HONDA CBR650R (2019 - on) Review
- Frugal motor updated for Euro5 compliance
- Updated big piston forks for 2021 model
- Easy engine performance but lacks thrills
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£210|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
Honda’s CBR650R is the go-to supersport bike for the real world. Originally priced at £7949 when it arrived in 2019, it handles sweetly, looks just like a Fireblade and recording a true top speed of 138mph on MCN’s test track it’s just 1mph slower than an Aprilia RS660.
It’s considerably roomier and more comfortable than a race rep but could take a trackday in its stride on sticky rubber. Think of it as the spiritual successor to the much underrated and missed 2001/2 CBR600FS Sport.
It replaced the more sports touring-focussed CBR650F in 2019, a bike popular in its own right with Honda selling 602 of them in the UK in 2018 - more than the Fireblade that year.
2021 Honda CBR650R ridden
First published 30 April, 2021 by Dan Sutherland
Priced at a smidge under £7950 and out-gunning the parallel-twin Kawasaki Ninja 650, the Honda CBR650R became the second best-selling sportsbike in Europe in its debut year.
Clearly onto a winning formula, the second-generation version is a classic case of 'don’t fix what ain’t broke', with the key changes including uprated Showa Separate Function Big Piston forks, a clearer dash and Euro5-compliance. It’s now yours for a base price of £8049.
As a result of these minor alterations, the updated CBR continues to be the same practical, engaging middleweight soft sportsbike we’ve come to know, capable of thrilling on the road alongside tackling daily drudgery. The chunkier front end is more composed, and the refined engine remains unintimidating – if slightly lacking in wow-factor on a back lane tear-up.
The new LCD dash is an improvement, however a TFT unit would be nice and a quickshifter is only available as an optional extra. The seat is uncomfortable after about an hour, too. If you’ve already got the old one, then the updates here do not justify a need to upgrade. For everyone else though, it’s a novice-friendly superbike lookalike that’s practical for the daily commute and poised enough for weekend fun.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
As you’d expect the Honda CBR650R isn’t hard to get on with. Ride quality is spot-on, given its budget forks and shock and it wafts nicely through town, is comfortable on the motorway and doesn’t protest when you ride it swiftly.
It’s balanced, stable, agile and engaging, with brakes that are always up to the job. It isn’t as sharp as a full-on supersports race rep or have the sumptuous ride of a machine with more expensive suspension, but it takes everything in its stride.
We rode it around our MCN250 test route with an MV Agusta F3 675 and Aprilia RS660 and in real world conditions the Honda never struggles to keep up. Better still it’s riding position, which is slightly sporty is spacious and comfortable.
The CBR650R is based heavily on the CBR650F that appeared in 2014 and later facelifted in 2017. It has the same steel diamond frame but the section around the swingarm pivot is pressed instead of cast steel and 41mm non-adjustable ‘right way up’ forks are swapped to upside down units. The preload-adjustable single shock remains unchanged. Twin, four-piston ABS-assisted calipers are radial-mount, instead of conventional.
Honda have slashed kerb weighed by an impressive 6kg, but much of that reduction comes from the CBR650R’s two-litre smaller fuel tank (it’s now 15.4 litres) and 800ml less oil capacity.
Its riding position is slightly sportier than the previous F model. Bars set 30mm lower and 30mm further forward to put more of the rider’s weight over the front wheel for extra feel and confidence. Footpegs are 6mm higher and 3mm back, but the seat height stays the same at 810mm.
Honda CBR650R or Ducati Supersport S?
The CBR650R impressed when we rode it around our MCN250 test route in the spring of 2019 against its big ‘comfy supersport’ rival: Ducati’s (significantly more expensive) Supersport S.
Tester Jon Urry said: "The CBR may be small, but it’s big in heart and demonstrates what Honda do best: like CBRs of yesteryear, it’s a brilliant do-it-all bike that’s effortless to ride yet still capable of a sporting buzz. While the inline four does need its gearbox to be worked if you want instant acceleration, it usually has more than enough midrange. But its major selling point will always be its price tag.
