I was super impressed with the CB1000R last year, having ridden it on the brilliant roads of Malaysia. It’s definitely one of the coolest Hondas out there with its neo retro charm and that orgasmic in-line four, derived from 2006 Fireblade. In fact, it’s definitely one of the best looking machines in the litre-class naked segment. And to add to its appeal, unlike other hyper nakeds, the CeeBee is super friendly. However, a litre-class naked is not really ideal for our conditions. So how do you package the motorcycle in a more digestible form for easier access to noobs? The answer is the all-new CB300R. Honda has brought it to India in CKD form and has stamped on it a fairly acceptable sticker of Rs 2.41 lakh, ex-showroom. Does it have what it takes to throw a punch or two at the class-leading KTM 390 Duke?
Well, thankfully the CB300 picks up a lot of stuff from the 1000’s inventory, including its charming looks. Believe it or not, the CB is a lot more compact than it seems, just like the 1000, unlike the other 300 from TVS. The design is definitely its USP and will appeal to everyone. The Pune-based Honda dealer told me that a lot of bikes were sold even before the test rides began! The LED headlamp has a lovely DRL strip that exudes class combined with the impeccably designed indicators. Even the tank shroud adds a lot of machismo to the overall stance of the motorcycle. The super compact seat with its low height of 800mm blends well with the tank. The fuel tank too has been designed thoughtfully and looks precisely sketched with the overall nature of the motorcycle. My only grouse is the massive exhaust which not only looks out of place on this ‘tiny’ motorcycle. Even the cluster is very similar to the CB1000’s and is easy to rear, however it lacks a gear position indicator. The switchgear too feels premium but the indicator switch in place of the horn takes time getting used to.
The 286cc, single-cylinder, liquid-cooled motor makes 30bhp and 27.4Nm of torque. The figures may not sound earth shattering but the weight is just 147kg; lighter than its closest competitor by more than 10kg (on paper), the BMW G 310 R. In fact, the UK spec sheet suggests a kerb weight of just 143kg. If you get rid of the ugly saree guard, you might just end up closing on the figure.
Well, the moment you let go of the clutch, you are reminded of the familiar exhaust note, typical of a Honda. And if you own a CB250R, it will make you feel at home. But you’ll soon forget about the faired sibling because the 300 rides very different. All thanks to the weight, it not only feels a lot more sprightly but super agile too. Let’s focus on the performance first. Despite its lack of outright power, we managed to clock 100kmph in just 6.7 seconds, making it almost a second quicker than the G 310 R. It’s slower than the manic 390 Duke by a full second but the tractability is superb and you can chug along in the sixth gear at revs as low as 2000rpm without any issues. The progress is subdued till 6000rpm after which she really moves. The limiter kicks in at about 10600rpm and the progress is quite hurried till then. The gear ratios have been appropriately set as well with the sixth cog allowing for cruising at 100kmph at just 6000rpm. And as aforementioned, 6000rpm is where the magic begins so you are always ready to overtake. It may not be mental like the 390 Duke, but not everyone likes to be on the edge every moment. The weight might allow for good efficiency figures too, adding to the range, which is a necessity as the fuel tank can hold just 10litres.
The ride and handling too is very similar in character to the CB1000R. The rear is soft while the 41mm Showa USDs are setup on the firmer side. The front end feels skittish over potholes, especially mid-corner while the rear-end feels wallowy, especially in the stock setting. She is not as stable as the G 310 R in corners, but is almost at par with the 390 Duke. Agility though is on an altogether different level and you simply need to shift your weight to get the CB to turn in the desired direction. Which means, slicing through traffic is a treat. Even weekend rides to the canyons will be pleasurable. However, the CB may not really be comfortable on the highways, but we can comment on that only after testing the motorcycle for a longer duration.
Yes! The CB300R is definitely a superb machine and will appeal to a lot more buyers than the 390 Duke. It is not only more versatile, but is also easier to live with on a daily basis. The price tag makes it sound like a value for money proposition, especially when you consider the G 310 R’s pricing of Rs 2.99 lakh, ex-showroom. It undercuts the 390 Duke by a small margin but comes very close the Royal Enfield Interceptor, which again, is a solid package. Can it outshine its adversaries like other Hondas? Only time will tell.