Honda has unveiled the new H'ness CB350, marking the Japanese manufacturer's foray into the 350cc modern-classic segment in the country. Developed while keeping the Indian roads and riders in mind, the Honda H'ness CB350 sports an alluring design and segment-first features.
Honda H'ness CB350 is Inspired by yesteryear's Honda CB designs
The Honda H'ness CB350 takes inspiration from the clean and simple designs of old Honda CB motorcycles. It oozes that typical retro charm and the round LED headlamp,15-litre fuel tank and the chrome fenders instantly remind you of yesteryears motorcycles. On the other hand, the Y-spoke alloy wheels and analog-digital instrument panel add that touch of modernity to the design. Some purists or Royal Enfield aficionados would scoff at the omission of traditional chrome wire-spoke rims. However, alloy wheels, shod with tubeless tyres are far more practical than tubed spoke wheels, especially when it comes to dealing with punctures.
Nevertheless, the Honda H'ness CB350 looks attractive, from whatever angle you look at it and that is going to be one of its strongest USPs.
Honda H'ness CB350 is based on a new platform for India
For the longest time, it was believed that Honda may introduce a 350cc motorcycle, based on the Honda Rebel platform that is sold globally. Honda India, however, has quietly been developing a brand-new platform for its maiden cruiser motorcycle, over the last two years.
The Honda H'ness CB350 uses a new Half-duplex cradle frame, made out of steel. The focus, while designing the chassis was on achieving a good balance between ride and handling. The engine, for instance, is mounted low in order to reduce the centre of gravity, which aids the nimble handling of the motorcycle, says Honda.
The H'ness CB350 suspension components are basic with a telescopic fork up front and twin hydraulic shock absorbers at the rear. The alloy wheels are shod with 100/90-19 front and a 130/70-18 rear MRF tyre. The rear tyre size, in fact, is wider than that of its chief rival, the Royal Enfield Classic 350.
In terms of dimensions, the H'ness CB 350 is 2,163mm long, 800mm wide and 1,107mm tall. The wheel base measures at 1,441mm while the ground clearance is 166mm, which is the best in class. The motorcycle is relatively light too, tipping the scales at 181kg (kerb) which is around 14kg lighter than the Royal Enfield Classic 350.
Newly developed engine
Besides the new chassis and design, the engine is newly developed as well. This 348.36cc, air-cooled, fuel-injected, single-cylinder engine develops 20.8hp at 5,500rpm and 30Nm at 3,000rpm. This long-stroke engine is paired to a five-speed gearbox.
While the power figures are right up there with other motorcycles in the segment, the torque is the best of the lot and peaks quite low in the range. This should translate to strong low and mid-range grunt and effortless rideability.
The other burning question with big bore, air-cooled single-cylinder engines is vibrations and Honda claims to have taken care of that by employing balancer shafts.
At present, the BS6 Benelli Imperiale 400 is the class benchmark, as far as air-cooled, single-cylinder engine refinement is concerned. Whether the Honda turns out to be smoother is what we expect to find out after getting our hands on the motorcycle.
But the defining aspect about the H'ness CB350 is going to be the way it sounds, and there is no question that Honda used the exhaust note of the Classic 350 as the benchmark. The company has managed to introduce a similar thumpy exhaust note that sounds uncharacteristic of a Honda. This was achieved by employing a one-chamber structure in the exhaust's expansion chamber and a large 45mm tail pipe.
There is no denying that the sound is quite familiar, it will be interesting to see what the scores of Royal Enfield enthusiasts think of it.
Segment first features
Honda seems to have gone the extra mile to offer more bang for the buck, with its new offering.
Some of the H'ness CB350's segment first features include an assist and slip clutch, LED lights and a side stand indicator with engine cut-off.
But the features that stand out among this list is the Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC) and Honda Smartphone Voice Control (HSVC) system.
The HSTC is a basic traction control system that detects the difference between front and rear wheel speeds, calculates the slip ratio and adjusts engine torque via the fuel injection. HSTC can be turned ON/OFF using a switch on the left side of the meter.
The HSVC feature (only available on the DLX Pro variant) has been developed in-house and allows the rider to pair his smartphone to the console via the HSVC app. Once connected, the rider can operate the system to access phone calls, navigation, music playback and incoming messages using dedicated buttons on the left switch cube. Besides displaying the information on the part digital instrument screen, it can also be communicated to the rider via aftermarket Bluetooth speakers, placed inside a helmet.
Expected to be priced aggressively
The Honda H'ness CB350 has only been unveiled and the official price will be announced later. However, the company did confirm that prices will begin 'around Rs 1.9 lakh'.
A sub Rs 2 lakh price is quite aggressive, considering the features on offer and not to mention the brand value of a Honda. This kind of competitive pricing surely poses a threat to the Royal Enfield Classic 350 (Rs 1.78 lakh) Benelli Imperiale 400 (Rs 1.99 lakh) and the Jawa 42 (Rs 1.69-1.74 lakh).
But the bigger contest comes in the form of the soon-to-be-launched Royal Enfield Meteor 350. The Meteor 350 is also based on a new platform and ushers in a new era of Royal Enfield 350s. A recent specifications leak shows the Meteor's 350cc engine produces 20.5hp and 27Nm, and these figures, if true, are lower than that of the Honda. Will the Honda H'ness CB350's specs and aggressive pricing influence the Royal Enfield Meteor 350's price? Only time will tell.
For now, the H'ness CB350 will be available through Honda's premium big bike outlets, the BigWing World. While the intent is to offer a premium buying experience, there are limited BigWing showrooms across India, which may impact availability to some extent. That said, Honda is ramping up the BigWing network over the next few months.
Stay tuned as we bring you a first ride report soon.
Honda H’ness CB350 vs rivals: Specifications comparison