2019 CFmoto 650MT road test review
Until a few months ago CFmoto was an alien name to most of us. We'd never heard about the manufacturer, but the Chinese motorcycle maker has partnered with Bengaluru-based AMW Motorcycles and entered the Indian two-wheeler space with as many as four motorcycles, of which three are middleweight machines! Talk about making an entrance. We've just gotten our hands on the 650 MT that's positioned as a road-biased adventure tourer that faces off against established names like the Kawasaki Versys 650 and the Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT, as also the Benelli TRK 502 that was launched earlier this year. So what does the 650MT have up its sleeve? Does it have the ammo to take on the competition? We put it through a full road test to check.
CFmoto is the newest two-wheeler manufacturer in the country and has launched three 650cc motorcycles, including the 650MT, that's positioned as a road-biased touring motorcycle
Design and engineering
One of the first things that hit me when I saw the 650MT in the flesh was that it looks very modern. In fact, it looks very futuristic. And why not, the bike has been designed in Austria by Kiska Design, the very firm that designs KTMs! And once you know that fact, it's hard to ignore the fact that the 650MT's fairing reminds of some of KTM's motorcycles. Moving on, I'm not a fan of vertically stacked headlights, but they do make for a distinct appearance especially with the tall LED strips on either side that function as daytime running lamps on the 650MT. I also like how the windscreen 'floats' above the fairing, making for a premium appearance. More importantly, the screen can be height-adjusted manually, though I have to mention that the quality of the (aluminium) stalks that help you adjust it could have been better. In fact, the tightening bolt on our test bike was prone to loosening itself on the go, resulting in a rattling sound.
The windscreen on the CFmoto 650MT can be adjusted manually but the quality and finish of the components is below par
The CFmoto 650MT is compact, especially from the rear, making it easy for shorter and inexperienced riders to swing a leg over
The fairing and engine protection guard looks bulky as well and while I have no doubts about the protection it will offer in the event of a fall, I felt its design could have been better. The motorcycle is pretty compact overall though and in fact once in the saddle it feels just slightly larger than say a KTM 390 Duke, which is very impressive for what is positioned as a middleweight tourer. This is should make it easy for shorter and inexperienced riders to swing a leg over without scaring themselves. Interestingly, the front end is quite beefy though, thanks to the fat, upside down forks and 120-section front tyre. In comparison, the rear end is quite compact though and in fact the 650MT looks more like a sport naked from the rear. I also like the design and profile of the seat, though I am not entirely convinced about the pillion perch being very comfortable, given how slim it is.
The layout and quality of plastics used on the instrument cluster of the CFmoto 650MT could have been better
The tall, upright stance of the motorcycle, the scooped seat and overall styling make for a striking appearance on the road for the 650MT and the bike did attract a lot of attention on the road. Overall paint finish and quality is good, though quality of plastics, especially on the switchgear and even instrument cluster could have been better. In fact, speaking of the instrument cluster, it offers a lot of information, but the layout could have been better in terms of legibility. Also, the black background for the digital speedometer readout that sits inside the tachometer isn't very easy to read on the go.
Engine and performance
Now, this is a very interesting part. Right from the moment I started riding the CFmoto 650MT, I couldn't help but notice how similar its parallel-twin motor felt to the one on Kawasakis like the Ninja 650, Z650 and Versys 650 as well. Turns out the motor powering the CFmoto is based on the Kawasaki motor. Which explains why the CFmoto sounds so similar to the Kawasakis and also puts its power down in a very similar manner. At 71PS and 62Nm the CFmoto offers 2PS more and 2Nm lesser than the Kawasaki, but has a very similar feel overall. Of course, being a parallel-twin, the torque curve is pretty flat, resulting in good performance throughout the rev range. There's a hint of peakiness at the top, which is likeable as well.
