Honda NX500: First Ride Review

Benjamin Gracias
The successor to the CB500X charts a different course

Photography: Vaibhav Dhanawade

Back when the Honda CB500X was yet to hit our shores, my colleague from my previous organisation rode it in Thailand and couldn’t stop gushing about it. He termed it the only bike you will ever need. This was at a time when the ADV scene was nascent. I then rode the CB500X when it was launched in India and immediately agreed with him. The CB500X was just the right size, with the right levels of comfort and the performance from its refined twin-cylinder powertrain was just right. Everything about the CB500X was just right except for one thing – the asking price that felt exorbitant especially when you could have more powerful 650cc ADVs for around the same price.

The Honda NX500 might replace the CB500X’s though the name implies that it is a spiritual successor to the NX650 Dominator, a 90s single-cylinder ADV. It follows the same motto as the CB500X – the right amount of everything and this time with a significant reduction from the CB500X’s high asking price. Is it enough to sway buyers though?

The NX500 does not look anything like the CB500X and depending on the audience that can be a good or bad thing. It does look like a Honda though, with its understated lines. Honda had mostly played it safe when it comes to design and interestingly this outlook works in their favour with their motorcycles ageing well – some even exude timeless appeal. The NX500 sports a higher set wider fairing with a compact vertically mounted headlamp and tall windscreen. Almost everything else has been carried over save for the new 5-spoke wheels, the LED tail lamp and LED turn indicators (It now features all-LED lighting). While styling might receive mixed reactions, everyone will agree that the build quality and fit-finish levels are top-notch – as you’d expect from a Honda.

In terms of features, the NX500 gets a new 5-inch colour TFT screen that offers a clean layout with large fonts. The menu navigation is a simple affair and packs in Bluetooth connectivity that allows for turn-by-turn navigation and music and call access. The motorcycle now benefits from switchable traction control with a dedicated TC button – a nifty touch.

Like the CB500X, the NX500’s highlight is its powertrain. The 471cc liquid-cooled motor delivers the same 48PS and 43Nm but features updates for improved low-end response. The motor offers ample grunt from the get-go accompanied by a good shove as you cross 6,000rpm. It has a linear power delivery and ample performance to cruise all day at triple-digit speeds. The hallmark of this engine is its tractability and refinement. You can easily ride it in the city in higher gears. The refinement too is top notch with no vibrations even in higher RPMs.

The gearbox is a typical Honda affair, with positive, precise shifts. Even the slip-and-assist clutch impresses with its light feel. Overall, it is quite a friendly motor and easy to get used to, with no hidden surprises and ample performance to keep everyone satisfied.

Another impressive aspect is how easy it is to ride. Thanks to lighter wheels among others, Honda has managed to shave off three kilos off the motorcycle bringing kerb weight down to 196 kilos. More importantly, the way it is set up, you do not feel the weight once you get down to riding it. In fact, despite having the same kerb weight as the Royal Enfield Himalayan 450, on the move, the NX500 feels significantly lighter than it. The riding position is upright with easy reach to the bars and the ground thanks to a well-shaped and comfortable 830mm seat. This coupled with the sweet motor makes the NX500 a fantastic tourer. The only grouse we had was the non-adjustable windscreen will cause significant wind buffeting on the top of your helmet if your height is above 5ft 8in.

It continues to use Showa 41mm Separate Function Fork Big Piston (SFF-BP) and a preload-adjustable monoshock but with an updated tune. The wheels too are 19-inch front and 17-inch rear alloys. The NX500 impresses with its low-speed manoeuvrability and is as easy to ride as a smaller-capacity motorcycle. The front end is agile and makes the motorcycle a good corner carver with good composure when leaned in. The suspension is tuned more for the road than off it though the NX500 can tackle off-road sections with ease thanks to its lightweight feel and eager motor.

The Honda NX500 is priced at Rs 5.9 lakh ex-showroom which might seem exorbitant given the fact that now you have access to the significantly more affordable Royal Enfield Himalayan 450 and the KTM 390 Adventure (the more powerful updated version is set to launch soon). While these motorcycles may lack one cylinder, they are capable allrounders, more so when it comes to the rough stuff. What they can’t match for now, is the ride experience of a multi-cylinder Honda, its fit and finish levels, refinement and reliability. The NX500 sits in a class of its own and is a motorcycle you buy to keep around for a while. A motorcycle you can confidently take to the edge of the world.

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