Words: Neeraj Padmakumar Photography: Sarath S
The Honda CB350 or the Honda Hness (read Highness) is Honda’s aggressive whip at the entry-level modern classic segment, a space that has been dominated by Royal Enfield for the past few decades. Though pitted mainly against the mighty Royal Enfield Classic 350, the Honda H’ness also faces competition from other key mid size players like the Meteor 350, Mahindra Mojo, Benelli Imperiale 400 and the Jawa.
The bike is available in two distinct variants- DLX and DLX Pro with the latter having a pronounced upper hand in terms of the equipment on offer. We are to sample the same here…
The overall design of the Highness does justice to its ‘modern classic’ persona. The success in the modern classic space depends a great deal on the design and the visual appeal, and Honda Motorcycles And Scooters India Limited (HMSI) seems to have addressed this concern quite well. Almost everything about the bike seems to have smooth rounded edges, a feature characteristic to the classics. The 15L fuel tank is quite long and wide.
There is a generous use of chrome in the Hness. You would find chrome in many a place, from the headlamp embellishments to the shocks, fenders, exhaust pipe and the swingarm. The design of the engine block appears to be quite vocal about its long-stroke nature and gets chrome accents to further bump the visual appeal.
The exhaust design might seem rather unconventional for a vehicle of this kind. The pipe is quite large with a good 45mm diameter and lets out a Royal-Enfield like exhaust note, which is low pitched but has a thumping effect to it.
The seat is a single piece unit but with a stepped design and decent cushioning. Of all the components, the tail piece looks the most blunt to my eyes. The taillamp has a rather minimalistic design which looks quite like some of the familiar modern classics of the day.
At 160mm, the bike stands quite tall and has a seat height of 800mm. It gets 19 inch wheels at the front and 18 inchers at the rear, shod with MRF Zappers (F 100/90, R 130/70).
The top of the line DLX Pro variant has a long list of features on offer. You get everything from chrome-plated dual horns to a Bluetooth-enabled navigation system, USB charging point for your smartphone, and a detailed analog-digital cluster for the few extra bucks you put in. The Bluetooth-enabled, voiced-based system (HSVC) is quite helpful if you have a Bluetooth headpiece inside your helmet, and the usability drops to pretty much nil otherwise.
Almost everything on the CB350 Pro has excellent build quality. The dual tone (just the DLX Pro gets it) paint scheme boasts of great quality as well. The plastics feel quite premium and absolutely befitting for a BigWing offering.
The Honda CB350 has a unique rider triangle, that provides for more control over the bike and thus improved manouvers. The handlebar is a tad stretched back, but would not require the rider to stretch too much for a proper reach. Instead, the rider sits in a more relaxing posture and with better control over the bike. The footpegs have a strictly neutral placement, providing for tireless commute all day. The overall riding position makes the CB350 feel more like a street bike.
As for the controls, everything falls handy to the rider, as and when he desires. However, the controls for the horn and the signal lamps, as in many other modern-day big bikes from Honda, have slightly different placements, which would definitely require some time getting used to.
While the rider gets decent comfort and support from his seat, long distance commutes can be a cumbersome for the pillion, as the rear seat falls behind the rider perch in terms of comfort and the support offered.
The Honda Hness comes built on an advanced half Duplex Cradle frame, which lends this bike commendable handling and road manners. At 182 kilograms, it is also the lightest motorcycle in its class. Power comes from a 349cc, 4 stroke, OHC, long stroke engine, paired beautifully to a 5 speed gearbox. This mill puts out 21 PS @ 5500 rpm and 30 Nm at 3000 rpm. As for the brakes, the bike gets 310mm discs at the front and 240mm units at the rear.
Start the engine and you would be surprised by the exhaust note. It has a clear thumping effect to it, spin the engine and the majestic thump would make its transition to a sporty scream in no time! The CB350 Hness is louder than its key rivals like the Meteor 350 and the RE Classic 350. In terms of auditory pleasure, it is a direct jab at Royal Enfield.
The next thing to comment on is the way this engine and gearbox are tuned. The CB350’s engine loves to be revved. The tall gearing on the bike adds further to this and provides for a weak low end punch. The mid range and the top end are however, very punchy indeed. This character makes the Honda Hness sprint to serious speeds in no time. You can clock 80kmph in the second gear if the wish be so, and you can access the full potential in the fourth!
The acceleration is quite remarkable with the 0-60 kmph coming in a good 4.32 seconds. You would need just 12.69 seconds for the 0-100 run. The CB350 top speed is rumored to be somewhere above 125kmph. However, I find the comfortable cruising speed to be 90-100kmph. Post 105 kmph, the dip in the overall curb weight does tend to have its effect on the overall stability. There is decent wind blast to the rider at high speeds, I would have strongly recommended a windscreen here.
The tall gearing and the revv-friendly nature of the engine would give you troubles, if you are a lazy rider who doesn’t like to play around with gears or if you choose to do the 10-15 kmph crawl (say over a serious speedbreaker) in the second gear. However, during my 200+ km ride with the CB350, I did not find this nature offensive at all, not even in the slow moving city traffic. Once you are used to this gearing and the bike’s overall behavior, riding the CB350 inside the city would be a breeze.
The clutch feels super light on the CB350 (In fact, I haven’t seen anything so light in this segment ever, at least not to the time I can recollect). It gets slip and assist functions as well, should you choose to ride it aggressively.
The key talking point of the CB350’s engine is its refinement. The Hness feels more refined than all its competition. You feel absolutely no vibes during idling or at medium revvs. Even the top of the revv band seems very refined for a mid-size engine. Credit for this goes to the counter balancer mechanism of this mill, something which Honda calls Coaxial Balancer.
The gearbox feels quite smooth and precise. I could finish my ride schedule without encountering a single false neutral. The braking performance is quite good. The front discs offer good bite and stopping power, whereas the rear ones fall back in bite. This nature makes the CB350 feel more of a street bike.
As for the handling, the CB350 can take on corners quite decently. You would, however, not dare to push this hard in corners due to the ‘uncommon’ wheel sizes and/or the nature of their rubber. However, the overall handling is great and the construction of the motorcycle as such contributes a lot to this. The engine on the Honda Highness has been mounted a tad lower than the ones on its competitors, to balance the weight of the rider and to have a lower center of gravity. This has improved the overall road manners quite a lot.
In terms of suspension, the Hness gets telescopic forks at the front and twin hydraulics at the rear. These have been tuned to offer comfortable rides for both the rider and the pillion. You would not feel even the toughest of potholes or speed breakers with the Highness. However, comfort does not come at the cost of road manners either.
The Honda Hness offers an interesting array of safety tech and equipment. There is a dual channel ABS, which works flawlessly at just the right time when you need it. Also on offer is the Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC), the Honda name for a traction control, which is of course switchable. While if at all one would ever need a traction control on a 30Nm motorcycle remains a question as such, this adds to the overall safety for sure.
|Honda Hness DLX||Honda Hness DLX|
|Price In Lakh (INR)||1.88||1.96|
If you are looking for a mid size offering with retro styling, modern day equipment, enthusing performance and road manners, and something that is as manageable as a street bike, the Hness is for you.