"Riders who want a chilled-out Ducati sportsbike will love the SuperSport S, and rightly so as it has all the character, feel and sporting prowess you expect from a Bologna bike, but in terms of value it can’t match the Honda. Even the base model, without the Öhlins, is £4409 more than the CBR and I struggle to justify the extra investment in an Italian do-it-all over a Japanese one.
"Back in the 1990s Honda’s CBR range sold like hotcakes based on sporty handling, good looks and real-world practicality, and aside from lacking a centrestand, that’s exactly what the CBR650R delivers."
Tyres we ran on our 2019 Honda CBR650R longterm test bike
The OE Dunlop D214 Sportmax rubber that came on our longterm test bike held its own in the warm and dry but things got a little vague in the cold and wet. They lasted around 5000 miles before squaring off and needing to be replaced.
By the time the Dunlops needed swapping, the temperature had risen and trackdays were looming and so we fitted Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa 2s (pictured below). With a triple compound rear (preserving the softest, grippiest rubber for the edge) and dual compound front these were the ideal choice. On the road, the Pirellis felt plush and smoothed out small bumps really well.
Next we opted for Bridgestone S22 sports touring tyres, which sat pretty well in the middle between the long-lasting but vague Dunlops and the soft Pirellis. The tyres flatter profile made you work harder to tip into a corner but they were very stable once you did.
Riding the 2021 Honda CBR650R
First published 30 April, 2021 by Dan Sutherland
Honda have gifted the second gen CBR650R a set of 41mm Showa Separate Function Big Piston forks. Older bikes are also dressed with 41mm Showa units, however the new ones are said to be lighter and - of course - feature a larger piston.
The result is a bike that feels composed over bumps, with minimal dive under hard braking at road speeds allowing you to make full use of the front four-piston calipers without intrusion from the ABS. Although non-adjustable, they are set-up adequately for a session on your favourite switchbacks but can crash over more rutted tarmac.
The Honda is also 25kg heavier than the rival £10,150 Aprilia RS660 and feels lazier – requiring more effort when tipping into a bend and less eager to change direction. Once lent over though, it feels planted with bags of grip from the front end – supported by a set of impressive Dunlop Sportmax tyres that warmed up quickly during our cool springtime test.
Where the Honda impresses less is in the seating department. Despite its clip-on bars and Fireblade lookalike plastics, it has quite an upright position and is far from a traditional supersport crouch. In principle, there is nothing wrong with this and there’s still ample ground clearance to scratch the occasional trackday itch, however it’s let down by an uncomfortable seat that leaves you with a numb bum in just 50 miles or so.
This is disappointing on a bike with such good fuel economy figures and an otherwise very comfortable stance, as it damages its ability to cover distance as a credible tourer.
EngineNext up: Reliability
Like the out-going CBR650F, the CBR650R uses the same liquid-cooled 649cc inline four-cylinder engine with added traction control. It has new dual air intakes, revised cam timing and exhaust tweaks, which adds up to an extra 3bhp at the crank which is next to impossible to feel in isolation.
It isn’t the last word in excitement, but with 94bhp on tap and loads of midrange oomph, the Honda is smooth, engaging, has a decent turn of acceleration when you open the taps and a deep racy growl. The clutch is light and the revised six speed gearbox is slick and smooth, but picking up a closed throttle at low revs can be jerky.
2021 Honda CBR650R engine updates explored
First published 30 April, 2021 by Dan Sutherland
The result is a bike that pulls almost identically to the old one – producing the same claimed 93.9bhp, with around a 0.7lbft drop in torque, to 46.5ftlb. Our 150-mile test took us through a mixture of towns, cities, back roads and dual carriageways, with the bike recording an impressive 55.98mpg on the day. This means a predicted range of just under 190 miles. Not bad from a 15.4-litre tank.
For all its green-fingered loveliness though, the engine is almost silent above idle, detracting from the riding experience. At a standstill, the CBR purrs with a delightful gravelly burble, but this soon disappears below the wind, even when wearing earplugs. Turn up the wick though and the motor bursts back into life, shouting its way through the gears at the upper echelons of the rev-range with next to no vibes.
