can feel its mass while riding the bike, when tipping the CBR 650F into corners, or as you switch directions when following the right lines through the twisties.

Suspending the motorcycle are 41mm telescopic forks in front, not upside downs, and a monoshock at the rear. Hauling the CBR 650F down when braking are powerful, twin 320mm petal rotor front disc brakes, plus a 240mm single petal disc at rear, ABS enabled, and working brilliantly, with just the right bite and feel. The new Honda comes with two tyres optional, Dunlop or Metzeler. Our test bike came shod with Dunlops, which offered fair traction and left us with no reason to complain.

 

Honda import the CBR 650F into India via the CKD route, assembled at Manesar. This should have seen affordable pricing, but at this price, leave aside direct rivals, you can bring home the capable Z800, Kawasaki’s in-line four cylinder machine that’s a clean segment up on any 650.

As a bike on its own, the CBR 650F makes a robust, well rounded performer. It’s got a fairing, quality, good equipment, strong performance and reasonably nice handling. Pit it against its nearest rivals, the in-line four Benelli’s, 600i and 600GT, and the CBR is more than able to hold its own. However, factor in its Rs 7.30 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) price and the CBR 650F runs into a brick wall. Honda’s priced the bike a segment higher, where the competition is way stiffer. The CBR 650F is like a 10th standard student suddenly finding himself appearing for a 12th standard examination. There’s only ever going to be one report card when doing this.

Rishad Cooper

 

Specifications

Price                            Rs 7.30 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)

On Sale                         Now

L/W/H                         2107/753/1149mm

Wheelbase                   1449mm

Fuel tank capacity       17.3litres

Kerb weight                215kg

Engine layout              In-line four-cylinder, liquid-cooled, four-stroke

Displacement              648.72cc

Power                              85.3bhp at 11000rpm

Torque                           6.4kgm at 8000rpm

Specific output            131.5bhp per litre

Power to weight          396.7bhp per tonne

Gearbox                       6-speed, 1-down, 5-up

Front suspension         Telescopic forks

Rear suspension          Monoshock, alloy swingarm

Front brake                  320mm disc (ABS)

Rear brake                   240mm disc (ABS)

Wheels                       12-spoke alloy

Rim size (f-r)               17 inches

Tyre size (f-r)             120/70 x 17- 180/55 x 17 inches

 

Acceleration from rest (dry surface)

Speed (kph)

Time (secs)

 

 

 

 

0-10

0.49

 

0-20

0.85

 

0-30

1.21

 

0-40

1.57

 

0-50

1.94

 

0-60

2.35

 

0-70

2.75

 

0-80

3.14

 

0-90

3.69

 

0-100

4.23

 

0-110

4.81

 

0-120

5.47

 

0-130

6.34

 

0-140

7.22

 

0-150

8.21

 

0-160

9.59

 

0-170

10.99

 

0-180

12.87

 

0-190

15.90

 

0-200

19.47

 

 

 

 

 

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