The mid-ADV segment hasn’t seen much success in India, but the V-Strom 650 hopes to be the catalyst to change that. We ride it to see if Suzuki can realise this dream?
The adventure motorcycle segment in India has a big gaping hole in the middle, which is sandwiched by big ADVs like the Tiger, Multistrada and GS motorbikes at one end and smaller motorcycles like the Himalayan, the Versys 300X and now the smaller G310 GS at the other. This means that there isn’t really much to choose from in the mid-segment. Sadly, this has always been the case in India, and not just with adventure motorcycles but in all segments.
The arrival of the V-Strom 650XT, then, is a welcome sign for the Indian motorcycle market. With the massive V-Strom 1000 already on the market, the 650XT is clearly an attempt by Suzuki to exploit the untapped middle ADV segment. The problem, however, is that the mid-segment doesn’t have a great success rate in India. But it never hurts to have a larger portfolio, and, moreover, Suzuki is quite confident that the new V-Strom will not go unnoticed. In fact, they expect that it’ll attract huge crowds to their dealerships.
I can’t tell you to what extent Suzuki’s hopes will be realised, but what I can tell you after spending a day with this new adventure sports tourer is whether it’s worth spending money on or not. So, keep reading…
What is the V-Strom 650XT?
The V-Strom 650XT is exactly what it claims to be – an adventure sports tourer. However, let me make this clear at very beginning, this is not an off-road pro motorcycle. In fact, the 650XT is a proper road bike. It can take on some gravel, but if you’re in search of a serious off-roader, simply look elsewhere. But, if you want an entry-level adventure sports tourer that’s easy to handle and loads of fun to ride, then you don’t have to look anywhere else.
At a price point almost five lakh cheaper than the base Triumph Tiger 800, the V-Strom 650XT is a fantastic option for someone who doesn’t want to be left with an empty bank account in exchange for a capable motorcycle. The 650XT is a nice, powerful machine and shares its design DNA with the bigger V-Strom 1000. The front cowl is a bit narrower, and so is the mid-section, making it easy to mount. It still has the massive 20-litre fuel tank but in a slimmed down design. While the bike manages to retain its big ADV look, it actually is more compact than most other bikes in the segment.
It has spokes instead of alloys, with a wide 19-inch tyre at the front and a 17-inch at the rear. The engine has a flimsy plastic panel that surrounds the underbody – a sure sign that the V-Strom should not be considered an off-road terrain muncher. The bike we tested had some accessories, like the rear pannier, chain guard, crash guard and centre stand, which won’t come as standard.
Road bike performance
If you’re in the market for an adventure sports tourer, then you simply can’t ignore the V-Strom, for everything else aside it’s also one of the least expensive options available. Currently, it only faces competition from the Kawasaki Versys 650, which, if truth be told, is a little outdated. Moreover, the Suzuki is better equipped, bigger and a wee bit more powerful. The V-Strom 650XT has a 645cc, 90-degree V-twin, liquid cooled engine, which is a smooth and refined unit that feels amazing on the road. With 71bhp and 62Nm of torque, it has more than enough power to make your ride extremely fun.
The way it delivers its power will make you instantly fall in love with it. The throttle response is crisp and immediate. The mid-range is brilliant, while the top-end power is still exciting. The bike isn’t lightning quick, but it’s much faster and smoother than what I expected it to be. The 6-speed transmission works well with the engine – the ratios are as such that you don’t need to quickly up-shift when accelerating fast. You can hold the gears, and you also don’t need to down shift continuously when decelerating. This is a sports tourer after all – and it certainly performs like one.
The V-Strom 650 feels very light, while the suspension feels quite stiff on tarmac. The front doesn’t dip during hard braking, and the rear is pre-load adjustable. When you attack corners, the bike doesn’t do anything against your will – it always feels planted and smoothly changes direction. The handling of this tourer is effortless, which means that you can actually have a lot of fun with it. The front brakes could’ve done with some more bite, but they’re still good enough. Besides, the ABS system works really well.
The V-Strom 650XT also comes with an advanced traction control system with two settings – each with a different level of throttle control. During our test ride, I mostly kept the traction control off, but I do feel that a lot of riders might actually go for the lighter traction control setting. It doesn’t kill your throttle inputs, it just smoothens them out if and when you do lose grip.
If you happen to ride this bike on dirt trails, you’ll instantly notice that the front-end is quite stiff and the front cowl rattles a lot. What does this mean? Well, in simple terms, the overall build quality of the 650XT isn’t at par with European motorbikes. Still, it’s not bad at all. But I highly recommend changing the tyres if you do wish to take it off road. We did enjoy riding it at a large salt flat and had great fun sliding around.
Should you buy one?
That’s the question, isn’t it? It always is. Well, the V-Strom is certainly an impressive machine. It doesn’t excel dramatically, but it doesn’t perform badly either. The engine is super smooth, refined and has great power delivery. It’s also a very comfortable bike to ride. I rode it for an entire day, and not once did I feel the need to stop riding. It has the appearance of a big bike, which is a good thing. And while it’s not the best in terms of quality and advanced features, it won’t disappoint you with its sporty performance.
In its segment, it certainly is my top pick. If you don’t consider yourself an avid off-roader, then you’ll certainly be pleased with what the V-Strom can do. It’s an easy-to-ride machine that can also be ridden in the city. And let’s not forget that it’s quite easy on your pocket too. In fact, it could very well be the best entry-level big ADV motorcycle available in India today.
- Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT
Engine: 645cc / V-Twin / liquid-cooled
Power: 71bhp @ 8,880rpm
Torque: 62Nm @ 6,500rpm
Price: ₹7.5 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi)
X-Factor: The most affordable and fun ADV sports tourer in India.
• Great handling
• Engine performance
• Not a very capable off-roader