The 649cc, liquid-cooled parallel-twin engine powering the CFmoto 650MT is based on the engine that powers the Kawasaki Versys 650 - the displacement, bore and stroke, exhaust note and power delivery are all the same as the Kwacker
The engine is mated to a six-speed gearbox and the ratios are well-spaced. The transmission offers precise shifts, though I would have liked a lighter feel to go along with that. Performance is brisk, despite the bike's 218kg kerb weight and the 650MT sprinted to 100kmph from standstill in a rather impressive 5.45 seconds. The bike has no trouble pulling well beyond the 100kmph mark and should conditions permit, hitting speeds in excess of 160kmph is easy. Sustaining 120-140kmph on the highway is thus no problem at all and in that sense, the CFmoto 650MT's mile munching abilities are impressive. Engine refinement is reasonably good at low and mid revs, though there is a buzzy feel as you go higher.
Given it power delivery and the well-spaced gear ratios, the CFmoto 650MT is an able highway tool
More importantly, fueling is not very crisp, especially at low revs which results in a lack of confidence at low speeds, especially when maneouvering through slow moving traffic. More precise fueling should help acceleration as well as rideability, though the fueling does get smoother once you're past crawling speeds. Fuel efficiency is good, as the bike returned 24.06kmpl on the highway and 18.8kmpl in city which translates to a tank range of well over 300km given the 18-litre tank. The CFmoto thus impresses on the powertrain front, except for the slightly clunky feeling gearbox and the fueling at slow speeds.
Ride and handling
Given its setup, the 650MT is an out and out road-biased motorcycle. There's a set of fat upside down forks at the front and an offset monoshock at the rear in fact the latter again looks very similar to the Versys 650's unit. CFmoto has shod the 650MT with Metzeler Roadtec tyres, a 120-section at the front and a 160-section at the rear which further confirm the bike's road-bias. A 120-section front in fact is what you usually see on litre-class superbikes! This results in a sporty and very confident handling package on the road and the 650MT feels planted, be it in a straightline when barreling down straights or leaning into corners. The front end offers good feel and feedback as well which further adds to confidence when riding enthusiastically. What's more, the front forks also offer preload adjustment.
Red-coloured knobs on top allow you to adjust preload on the upside down front forks
The Metzelers deserve a mention on the handling front particularly, as they offered excellent grip even in the wet. The setup thus compliments the 650MT's positioning as a road-biased tourer and the powertrain-suspension combination along with the upright seating position make it a likeable mile muncher. In fact, the 650MT holds a lot of potential as an everyday motorcycle, with its combination of the sprightly engine performance, well-tuned suspension and light, nimble feel. The firm suspension setup affects ride quality on broken roads though. It allows the bike to soak undulations at high speeds, but low speed ride suffers due to the setup and the 650MT transfers some shock to the rider when going over sharp bumps and through ruts. This affects rideability on bad roads severely, not to forget the fact that the cast alloy wheels on the bike also call for caution on bad roads. The 650MT is not as impressive when it comes to braking though. Braking hard from 100kmph had the motorcycle squirm, which isn't very confidence inspiring.
The CFmoto 650MT's ride quality is firm which helps it impress in terms of handling but that comes at the cost of a pliant ride on bad roads
The 650MT is priced at Rs 4.99 lakh ex-showroom which makes it an interesting proposition as a road-biased touring motorcycle that can also double up as your everyday machine. But a big question mark right now is CFmoto's dealer network, considering the brand has just entered the market and consequently its after sales service support. This is even more important when you consider that the 650MT's competitors are products from Japanese manufacturers like Kawasaki and Suzuki. What's more, the bike's build quality is not too impressive either and that said, the reliability is a question mark at the moment too. While the brand has priced the bike well and as a product it impresses in terms of performance and dynamics too, but we will have to wait and see how the bigger questions get answered.
The CFmoto 650MT has been priced at Rs 4.99 lakh ex-showroom which is inviting, and the bike also impresses with its engine performance and dynamics but there's a whole lot of other questions yet to be answered about the brand and bike both
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