Kawasaki Versys 650 vs Benelli TNT 600GT: Comparison Test

February 29, 2016 08:24 AM Vikrant Singh

Introduction

The similarities here are uncanny. A half fairing. High-rise handlebar. Large fuel tank. Stepped, wide seat. And chunky but handy rear grab-rails. And there’s more. Underneath that touring façade lays a street naked; be it the chassis, the brakes or the tyres. Even the engine, in fact.

Welcome then to our new age sports Tourers.

Now, these aren’t your full fat near Rs 20 lakh bank breakers (say the likes of the Multistrada, the Tiger Explorer and the lot); instead these cost less than Rs 8 lakh, displace less than 700cc and don’t get anywhere near 100bhp. These then are your manageable, affordable and useable touring tools. But, which one is a better buy – the nice sounding and more affordable Benelli TNT 600GT or the leaner, taller but more tech laden Kawasaki Versys 650? We rode them back-to-back all the way from the India Bike Week in Goa to Pune to find out…

Looks & Styling

The Kawasaki Versys, as we just mentioned, looks lean and tall, like a runner if you please. And compared to its predecessor, a handsome one that that. The Versys has the typical sharp creases and pronounced lines on the tank, the tail section and even the fairing, plus dual headlights that scream Kawasaki all the way. You can also only have the Versys in black, but because it is a Kawasaki, you get a green, side-mounted rear monoshock. Otherwise the design is pretty minimalist.

The Benelli TNT 600GT in comparison looks like a boxer. A stout and bulked up one, in a smart suit. Agreed, it has an odd looking face (those lights are effective, though), but the bulky half fairing, the muscled up tank and the lithe rear end give the 600GT a front bias and purposeful stance. It then shares a few more bits with the Versys. Both have road bias tyres of exactly the same spec. Both have side mounted rear monoshocks. And both bikes have similar looking underbelly exhausts.

Benelli TNT 600GT: 7/10

Kawasaki Versys 650: 7/10

Ergonomics & Quality

We are talking Tourers here. And for this specific requirement, the Kawasaki Versys 650 works better than the Benelli TNT 600GT. Now, both bikes get high-rise handlebars, but the seating triangle on the Versys courtesy its lower and forward set footpegs, the nearness between the seat and the handlebar and its narrower waist, makes the Kawasaki more comfortable and easier to ride than the Benelli. The Versys also has a softer seat and it is easier to stand up and ride; the latter just helps take the fatigue off your bottom and legs.

In terms of quality though, the Versys and the 600GT are at par. The fit and finish, the paint quality and the attention to detail on both motorcycles are superb. Even the black plastics like on the switchgear and around the instrumentation don’t look or feel cheap.

Benelli TNT 600GT: 7/10

Kawasaki Versys 650: 8/10

Features & Technology

The Versys is a newer motorcycle; as in it is the one that has received an update last between the two. No wonder, the Benelli trails the Kawasaki both in terms of features and technology.

Features first. The Versys has a more detailed instrumentation with info on average and instantaneous fuel efficiency and distance to empty (range) besides two trip meters, a shift light and an Eco ride mode. The 600GT’s clocks are pretty basic in comparison. Like the Kawasaki it tells you the time, shows you the revs in analogue and the speed in digital readouts, and it has low fuel warning. But, the 600GT only has one trip meter and none of the above-mentioned readouts as seen on the Kawasaki.

The Benelli lacks a little on the technology front as well. It doesn’t get ABS or an adjustable windscreen. And it also only has adjustment on the brake lever while Kawasaki’s levers can be adjusted for reach on both the clutch and brake sides.

Benelli TNT 600GT: 7/10

Kawasaki Versys 650: 8/10

Engine & Performance

Even though both bikes get 6-speed gearboxes, these are mated to very different engines. The Benelli uses a four cylinder, sweet sounding engine, that’s mostly vibe free at lower revs. The Kawasaki uses a parallel twin. It has a nice note to it too. And though it displaces more CCs, it is devoid of vibes at lower revs as well.

But there’s more. At lower revs, the 600GT’s engine is as docile as a Labrador. No matter how you treat that throttle, it simply isn’t designed to bite you back. And it also only purrs along as if it were getting a tummy rub at these revs.

Past 7,000rpm though, the Benelli is a completely different animal. Its exhaust note turns primal; its acceleration finally begins to feel akin to a 600; and the throttle response, thankfully, begins demanding some respect. Now here’s the thing, this sort of power delivery and response is great and exciting on a 600 naked. But, on a tourer, it’s just hard work, especially when you consider the bike’s vibey nature at these higher revs.

And that’s why we prefer the Kawasaki setup. The parallel twin is essentially the same engine as on the Ninja 650 – and it feels like it for the most part as well. And with its bigger pistons and longer stroke values (compared to the Benelli), the Versys feels more alive from the word go. It has significantly better low and mid range, and one that doesn’t have to wait for any particular rpm for the drive to turn potent. Open gas, chase horizon; these are directly proportional on the Versys, just the way it should be on a touring motorcycle. The throttle response is better measured too and the motorcycle remains smoother and more refined all across the rev range. But, it is low on horsepower; something that only begins to catch up when you begin chasing top speeds.

