Sticking true to the brand’s tagline ‘Made like a Gun’, Royal Enfield is planning to go all guns blazing on its rivals and the latest firearm to join its arsenal is the new Hunter 350. But was there a need to spawn yet another motorcycle based on the J platform when the Meteor 350 and the Classic 350 were already racking up astronomical sales numbers? Now that we have tasted the most accessible Royal Enfield ever, the answer is affirmative!

The Meteor 350 and the Classic 350 are true blue Royal Enfields which might be a little intimidating and less inviting for the riders who have just tasted the fun of motorcycling. But still, choosing between the three Royal Enfields might get a little confusing because all the motorcycles share similar performance figures, the same engine and the underpinnings are very similar to a fair margin. Allow me to dilute the confusion a little and demystify the air surrounding the modern-age Royal Enfield 350s.

Gentlemen vs Hipster

Despite sharing the basic recipe of a retro roadster like a round headlamp, teardrop-shaped fuel tank and minimalistic bodywork, all the Royal Enfield 350s will appeal to a different set of riders.

The first thing that you would realize after seeing the Hunter 350 in flesh is how compact it looks and feels after you swing your leg over it. And that alone would provide some mental relief to people who are new to the world of Royal Enfield motorcycles.

Since this is also sort of a retro roadster, Royal Enfield couldn’t have done something revolutionary when it comes to its overall aesthetics. But still, the Hunter 350 manages to differentiate itself with its hipster attire. Compact dimensions, fork gaiters and funky graphics are some of the most prominent visual elements of the Hunter.

The Classic 350 however, is a purebred retro roadster with oodles of old-school charm. It is great how Royal Enfield has managed to fill up an entirely new wine in almost the same bottle. If you wish to include an authentic retro motorcycle in your garage, the Classic 350 makes a really strong case for itself.

As far as styling is concerned, the Meteor 350 finds itself slotted right in the middle of the Hunter and the Classic. It is neither as funky as the Hunter nor as retro as the Classic. However, with its laidback cruiser credentials like a low-slung seat and a windscreen up front, it manages to retain its own visual identity. In RE’s own words, the Meteor 350 is a mild-mannered mile muncher but we will come back to that later!

Hi there, Pythagoras!

Geometry was Royal Enfield’s best friend while developing the Hunter 350 because apart from its stylish looks, it is the retuned underpinnings that set the Hunter 350 apart from the Classic and the Meteor 350. Take the wheel and tyre sizes for instance! The Hunter 350 has become the first modern Royal Enfield to deploy 17-inch wheels at both ends. It also gets the widest front tyre which is a 110-section unit, as compared to the 100-section tyres found on the Meteor and the Classic. The Hunter 350 also gets a wide 140-section rear tyre, which is comparable to the Meteor 350. But then again, major differences lie in the wheel sizes because both the Meteor and the Classic make do with a 19-inch front wheel. While the Meteor gets a 17-inch wheel at the rear, the Classic 350 soldiers on with an 18-inch unit.

Moreover, the Hunter 350 also boasts of the shortest wheelbase amongst all the RE 350s. At 1370mm, the Hunter 350’s wheelbase is 20mm shorter than the Classic the 30mm shorter than the Meteor. Even the rake and trail of the Hunter 350 is a lot sharper than the Classic and Meteor.

Where Royal Enfield has smashed a home run when it comes to the Hunter 350 is the kerb weight because the Hunter tips the scale at 181 kgs, making it 14kgs lighter than the Classic and 10kgs lighter than the Meteor. It all boils down to lighter components, a new rear subframe and the elimination of the hefty metal footpeg cradle that we see on the Classic and the Meteor. All these ingredients form the perfect recipe for an agile motorcycle that can hunt down the urban elements with proficiency. It’s about time that we talk about how these cardinal numbers translate to the real-world riding experience.

Same heart, slightly different beats

The Hunter 350 is powered by the same thumping 350cc single-cylinder unit that powers the Classic and the Meteor. However, RE is claiming that they’ve tweaked the fuelling and the engine mapping to suit the characteristics of the Hunter. The performance figures of all the 350s are exactly similar but how that performance is put down on the road, now differs slightly. The 350cc engine first marked its debut in the Meteor and then was borrowed by the Classic. Compared to the Meteor, the Classic feels a little laidback in its overall character. It eggs you to take it slow and feel the thump while coasting on the highways.

The throttle response is a bit sharper in the Meteor and it feels more lively as compared to the Classic but it’s the Hunter which takes the leap ahead. The combination of less weight to carry around and sharp throttle response means that the Hunter plunges ahead with eagerness that sets it apart from the other two motorcycles.