If wringing its neck isn’t your thing though, you’ll be pleased to hear there’s a decent spread of power, with a useable midrange for daily riding and less frantic overtakes. Compared to its twin-cylinder rivals - the novice-friendly 67bhp Kawasaki Ninja 650 and more focussed 99bhp 659cc Aprilia RS660 - it offers impessive levels of refinement, but lacks the peppy engine note and fun factor many riders crave.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
Honda are known for building quality motorcycles and this is reflected in the CBR. The fit and finish far out-stretches its reasonable 2021 £8049 ticket and is backed up by a two-year warranty and wide-stretching dealer network.
As you’d expect owners have nothing but good things to say about life commuting, touring and generally enjoying the Thai-built CBR650R, too. There are no reliability or durability issues for this or the previous CBR650F models, which makes buying a second-hand example all the more reassuring.
How did our long-term Honda CBR650R cope with a winter?
The MCN Fleet 2019 Honda CBR650R never put a mechanical foot wrong. It burned no oil at all between changes in 20,000 miles of riding and felt the same on the way to a service as it did on the way back.
Like many modern bikes, it didn't stand up to a British winter without bearing scars and some of the metalwork, especially the pegs and pillion pegs had furred up by the time it went back. The paint and tank decals scuffed up under a magnetic tank bag, too.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
A 2021 CBR650R is yours for £109 a month over three years, with an initial deposit of £1302.61 and an optional final payment of £3924.15. That’s cracking value for a bike screwed together as well as this and for a new rider on a full licence, or an experienced pilot looking for a sporty all-rounder, it’s a great shout.
However, the CBR also likes to make noises about being A2-friendly and it’s here where it makes less sense. Compared to a £7099 Kawasaki Ninja 650 – which is available for £110 a month with a deposit of just 900 quid – the CBR is likely to be a bit too salty for the average 19-year-old in this licence bracket.
In fact, for the £1300 deposit needed here, you could bag yourself an A2 licence friendly Suzuki Bandit 600 or SV650 with likely a bit of change left over to help with insurance. What’s more, Honda also offer the A2 ready CBR500R for £6149, with 47bhp out the crate and enough shove for the commute and a good laugh along a back road.
Producing a fraction under 94bhp also puts it in direct competition with the Aprilia RS660, which comes with a TFT screen, quickshifter and cruise control as standard, plus a more comfortable riding position, IMU and full electronics package – all things the Honda lacks. That said, the Aprilia is over £2000 more expensive and lacks the finish and dealer network of the CBR.
The CBR650R comes with ABS, torque control and a revised LCD dash, which is still hard to read in bright daylight. An extensive list of official accessories is also available, includes heated grips, an up/down quickshifter, luggage and crash protection.
It also comes with an extensive list of Honda accessories that includes heated grips, luggage and crash protection.
What did we add to our longterm test bike?
The 2019 MCN Fleet Honda CBR650R came with the optional quickshifter fitted from the factory, but was otherwise standard.
When you're riding hard, the quickshifter is a dream to use but it's a bit ropey at low speeds around town especially if your chain is due an adjustment.
We fitted engine covers from GB Racing and crash protection, tail tidy and radiator guard from Evotech.
2021 Honda CBR650R equipment updates
First published 30 April, 2021 by Dan Sutherland
As before, the CBR650R gets conventional two-channel ABS an assist/slipper clutch, and Honda Selectable Torque Control (or traction control to you and me…) which can be switched off, if required. For 2021, the LCD dash also gets an update and the front headlights are more powerful, thanks to alterations to the reflectors.
Starting with the clocks, there’s a change of font size and LED angle for easier reading. The result is a simply navigated, slim display that houses all the information you need at a glance. That said, both the lesser powered £7099 Kawasaki Ninja 650 and more powerful, premium Aprilia RS660 now both feature swanky TFT units, with options for mobile connectivity.
Elsewhere, the CBR also gets a USB C socket under the rear seat to charge your phone, with enough useable space behind the tool kit to hold even the largest handset. A quick shifter is also available for £238.50 alongside a raft of other optional extras, such as taller screens, heated grips and luggage.