Benelli TNT 600GT: 7/10

Kawasaki Versys 650: 8/10 

Ride, Handling & Braking

The Kawasaki has the better ride quality of the two. In terms of suspension setup, the Kawasaki gets longer travel suspension on both ends. The rear might only be adjustable for pre-load, but the front USDs are Showa SFF. Meaning, these are adjustable for pre-load and rebound damping but these settings are carried out on separate forks. Showa says it helps improve performance. Compared to the Benelli, we have no doubts that it does.

The Benelli 600GT too uses USDs, upfront but with a meatier diameter. These are non-adjustable and have lesser travel than the Kawasaki’s. The rear monoshock on the Benelli has lesser travel too but it gets both pre-load and rebound damping adjustments. The rider can adjust the pre-load, but for rebound adjustment, the bike must be taken to the service station.

On the road, the Benelli’s ride is harsh in stock factory setting. The best way to ride it over undulating or broken surfaces then is to turn the pre-load down to its softest setting. The ride still isn’t great, but it is less jarring. However, if you hit a winding section thereafter, it’s best to go up on pre-load, else the GT wallows uncomfortably and you can feel all its weight causing a weave which is no good for a rider’s confidence.

The Versys isn’t a great handler either. It feels a little loose lacking the tautness one expects on a good handling motorcycle. But, it is lighter and the suspension clearly is setup more thoughtfully on the Versys compared to Benelli. So, it works well on straight and mildly winding roads. It’s not the best around tight, technical sections, but one can always slow down and enjoy the scenery instead. But, the ride quality is great. Even with a pillion on board. The long travel suspension absorbs almost everything with aplomb never really troubling the rider or pillion much.

Moreover, because of the comparatively lesser weight, the Kawasaki feels better under braking too. The difference in bite, feel or progression between the Versys and the 600GT setups isn’t much, but because you know the Versys has ABS, you are just more confident riding the Kawasaki harder.

Benelli TNT 600GT: 6/10

Kawasaki Versys 650: 7/10

Fuel Efficiency

This is where the engine characters make all the difference. The Benelli is timid at low revs, and therefore the rider ends up sitting with the throttle wide open for longer durations than on the Kawasaki. They also have to go up and down the gearbox with higher frequency and more ferocity than on the Versys. And of course, the Benelli is at least 20kg heavier than the Kawasaki. No wonder, the Versys returned a little under 22kmpl while the Benelli just about managed to get to the 19kmpl figure in our tests.

Benelli TNT 600GT: 4/10

Kawasaki Versys 650: 4.5/10

Price & Warranty

The Benelli TNT 600GT is cheaper. It costs Rs 6.6 lakh. The Kawasaki Versys 650 costs a lakh more at Rs 7.7 lakh. Both prices are on the road in Mumbai. Given that the Benelli TNT 600GT is older and it gets lesser tech, this doesn’t come as a surprise. But, with ABS and fancier front forks and some additional info on the instrumentation, is the premium of a lakh rupees really justified for the Kawasaki?

Benelli TNT 600GT: 5/10

Kawasaki Versys 650: 4/10

Desirability

If you are looking solely at touring, the Versys certainly looks more desirable. From its stance to its spec sheet to its history, it’s the motorcycle that comes across as more capable and something your knowledgeable biker-buddies would surely approve of. The Benelli isn’t without its charm either. Take the exhaust note; it is bound to go down well with many. But, as something you’d WANT to own, we’d have to check the Versys box here.

Benelli TNT 600GT: 6/10

Kawasaki Versys 650: 7/10

Verdict

Benelli TNT 600GT: Rank 2

Final Score: 63.5/100

Price: Rs 6.7 lakh, OTR, Mumbai

The 600GT has its charms. It’s not an out-an-out tourer, so it has that hint of sportiness to it with its rearset pegs and an engine that really comes into its own at higher revs. It certainly is the sportier of the two bikes in terms of feel. But, it has some serious shortcomings. Not having ABS in this class of motorcycles is unacceptable. Plus, all that weight makes things challenging; unless of course you are really tall and built like an Ox.

Kawasaki Versys 650: Rank 1

Final Score: 69/100

Price: Rs 7.7 lakh, OTR, Mumbai

The Versys 650 in comparison to the 600GT is more manageable. The weight balance is right, the torque is easily accessible, and it is just the easier and more comfortable of the two bikes to ride and live with. And it has better technology and features. Plus, because we are talking tourers, the Versys is the better tourer too. That’s not all; it’s also a better bike for so many other occasions like commuting or mild trail riding, even tacking state highways or winding roads. So yes, the Versys surely does justify its premium pricing over the Benelli. And it is our worthy winner.

Photography by Sanchit Arora

Final Scores

 Parameters/Models  Max Points Kawasaki Versys 650 Benelli TNT 600GT
 Rank    1  2
 Looks & styling  10 7 7
 Ergonomics & Quality  10 8 7
 Features & Technology  10  8 7
 Engine & Gearbox  10 8 7.5
 Performance  10  8 7.5
 Ride quality  10  7  6
 Handling & Braking  10 7.5 6.5
 Fuel Efficiency  10 4.5 4
 Price & Warranty  10  4  5
 Desirablility  10 7 6
 Total  100  69  63.5
 Price (OTR, Mumbai)    7,71,387  6,76,264

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