Royal Enfield Meteor 350: Road Test Review

06 November 2020, 01:00 PM Neil Nair

Introduction

Royal Enfield Meteor 350 Left Side View

Pros: Offers comfortable seating, Gets modern features, Has good build quality

Cons: Clutch pull could be lighter, Has vibes at higher revs

The Royal Enfield Thunderbird was the go-to bike for customers who preferred something more comfortable, touring-friendly, and different than the Classic. But the cruiser-style motorcycle came with its own set of flaws- it wasn’t very slick in the city or boasted of many features. Apart from needing to upgrade the Thunderbird, Royal Enfield also needed something new to completely reinvigorate the brand image. And the Royal Enfield Meteor 350 is a result of that need. But the Meteor 350 isn’t just a regular update to the Thunderbird, it is a whole new motorcycle.

So is the new Meteor 350 a game-changer? And does it live up to the hype? In a bid to find out, we tested the motorcycle extensively on highways and in the city, and here is what we came back with. 

Quality

Royal Enfield Meteor 350 Right Front Three Quarter

But before getting into the details, let’s take a step back to look at the Royal Enfield Meteor 350. It does look familiar, doesn’t it? This design makes it inconspicuous and almost like a custom-built Thunderbird. While it might go widely unnoticed, the bright, dual-tone Supernova Blue colour does grab eyeballs. 

Royal Enfield Meteor 350 Tail Light

The few visual elements that differentiate the Meteor from the Thunderbird is the chrome badging on the tank (only on the top-spec variant) and the round tail lamp. The headlamp is different too and features a halogen light with LED DRL instead of the projector on the Thunderbird.

Royal Enfield Meteor 350 Fuel Tank

Look closer and you’ll notice the rich metallic flakes on the colour that lends a premium appeal to the Meteor 350. While the fit, finish, and build of most components is a huge leap from the Thunderbird, the same can’t be said for the handlebar grips and new switchgear that seem to lack top-quality look and feel. 

Comfort

Royal Enfield Meteor 350 switchgears
Royal Enfield Meteor 350

Royal Enfield Meteor 350

  • Displacement349 cc
  • Max Power(bhp)20.2 bhp
  • ;

Avg. Ex-showroom price

₹ 1,75,756

Speaking of switchgear, the new unit comprises of these push toggle switches that are a welcome change to the eyes. However, it is slightly difficult to reach and would require you to let go of the grips to operate. While the right switchgear with the ignition is a smart move, placing the pass switch like a toggle isn’t. It took me a couple of days getting used to as I ended up pressing the info button positioned ahead instead, more times than I can remember. 

Royal Enfield Meteor 350 Left Side View

And this is the only niggle in the Meteor 350’s haven of comfort. Once you get on the large and well-accommodating seat, you’d be welcomed by a natural riding position thanks to the wide and slightly pulled back handlebars and the slightly forward-set footpegs. While the riding ergonomics is good enough for taller individuals, the low seat height of 765mm makes the Meteor 350 a perfect fit for short riders as well. The Supernova variant comes with a backrest as standard that adds to overall comfort levels but can be intrusive for a larger pillion.

Royal Enfield Meteor 350 Engine From Right

Now, one of the biggest improvements in comfort comes from the Meteor 350's heavily revised engine. While we will get to how it performs shortly, its major highlight is the reduction in vibrations- which has greatly improved as compared to the older engine. Further adding to comfort levels is the pliant suspension setup that glides over minor undulations and manages to absorb larger bumps with ease. And with a pillion on board, the Meteor 350’s suspension feels even more settled and plush.   

Performance

Royal Enfield Meteor 350 Right Side View

So yes, let’s shift focus to the new 348cc, air-cooled engine that gets vast improvements to its internals. Push the toggle ignition and the Meteor greets you with a thumping exhaust note. While it doesn’t have the traditional ‘dug-dug’ that you’d expect, the exhaust note has more bass than the Classic 350. You can hear what it sounds like in our YouTube video.

