Connect With Us!

Comparison Test: 2013 BMW C 650 GT vs. 2013 Honda NC700X

The C 650 GT is a sport tourer in scooter clothing; the NC700X is nimble, adequately quick and easy to ride.

The C 650 GT is a sport tourer in scooter clothing; the NC700X is nimble, adequately quick and easy to ride.

Photo Credit: Kevin Wing

Mark Tuttle
April 3, 2013
Filed under BMW Motorcycle Road Tests: Reviews on BMW Motorcycles, Dual-Sport + Adventure Motorcycle Reviews, Honda Motorcycle Road Tests: Reviews on Honda Motorcycles, Road Tests, Sidecar + Scooter + Trike Motorcycle Reviews

Bookmark and Share

We aren’t normally a shiftless bunch except for an hour or two after lunch, but we recently spent the last two weeks swapping between two new “automatics”—BMW’s C 650 GT maxi-scooter, and Honda’s NC700X with dual-clutch transmission—in an effort to see which type of shiftless two-wheeler rules the urban no-man’s land between home, work and other mundane daily destinations. You can use the manual mode on the Honda and do your own shifting, but to level the field we declared manual mode off-limits.

Fact is, I really like shifting; for me it’s part of the motorcycle experience. But I’ll tell you what—in the daily battle with the four-wheeled anti-destination league clogging the roads around town, there are some times when not having to do all that clutching and clicking is kind of nice. A relief, even. So, which do you not do it on, the maxi-scooter or the motorcycle?

Both automatic machines are excellent commuters; the BMW excels on longer rides, and the Honda at urban warfare.

Both automatic machines are
excellent commuters; the BMW excels on longer rides, and the Honda at urban warfare.

With their quick acceleration, nimbleness and narrowness, automatic or not, there’s no argument that scooters and motorcycles are the weapons of choice for conquering the commute. When it comes to “shiftless” urban mobility for the masses, however, with a few exceptions, scooters with their automatic constant-velocity transmissions (CVTs) have ruled the road so far. They’re cute, approachable, easy to ride, and the small ones are attractively cheap and fuel-efficient. For many riders, the way you “step-through” to mount and dismount in front of the seat is a wardrobe requirement if not a physical one; swinging a leg over a motorcycle saddle can be difficult for some riders, simply inappropriate or too aggressive for others.

But what about these highway-ready maxi-scooters, like the newest C 650s from BMW (Rider, June 2012, page 88)? If you take away the light weight, small size, low cost and some of the fuel efficiency, does the maxi-scooter still have the upper hand over a light, nimble motorcycle with a similarly automatic twist-and-go transmission? In the case of BMW’s C 650 GT maxi, the rider enjoys terrific wind protection from its large electric windscreen, fairing and floorboards; good underseat storage capable of holding a full-face helmet and several bags of groceries; a huge cushy dual seat; and a convenient parking brake that is disengaged by raising the sidestand. The final drive chain is encased in an oil bath and rarely needs attention, and the GT has powerful triple-disc brakes and surprisingly high-performance suspension. Typical BMW touches like LED lighting and a heated seat and grips contribute to the scooter’s—dare I say it—carlike luxury.

Large fairing and electric windscreen provide good wind protection.

Large fairing and electric
windscreen provide good wind protection.

This is a powerful vehicle, too; its 647cc liquid-cooled parallel twin makes a claimed 60 horsepower and is capable of rocketing the scooter briskly between lights and to highway speeds in a growling burst of acceleration. It slices and dices through traffic like the cars are standing still, too…even when they’re not. At highway speeds in excess of 80 mph there’s power to spare, and the scooter is stable and solid thanks to its big wheels and radial tires. In roll-on contests, even with the Honda NC700X in the sportier of its two automatic DCT modes, the scooter was always the victor by a small margin, even though our C 650 GT weighed 43 pounds more than our fully optioned NC700X test bike. A long two-up tour, perhaps with the addition of the optional top trunk, would be a hoot on this scoot.

Accessories shown include hard luggage, light bar and a taller windscreen.

Accessories shown include hard luggage, light bar and a taller windscreen.

On the other hand, when scooters grow this large some of their inherent advantages are lost. Pushing the C 650 GT’s 587 pounds is actually a little harder than paddling the NC700X around, and it sucks up as much garage space as the middleweight adventure tourer. The maxi’s engine bay between your feet is taller and larger out of necessity, too, so getting on it is less like gracefully “stepping through” than clumsily stepping over. This particular scooter has an unusually high seat height that feels even higher than its 31.7-inch spec, too—with my inseam of 29 inches, I was often caught off-guard by how far it is to the ground at stops, especially for a scooter (BMW says a lower seat is in development).

