Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 (2018-on) Review
- Amazing value cafe racer
- Ultra-low list price with full warranty
- Suitable for A2 licence holders
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£200|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
As an overall package, the Royal Enfield Continental GT is great, if a little one dimensional. Because it’s a café racer, the position is more extreme, so it’s less comfortable than the Interceptor. It’s only got a single seat too, so you can’t take a mate around.
- Related: New Royal Enfield 650 cruiser spotted
- Related: new K-Tech suspension for Royal Enfield Continental GT
- Related: listen to these Zard exhausts for the Royal Enfield Continental GT
As a Sunday blast bike though, it’s great fun, arguably more fun than the Royal Enfield Interceptor but as an overall package, the Interceptor is the better buy.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
The Royal Enfield test riders say their brief for these bikes was to make them fun and they’ve succeeded. Because it doesn’t make huge amounts of power, you can rev the nuts off it and spend the whole day stretching your throttle cables without feeling like you’ve had the shit kicked out of you.
When a corner approaches, the Bybre brakes scrub off speed well with a decent bite and good modulation – hell even the budget Pirellis do a great job of sticking to the road. Riding along you start wondering where they’ve saved the money, then you come across some challenging corners and it all becomes painfully apparent.
When you really start to push on, the budget suspension starts to struggle although it remains slightly more composed than the Interceptor. The bikes are very soft, at the request of the Indian market, and can wallow on fast, sweeping roads but the GT comes with more rear preload as standard, which helps put a bit more weight onto the front.
The clip-ons and rear sets also push you weight further forward, eliminating the worst of the ‘floaty’ feeling from the budget springs. When you consider the price, you can forgive the bike a few faults – there are more expensive bikes with naff suspension too – but it’s still disappointing.
EngineNext up: Reliability
The Continental GT is fitted with Enfield’s brand new, air-cooled 650 parallel twin. It doesn’t make huge amounts of power or torque, but that’s not really the point and it has ‘enough’.
Down low there’s a reasonable amount of torque with 80% arriving before 2500rpm, so you can chug it out of corners but you can rev it all the way to its 8000rpm redline. The throttle is lovely and smooth too, partially as a by-product of its low power, plus it’s A2 compliant.
Holding on to gears brings you a bit more power while also rewarding you with a fantastic exhaust note. It sounds like it’s straight out of the ‘60s, which is a miracle in a Euro4 strangled world – there are even some S&S cans coming for noisy types.
The new six-speed gearbox (an Enfield first!) is slick and if you keep feeding it gears it will clamber all the way to the magic ton.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
For the brief 150 miles we rode the bike on the launch, nothing broke so I guess it’s 5/5. In all seriousness Enfield doesn’t have the best rep for reliability but that’s something they want to change.
All the new bikes that come off the line will go through a 1007 point check, which Enfield say takes over six hours to complete. If that’s not enough, every new bike will come with a three year unlimited mileage warranty, so it comes with peace of mind too. Speaking personally – I wouldn’t have any concerns about buying one and it falling apart on the ride home.
In May 2020 a recall was issued for this bike due to corroding Bybre brake calipers.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
Café racer group test: Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 vs Triumph Thruxton vs Moto Guzzi V7 Café Racer
The Royal Enfield Continental GT is big news from the Indian-owned company which, on world sales alone, easily out- performs Triumph and Moto Guzzi. Make no mistake, in terms of units sold Royal Enfield are big players. However, the vast majority of their sales are domestic, 90% in fact, where Indians have to put their names on a waiting list for a new bike from the Royal Enfield factory. I spent two weeks travelling around India on a Royal Enfield a few years back. They’re as ubiquitous as pigeons in Trafalgar Square. It seems everyone owns one, fighting for space and progress in the congested cities. It’s not unusual to see an Enfield four-up, or more, with shopping or a goat strapped on the back! My right foot-change, old 500cc Enfield never missed a beat, robust and reliable both on and off road, which is what has led to the success of the Enfield back in India. Not much has changed about the bike in the last five decades.
