An all-new Enfield aimed at attracting younger buyers into the fold
I remember seeing a Royal Enfield ad as a kid, with the punchline “Everyone makes way for the Bullet”. The visual was of a train stopping at a railway crossing to let the Bullet pass through! Fact is, even today many relate Royal Enfield only to the Bullet, despite the bike maker coming a long way from the days of the Bullet. Over the years we’ve seen Royal Enfield transition into a cooler and more youthful brand and also become more aspirational, especially given the new crop of motorcycles it offers today. And the Hunter 350 is yet another step in the direction.
Interestingly, Royal Enfield took us to Bangkok to ride the Hunter. Thailand is known for its vibrant lifestyle and is a popular tourist destination but more importantly, it is a huge two-wheeler market and has become an important one for Royal Enfield over the years. We were to get a taste of Bangkok, known for its nightlife, by way of a night ride through the heart of the city. Positioned as a city slicker the Hunter 350 is primarily targeted at younger buyers looking for a light, fun to ride motorcycle, especially, the non-traditional Royal Enfield buyer.
At first glance, the Hunter 350 exudes a youthful appeal in heaps. It looks and feels very compact for a Royal Enfield, but has the usual design cues you’d associate with the brand. Like the round headlamp and turn indicators, curved fuel tank, one piece seat and simple looking rear end. It looks and feels a lot more compact than say, the Classic 350 or the Meteor 350 and at 1,370mm has a shorter wheelbase too, while the seat height of just 790mm and kerb weight of 181kg should even welcome riders not familiar with Royal Enfields.
And at first glance, the Hunter 350 exudes a youthful appeal in heaps through its design. It’s uncharacteristically compact for a Royal Enfield while retaining the design cues you’d associate with the brand. Like the round headlamp and turn indicators, the curved fuel tank, one-piece seat and simple-looking rear end with a round tail lamp. It looks and feels a lot more compact than say, the Classic 350 or the Meteor 350 and at 1,370mm has a shorter wheelbase, while a seat height of just 790mm and a kerb weight of 181kg make sure the bike will not welcome even riders who are not familiar with Royal Enfields. Royal Enfield has also got the proportions spot on, meaning the Hunter 350 looks well-balanced. The bike thus has a very appealing stance, irrespective of what angle you look at it from.
Attention to detail is excellent like the integration of pillion grab rails, while the exhaust is a stubby unit. The instrument cluster is a single pod integrating a large speedometer and digital display. The Metro variant is the one with alloy wheels and disc brakes at both ends and gets a more comprehensive display with a gear indicator and more. The instrument cluster is positioned offset and not in the centre though which looks a little odd and the Hunter does not get a tachometer either. You can opt for the navigation tripper pod as an accessory though which will sit next to the main instrument cluster. The bike boasts excellent fit-finish levels and the paint finish, quality of plastics, stitches and weld joints all feel top notch.
The Hunter borrows the new Classic 350 and Meteor 350’s air-cooled 350cc single cylinder engine producing 20.5PS and 27Nm. Performance is strong at low to mid revs and peak torque is produced at just 4,000rpm. As we headed out, well past sunset, we encountered traffic which gave us a chance to experience the bike’s city manners and it was quick to tell us it has been set up to impress as an everyday machine. There’s a likeable feel to the power delivery and throttle response, while the engine feels smooth and refined. You don’t need to rev the engine to extract performance and I also like the sharper throttle response as compared to the new Classic 350.
The sharper steering makes for a nimbler feel – the 25 degree rake angle coupled with the relatively shorter 1,370mm wheelbase means the Hunter is quick to make directional changes. In fact, the Hunter 350 feels uncharacteristically nimble but at the same time, retains the characteristic feel you associate with Royal Enfields. We also rode the Hunter at a karting track, where the engine impressed with its bottom end grunt. The five-speed gearbox impresses too as clutch action is light and gears slot in precisely. The powertrain thus feels sprightly, in keeping with the Hunter’s positioning and adds to its likeable manners, though power delivery tapers off as you go higher up the rev range. Getting past 80kmph is a cinch and given its lower weight and throttle responses.
Riding the Hunter on city streets, open roads and the karting circuit gave us ample opportunity to explore its ride and handling characteristics. The chassis, all-new suspension, sharper steering and shorter wheelbase help in making it fun to ride. A Royal Enfield isn’t a motorcycle you’d take to a go-kart track, but the experience was interesting. The Hunter lets you lean it into corners quite a bit, though the front end feels quicker than the rear to turn in, making for a few jittery moments. 17-inch wheels aid handling in conjunction with the Ceat tyres, especially the 140-section rear.
Bangkok’s roads are smoother than ours but there are a few potholes and undulations. The Hunter soaked up everything, albeit with a sense of firmness, though it never felt uncomfortable. Seat cushioning could be softer, especially for longer rides. The Hunter impresses on the braking front too with its progressive feel, especially the 300mm front disc. Overall, the Hunter promises to chuck any pre-conceived notions you may have about its handling as a Royal Enfield out the window with its kind of agility
Roads in Bangkok are better than the ones in India, but still with a few blemishes like potholes and undulations. The Hunter soaked up everything, albeit with a sense of firmness, though it never felt uncomfortable. That said, the seat cushions could be softer, as I did start squirming a bit after a couple of hours in the saddle. The Metro version we rode is equipped with disc brakes at both ends and impresses on the braking front too with its progressive feel, especially the 300mm front disc. Overall, the Hunter promises to chuck any preconceived notions you may have about its handling as a Royal Enfield out the window with its kind of agility and confidence-inspiring feel.
And now for the icing on the cake, the pricing. The Hunter 350 has been priced from Rs 1.50 lakh ex-showroom – that’s the price for the base, Retro version. The Retro uses wire-spoked wheels and a rear drum brake, along with a slightly more basic single-pod instrument cluster and solid colour paint jobs with the classic pin-striping. It looks the part and has a charm to itself too and is certainly priced very attractively. The Metro is priced at Rs 1.64 lakh ex-showroom for the solid colours and Rs 1.69 lakh ex-showroom for the dual-tone colour schemes on the other hand. The prices are very aggressive, especially when compared to most 250cc motorcycles on sale in the country!
For the price, you get a motorcycle that feels world-class in terms of its build quality and refinement while also impressing with its dynamics. I’m expecting the Hunter to help the Royal Enfield attract younger buyers into its fold even more with its compactness and fun to ride nature. What’s also noteworthy is that despite its playfulness, the Hunter 350 still embodies that classic Royal Enfield DNA. And his mix of the retro feel and sense of modernness to the riding experience is something that I am finding particularly interesting.