Ridden similarly, the NC700X achieved superior average fuel economy of 55.2 mpg on regular gas; the C 650 GT only hit 44.6 mpg and requires a minimum of 89 mid-grade fuel. Finally, at its widest, the GT’s bodywork is only three inches narrower than the Honda’s saddlebags. Neither is particularly wide, but scraping bodywork is tragic while scratching a saddlebag is merely irksome.

Fuel tank is under the NC700X’s seat; an integrated 21-liter “tank” box holds a full-face helmet.

Fuel tank is under the NC700X’s seat; an integrated 21-liter “tank” box holds a full-face helmet.

OK, so a big scooter isn’t the same as a little one, is it? If I want shiftless convenience but don’t necessarily need step-through style, what’s the Honda NC700X got going for it? To get them closer in terms of cost and equipment, we asked Honda to equip our NC700X like our last test bike (Rider, November 2012), with many of its accessories including the locking hard luggage. In combination with the NC700X’s innovative 21-liter tank compartment, the bags give it substantially more luggage capacity than the GT—the NC will hold two full-face helmets before you even open the saddlebags, in fact. Though you do have to lift and swing or stick your leg over the seat to get on, the NC’s seat height is low enough that I can plant both feet on the ground at stops. And rather than a passive, feet-forward seating position like a riding mower, the motorcycle’s footpegs are beneath you so can stand up over bumps. The handlebar is higher, too, giving better leverage.

You can take the NC more places thanks to its adventure styling and greater ground clearance, and though the C 650 GT is probably the best-handling big scooter we’ve ever ridden, it just can’t match the NC700X’s nimbleness in tight corners. While the scooter is faster on top, unlike its CVT belt and pulleys, the dual clutches in the NC’s transmission engage each gear solidly, so the lighter motorcycle gets away from a light more briskly and feels a little quicker in the city.

The NC700X’s 670cc engine is designed for maximum efficiency and redlines at just 6,500 rpm.

The NC700X’s 670cc engine is
designed for maximum efficiency and redlines at just 6,500 rpm.

All is not perfect in NC700X land, though. While our bike shares heated grips it lacks the scooter’s wind protection, and that taller accessory windscreen is noisy. Both are equipped with ABS, but the NC700X’s single front disc brake is a bit wimpy and its suspension is too soft for two-up and fully loaded riding. The rider and passenger’s seats can’t hold a candle to the scooter’s plush bench, and you can’t ignore the final drive chain like you can the scooter’s. The engine is only rated for 47 horsepower, too (51 for the standard trans), and shifted manually, its low redline of 6,500 rpm takes some getting used to before you stop running into the rev limiter.

The verdict? We compared these machines because they offer two completely different approaches to shiftless middleweight mobility. Either would be a functional choice. Ironically, the BMW C 650 GT is the better two-up, long-distance bike. It’s more like a middleweight sport-touring motorcycle styled like a scooter than a scooter in the traditional sense. It offers some step-through convenience with luggage capacity, plenty of long-range comfort and wind protection with motorcycle-like power, brakes and suspension. But the Honda NC700X DCT is actually a better “scooter” for commuting in that it’s lighter, feels quicker, has a lower seat height, better handling, gets better mpg and holds more stuff. It’s acceptably comfortable for long rides, and you can take the luggage off for even more maneuverability or just playing around, and still have some storage. So, a motorcycle styled like a scooter…or a motorcycle? Unless you have to step-through, we say swing a leg over the bike.

2013 BMW C 650 GT

2013 BMW C 650 GT

2013 BMW C 650 GT
Website: bmwmotorcycles.com
Base Price: $9,990
Price as Tested: $10,595 (heated seat & grips, TPM)
Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse parallel twin, DOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Bore x Stroke: 79.0 x 66.0mm
Displacement: 647cc
Transmission: Continuously Variable (CVT)
Final Drive: Enclosed chain in oil bath
Wheelbase: 62.6 in.
Rake/Trail: 25.4 degrees/3.6 in.
Seat Height: 31.7 in.
Wet Weight: 587 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 4.2 gals., last 1.1 gal. warning light on
Average MPG: 44.6; min. PON 89