But now Enfield is taking on the global market, buoyed by phenomenal growth since leadership of Enfield was assumed by Siddharta Lal, son of the CEO of Eicher Motors. Sid, as he is affectionately known, is the driving force behind the rejuvenation of the brand, and the reinvented Continental GT is the first new model born from this new way of thinking.
The problem is that Enfield is entering an already competitive market where strong brands are achieving success in the small but increasing café racer segment. Yes, the café racer market is in growth thanks to the aging motorcycling population, but there is also a new wave of style-conscious younger riders coming through who are eager to get in on the scene. So is there room for the competitively priced Enfield – at only £5499? And how does it compare to the established competition from Triumph and Moto Guzzi? We decided to turn back the clock, put away the race leathers, and embarked on a few days of nostalgic riding to find out.
The MCN Verdict
In many ways I really like the Continental GT 650 and would love to have one tucked away in the back of my garage for sunny afternoons, darting around on the country lanes near my home in Yorkshire. It’s fun in a charming way, has character, sounds great and looks the part, if you can ignore a few bits of poor quality control. But at the end of the day it’s not even as quick as a Honda CBR250. I don’t think I could live with that day in day out. However if my dad owned one, I’d pop round every sunny Sunday afternoon for a blast. And it’s not like it would break the bank.
I don’t dislike the Guzzi at all, it’s an excellent bike, easy to ride, has character and looks good, it’s just not to my taste. It’s a brilliant A2 licence bike, should be reliable, low maintenance with a shaft drive, good around town and would make an excellent first big bike. It handles well, is quick enough, and worth a try if you want something different.
But the best bike here is the Thruxton, albeit for considerably more money than the Enfield. It can be used every day all year round if you wanted, is quick enough, feels solid and is reliable. It’s also British and there is a huge list of accessories and parts available to personalise the Triumph. I had the pick of all three bikes for a long weekend after the photo shoot. I took the Triumph.
Despite its budget price there’s some decent kit. Brakes are from Brembo subsidiary ByBre and they’re paired with Bosch’s two-channel ABS. Pirelli provide the tyres (although 18” sizes doesn’t leave many aftermarket options).
The retro clocks are nice too and they’ve even got a fuel gauge, although they’re not as feature rich as the ones on the Royal Enfield Himalayan, which is a bit of a shame. The fit and finish of the rest of the bike isn’t bad either – the only thing that really lets it down is the budget suspension.
You can listen to the sound this engine makes with aftermarket slip-ons and an air filter below - the Interceptor and Continental GT are the same in this respect.
|Engine type||Air-cooled 4v parallel twin|
|Frame type||Steel twin spar|
|Fuel capacity||13.7 litres|
|Front suspension||Non-adjustable 41mm RWU forks, 110mm travel|
|Rear suspension||Preload adjustable twin shocks, 88mm travel|
|Front brake||Single 320mm disc, dual piston caliper|
|Rear brake||240mm disc, dual piston caliper|
|Front tyre size||100/90 – 18|
|Rear tyre size||130/70 – 18|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||-|
|Annual road tax||£93|
|Annual service cost||£200|
|Used price||£4,400 - £5,700|
How much to insure?
Top speed & performance
|Max power||46 bhp|
|Max torque||38 ft-lb|
|Top speed||105 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
Model history & versions
- 2018: Bike launched alongside Interceptor 650.
- The Interceptor 650 was launched at the same time and uses many identical parts to the Continental GT. It has eclipsed the GT's sales by a considerable margin, however, because it's comfier and more practical as well as being slightly cheaper.
Owners' reviews for the ENFIELD CONTINENTAL GT (2018 - on)
3 owners have reviewed their ENFIELD CONTINENTAL GT (2018 - on) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£200|
Annual servicing cost: £150
Good fun and exceptional value for the money.
