Shootout: Kawasaki Ninja 650 vs Honda CBR650F vs Kawasaki Z800 vs Triumph Daytona 675R
Shootout No. 134
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 6.23 lakhs (Kawasaki Ninja 650), Rs. 8.35 lakhs (Honda CBR650F), Rs. 8.95 lakhs (Kawasaki Z800), Rs. 14.08 lakhs (Triumph Daytona 675R)
The CBR650F has two Kawasakis breathing down its nose on either end, both high on VFM
The fight of being the most cheapest (or most affordable for the want of a better word) is similar to the fight of being the most frugal. Just like how car manufacturers keep fighting it out to ace ARAI mileage tests and make their cars the most km/l delivering machines, there has been a silent war in India between bike makers, of offering the cheapest 4-cylinder machine. When Honda showcased the CBR650F in India at the 2014 Auto Expo, they announced plans of local assembly and every bike enthusiasts’ 4-cylinder dream started to look less grim. But before Honda could fire on all fours, Benelli stole the CBR’s thunder by becoming the cheapest 4-cylinder motorcycle in our market. To further add insult to injury, Honda chose to price the 650F at a premium, thereby making it as expensive as the more powerful Kawasaki Z800. Since the middle-weight Honda employs a 650cc engine and is full faired, the Ninja 650 decided to join this shootout, giving its street-fighter sibling from the Z lineage some company to annihilate the Dream series maker. But when you have middle-weight faired bikes in a comparison, it’s always good to have the best of them all, the Triumph Daytona and not just any other 675 but an R version, just for fun!
Motor Quest: The Kawasaki Ninja 650 is the oldest bike here and was launched in India in 2011, getting an update in 2012. Triumph launched the Daytona 675R in India in November 2013 while Kawasaki launched the Z800 in January 2014. The Honda CBR650F is the latest entrant in this space and was launched in August 2015.
Styling – Park any of these four bikes on the road and all are bound to attract attention although the Ninja 650 is the bike which will turn the least heads. The 650cc Kwacker is clearly showing its age now and although its dimensions give it good presence, the design is a hit or miss. Not the same case with its elder sibling, the Z800 which is the only street-fighter in this middle-weight brawl. This Kawasaki has some serious muscle and looks drop-dead gorgeous, more so in this green shade. Attention to detail is just terrific with the tail lights looking splendid at night with the mirrored Z letters.
Saree guard spoils the look of every bike here but no pillion is welcome on them
The Honda CBR650F looks a bit tame in comparison to the Kawasaki Z800 and the single headlight on a CBR seems to be a big miss for this middle-weight four-pot motorcycle. Offered only in one colour, the red-white paint scheme does look good and the bike does have a sporty appearance. Only the CBR650F and Ninja 650 employ an underbelly exhaust system while the Honda is the only one with a single headlight set-up. Meanwhile, the Triumph Daytona 675R is pure super-sport in its appearance with its red wheels and frame along with the aerodynamic body. If we had to choose one bike on design alone, it would be without doubt the Z800, take that fairing lovers!
Instrument Cluster and Switchgear – The CBR650F and Z800 are the closest rivals here (due to their price) and both employ an all digital instrument clusters, we don’t like the one on the Honda. The Daytona 675 and Ninja 650 use an analogue-digital console where the tachometer is rightly an analogue unit, taking centre stage. All these clusters get a clock and also tell you the mileage but all shockingly miss out on a gear position indicator, except the Triumph which also gets a lap timer, tyre pressure monitoring system and immobiliser. While the CBR650F misses out on a shift light, all other bikes get it but Triumph does it best with multiple blue lights which gives a good idea of nearing the redline. Good switchgear and adjustable levers are part of the package on these bikes but in terms of design and ease of reading alone, the Z800 easily has the best console of this lot.
Ergonomics – These four bikes belong to three different classes – the Ninja 650 and CBR650F are sports tourers, the Z800 is a street-naked while the Daytona 675 is a supersport, all this also reflects in their ergonomics. For comfort riding, the Ninja 650 has the best ergonomics, both Kawasakis using a straight handlebar while the other two bikes use clip-ons. When it comes to sports riding, the Daytona 675 has the most aggressive position which makes it very uncomfortable for long distance riding. The CBR650F isn’t as upright as the Ninja or Z800 but neither does it have a committed riding position. The Honda is also the only bike here to have a single-piece seat while all others use a split set-up, the Ninja 650 offering the best comfort, even for the pillion.
Performance – So we have two, three and four cylinder bikes in this shootout and it’s wise to start from the bottom of the displacement order. The Ninja and CBR are both 650cc bikes but that’s where the similarities between them end because the Honda uses in-line 4-cylinders while the Kawasaki employs a parallel-twin powerplant. But the CBR’s extra two cylinders don’t seem to have much of an advantage over the Kwacker as the Ninja packs in 1 Nm more torque, that too at 1000 RPM lower, the twin-pot unit making 64 Nm at 7000 RPM. But the CBR has the power advantage of 15 PS (produces 87 PS), the end result being the ton coming up 0.6 seconds quicker in the Honda. Due to the better torque, initial acceleration is better on the Ninja 650 but the CBR650F builds up pace instantly after that.