2013 Honda NC700X

2013 Honda NC700X

2013 Honda NC700X
Website: powersports.honda.com
Base Price: $6,999
Price as Tested: $11,598 (DCT ABS model, MSRP $8,999, plus Tall Windscreen, Accents, Deflectors, Light Bar, 45-Liter Trunk, 29-Liter Saddlebags, Centerstand, Heated Grips, 12V Accessory Socket)
Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse parallel twin, SOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Bore x Stroke: 73.0 x 80.0mm
Displacement: 670cc
Transmission: 6-speed, dual clutch automatic (as tested)
Final Drive: O-ring chain
Wheelbase: 60.6 in.
Rake/Trail: 27.0 degrees/4.3 in.
Seat Height: 32.7 in.
Wet Weight: 545 lbs. (as tested)
Fuel Capacity: 3.7 gals., last 0.8 gal. warning light on
Average MPG: 55.2; min. PON 87

(This article Maxi-Scooter or Motorcycle? was published in the April 2013 issue of Rider magazine.)

BMW’s complete instrumentation includes a trip computer and TPM readout.

BMW’s complete instrumentation includes a trip computer and TPM readout.

Longish BMW underseat storage holds one full-face helmet and some gear.

Longish BMW underseat storage holds one full-face helmet and some gear.

Related Content

Comments

9 Responses to “Comparison Test: 2013 BMW C 650 GT vs. 2013 Honda NC700X”

  1. John on April 20th, 2013 4:15 pm

    As the arthritis in my wrists gets progressively more painful I hope the bike makers keep coming up with interesting “shiftless” two-wheelers. I’d rather not shift than not ride!

    [Reply]

  2. Randy on April 22nd, 2013 5:12 pm

    I own the 2012 NC700X (standard shift and no ABS) and have put about 2K miles on it now. Prior to owning this bike I had a Honda VTX1800R big cruiser.

    I love the NC700. Why? It is great for both commuting and for short joy rides around the metro area which is most of my riding time, plus it is equally great for taking out on the open highway and cruising at 75MPH all you want with power to spare.

    My VTX cruiser was heavy and hard to handle, especially in turns. It was not fun to break out for commuting purposes. Yes, on the open highway it was king as far as I was concerned. But alas, the weight versus my “mature” age and arthritis were making it too much for me to handle. On the other hand, the NC700 is absolutely wonderful to handle. Quick and nimble on the turns and sure feeling and the red line is not a problem for me. It has the upright sitting position which is a must for me. The higher, optional windshield does a good job of deflecting enough wind to keep the wind pressure off of your upper body and head at highway speeds.

    It has a rated top speed of 115 MPH, and I have only had the nerve to take mine to 100 MPH, which it accomplished without a sweat. This past weekend I did a four hour, 177 mile back country ride and burned only 2.3 gallons of gas using 93 octane, which is optional. That’s 77 MPG, folks!!!

    The ONLY drawback this bike has compared to my VTX is handling in high winds (25 MPH +). You gotta hold on and keep a tight reign to ride at highway speeds when battling high winds or wind gusts. This of course holds true for any bike of this weight class.

    Overall, I am more satisfied with this bike than any bike I have owned to date. I love it. It is fun to ride. I am getting the two hard case saddlebags and cruise control added this week. Honda doesn’t call it their “crossover” bike without good reason!

    [Reply]

    Mark Reply:

    Totally agree. Nc700x is an awesome bike great maneuverability, fuel economy, plenty of power and speed, and a great bike for even the most experienced riders to commute or just have a bit of fun.

    It’s no super bike though and if you want to go and Rossi speeds probably not the bike for you. Other than that you are on a pretty safe bet with this bike.

    My bike is all black, manual, I’ve done just over 1,000kms, thought the fuel gauge wasn’t working but it was – just darn economical.

    Some changes I’ve made from the stock model:
    - ixil dual hyperlow exhaust (wanted more noise so the cagers can hear me)
    - added a rear hugger from R&G Racing
    - DM1 lights from twistedthrottle.com a must if night riding
    - Radiator Guard from R&G Racing to protect the quite exposed radiator from rocks etc.
    - centre stand added – highly recommended
    - Bar ends
    - Engine Guard – highly recommended

    Despite the changes above I only have two complaints about this manual bike:
    1) no gear indicator except N (neutral) – after a while you get to know your bike sound but still it would be a nice improvement
    2) the seat is really average – too slippery which is annoying – easily fixed but Honda needs to fix these two.

    Hope the above is useful to someone considering this bike which I highly recommend.