Riding comfort is not bad, I have the touring seat and it's decent. Overall handling is good. The suspension is on the cheap side though and will benefit from some upgrades. Rear shocks seem ok but I'm planning a fork upgrade. Most I've ridden is an hour but it wasn't uncomfortable.
Engine is very smooth for a twin. No vibes from it at all. Obviously it's not powerful but the gearing is perfect for keeping it in it's sweet spot.
Overall pretty good quality. Some minor corrosion on the rear shocks but easily fixed. The handlebar switches do feel cheap but work ok. Paintwork looks good quality. No issues with reliability.
For a home mechanic this is very easy bike to service. Unless I need warranty work I foresee so reason to visit a dealer workshop. Running costs are average. OEM oil filter is £23 and it needs fully synthetic oil. The 18" tyres are also slightly expensive, they are tubed though so home fitting is very possible.
I think my favourite feature is the lack of features. This is very basic bike. Speedo, tacho, two trip meters and a fuel gauge is all you get. There are lots of upgrade options and I think the stock bike is a "blank canvas". OEM accessories are very reasonably priced and aftermarket parts are becoming available also.
Annual servicing cost: £160
Wow. I have many bikes over the years mostly more powerful and more expensive than the cgt. This bike has all the performance you need to have fun around the legal mark, its well made, has a long warranty and break down cover. Oh and its a head Turner. What's not to like!
It rides wonderfully, only getting out of shape a little when you stray into sports bike territory, but why would you? For reasonably quick every day riding the chassis and breaks are well tuned to the average riders (including mine) abilities
Plenty if torque and feels more powerful than the 48bhp on the spec sheet. Has a lovely soundtrack with the standard exhaust. You can get a move on if required but you can especially just trot along at a consistent pace being a little lazy with the gear changes thanks to the torque available.
Well put together, especially compared to a few people I know who ride the great American brand.
In line with other bikes of a similar nature
Ok so nothing is perfect but this would come close with a clock and gear change indicator, honestly though I am knit picking. I have the small screen purely for visual effect and the bar end mirrors which suit the bike and are very well priced. I will stick on the scorpion cans shortly.
Buying experience: The local dealer down in medway has been great, they seem to understand their customers. Cant speak for warranty claims yet has I haven't needed to.....so far. I managed to get a small discount off of the list price.
Version: Mister Clean
Annual servicing cost: £300
I've never owned a more enjoyable bike, turns a heads everywhere it goes and sounds awesome even with the standard silencers.
I'm not sure why MCN didn't like the suspension, I think the models that came to the UK may be a bit stiffer sprung than the launch bikes they were testing. Alongside my Continental GT I own a Honda Fireblade so the bike to handles like a pig compared to that. When I found myself on a twisty B-road with plenty on tight turns and crests I was not disappointed with the Royal Enfield, the Continental GT can more than hold its own for this kind of bike. I have also ridden with a pillion and the bike more than exceeded my expectations, I left the rear shocks alone and hoped it would handle the extra weight and they did with no wallowing what so ever.
This engine is a masterpiece, good amount of torque and will more than happily sit at motorway speeds even with a pillion. There is no point revving the nuts off this bike as the enjoyment comes from letting the torque pull you out the bends, also the six-speed box is slick and works great with the slipper clutch although I always blip on the downshifts just to hear the lovely note from that 650 twin.
I haven't owned the bike long, but it seems to be very well-built and the finish is lovely. There are a few rough edges but for the money I can't complain.
The bike seems to be reasonably economical, I tend to refuel after around 100 miles but I'd imagine they will do 130-150 on a full tank depending on how you rode it.
These bikes are basic, poor storage even under the seat but the standard UK spec bikes do come with a twin seat. Also as standard is a pillion grab rail and ABS, the Bybre brake offer more than enough stopping power and the Pirelli tyres offer good grip and feedback although they do use inner tubes.