Anyway, the Meteor strives to be refined from the word go but has a slight buzz on the footpegs all through the rev band. But don't get me wrong, these vibes are not intrusive in the slightest. Now, the engine churns out 20.2bhp and 27Nm which isn't much different from what the Thunderbird or Classic 350 offers and neither are these numbers explosive on paper or on the road.

Royal Enfield Meteor 350 Front View

And that's because Royal Enfield has tuned the Meteor keeping in mind new riders and customers that would be upgrading from smaller displacement motorcycles. In that sense, the Meteor 350 is friendly and the throttle feels light and crisp. While the clutch pull could surely be lighter, the gearshifts all through the five-speed transmission are precise and butter smooth. On the highway, the Meteor is completely in its element and can cruise at 90-100kmph effortlessly. The inclusion of the large windscreen upfront works wonders too.

Royal Enfield Meteor 350 Right Rear Three Quarter

But it is in the city that the Meteor shows its advantage over the Thunderbird. Its new frame, dynamic riding position, and well-setup suspension work together to make the Meteor 350 a nimble motorcycle to ride. Sifting the motorcycle through traffic is easy despite its 191kg kerb weight. It is also surprisingly easy to move the bike around although we found putting it on the main stand a bit of a task. As for braking, the dual-disc setup with dual-channel ABS offers a decent feel but could do with more biting power, especially at the front. 

Technology

Royal Enfield Meteor 350 Instrument Cluster

Stepping up their game, Royal Enfield has fitted the Meteor 350 with a Bluetooth-enabled secondary display that offers turn-by-turn navigation. The colour display is light sensitive and works once you connect to the smartphone app and enter the destination.

Royal Enfield Meteor 350 Instrument Cluster

To the left of this display is the main instrument cluster that is well-read out and appealing to look at. It features an analogue speedometer with a round digital display that provides info like gear position, two trip meters, service due indicator, clock as well as a semi-circle shaped fuel gauge. And while the projector headlamp from the Thunderbird has been swapped for a halogen unit, it offers excellent illumination. 

Royal Enfield Meteor 350 Head Light

Fuel Efficiency

Royal Enfield Meteor 350 Right Side View

Answering the most important question, the Royal Enfield Meteor 350 returned an average of around 30kmpl on the highway. Whereas, on our city test route, it managed to return an impressive 32.6kmpl.

This is a decent increase over the Thunderbird 350 which returned 29.3kmpl during our test. Nevertheless, combining the Meteor 350’s fuel-efficiency figures with its 15-litre fuel tank means you have a range of around 470kms on a single full tank. Pretty touring-friendly indeed!  

Our Take

Royal Enfield Meteor 350 Right Front Three Quarter

Now, Royal Enfield has priced the Meteor 350 at nearly Rs 1.76 lakh for the entry-level Fireball variant. The top-spec Supernova version that you see here fully kitted with a windscreen, backrest, and dual-tone colour will set you back by Rs 1.91 lakh. 

So is the Meteor 350 well-priced? It surely is. As compared to the Classic 350's pricing, the Meteor costs a premium of around Rs 6,000. This is a nominal increase considering the major improvements to its ride quality, additional equipment, and appeal that the new Meteor 350 offers. Moreover, it is also more affordable than the Honda H’ness CB350 which starts at Rs 1.85 lakh, and the Benelli Imperiale 400 which costs Rs 1.99 lakh. (all prices, ex-showroom)

Royal Enfield Meteor 350 Left Rear Three Quarter

So, as a product, the Meteor 350 is definitely a game-changer for Royal Enfield and a worthy replacement for the Thunderbird. It has refreshed the brand’s image and has also given us an insight into what the future looks like for the brand.

And as a motorcycle, the Meteor 350 has addressed the shortcomings of not only the Thunderbird but the Classic as well. It is also accessible to a wide audience thanks to its low seat height, friendly performance, and appealing design. Although, with lesser vibes from the engine, more pillion comfort, and a slightly higher cruising speed, the Meteor 350 would be a complete package.

Photography by Kapil Angane

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