Three months and over 3,300 miles into our long-term test of the Suzuki V-Strom 650XT, Iain Harper reviews how the middleweight model compares to its beefier sibling.
After more than 9,000 happy miles with the 2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000XT, at the end of July this year I rode back to Suzuki HQ in Milton Keynes to swap it for the 2019 650XT. I confess that my usual enthusiasm for getting a new bike was somewhat tempered by the expectation I’d miss the insatiable power of the 1000 and that remaining objective about the 645cc model might be a challenge. Thankfully those expectations were misplaced.
The 650XT certainly looks and feels more diminutive and somehow less feature-rich, and it’s much quieter too. But for the most part those characteristics are the 650’s strengths. More importantly, with objectivity returning during the 150-mile ride home, is the lower height (overall and at the seat), how much lighter and more playful the 650 is, and the absence of the super-light clutch present on the 2018 version I’d left behind. Bizarrely, the clutch lever isn’t adjustable. Neither is the angle of the windscreen.
Aside from the unassisted clutch (which didn’t take long to acclimatise to again), the capacity of the engine, and the whole thing weighing 17 kilos less, there are swings and roundabouts in the specification differences between the 1000 and 650 models. Compared to the 1000cc model, the V-Strom 650XT is only 5mm shorter in length and 20mm slimmer. At its highest point it’s 65mm shorter, though the seat is only 15mm lower. The wheelbase is very slightly longer and there’s a touch more ground clearance. Both bikes have the same 20-litre tank, with Suzuki’s quoted fuel economy for the 650XT being 10 mpg more than for the 1000XT. The 650 isn’t blessed with the motion track brake system found on the larger model. Seat design, spoked rims fitted with Bridgestone Battlewings, all the hard parts, dashboard display, low RPM assist, Suzuki’s “Easy Start System” and switchable traction control are the same. The 12V outlet has been moved from being central beneath the dash on the 1000XT to a position on the left-hand side where it’s both less useful and more exposed to the wet.
I put more than 9,000 miles on the 1000XT and it averaged 52.5 mpg with aluminium top-box and panniers fitted.
After a little over 3,300 miles since I collected it – riding the same mix of roads, distances, and in the same variety of conditions – average fuel consumption on the 650XT (with just a plastic top-box fitted) is hovering around 60 mpg. In round numbers that corresponds with the 10 mpg difference claimed by Suzuki, albeit with real-world economy being lower than under controlled test conditions. The 1000XT could manage around 200 miles on a full tank, while the 650XT can comfortably cover more like 250.
The 650XT will sit all day at progressive motorway speeds without being vibey or fatiguing, despite revving 1,500 to 2,000 RPM further round the dial than the 1000XT. Although it has to work harder, it does so without fuss or apparent effort – even when riding two-up – and there’s more than enough grunt for confident overtaking efficiency. Because higher revs can be safely enjoyed without fear of upsetting the local constabulary, I’d even say the power of the 650 delivers a more rewarding and fun ride.
The combined ‘less is more’ strengths of the 650XT – particularly its power to weight ratio, ergonomics, fuel economy and all round practicality – in my opinion make it the best V-Strom yet and certainly the most suitable for long-distance, road-oriented overlanding.
The V-Strom first came on the market in 2004 (I covered around 40,000 miles on one of that vintage a few years later), with modest design re-launches happening in 2012 and 2017. Personally I rather like the aesthetics of the current test bike, but there’s no getting away from the fact that the V-Strom is beginning to look a tad long in the tooth. It’ll be interesting to see what Suzuki do with it next.
You can save £1000 on a new V-Strom until 31 January 2020 as part of Suzuki’s Winter Offers promotion.
Suzuki V-Strom 650XT Specifications
|Overall length||2275 mm (89.57 in)||Overall width||910 mm (35.83 in)|
|Overall height||1405 mm (55.31 in)||Wheelbase||1560 mm (61.42 in)|
|Ground clearance||170 mm (6.69 in)||Seat height||835 mm (32.9 in)|
|Kerb mass||216 kg (476 lbs)||Fuel capacity||20.0 L (4.4 UK gallons)|
|Engine capacity||645 cc||Engine||4-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 90° V-twin|
|Bore||81.0 mm x 62.6 mm (3.2 in x 2.5 in)||Compression ratio||11.2 : 1|
|Lubrication||Wet sump||Ignition||Electronic ignition|
|Fuel system||Fuel injection||Transmission||6-speed constant mesh|
|Power||52.0 kW @ 8,800rpm (71 PS)||Torque||62.0 Nm @ 6,500rpm (45.72 lb. ft)†|
|Front suspension||Telescopic, coil spring, oil damped||Rear suspension||Link type, coil spring, oil damped|
|Front brakes||Disc, twin||Rear brakes||Disc|
|Front tyres||110/80R19M/C 59V||Rear tyres||150/70R17M/C 69V|
Testing and review: Iain Harper