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How will Honda's new CBR650F face competition?

Snapshot: Honda will soon be launching the CBR650F in the Indian market. Here's how it will bring value to the middle weight segment and face its fierce competition. A powerful four cylinder engine, comfortable seating position and Honda's impeccable reliability will make this a very attractive buy indeed.

Honda Motorcycles and Scooter India (HMSI) will open a new chapter with the complete ground up CBR 650 F on the 4th of August. Completely new styling, new engine, friendly ergonomics and manageable performance sit at the crux of this product. Although aficionados might argue that the 650 F sits in no man’s land, however it actually ticks all the correct boxes.

It is that amalgamation of a strong engine, comfortable ergonomics, easy handling and manageable power that makes the 650F quiet a talk of the town. The launch commences on the 4th of August this year. We take a quick look at this new kid on the block and scale it up against its spec sheet.

Smooth engine

Honda has been very radical for the development of this 649cc 4-cylinder engine. The development team actually comprised of several engineers in their twenties to better understand the requirements of young riders who form most of the target audience.

Honda learned that these riders are not comfortable with revving the nuts of till the revlimiter to extract power off an engine, but needed power lower down the rpm range. Honda’s new 649cc in-line does exactly that. Torque available below 4,000rpm and strong acceleration past 6,000rpm meant this engine will prove lighter on the pocket both in terms of maintenance and fuel economy.

Usable power

The newly developed in-line has 4-cylinders generating 86bhp of maximum power at 11,000rpm and a peak torque of 63Nm at 8,000rpm. The engine is liquid-cooled and uses compact internal architecture, mated to a 6-speed transmission with the cylinders canted forward by 30 degrees.

Apt power levels are good enough to pull the 650F to a top speed of nearly 235kmph, though we recon enthusiasts will soon find more top speed or reduced acceleration times.

Easy handling

Honda has given the CBR650F a steel twin-spar frame which aims to provide rigid balance and lightness. The rear shock works directly on the swingarm and is matched to a 41mm telescopic front fork; the wheels are a new six-spoke design. With a low centre of gravity, slim tank and high-set clip-on handlebars means comfortable ergonomics for the rider. 

Taking the weight off the rider’s wrists, the 650F has a comfortable riding posture enabling longer cruising distances. A kerb weight of 211kg and 21kmpl (as claimed by Honda), the new CBR650F will travel almost 350km before trips to the petrol station. And the news keeps getting better; 6-spoke alloy wheels wear fat 120/70-R17 at the front and 180/55-R17 at the rear.

This means a wider contact patch between the motorcycle and tarmac enhancing safety. Braking duties are taken care by wavy discs using similar manufacturing technique as the twin-cylinder NC750 series. The 240mm rear is formed within a 320mm front, saving material (and ultimately cost) to the customer. The two-piston front callipers and single-piston rear are managed by standard-fitment 2-channel ABS, ensuring safe stops on all type of surfaces in all weathers.

Then is the comfortable seating position is on the relaxed side of sporty, with the pillion too getting ample space. Seat height is 810mm and a narrow middle profile helps ground reach, so shorter height riders need not worry.

Competition

While comparing similar performance figures, you have to consider the Kawasaki Ninja 650/ER-6N, DSK Benelli TNT 600i, Kawasaki Z800 and the Triumph Street Triple. You might imagine the price difference between these models is large, but then we do not know the offer price of the 650F yet.

The Kawasaki Ninja 650/ER-6N have both got comfortable ergonomics and reliable engines, however the Kawasaki 649cc parallel twin cylinder engine generates lesser performance against the Honda CBR650F. Besides Kawasaki has fewer touch points for customers as compared to Honda whose network has been steadily growing across the country.

DSK Benelli TNT 600i/GT are again both strong competition and have howling 4-cylinder engines which sound even better than the Honda, but suffers a few refinement issues and an even tinnier service network than Kawasaki for pete’s sake.

Then moving up the ladder we have Triumph’s Street Triple 675 and Kawasaki’s Z800 as attractive options. Triumph is actually a brilliant option. It might have a cylinder short, falls at 78bhp of power however it also weighs 23kg lesser. This makes it a very competitive motorcycle against the CBR650F, with only the smaller dealer network as a minus for the Triumph.

Last is the Kawasaki Z800 which is technically a much bigger 800cc 4-cylinder street motorcycle, but comes at a very competitive price tag. It does way hefty 18kg heavier, but it also generates 111bhp of power which is way higher than the rest.

HMSI will be assembling this motorcycle in the country itself, and perhaps manufacture most of the components here as well. Local assembly will thus help keep the retail price of the new 650F lesser than the competition. If priced correctly, and we hope it is, this middle weight Honda will bring about a massive stir in the Indian market. We will put all these participants up for a match soon and tell you the results.

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