The Royal Enfield Classic 350 has been leading the sales for the Chennai-based two-wheeler manufacturer. As successful as the Classic 350 may be, it can be intimidating for new riders who are looking at an aspirational brand like Royal Enfield. And that is where the company’s newest motorcycle, the Hunter 350 steps into the picture. But how different, or similar are these two motorcycles to each other?
Regular readers and followers would already know that both these motorcycles share many components – the biggest of which is the new 349cc engine that is based on Royal Enfield’s new J-platform. And still, they are worlds apart. We compare these two Royal Enfield motorcycles for you to make an informed buying decision.
Design and Quality
The first thing you see when you walk into a showroom is the design of the motorcycle. Now, what you would notice here is the retro styling on these two motorcycles. More so for the Classic 350, thanks to its curvy body panels. It is instantly recognisable as a Royal Enfield, and the Classic 350 hasn’t changed much in that aspect since its introduction. The styling cues include a round headlight with twin DRLs, a massive front fender that runs really low towards the bottom, a tear-drop-shaped fuel tank with tank pads, a peashooter exhaust, and wire-spoke wheels. All of these elements emphasise the motorcycle’s retro personality.
The Hunter 350 takes a slightly different styling route. This model, too, features a neo-retro styling and gets a round headlight at the front along with a curvy fuel tank. However, the front fender here is shorter, most components are blacked out and, most importantly, alloy wheels come shod in tubeless tyres. All of this will appeal to young and first-time buyers. The Classic 350, in comparison, is designed for a more mature buyer.
Both these motorcycles have been with us for some time, the Classic 350 longer than the Hunter 350. We have used them in a variety of riding conditions – including the Mumbai monsoons – and they have held together very well. The paint quality is top-notch while the switches operate with an assuring click. However, the engine cover on the Classic 350 has started showing signs of ageing and even the side panels are losing the black colour over the chrome. Now, this somewhat ruins an otherwise beautiful retro look of the motorcycle. The Hunter 350, on the other hand, has held together well and we do not have many complaints in the build quality department yet. The only issue is the vibrations that affect the rearview mirrors’ performance during traffic.
Looks aside, how difficult are these motorcycles to manage? The Classic 350 tips the weighing scales at 195kg, making it nearly 18kg heavier than the Hunter 350. But, it has a 15mm lower seat height that allows the riders, even the shorter ones, to move it around relatively easily while seated on the saddle. Now, one may think parking the Classic 350 on the centre stand will be difficult, but that is not the case. Royal Enfield did not redesign the centre stand for the Hunter 350 and thus the Classic 350, with its 18-inch wheels, is easier to put on the centre stand. The same task is relatively difficult with the 17-inch wheels of Hunter 350, and you require additional efforts to pull this motorcycle up and back to park on the centre stand.
Ergonomics and Comfort
The Classic 350 packs a more relaxed rider’s triangle and this has been achieved through the forward-set footpegs and a relatively taller handlebar. This makes for a comfortable experience while riding the motorcycle. Meanwhile, the sporty ergonomics of the Hunter 350, along with the 17-inch wheels, make it agile and fun to ride around corners or when filtering through traffic. The relatively rear-set footpegs and low-positioned handlebar setup on the Hunter 350 offset some weight from the lower back, thus enhancing comfort.
Then, there is the suspension setup. The Classic 350 and the Hunter 350, both pack a firm suspension setup, but they don’t feel harsh or unbearable. However, the Hunter 350’s ergonomics give it an edge and the rider can further off-load some of the weight from the lower back by putting stress on the handlebar and footpegs. Standing up, too, is relatively easy on the Hunter 350 than it is on the Classic 350. But what does work in the Classic 350’s favour is the list of optional accessories which includes touring-focussed hardware such as a tall windscreen and touring seats. These enhance the long-distance mile-munching capabilities of the Classic 350. Do note that we are yet to test the Hunter 350’s touring prowess. Meanwhile, you can read the highway touring report for the Classic 350 on Bikewale’s expert review segment.
Features and Tech
The feature list, which is nearly identical on both these motorcycles, is relatively subtle. Thus, both motorcycles miss equipment such as LED lighting or a fully-digital display. They do, however, benefit from the company’s Tripper Navigation System as an optional extra. This optional accessory feels better integrated into the Classic 350’s cockpit than it does on the Hunter 350. Still, it doesn’t feel like an afterthought as it does on the Himalayan 411. The cockpit itself is notably different on both motorcycles and the Hunter 350 displays a little more information than the Classic 350. Both motorcycles miss a tachometer, but the semi-digital display on the Hunter 350 shows additional information such as a gear position indicator and engine temperature.
Performance and Handling
As mentioned earlier, both motorcycles use the new J-platform motor that packs 349cc of displacement and an air-cooled setup. Although the engine maps are different on both models, the power and torque outputs remain identical at 20.2bhp at 6,100rpm and 27Nm of peak torque at 4,000rpm, respectively. The Hunter 350, however, gets an edge, thanks to its 18kg lighter kerb weight providing it with a better power-to-weight ratio.
That said, the Classic 350 and the Hunter 350 use a longer-stroke engine which favours a more relaxed performance. Thus, both motorcycles have a good low-end to mid-range performance and neither enjoys inching closer to the redline. Still, both can easily cruise at 80-90kmph out on the highway with minimum vibrations and some juice left for overtakes – but with some planning. Crossing the 100kmph mark is possible too, but the vibrations and noise make the engine sound stressed.
Then, there is the clutch lever. Both motorcycles miss an assist and slipper clutch mechanism. This makes the clutch lever feel hard and this can get especially uncomfortable in bumper-to-bumper traffic situations. On the upside, you don’t need to keep shifting between the gear very often as both motorcycles pack a commendable tractability and you can keep treading along in fifth gear at as low as 30kmph. The laid-back character of this 349cc engine is absolutely perfect for the Classic 350. However, the same feels insufficient for the Hunter 350 and its sporty ergonomics.
The braking setup hasn’t been a strong aspect for Royal Enfield motorcycles, and these two aren’t any different. Despite getting ByBre-sourced calipers, these motorcycles lack the confidence-inspiring bite, and you really have to squeeze the brake lever to get the most out of the setup.
We have compiled the score sheet for both the motorcycles and the new kid on the block outruns the Classic 350 by a considerable margin. The Hunter 350 feels sportier and enjoyable, packs a relatively information-rich instrument cluster, and, in my honest opinion, looks more appealing than the Classic 350 – and all of this is available at a much lower price tag. The Classic 350, on the other hand, is for buyers who are looking for a relaxed and pleasant motorcycle – something that is meant for cruising without being in a hurry to reach the destination. Check out the complete score sheet below.
|Parameters/Model||Classic 350||Hunter 350|
|Looks and Styling||7||8|
|Ergonomics and Quality||7||8|
|Features and Technology||6||6|
|Engine and Gearbox||6||8|
|Handling and Braking||5||7|
|Price and Warranty||6||8|
Photography by Kapil Angane