Can the Honda H’ness CB350 take the fight to the upcoming Royal Enfield Meteor 350?
Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India debuted the H’ness CB350, a motorcycle based on an all-new platform created especially for the Indian market, on September 30. While its styling may be retro-inspired from the Hondas of yore, it packs some of the latest features as well as equipment, since its the Japanese manufacturer’s first attempt to compete in this segment in India. The H’ness CB350 is not alone in its segment though. In fact, Honda will take up the fight against Royal Enfield, one of the biggest vintage motorcycle brands in the world, especially with the new Meteor 350 launch imminent. The Meteor's brochure has been leaked on multiple platforms, from where we're bringing you most of the touted details for this specification comparo related to this motorcycle. Other worthy contenders include the Benelli Imperiale 400 and the Jawa.
The Honda CB350 and RE Meteor, being the latest bikes to be launched in this comparo, are packed with features such as smartphone connectivity, enabling turn-by-turn navigation, and a slipper clutch on both bikes.The CB350 also offers voice controls. In the DLX Pro variant, the CB350 gets a dual tone paint job as well. In the standard DLX trim, it misses out on this and the smartphone connectivity. Meanwhile, Meteor will also be offered in three variants, Fireball, Stellar and Supernova with the entry level Fireball variant missing out on the chrome bits and the pillion back rest. The Supernova variant will be offered in a dual-tone paint scheme and a windscreen. Both the Honda and Royal Enfield also get full LED illumination setups. While the Jawa and Benelli use semi-digital semi-analogue clusters to deliver information to their users like their rivals, they miss out on Bluetooth connectivity.
The CB350 is an all-new platform, while it clings to the retro-theme. The use of a dual-tone paint job lends it’s a premium look. The Benelli has a solid colour scheme and chrome bits and bobs. The Meteor 350 will be offered in a slew of bright colors and special liveries, appealing to younger customers as well. The Jawa on the other hand, has a sleek yet retro design with chrome details throughout, appealing to vintage purists.
Chassis and Suspension
All the bikes in this comparo use traditional steel cradle frames for their chassis, either in a single or duplex configuration. Suspension too, remains largely similar in these motorcycles with the use of telescopic forks and twin gas-charged shock absorbers. The Meteor offers 130mm of travel at the front while the Benelli has a 110mm front stroke and 65mm of travel at the rear. However, comparative data for rear travel isn’t available at the time of publication.
If you take the bike’s wheelbase into consideration, the Jawa has the shortest wheelbase among its competition, at 1369mm, which could make it the most agile. The Honda and Benelli are matched again, at 1441 and 1440mm while the Meteor is touted to have a 1400mm wheelbase. While the CB350, Imperiale and Jawa have almost identical ground clearance measurements at 165-166mm, the Meteor may sport a 170mm clearance, making it more convenient than the rest of its competition for Indian roads. As for seat height, the H’ness has the tallest seat at 800mm with the Imperiale and Meteor sporting seats which are 780mm off the ground while the Jawa gets the lowest seat, at 765mm, making it convenient for shorter riders.
Engine and Transmission
The Honda makes marginally more torque than its rivals at 30Nm, and does so at 3000rpm, the earliest in its class. The Jawa on the other hand, makes the most amount of power from the peaky motor which was originally used in the Mojo. Despite having the smallest capacity, the use of liquid cooling and a dual overhead camshaft configuration helps the Jawa stand head and shoulders above its rivals when it comes to power. The six-speed transmission on the Jawa also furthers its touring abilities, since the rest of the bikes have five gears. While the Benelli makes the same amount of power as the Honda, it weighs 24kg more, thus pulling down its power-to-weight ratio. The Meteor, surprisingly, makes the least amount of power and torque in its class from its new oil-cooled power plant. Both the Honda and RE Meteor get a slipper clutch to help you with an easy-to-use clutch lever and smoother gear changes.
In the braking department, the Meteor seems to have the upper hand, with its 300/270mm disc setup, the largest rear rotor in the segment. However, we can’t confirm its braking prowess until we test the bike. But if its anything like the INT 650, it should do well in this department. The Imperiale runs a 300/240mm disc setup but has the most disappointing feedback in this comparo, something that we noticed in our previous tests. The Jawa has the smallest front rotor listed in this comparo, coming in at 280mm, while the rear is 240mm. It also faces some ABS issues. We’ll need to test the Honda’s 310/240mm setup to decide how it fares against the competition.
The CB350 and the Meteor offer identical fuel capacities, with both of them sporting a 15-litre tank. The Jawa loses out on a litre in this aspect but the Benelli has a much smaller 12-litre unit, which would require you to stop more frequently to fuel up, when you go out on long tours. Being the heaviest bike in its class as well, with the smallest tank,fuel economy is something the Imperiale may struggle with.
As for pricing, the H’ness is priced at Rs 1.85 lakh onward for the DLX variant while the DLX Pro will cost you Rs 1.9 lakh, making it more expensive than the Jawa, which comes in at Rs 1.83 lakh, as well as the RE Meteor 350, which is estimated to be launched at a price of Rs 1.6 lakh onward, in three variants. The Benelli, however, is at the biggest disadvantage with its Rs 1.99 lakh ex-showroom price, leading us to question its value-for-money proposition. As for availability, Royal Enfield leads the charge with approximately 349 dealerships across India while Jawa and Benelli have just 42 and 24 dealerships currently functional in India, respectively. The CB350 on the other hand, will be sold at Honda BigWing showrooms which are limited in number at the moment, but Honda plans to expand to 50 BigWing dealers by the end of the year. With this in mind, all of RE’s competitors still face a challenge to make their motorcycles available to the public as easily as the market leader.