Honda H’ness CB350: Modern tech under a retro armour

Honda h'ness CB350 - Topgear Magazine
Honda H'ness CB350 looks retro but comes equipped with modern features like Bluetooth connectivity and traction control systems.

Its been a while, since the unveil of the new Honda H’ness CB350. Just as the name suggests, the bike will arrive with a 350cc engine. In India, the 350cc segment is dominated by Royal Enfield, with its popular Classic 350. So, can Honda break Royal Enfield’s streak with their debut in the 350cc cruiser segment? Well, that is something nobody can predict, however, Honda has claimed that the H’ness CB350 has been developed while keeping the Indian roads and riders in mind. And also the BS6 norms, which have led to the muffling of Royal Enfield’s signature thump. Honda H’ness CB350 not only has the classic retro design, but also comes equipped with a host of segment-first features.

The Design: Chrome combined with LED lighting

The first thought which comes to our mind when we see the Honda H’ness CB350, is the clean and simple, yet a impressive look borrowed from the old Honda motorcycles. The bike even gets a brown leather seat as an option. However, Honda has not ignored the modern demands, for this retro charm. The CB350 gets a round LED headlamp, along with a generous, 15-litre fuel tank. Both of which, has constantly been the demand of Royal Enfield fans.

The CB350 comes with a pair of Y-spoke tubeless alloy wheels, beneath a new and lighter chassis. This not only makes the bike lighter than its market leading competitor, but also improves the ride and handling. For all those who don’t understand the importance of this improvements, try asking Royal Enfield owners about their experience when dealing with some nasty punctures.

Honda H'ness CB350 - Topgear Magazine India
The Honda CB350 comes in two variant: DLX and DLX Pro

Two variants, one bike:

The bike gets two variants: the base variant being DLX and the top spec being, the DLX Pro variant. Before you ask about the difference between the duo, the DLX Pro variant gets smartphone-compatible instrument cluster, along with Bluetooth connectivity and integrated USB port. The bike also gets Honda’s segment-first offering called Honda Smartphone Voice Control system, which can be paired to the headset, using which one can issue voice commands and use features such as turn-by-turn navigation, access calls/ messages, music and even weather information. The other difference that distinguishes the top spec variant, is the dual side horn, compared to single sided horn on DLX variant.

As mentioned, Honda H’ness CB350 is based on a new Half-duplex cradle frame, made out of steel. This allows lower center of gravity and easier handling of the bike. The H’ness CB350 comes with telescopic fork suspensions on front and twin hydraulic shock absorbers at the rear. The alloy wheels are shod with 100/90-19 front and a 130/70-18 rear MRF tyre, which is larger than its rivals. The other segment best part of the Honda CB350, is its wheel base, which measures at 1,441 mm. While the ground clearance is also decent, at 166 mm. The bike weighs at 181 kg, which is 14 kg lighter than the Royal Enfield Classic 350.

Performance: Refined ride or vibrations with thump?

Well everything aside, the biggest reason behind Royal Enfield’s success in India is the signature exhaust thump, which screams your presence in the entire neighborhood, when kick start your day with the bike. However, the trade-off to this majestic thump is the vibrations which shakes up the spine after a long drive at higher speed. The Honda H’ness CB350 comes with a new 348.36cc air-cooled, fuel-injected, single-cylinder engine that produces 20.8 bhp of power at 5,500 rpm and a impressive 30 Nm of torque at 3,000 rpm. The engine comes paired with a 5-speed gearbox. Honda claims that balancer shafts will help reducing the vibrations, while producing a melodious thump, thanks to the one-chamber structure in the exhaust’s expansion chamber and a large 45 mm tail pipe. However, the exhaust note is subjective, you will either love it or hate it, but its enough to be noticed.

The Honda Highness will rival the Royal Enfield Classic 350 series and the upcoming new Meteor range.

Features: Tough to beat

Honda H’ness CB350 offers some handy and useful features like an assist and slip clutch, LED lights and a side stand indicator with engine cut-off. But the real game changing features, which will also distinguish this bike from its rivals, are the Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC), which is a traction control system that is usually found in cars. It simply detects the difference between front and rear wheel speeds and calculates the slip ratio, to adjust the engine torque by controlling fuel injection. The other interesting feature is the Honda Smartphone Voice Control (HSVC) system, which comes exclusively in the DLX Pro variant. It allows the rider to pair his smartphone to the bike, through the HSVC app. With this, the rider can access phone calls, navigation, music playback and incoming messages using dedicated buttons. Besides displaying these things on the digital instrument screen, Honda is also allowing the riders to install an aftermarket Bluetooth speakers, placed inside their helmet, to communicate with the bike and ensure their safety while riding.

Price: Value for money

Although Honda has not confirmed the prices of the CB350. The company has just said that the bike will cost around Rs 1.9 lakh. Considering this price for the base variant, the Honda H’ness CB350 is slightly expensive. While the Royal Enfield still remains the most affordable 350cc bike in this segment, with price starting at Rs 1.78 lakh. However, for this additional premium, the Honda H’ness CB350 does offer some really impressive features. Considering the offerings, the price seems to be justifiable and the bike looks to be promising and value for money deal. The company has also claimed that the H’ness CB350 will only be sold through Honda’s Big Wing Network. Considering the limitation of Big Wing Network, we do not expect this bike to beat Royal Enfield very soon. However, we do expect this bike to create its own enthusiast fan clubs.