The 350R is an edgy-looking naked bike from Zontes and carries a host of segment-first tech.
The 350R is Zontes’ entrant in the sub-400cc naked streetfighter class and whether you love it or hate it, there’s no escaping its striking design. The sharp, jagged panels at the front lend it a muscular aesthetic which culminates into a neat (if small) tail section. The futuristic design is also reinforced by the suite of features like fully keyless functionality, screen mirroring for the TFT display and a tire-pressure monitoring system as standard.
Zontes 350R: design and features
Walking up to the 350R redefines your preconceived notions about what edgy design language is. There’s not a single panel that doesn’t culminate in a sharp angle or crease and it is sure to turn heads, even in its more muted colour options. The design of the tail lamp is one of the best in recent memory and even the rear hugger-mounted number plate looks quite premium.
Keyless functionality standard on the Zontes 350R.
In terms of electronic features, Zontes has thrown the kitchen sink at it, equipping it with just about everything available on the market today. For starters, it gets fully keyless functionality, a crisp TFT display with 4 modes that alter the way information is presented to the rider, screen mirroring and a tire pressure monitor. All of these features are seen on bikes with much higher asking prices and it's really commendable that a sub-400cc bike comes loaded with them. However, electronic features can only take you so far and when it comes to the actual ride, the Zontes 350R leaves a lot to be desired.
Zontes 350R: ride and handling
Given its diminutive size, you would be forgiven for thinking that the 350R is much lighter than its 180kg kerb weight would suggest. Lifting it off the stand immediately tells you that this is not a lightweight machine; au contraire, in fact. While the rider’s seat is well-padded and the overall rider triangle is spot on, the footpegs tend to foul with your shin when you put your feet down (something that we noticed on the 350T ADV as well).
Ground clearance is an issue, especially over our roads.
Where matters get worse is at the prospect of carrying a pillion. The rear seat is unreasonably hard and doesn’t have enough space to comfortably accommodate a pillion. On the off chance that you manage to convince someone to get onto the tiny perch, the ground clearance is something to be wary of. The soft suspension plus 152mm of ground clearance proves inadequate to handle anything other than the smallest of undulations when you have the weight of a pillion on board.
Braking performance leaves a lot to be desired.
Given the fact that nearly all its underpinnings are shared with the 350T ADV, except the suspension, 17-inch tyres and the smaller 15-litre fuel tank, the 350R feels familiar. The same buzzy engine, soft suspension and overly intrusive ABS are further highlighted on the road where the 350R will potentially spend pretty much all of its time. Anything over 90kph will create harsh vibrations at all touch points and you wouldn’t want to cross that threshold anyways, given how poor the braking set-up feels. In the short while that we had with the bike, the front brake lever almost touched the grip and the ABS intervened far too early, dramatically increasing the time and distance it took to come to a dead stop.
Radiator features two differently-sized sections.
Another peculiarity is the fact that when the radiator fan kicks in, the tank starts buzzing uncomfortably. The design of the radiator itself is quite unusual, with two differently-sized sections on either side of the main frame.
Zontes 350R: should you buy it?
Of all the Zontes bikes, the 350R is the one that I was expecting to feel most at home on. While the bike is reasonably comfortable and has some very enticing features, on the whole it leaves me wanting for more in almost all areas. Whether the edgy and feature-packed 350R captures the imagination of the market, especially with so many proven products available at this price point, is something only time will tell.