2020 Royal Enfield Classic 350 first ride review

The Classic 350 recently went BS6. It was time to take the old-timer out for another spin.

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2020 Royal Enfield Classic 350. (Image: BBC TopGear India)

Strictly speaking, the current Classic 350 isn’t really an old-timer. It was launched back in 2009, but its DNA can be dated back to Enfields of yore. However, its importance can’t be stated enough. I personally always thought that the Classic 350 was one of the motorcycles responsible for saving Royal Enfield. And as cliche, as it may sound, the rest is history. Even today, the Classic 350 is still one of the most popular motorcycles out there. Matter of fact, it recently made the transition to BS6. Is it still the same old torque-centred thump machine? Time to find out.

(Image: BBC TopGear India)

On the design front, Royal Enfield hasn’t made any effort and why should they. The Classic 350 will continue to sell until it’s pretty much taken off the shelf. A big reason for that is attributed to the way it looks. The chrome paint scheme especially gives the Classic 350 that much sought after retro appeal. People buying the Classic 350 aren’t looking for the latest in technology but rather the nostalgic appeal of a bygone era with modern touches. That being said, even the frame, suspension and most of the other mechanical components remain the same. This then serves as a classic example of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.

(Image: BBC TopGear India)

But what has changed? First, of course, is the BS6-compliant 346cc, single-cylinder, air-cooled motor which now comes with a fuel-injection system. There’s also an added catalytic converter which has added on a few extra pounds to the bike. The kerb weight now stands at 195 kilograms, which is quite substantial. The power output numbers from the engine are the same as before; 19.1bhp and 28Nm of torque. However, Royal Enfield has tweaked the character of the performance ever so slightly. Although, the five-speed transmission has been carried over from the BS4 model.

(Image: BBC TopGear India)

Right from the get-go, the first thing I noticed was the significantly lower vibrations at lower speeds and the Classic 350 gets up to 75kmph without almost any vibrations at all. Even otherwise, it feels a lot smoother in the low and mid-range, which is quite excellent. However, once you hit triple-digit speeds, the vibrations are quite evidently noticeable. But given that weight and general set-up of the Classic 350, the slow and steady approach is probably best. I also came back satisfied with the braking from the two-disc brakes at the front and rear. There’s much greater feel to the braking and the bite point is much more pronounced. Although stopping the Classic 350 still takes some getting used to if you’re riding for the first time. The dual-channel ABS also comes in to make the whole affair a lot safer.

(Image: BBC TopGear India)

So, is it still worth it? I certainly think so, but it depends a lot on the kind of motorcycle you’d want to buy. But before we get to the verdict, there is one thing that needs to be addressed. The BS6-compliant Classic 350 was inevitable given the kind of numbers it gives Royal Enfield. It was also inevitable due to its popularity amongst the masses, at least for those who still believe in the appeal of a retro-themed motorcycle. But given what may be on the horizon (Meteor) this could very well be the last iteration we see of the famed Unit Construction Engine (UCE) with the Classic 350 and other models. And that is a little sad to think about if I can be honest.

(Image: BBC TopGear India)

Be that as it may, change is inevitable and soon there may be a new Classic with a completely different character altogether. However, with that aside, if you’ve always wanted a good looking, comfortable and easy-going motorcycle with oodles of personality, the BS6-compliant Classic 350 is a pretty good bet.

Specifications:

Engine – 346cc, single-cylinder
Power – 19.1 bhp @ 5250 rpm
Torque – 28 Nm @ 4000 rpm
Weight – 195 kilograms

Price: 1.78 lakh (ex-showroom) onwards

For – Relaxed riding position, fuel efficiency, character, ride quality
Against – Performance, weight

Photography: Jassi Singh