Honda enters the cutthroat world of sub-300cc motorcycles. Is it formidable enough to survive?
Globally, Honda sells a range of high-capacity naked motorcycles with the F moniker, like the CB500F and CB1000F. Keen on getting that street-naked philosophy here, Honda brings in a more accessible CB300F. Built from the ground up, it enters the fiercely competitive world of sub-300cc streetfighters. Value for money is key and the CB300F promises to be the most affordable 300cc motorcycle around. The pertinent question though is, does it offer the same fun as its larger naked siblings? Is the new CB300F a larger Hornet 2.0 or a scaled-down CB500F?
At first glance, the CB300F's styling might look familiar to the Hornet 2.0. Honda assures us that not one panel is shared between the two. In fact, the styling is closer to the larger CB500F. The sharp and edgy lines look striking and the streetfighter stance does mimic Honda's global street-naked motorcycle design philosophy. Every bit feels tightly packaged and I like how the engine barely fits below the fuel tank which gives off an appearance of it being a large capacity motor. The golden forks offer a premium touch as do the switchgear and all-LED lighting. As expected from a Honda, fit and finish levels are excellent.
It gets a blue backlit LCD instrument console which impresses with its legible and informative display. Another feature is Bluetooth connectivity which allows you to connect your smartphone via the Honda RoadSync app and allows you to access calls, messages, music and navigation via the handlebar-mounted switchcube or voice commands. It even gets a USB-C charging socket on the side of the headlamp cowl. Like the CB H'ness, the CB300F too gets a seamless traction control which rarely kicks in and when it does, the only way to know was the TC indicator lighting up on the console.
Power comes from an all-new 293.5cc air and oil-cooled single cylinder motor that delivers 24.5PS and 25.6Nm. While the motor is low on power when compared to its rivals, the extra cecees affords it more torque. The CB300F is also lighter than its rivals. That said, you have to keep the revs above 4,000rpm for quicker pace. There is not much performance on offer below and most of the performance is concentrated in the 6,000rpm to 8,500rpm powerband. It comes mated to a six-speed gearbox with a slip and assist clutch. The light clutch action and slick gearbox should make gearshifts effortless to ride in the city but on the highway, the last three gears feel excessively tall and would necessitate a couple of downshifts if you need to overtake. I reckon a five-speed unit would serve the motor better. It is a refined unit and remains buzz free even at high revs.
Underpinnings include a diamond-type frame with both wheels suspended by an upside-down fork and a monoshock. The riding position feels commuterish with the flat handlebar adding a dash of sportiness to the rider triangle. The motorcycle turns in well but does not feel as agile as its competitors. It gets a 110-section front and wider 150-section rear radial MRF Revz tyres which offer good grip but take away some agility from the CB300F's dynamics. It should serve newer riders well with its surefooted demeanour. Braking is via Nissin discs on both ends aided by dual-channel ABS. The brakes have a soft and progressive bite and again should work for newer riders.
That about sums up the core audience for the Honda CB300F. The average Joe looking for a sporty set of wheels but not wanting to get too much out of his comfort zone. The Honda CB300F looks good, is well built and between the relaxed ergonomics and user-friendly motor and dynamics should serve him well. With prices starting at Rs 2.26 lakh, he will have to pay quite the premium for it though.