On top of this, Honda have tweaked the styling around the seating area and extended the lower fairing but after 150 miles across two days and multiple side-by-side image comparisons later on, we’re still struggling to spot all the tiny differences.
What’s more obvious is the revised number plate hanger, which has gone from black plastic to a more sophisticated steel, with a couple of small wings thrown in for good measure. Although an improvement, it’s unlikely to stay once purchased – replaced by an aftermarket tail tidy to help clear up the slightly underwhelming rear end.
Also new are the colours. Available in a choice of black or red, our design harks back to the CBR600F Sport of the early noughties and looks gorgeous up-close. The seven-stage preload-adjustable shock spring is also finished in yellow – another nod to the old school F.
For added visibility Honda have updated the reflectors within the headlights for an even stronger beam. Slotting into the purposeful superbike aping face, although hard to assess on our glorious sun-kissed test days, they help give the impression you’re on a much larger machine. What’s less impressive are the hazard warning lights pinging on under hard braking. A feature of many modern Hondas, it’s a distracting and unnecessary addition.
|Engine type||Liquid-cooled, 16v, inline four|
|Frame type||Steel diamond|
|Fuel capacity||15.4 litres|
|Front suspension||41mm, Showa forks non-adjustable|
|Rear suspension||Single rear shock, 10-stage adjustable preload|
|Front brake||2 x 310mm discs with four-piston radial calipers. ABS|
|Rear brake||240mm single disc with single-piston caliper|
|Front tyre size||120/70x17|
|Rear tyre size||180/55x17|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||47 mpg|
|Annual road tax||£96|
|Annual service cost||£210|
|Used price||£6,000 - £8,100|
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two years|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||94 bhp|
|Max torque||46.5 ft-lb|
|Top speed||135 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
|Tank range||195 miles|
Model history & versions
- 2019: Honda re-invent the CBR650F as the CBR650R. It gets its sister’s Fireblade styling, engine tweaks, a 6kg weight reduction and a raft of quality components, including upside down forks, radial brakes, modern switch gear and a multi-function LCD dash.
- 2021 Updated with full Euro5 approved engine, new 41mm USD Showa Separate Function Big Piston forks, an updated LCD dash, revised headlight reflectors, a USB socket under the seat and new graphics.
- The 2019-on Honda CB650R is effectively the same bike but comes with Honda’s neo sports café naked bike look and flat bars. This is also found on the CB125R, CB300R and CB1000R. The naked CB also arrived in 2019 and received similar updates to the CBR for 2021, including the same more powerful Showa forks and improvements to the LCD dash – later criticised by fellow tester, Jon Urry.
MCN Long term test reports
MCN Fleet: time to wash and go
It’s time to wave goodbye to the Honda CBR650R and I’ll be really sad to see it go. Related: full expert Honda CBR650R review on MCN One of my concerns at the start of this long-term test was that the CBR would be too soulless for me – and it’s not the sort of bike that makes your tingly bits ting…
Owners' reviews for the HONDA CBR650R (2019 - on)
10 owners have reviewed their HONDA CBR650R (2019 - 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:||£210|
Annual servicing cost: £150
A bit thirsty and slightly uncomfortable on longer rides
Unbelievable smooth power delivery
Some fastenings showing rust after 450miles
Buying experience: Dealer, great experience
Annual servicing cost: £150
Great to ride
Annual servicing cost: £210
Looks great in matte black, plenty of mid range poke and plenty quick enough for spirited riding on normal roads. Comfy enough on longer journeys although the seat is firm and could do with another couple of litres of tank capacity. Brakes work really well in all conditions, OE Dunlop tyres are good in the dry but a little vague in the wet.... however, its an all-round great bike and will take something pretty special for me to part with it in a hurry!
Ride quality is great even though Showa forks are none adjustable it seems to soak up all that the pitiful British roads can throw at it. Feels nimble and grippy through the twisty stuff too.. Brakes are nice and powerful without being pin sharp like you would find on a race rep
Pulls really well in all gears, lots of mid range punch too as long as you use the gearbox well
Bullet proof reliability, hasn't put a foot wrong all year...
