Honda CB300R Road Test Review

01 June 2019, 10:00 AM Neil Nair

Introduction

Pros- Refined engine, good brake feel, has modern features, unique styling

Cons- Uncomfortable for taller riders, the high-speed ride isn't great

The modern world is looking back in time for inspiration and eyeing the ‘70s and ‘80s era for the most part. While the revival of bell-bottom pants is unlikely (and thankfully so), motorcycle manufacturers have been cashing in on the modern-classic trend. Jumping on that bandwagon, among others, was Honda. It unveiled the ‘Neo Sports Café’ concept or ‘NSC’ to the world at the Tokyo Motor Show back in 2017 and followed it with three motorcycles based on the same design in the consecutive month at the 2017 EICMA.

And what we have here is one of the NSC’s lovechildren; the Honda CB300R, which arrived in India only recently. The motorcycle forays into the premium 300cc segment that Honda never ventured into in the country previously. And before I turn this into a mushy history lesson, let’s focus on the motorcycle of the hour.

Quality

While looks are subjective and to each his own; one can’t help but address the CB300R as a handsome motorcycle. The chiselled fuel tank, beefy fork tubes, aluminium-finished radiator shrouds and the huge slash-cut exhaust add visual flair to the motorcycle. Complementing its attention-grabbing stance is the low-slung LED headlamp. While the CB300R does turn heads, and might even compel you to look twice, the only eyesore is the large saree guard on the left. But since it can be unscrewed and removed; I won’t rant about it much. 

Ex-showroom, Mumbai

 2,41,000

So I scouted the motorcycle part by part, paying attention to the styling and surprisingly, apart from the round headlamp, there is absolutely nothing about the design of the CB300R that comes close to being retro! Every other aspect of its design is modern and up to date. But then, so is the build quality of the CB. The switchgear looks and feels premium, the panels are well fitted and the overall quality of components is what you can expect from a near Rs 3 lakh rupee motorcycle. 

Comfort

The motorcycle looks as big as its sibling, the CB1000R from afar. Get closer and the scale of the CB300R comes to realisation. It is a compact motorcycle and going by numbers, it is even more compact than its closest rivals. Now for an average-sized rider, this wouldn’t pose an issue, however, for someone towering close to 6 feet 2 inches, the CB300R would seem like a 150cc motorcycle. Given that the CB300R is a global product, it is peculiar that Honda chose to size the bike in such a way. 

However, the compact size makes the CB300R a breeze to ride in the city. The handlebars are wide and the foot pegs are pushed a bit rearwards which makes for a slightly bent forward and commanding riding position. Its tank recess is supportive for the thighs and the seat is well accommodating with a firm cushioning. It also gets wide rear-view mirrors which serve their purpose well.

As for suspension, the CB300R’s setup is tuned for city riding and is well balanced. It absorbs minor undulations and bumps well and offers positive feedback to the rider. Nevertheless, accelerate at speeds above 120kmph and the CB’s front end becomes light and doesn’t feel very planted.  

While I liked the levels of comfort the CB300R provides overall, the most uncomfortable bit is the placement of the horn button. Honda has switched its position with the turn-indicator switch, which in regular bikes is above the horn button. 

Performance

Inside the CB300R’s tubular frame is a 286cc motor that is liquid-cooled and generates 30bhp of power and 27.4Nm of torque. Now, these figures aren’t much to brag about to your friends or the curious stranger at the traffic light. But the way the CB300 delivers it perfectly justifies its ‘CB’ or ‘City Bike’ character.  The motorcycle has good low-end torque so getting off from a traffic light is a cakewalk. However, the significant part of its power lies in the mid-range between 4500-7000rpm which makes overtaking effortless.

Further coupled with smooth throttle response, almost telepathic handling and a kerb weight of 147kg, the CB300R is an absolute delight to ride in traffic. Push it hard and the motor loses enthusiasm around 7500rpm but still manages to hit 165kmph, gradually. While the CB300R might not come across as a fast motorcycle, it surely is quick and fun to ride. 

Now traffic in India is known to throw surprises in the form of jaywalkers, rickshaw-wallas or even farm animals if you are fortunate enough. But the braking hardware on the CB300R is top-notch and seems prepared for said surprises. The brakes feel crisp and have superb bite and the Nissin callipers offer good progression. The setup shows absolutely no sign of fade even after strenuous use. It also gets a dual-channel ABS and it’s no ordinary one at that. The unit is not only one of the least intrusive systems, but is also lean-sensitive! This means that the IMU detects lean angles and accordingly adjusts the brake pressure and reduces the chances of the front wheel washing out.

Technology

Apart from the IMU-based ABS and the full-LED lighting, the Honda sports an inverted colour digital dash. It is easy to read and I personally liked the sporty layout of the tachometer. The unit also displays average fuel consumption, a shift light, coolant temperature, clock and fuel gauge along with an odometer, two trip meters and speed. The Honda with its Showa forks and Nissin brake callipers has some top-spec mechanicals too.

Fuel Efficiency

The Honda returned an impressive average of 40.2kmpl in our fuel test. With a 10-litre fuel tank, the CB300R is likely to cover around 400kms without stopping for fuel. Not bad at all! 

Fitness of Purpose

The CB300R serves its purpose of being a premium city bike quite well. It is flick-able and light and the 286cc motor has the grunt that makes it incredibly fun to ride in traffic. At Rs 2.41 lakhs, the CB300R is not a very affordable motorcycle though. And in that price bracket, you get the KTM 390 Duke which offers much more value for money. But if directly compared with the BMW G310R (Rs 2.99 lakhs), the CB300R has better features, electronics and hardware and is around Rs 60,000 lighter on your wallet.

Our Take

We loved what the CB300R offers as a whole. It has top-spec features and good build quality to match. The bike, as we mentioned earlier is fun to ride in the hustle-bustle of the city thanks to the strong mid-range that the refined engine provides. The ‘Neo Sports Café’ design also does grab eyeballs for being distinctive and new. However, the CB300R isn’t entirely perfect and has a few chinks in its armour like its instability at high speed and its limited accessibility to larger riders.


Photography by Kaustubh Gandhi

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