However the CBR650F is priced close to the Z800 and that’s where the problem lies because although both are 4-cylinder engined bikes, the naked Kawasaki has 113 PS of power and 83 Nm of torque, a clear advantage over the Honda. In spite of weighing 14 kgs more than the CBR650F, the Z800 is faster to the ton by almost half a second, the higher displacement, power and torque being very apparent. The Kawasaki also has the higher top speed but due to the lack of a windshield visor, suffers from heavy windblast which is less of an issue in the other three bikes here, the Daytona least so. The Z800 being a naked also transfers more heat to the rider in stop-go riding but has very good performance throughout the rev range and also redlines higher at 12,000 RPM than the CBR650F’s 11,000 RPM (the Ninja 650 too redlines at 11,000 RPM).
The 675R’s 14,400 RPM is pure nirvana while other bikes are left in the dust
Comparing the performance of the CBR650F with the Daytona 675R would be silly so we won’t because the Triumph just annihilates all other bikes when it comes to performance and speed. For starters, it produces 126 PS of power at 12,305 RPM and 70.2 Nm of torque at a high 9900 RPM. The 3-cylinder engine also benefits from the low-weight of the Daytona which is 189 kgs, a full 22 kgs less than the next lightest bike here. The result is a motorcycle which accelerates so fast that it makes all the other three look a bit slow in comparison. First gear takes you to 132 km/hr, with the redline coming up at an insanely impressive 14,400 RPM. The double ton is done in no time with a top speed in excess of 250 km/hr. While one accelerates on the 675R, there is a mad rush, pure aural bliss, front-end continuously lifting due to the brutal acceleration and scenery being a massive blur.
All this maddening performance does give the Triumph a very poor tank range of around 200 kms, even though all bikes have a rather large tank of around 17-litres (the Ninja 650 makes do with a 16-litre tank but is the most frugal of this lot, returning upwards of 20 km/l). All these bikes do the ton in first gear itself, except the Ninja 650 while all have a good sounding exhaust, the Arrow on the Daytona 675R obviously being the best here but otherwise it’s the Z800 which has the best engine note, followed by the Honda with the Ninja 650 coming in last, still a good sounding bike for a twin-cylinder machine. The gearbox is the best on the Triumph which also gets a quick-shifter while the clutch is the lightest on the Ninja 650 but only the Z800 and Daytona get a slipper clutch. The 675R has almost no vibrations from the engine while the Z800 is second best in this regard, the CBR650F does have some vibes but the Ninja has the most, some even felt on the pegs. As was expected, the Daytona has the best performance, followed by the Z800 and CBR650F with the Ninja 650 comes in last.
Riding Dynamics – Hardware differences are very apparent on these bikes, all of them except the 650s use inverted forks while other than the Ninja, all employ a wider 180 section rear tyre (160 mm on the Ninja 650 with all using a 120 mm front). All bikes other than the Triumph use Dunlop rubber while the Daytona has stickier Pirelli SuperCorsa tyres which give it the best grip out there. As expected, the 675 has the best handling of this lot with the most responsive steering, superior brakes and excellent high speed stability, it uses superior Ohlins suspension. The Ninja 650’s age shows with the hardware being a bit dated (uses a steel-tube swingarm while the Z800 employs a box-section swingarm), Honda and Triumph make use of a superior alloy swingarm.
The Daytona has the most superior hardware while the Ninja 650 has oldest
Between the two Kawasakis and Honda, it’s the Ninja 650 which offers the best ride quality, the Triumph being more stiffly set-up does transfer the bumps to the rider. The Z800 does ride better than the CBR650F and in spite of that, handles better than the Honda too, being more eager to change direction. There is the front-end heaviness felt in both the CBR650F and Z800 while the Ninja 650’s high seating makes it more of a tourer than a corner craver, the high set handlebar reducing front-end feel. ABS is offered on all bikes as standard (Race ABS on the Triumph), except the Ninja 650, which also happens to have the worst brakes of this lot. Stopping power is the best on the Daytona with the Z800 and CBR650F being equally matched when it comes to pulling in the anchors.
Verdict – If you had the money, you wouldn’t be reading this but would rather be enjoying the British supersport bike because there is no doubt, the Daytona 675R is the best bike of this lot. But that said, let’s be a bit practical and decide which among the Japanese middle-weights impresses the most. The Ninja 650 is no doubt an excellent motorcycle, more so when considering its price tag but the lack of ABS and updates makes it lose out in front of its more expensive rivals here. Thanks to the close pricing, this shootout is a showdown between the CBR650F and Z800 with the Kawasaki beating the Honda by offering more performance and a better riding experience too. This is a rare case where the CBU model offers more bang for the buck than a CKD offering, thereby making the street-naked take top honours.
Triumph has an upper hand but also a drastically higher price which makes the Daytona 675R too expensive for most. Between the Japanese machines, it is the Kawasaki Z800 which impresses the most as a performance middle-weight, thereby winning this shootout.
Picture Editing: Sri Manikanta Achanta
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