Most of the equipment is good, some reviewers have slated the TFT dash for being too dim but you can turn up the brightness and I've never had a problem viewing it even in bright sunlight. OE tyres (Dunlops) wouldn't be my first choice but they are not so bad that I would consider changing them before they squared off...
Buying experience: Very good... bought from main Honda dealer in Newcastle
Nice comfortable ride although the seat can be a bit hard on a longer trek. Could do with slightly more range seeing as its not an out and out sports bike. Lovely to look at and cheap to insure. Centre of balance may be slightly too high for the shorter person. I am 6ft 2in and I think it is mildly top heavy. Other than that its a cracker
Really nice but vibration is a problem
Brakes good but vibration in bars is a pain
Buying experience: Dealer 6995
It does what it says on the can
As previous owner comments, vibration through bars around 30-40mph, gives you numb fingers after a few miles. Seat a tad on the firm side, needs a bum rest after 2 hours.
Easy power delivery throughout rev range and very smooth. More than enough power for todays roads.
Looks great in the matt black. Built to usual Honda top quality
Not had first service yet
Changed the 'sticky out rear number plate hanger for a tail tidy which has improved rear end 100%. Also added R&G crash bungs and tank protector. Indicator switch is poorly positioned and difficult to operate with normal gloves. LCD dash would benefit from improved illumination in sunny weather. Lights are very good
Buying experience: Bought from Dobles in Coulsdon. Very good buying experience and great trade in for my previous bike. Price quoted, price paid.
Annual servicing cost: £360
Superb bike loved it from the moment I test rode it. Took me back 30 years to the old Suzuki 600s.
Pain in the backside after about 70 miles - hard seat . Riding position OK when above 40, a pain at 30 when hands start to go numb very quickly. Would not want to carry a passenger Brakes are spot on.
Tappets noisy. High RPM (1350) at tick over (Small crankshaft ?).
Absolutely no faults, other than tyres
I felt the service costs very high for a couple of thousand miles service. 1st Service (600 miles) = £140 1st annual service = £224
Bike came with a free factory fitted Datatool tracker. - great for peace of mind. Lack of space to carry a fountain pen. Only real criticism was the Dunlop tyres. Frightened me to death a couple of times and soon had me heading to my dealer to have them replaced. Fitted Evo 3s which are an improvement, but high road noise
Buying experience: Bought new from my local Honda dealer and traded in a two year old Kawasaki 1000 SX that was getting too big for me. Paid £7800
Version: No ABS
Annual servicing cost: £200
It is a great touring bike. Beautiful. That quad exhaust is a work of art.
Super comfortable, quiet when you like it to be. The brakes are super forgiving and effective. Acceleration is there when you want it. It really can be a, expensive, starter bike. The throttle is manual not fly by wire.
So far no issues. A speedo with an actual gas gauge. You'll need that later one. The tank is small and it gets thirsty.
That's just the 600 mile service. Gas is based on use. Value: You can get the 600RR for the same price with incentives. I didn't want a supersport. I already had access to an r6 and it was FUN but not decent to cruise.
My fault should have found an ABS.
Great middleweight motorcycle, handled all situations so far with utmost control. Loved every aspect of the bike.
The braking system is the best part of the motorcycle. Barely triggering the brakes and the bike stops very fast without making the tyres squeal. Wonderful in the rain and ice, even with the stock Dunlop tyres.
Smoothness is the keyword. The in-line four allows a very good power distribution, and peak power is high in the powerband allowing for a relaxed ride very easily if you want. Power always keeps coming the more you accelerate almost before the redline.
Minimal vibration at idle, no gaps or components shaking while riding and a very well-designed frame that shows its potential when riding hard.
The LED headlights and tail lights are beautiful and at night I have a great visibility of the road and the other cars. As for extras, I loved the luggage pack, as the tank bag has the chance to put your phone there and allows touching without taking it off, and the rear bag is pretty big, compared to the pack cost.