    [Reply]

  3. BMW C650 GT v Honda NC700X - UK Motorbike Forum on May 8th, 2013 4:52 pm

    [...] Quite an interesting comparison test. The NC is a 'better scooter than the scooter' – in town, at least: Comparison: 2013 BMW C 650 GT vs. 2013 Honda NC700X | Rider Magazine [...]

  4. Paul Shepherd on June 21st, 2013 6:05 pm

    Excellent review and two bikes I am keen to try/consider in future.
    I’ve had a few mid sized bikes, but tired of gear changes in busy commuting traffic.
    So I looked further and jumped off a tall BMW F650GT onto a Piaggio 350 X10 (their flagship model).. Nice lines, light and easy to manoeuvre in traffic. Comes with ABS, Traction control and a, good sized screen to deflect wind. Capable of 60MPG+ via a 330cc engine, and up to 80mph+ achievable. With 52 litres under he seat and a 52 litre Piaggio top box….. this combination is truly hard to beat, EXCEPT I do occasionally miss the grunt of the mid 650cc+ engine!

    [Reply]

  5. Donald Miller on September 4th, 2013 9:30 pm

    Nice road test review. I started with a 150cc scooter, traded up to a 400cc Yamaha scooter, which I rode 45,000 miles including a group ride to Canada with HD and Honda motorcycles. The frame was too small for my 6-3 frame so I traded to a Honda Silver Wing 600cc. With 5,000 miles now I am very pleased with it for any use I can imagine except 5,000 mile rides. My suggestion to readers is think about the advantage of less wind and water in your face, legs and luggage before you dismiss the scooters. I double with my 170 pound wife and full luggage up to 80 smooth as glass.

    [Reply]

  6. DAVID FARREL on September 24th, 2013 4:22 pm

    Hi
    Read lots of reviews and researched these maxi scooters.
    Problem dealers do not hold stock “No call for them” one told me.
    So if they have none in the show room how on earth are you suppose look at them let alone buy and get them serviced. Apart from London I have yet to find any dealer who shows interest at all. I unfortunately live in the middle of the UK devoid of dealers any way. But have tried further afield. Honda are not importing there new silver wing must have unsold shed loads hidden away.Suzuki and Yamaha no stock situation. BMW ah ah if your local dealer hasn’t got them for get it any way as the next dealer is usually to many miles away .
    I know scooters are not very big in the UK but they wont be if the manufacturers are not putting the effort in to change the UK biking community on how versatile these scooters are. Great reviews, videos and expensive brochures are all very good but we need to touchy,feely. and ridey before we buy. Contacted a couple of manufacturers and emailed others no reply little enthusiasm shown.

    So where are the dealers hiding because I cant find any.
    Can you guys tell me?

    [Reply]

    DAVID FARREL Reply:

    Just to make it clear I am aware that in the states you might have a completely different situations with dealers. Many people like me enjoy the reviews and comments after all the bikes are the same in most cases who ever rides them.and where ever they are ridden. Also it helps the manufacturers know how we feel about them. We might ride on different sides of the road and different sides of the world but we all ride motorcycles and scooters and experience the similar problems.
    Hope you guys get as much from our sites as we do from yours.

    field. Honda are not importing there new silver wing must have unsold shed loads hidden away.Suzuki and Yamaha no stock situation. BMW ah ah if your local dealer hasn’t got them for get it any way as the next dealer is usually to many miles away .
    I know scooters are not very big in the UK but they wont be if the manufacturers are not putting the effort in to change the UK biking community on how versatile these scooters are. Great reviews, videos and expensive brochures are all very good but we need to touchy,feely. and ridey before we buy. Contacted a couple of manufacturers and emailed others no reply little enthusiasm shown.

    So where are the dealers hiding because I cant find any.
    Can you guys tell me?

    [Reply]

  7. Arni on February 18th, 2014 4:51 am

    My Silver Wing, my second one, has done a big mileage, and I think I can afford a new bike. The Silver Wing is wonderful, by the way. I was going to buy a new SW GT, but just like other places, here in Hong Kong they are not importing it. I looked at the BMW 650 GT, but here they want the equivalent of nearly $US16000 for one!!! I would have thought a better comparisan was the Honda Integra scooter, now 750cc, at here, $US10500 + luggage. Downside, its not really a step-thru, and yet this sacrifices the tank storage. I like its big scooter screen though. The Integra really is more of a bike because its engine is not attached to the swing arm.
    Not decided yet!

    [Reply]

Feel free to leave a comment...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!





Name:

Address:

City:

State:

ZIP: