2023 Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 Road Test Review: Chasing Perfection

  • Jun 20, 2023
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Five years later, is it still the charming, accessible mid-displacement roadster you should bet your money on?

Before the debut of the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650, who would have thought that a 650cc motorcycle could be as affordable as a Kawasaki Ninja 300. The INT650 changed the game five years ago, shaking up big players like Triumph and Harley-Davidson. But, in the five years, a lot has changed yet nothing seems to have shaken the value-for-money proposition offered by this Enfield. Nevertheless, Royal Enfield has chosen to give a bunch of subtle updates to the Interceptor 650 to keep it relevant and fresh. Now, five years later, is it the perfect mid-displacement roadster you’d want to keep in your garage?

Tubeless Tyres FTW!

Royal Enfield has finally given the Interceptor 650 alloy wheels, and with them comes the benefit of tubeless tyres. This means you don’t have to worry about getting stranded anywhere after a puncture. But, unfortunately, Royal Enfield has chosen the same old CEAT Zoom Cruz tyres. Yeah, the same tyres that don’t offer confidence when you put all the 49 horses to work, wet or dry. The same tyres that stop you from dropping the anchor hard on this bike.

This is even more disappointing considering that the INT650’s sibling – the Continental GT 650 comes with the new Vredestein Centuro ST tyres. If you ride the two bikes back-to-back, you’ll understand how big of a difference these tyres make, and probably struggle to find a reason why Royal Enfield didn’t offer these tyres on the Interceptor.

Yes, the Continental GT 650 is a more focused machine with a defined purpose, something that the Interceptor lacks. And there’s where the next problem comes.

Identity Crisis

Now, Royal Enfield has not made any updates to the suspension or the ergonomics. So, you still sit in a forward-biased, commanding posture with a suspension (and tyres) that deters you from going hard. Yes, the suspension is still soft and you can feel the rear squat and the front react to undulations as you belt through the canyons.

Yes, the soft suspension works decently on bad roads, but isn’t good for spirited riding. With the Super Meteor 650 wooing people who enjoy relaxed riding, a slightly stiffer suspension setup for the Interceptor would have made it a more versatile machine which can take on those serpentine roads, and be your everyday hustler too.

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This identity crisis has also gotten in the way this bike stops. The first iteration of the Interceptor 650 had great, sharp brakes that could bring this 217kg (kerb) bike to a halt. Even though the brake lever and the master cylinder have been changed, and are similar to the Super Meteor 650, the lack of sintered brake pads has affected the braking performance of the INT650.

 

2023 Interceptor 650 

Super Meteor 650

100-0kmph

46.66m

47.44m

80-0kmph

28.93m

30.71m

60-0kmph

16.21m

17.66m

The Small Things That Could Have Made A Big Change

Now, let’s talk about those rotary switches. Yes, they look retro and feel like it too, but these are an ergonomic nightmare. Using the pass switch with your index finger is so convenient rather than getting your thumb around the dial and flicking it. I have fairly long fingers and I don’t find it intuitive, and I can only imagine what a hassle it would be for people with smaller fingers. 

Then there’s the seat. It continues to use the soft foam that you just sink into if you are going to spend long hours on the saddle. Yes, the Touring Seat from RE’s accessory catalogue does offer some relief, but a denser foam on the stock seat would have been appreciated.

All that said, the 2023 Royal Enfield Interceptor 650’s 648cc air-/oil-cooled parallel-twin engine continues to be a charmer. It feels slightly more refined but hasn’t lost any of its performance. In fact, it has become even more livelier. You can sustain triple-digit speeds all day long, and whenever you shed speed, you can get back to your pace without working the 6-speed gearbox.

 

2023 Interceptor 650 

Interceptor 650 BS6

0-60kmph

3.04s

3.10s

0-80kmph

4.76s

4.74s

0-100kmph

7.01s

6.99s

30-70kmph

4.70s

4.76s

40-80kmph

6.03s

4.29s

Verdict

Five years later, does the new model feel like a proper update for the Interceptor 650? Visually, yes. The LED headlight not just looks good but also is superior to the halogen version with more intensity and wider spread. You’ll appreciate the tubeless tyres (if that’s the variant you go for), and definitely be happy about how much you’ll be paying for all those bits.

In fact, at Rs 3.03 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) for the alloy wheel variants, you are still paying a whole lot less than what you would for something like the Kawasaki Ninja 300 or QJMotor SRK 400. And yes, how can we forget about the engine.

However, when you hop on it, it still feels very identical to the bike that came five years ago. The CEAT tyres, braking hardware, soft suspension and the dual-pod console that lacks basic features like a clock and DTE (Distance To Empty) is something we would have loved to see improved in this iteration.

But, that could be Royal Enfield’s plan for this 650cc roadster. The company is possibly keeping it budget-friendly, and accessible to a wider range of audience till the Classic 650 arrives. And when the INT650 does finally hand over the baton to the Classic, is when it gets the USD fork, altered ergonomics and perhaps better tyres. If you think we are being too optimistic… Well, the Interceptor 650-based scrambler that’s being tested is backing our theory.

Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 Video Review

Royal Enfield Interceptor 650
Royal Enfield Interceptor 650
Rs. 3.03 Lakh
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