The Honda CB350 feels like a four-stroke RX-100, or even a four-stroke RX-350 (not an RD350 because that bike's magic is impossbile to replicate in this day and age), if such a thing existed today. That's the review of the Honda CB350 in one line for you.
Of course, there would be many who might not have ridden an RX; therefore, this review shall also explain the regular stuff to benefit all kinds of potential owners. Also, whereever necessary, I will also mention the CB's three competitors—the Jawas, RE Meteor 350, and Benelli Imperiale 400—for perspective. Please also note that this was a new bike that hadn't had its first service as yet.
Honda CB350 Review: Design and Build Quality
The latest Honda CB350's design is quite close to the original CB350 from the late sixties. Right from the mirrors, headlamp, taillamp, and blinkers to the seat, fenders, chassis, chainguard, and several other things. Heck, even this dual tone colour is similar to the original. Of course, while the design is beautifully retro, the equipment is thankfully modern. Therefore, there are no halogen bulbs anywhere on the motorcycle, and LEDs take charge of lighting up your world everywhere on the CB350.
The build quality is great, and the ergonomics are perfect too, save for the placement of horn and indicator switches. The horn button is where you would normally find the indicator switch, and vice versa. However, it will take a day at max to get used to it.
Honda CB350 Review: Rider-aids and other features
The CB350 gets a slip-and-assist clutch, traction control (a segment first), side-stand indicator (the bike won't start in gear if you don't take it off the side stand), two trip meters, an audio-only app-based navigation system a clock, battery voltmeter, gear position indicator, real-time and average fuel efficiency display, a distance-to-empty (aka range indicator) display, and hazard lights as well. There's a C-type charging port too.
Honda CB 350 Review: Performance, Ride Quality, and Handling
Up to 60 km/h, the Honda CB350 H'ness is the new king. It's the quickest motorcycle in its segment in the 0-60 km/h sprint, which it dismisses in 3.8 seconds. On the Jawa 42 I had managed it in 4.2 seconds, while the Meteor had taken 4.1 seconds. The heaviest in class Benelli naturally took the longest time of 4.6 seconds. It's a tie between the Honda and Jawa in the 0-80 km/h dash where both bikes take 6.4 seconds. The RE and Benelli take 7.3 and 7.2 seconds, respectively (yes, the Benelli surges ahead after 60). The 0-100 km/h dash of the Honda comes up in 10.3 seconds while on the Jawa 42 my best time was 9.8 seconds.
While at it, let me mentin the power and torque figures, along with top speeds, of all four motorcycles as well:
Power: 21 PS at 5,500 rpm
Torque: 30 Nm at 3,000 rpm
Top speed: 140 km/h
Jawa 42 (BS4)
Power: 26.5 PS
Torque: 27 Nm
(Jawa doesn't mention the rpm)
Top Speed: 141 km/h
RE Meteor 350
Power: 20.5 PS at 6,100 rpm
Torque: 27 Nm at 4,000 rpm
Top speed: 120 km/h
Benelli Imperiale 400 (BS4)
Power: 21 PS at 6,000 rpm
Torque: 29 Nm at 3,500 rpm
Top speed: 138 km/h
As you can see, overall the CB350 is quite close in performance to the Jawa despite the latter's huge, on-paper, power and weight advantage. But how is to ride in the city? Easy. In fact, it's the easiest of the lot. First of all, it feels really light, which makes negotiating through chaotic traffic a breeze. The clutch pull is light (the CB has a slip-and-assist clutch), which is again a boon if you have to ride your bike daily in traffic. And so is the best-in-segment steering lock.
The CB doesn't overheat, however, this is something that it will have to prove in the summers. January is the coldest month here in Delhi, so it's not really the bike's achievement if it doesn't overheat in near sub-zero conditions. That said, you can still gauge and predict how it will perform in summers, and I can stick my neck out and say that you won't face any issues on this one even in summers as well.
The gearbox is a slick unit, but you need to shift with a firm dab on the heel-and-toe shifter to avoid false neutrals. As far as tractability is concerned, you can pull it cleanly from 30 km/h in 3rd, 45 km/h in 4th, and from 60 km/h in 5th. Of course, the RE is much more tractable. You can pull it from just 20 km/h in 3rd, 30 km/h in 4th, and 40 km/h in 5th! The point is—in dense traffic, on the CB and also on the Jawa, you will have always be in a gear lower than your buddy on the Meteor. Is that an issue? Not at all! Honestly, the loud crackle from the CB350's exhuast will make you fall in love with downshifting on this motorcycle. If you don't like changing gears, get an Activa.
As mentioned earlier that the CB350 light and agile, but the straight line stability is not compromised. It feels rock solid even at 140 km/h (great tyre grip and longest-in-segment wheelbase help) and there are hardly any vibrations at that speed. Of course, no single cylinder engine is devoid of vibrations, and you do feel some of them in this one too, but they are so mild that you would never be bothered. Therefore, you can cruise all day at 110-120 km/h without much effort. You would also be surprised to learn that at 1441 mm, the CB350 has the longest wheelbase in the segment.
It's also interesting to note that all four bikes in this segment have stiff rear suspension, and beautifully sorted forks. However, if you ask me to rank all four in the ride quality department, the RE would come on top; the Honda and Benelli would occupy a joint second place, while the Jawas would be at the last spot.
As far as pillion comfort is concerned, the ranking would be a bit different. The Honda would be the clear winner; the RE and Benelli would occupy the second spot together, whereas the Jawas would be too embarassed to even participate.
Honda CB350 Review: Fuel efficiency
The CB350 is the most fuel efficient motorcycle in the segment as well. Despite all the top speed and acceleration runs, it still returned 32.90 km/l. That's simply amazing, After the first service, this bike should return anywhere between 35-38 km/l in the city, and above 40 km/l on the highways if you do not ride like me. Therefore, a 500 km tank range (fuel tank capacity is 15 liters) is definitely possible.
Honda CB350 Review: Verdict
The Honda CB350 is is the best bike in the segment, people. I would recommend a buy even if the nearest Big Wing showroom is in another city altogether. Yes, the bike is that good.