Thankfully, the overall character of the engine remains same though and that’s a good thing because this engine is a big step up from the previous generation of REs. The vibrations are negligible and the motor feels lively at low and mid rpms. It’s when you try to wring it to bring it that the engine starts losing breath with the powertrain reminding you that it’s not meant to be ridden that way. The low-revving and torquey nature of the Hunter is a boon while negotiating the traffic. This is yet another department where you can tell that which motorcycle will be a perfect fit for the garage.

Leisure mode or Attack mode, you choose!

The revised mechanicals of the Hunter start making sense as soon as you swing your leg over it. The handlebar is wide and low, typical of what we see on the naked streetfighters in this price bracket. While the Classic and Meteor get slightly forward set footpegs, the Hunter gets a rearset unit. As far as ergonomics are considered, it is the Meteor which scores high on the comfort front. The Hunter, on the other hand, comes out as the sportiest proposition as you sit while hunching a little forward with the rider triangle making you feel that you’re riding any typical 200cc naked streetfighter.

The suspension and braking components might be vastly similar but that’s all on the spec sheet because in reality, things are slightly different. I found the Classic to be the most supple of the lot while the Meteor wasn’t too far behind either. Here as well, the Hunter feels a bit sportier and firmer as compared to the Meteor and the Classic. The ride is on the firmer side with the twin shock absorbers at the back making you feel everything that’s happening underneath. If you are looking for a comfortable motorcycle, the Meteor or the Classic would make more sense but if you’re looking for something fun and engaging, you cannot go wrong with the Hunter.

The shorter wheelbase, smaller wheels and less heft to carry around really do make a world of a difference because the Hunter 350 feels light and quick on its feet. And this is something that CANNOT be said about the Classic and the meteor. ‘Neutral’ is the best word to describe the handling of the Meteor. It gets the job done without sending any warning signals on your cockpit but that’s about it. The Classic 350 falls in the same category but its handling is slightly lazier as compared to the Meteor but the Hunter is unlike any of these two motorcycles. Be it filtering through the traffic or attacking some corners, the Hunter puts fun in everything. The Highways is where the Hunter loses out on some points because both the Classic and the Meteor feel a bit more planted than the Meteor.

Hunter’s athletic positioning is further highlighted by its braking setup. It shared the same braking components with the other two motorcycles but RE has thrown in a new master cylinder which provides more feedback and slightly more bite as compared to the Meteor and the Classic. However, I believe that the braking performance of all the 350s could be a little better as the wooden feeling associated with Royal Enfields is still prominently felt.

Not all sunshine and rainbows, still!

Although these 350s are supposed to take the charge ahead for the company in these modern, competitive times, they still fall short on a few counts. Compared to their rivals, the 350 trio doesn’t get that many features and make do with just the essential ones. Royal Enfields have been notorious for quality issues and we are sad to report that despite being better than their previous generations, some strains of this trait are still left behind.

Our long termer Hunter 350’s right hand side rear view mirror became loose with just 200 kms on the odo and the Meteor 350 died in the middle of the shoot because of loose battery terminals. These kind of issues keep reminding you that the overall build quality of Royal Enfield motorcycles might have improved by a fair margin but there’s still a long way to go. Another department which could have used some more polishing is the suspension department. Given our infamous indian roads, the Hunter 350 definitely could have been a better motorcycle if its ride quality wasn’t this jittery. Moreover, some more modern-day features like LED lights and turn indicators would go a long way in making people realize that Royal Enfield is serious about the game.

Pricing

When Royal Enfield dropped the prices of the Hunter 350, it sent shivers down the spine of its rivals and rightly so! The Retro variant of the Hunter 350 starts at 1.49 Lakh while the top-spec variant goes all the way up to 1.68 Lakh. The Classic 350 starts at INR 1.9 Lakh and goes all the way up to around 2.2 Lakh. The Meteor 350’s prices hover in the same range as the Classic 350.

Still scratching your head?

Although the differences were pretty evident right from the start, it was essential to ride these motorcycles back to back to grasp the importance of these changes. Despite sharing almost all the essential components with the other two 350s, the Hunter 350 really does feel different! And it’s a good different, mind you! Moreover, the sweet price tag makes the Hunter 350 an even better proposition.

If you wish to be a part of the Royal Enfield culture and lifestyle, all the J platform motorcycles serve as a good entry point. Simmering it down for you guys, the Hunter 350 would be an ideal choice for someone who doesn’t like the heft and bulk of Royal Enfields and wants a motorcycle that can make their mundane commutes a bit lively. However, if you’re fine with the traditional Royal Enfield traits, it doesn’t get more authentic and retro than the Classic 350. The Meteor is developed for the highways and for the tourers out there who love crunching miles, nice and slow.