Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT vs Kawasaki Versys 650: Comparison Test Ride Review

03 December 2018, 12:15 PM Vikrant Singh

Introduction

A little over Rs 50,000 separate the two. But beyond that – take engine capacity, number of cylinders, output figures, or even the genre of motorcycles these represent – and you’d find these are more closely related than you thought. These are both twin cylinder 650cc motorcycles with a sit-up-and-ride and go-anywhere attitude.

Dressed in yellow with gold wire-spoke wheels is the Suzuki V-Strom 650. It is here in the XT trim, which should make it more off-road friendly. It's also the bigger bike here in terms of dimensions. 

The Kawasaki Versys 650 – wearing a matt black hue with some tasty green highlights and alloy wheels – might be smaller, but it is taller. And, it weighs almost the same as the Suzuki.  But, the Kawasaki is more road-focused.

So, if you had to pick one, which one should it be? We took a small road trip to find the answer. 

Looks & Styling

But before we begin, let’s talk design. The way a bike looks is one of the primary buying criteria, after all. 

Park the V-Strom and the Versys side-by-side and it’s the Suzuki that grabs your eyeballs. It is visually bigger. And then with the wire-spoke wheels, its pronounced ADV beak, hand guards, engine guard (even though it´s just plastic), and its rear carrier, the V-Strom looks more prepared to take on the end of the world. 

The Versys, in comparison, comes across more as a street bike on stilts. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a handsome looking thing, and with the tall windscreen, it does urge you to get on the road and not look back. But, its styling fails to convince or lure you into loading up your house on it and taking off. 

Ergonomics & Quality

Now, both bikes here – as we mentioned earlier – are of the sit-up-and-ride variety. So, both get high handlebars, a relatively lower seat in comparison, and footpegs that are a little rearset. Fortunately, the footpegs aren’t so high as to make you assume that uncomfortable, sportbike-like, knee-to-your-ear riding position. 

But, between the two, the Suzuki is more spacious, and more comfortable. It has wider bars, less rearset footpegs, and when the roads turn unrideable, it’s also easier to stand up ride. The Kawasaki though, has the more comfortable seat, and you can adjust both its levers for reach, to help reduce the strain on your fingers. 

In terms of quality, the two are at par. Be it the paint finish, the quality of plastic, the operability of switchgear, or even the design and readability of the instrumentation, there’s nothing to choose one over the other. 

Ex-showroom, Mumbai

 7,51,507

Features & Technology

But, when it comes to features and technology, there’s a clear winner. The Suzuki. The Kawasaki Versys 650 has its pluses, of course. It gets preload and rebound adjustment of its upside down front forks, and it gets adjustable levers. The V-Strom, on the other hand, only gets adjustment for its brake lever. And, no adjustment at all for its conventional telescopic front forks. 

Now, while both motorcycles get ABS – and you can’t turn it off on either – the V-Strom also gets traction control. The latter has two settings, which dictate when, and how much it intervenes in case the rear wheel is spinning a lot faster than the front. One can also turn off the TC, you know, to pull wheelies and slide around on dirt. I can’t do either very well, so, I didn’t. 

Additionally, the V-Strom shows information on average and instantaneous fuel efficiency as part of its rider information system. And, lest we forget, the Suzuki also gets tubeless tyre compatible spoke wheels; a feature we rarely see even on top spec and very expensive adventure motorcycles. And that, for an ADV, is a huge plus.

Engine & Performance

I did mention that we took a small road trip for this test. But, unlike smart and well-organised tourers, we didn’t leave in the morning. Instead, we came to work and then on a whim, left at peak traffic time. But, at least that way we learnt that neither bike here would end up baking your thighs. These do get warm, but never hot enough to make you jump ship.

And surprisingly, neither feels cumbersome to filter through traffic with either. But, yes, since it’s easier to put both your feet firmly on the ground on the Suzuki, it does give you more confidence to deal with bumper–to-bumper traffic when riding the V-Strom. The Kawasaki, on the other hand, has the lighter clutch pull. And though it has a crisper, more connected throttle response; we’d still pick the Suzuki’s slower setup because it comes with something called Low RPM Assist that prevents the bike from stalling at lower revs. 

Much later, we were out on the highway. Now, both the bikes might use near 650cc, twin cylinder engines. And both might produce similar power and torque figures nearing 70bhp and 70Nm. But, the V-Strom uses a V-Twin, while the Versys is a parallel twin. Also, the Suzuki has a longer stroke.

Not surprisingly, the V-Strom impresses more with its low and mid-range grunt when on the highway. You always find yourself shifting sooner but pulling harder on the Suzuki. Add to it, the taller gearing overall, and at same cruising speeds in top gear, the V-Strom sits at lower revs. So, it’s quieter, less vibey, and more fuel-efficient.

The Versys 650 has a sweeter top end. It sounds best when revved past 7,000rpm as well. And more often than not, you end up doing much higher speeds than you intended. But, yes, it’s more vibey compared to the Suzuki, and you need to shift more often as well. Which means, it tires you out sooner.

As far as cruising speeds go, both bikes will do 120kmph – plus more – quite comfortably all day long.

Ride & Handling

High cruising speeds sit well with the bikes’ mechanicals too. Both feel planted and unaffected by mild undulations or through cross winds or even over poorly patched up roads. It’s only when things get noticeably obvious that the difference between the two motorcycles becomes clearer. 

And, it’s the Kawasaki - with its more sophisticated suspension and brakes - that comes up on top here. Be it through deeper potholes or big dips in the road; be it square-edged bumps or a series of tall rumbler strips; or it might just be getting a speed breaker wrong. But, in every case, the Versys just whooshes over it all. One might feel a hint of tingle at the bar, or maybe a mild shudder at the forks, but that’s about it.

In case of the Suzuki, on the same stretch of road, the V-Strom constantly bottoms out its front. And as a result, one can feel the jolts coming in via the handlebar. And it also causes the front wheel to lose traction at times. Overall, compared to the Kawasaki, it’s not a very refined ride.

With the poor roads dealt with, we finally arrived at our favourite set of twisties. Now, given the Versys’ shorter wheelbase, its road focused tyres, and 17-inch alloys both front and back, it was always going to be the quicker, more involving, and fun to ride motorcycle around corners. And it is. It has better turn-in, you can lean it deeper, and you can carry more corner speed with more confidence. 

But, in V-Strom’s defense, it’s no slouch around the twisties either. Yes, it might not lean as far, or carry as much entry speed as the Versys. But it’s not too far off. Moreover, with its stronger mid-range, it pulls out of corners harder, and unless all you have are endless chicanes for a road, you’d always find the Suzuki lurking in the rear view mirror.  

Fuel Efficiency & Price

Now, to the important details. The Kawasaki is cheaper. It costs Rs 8.08 lakhs on the road in Mumbai compared to the V-Strom, which is priced at Rs 8.63 lakhs. But, thanks to the Suzuki’s torquier engine and its taller gearing, the V-Strom is more fuel-efficient. It returned 23.7kmpl against 22.1kmpl returned by the Kawasaki. And given that both bikes run on a fuel tank that holds around 20 litres, there’s not much to choose between the two when it comes to cruising range either. 

 

Verdict

So, if you had to pick one, which should it be? The Suzuki V-Strom, no doubt. It is the winner of our comparison test for a reason.

Yes, it costs around Rs 55,000 more. But, it’s also closer to the ADV genre than the Versys. Plus, it has a more tractable engine; it has more rider aids; and, it’s more spacious. Even when it comes to commuting, it has the better low speed ride, a lower seat, and some assist to keep you from stalling. And, it will get you more eyeballs!

The Kawasaki has its pluses too – specifically when it comes to high speed ride, handling and braking. And, of course, a lower purchase price. But, these aren’t big enough to swing the decision in its favour, especially for those looking for an ADV.

Photography by Kapil Angane

Final Scores

 

Parameters Max Points Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT Kawasaki Versys 650
Rank   1 2
Looks & styling 10 7.5 6.5
Ergonomics & Quality 10 8.5 7.5
Features & Tech 10 7.5 6.5
Engine & Gearbox 10 8 8
Performance 10 8.5 8.5
Ride Quality 10 6.5 7
Handling & Braking 10 7 7.5
Fuel Efficiency 10 5 4.5
Price & Warranty 10 4 4.5
Desirablility 10 7.5 6.5
Total 100 70 67
 Price (OTR, Mumbai)   Rs 8,63,753 Rs 8,08,411

Specifications

Make Suzuki Kawasaki 
Model V-Strom 650 XT Versys 650
POWER TRAIN    
Engine Type

Liquid-cooled

Liquid-cooled
Capacity 645cc 649cc
Max Power 71bhp 67.4bhp
Max Torque 62Nm 64Nm
Gearbox 6-speed 6-speed
Fuel Efficiency 23.7kmpl 22kmpl
CYCLE PARTS    
Supension F Telescopic USD Forks with rebound preload adjustment
Suspension R Monoshcok Offset Monoshock
Brakes F 310mm dual discs with ABS 300mm dual discs with ABS
Brakes R 260mm disc 250mm disc
Tyre F 110/80-19 (Tubeless) 120/70-17 (Tubeless)
Tyre R 150/70-17 (Tubeless) 160/60-17 (Tubless)
MEASURES    
Fuel Tank 20 litres 21 litres
Wheelbase 1560mm 1415mm
L x W x H 2275mm x 910mm x 1405mm 2165mm x 840mm x 1400mm
Kerb Weight 216 kg 216 kg

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