Honda’s ongoing introduction of a huge array of New Age models aimed at kick starting customer demand threatens to overwhelm all the other manufacturers, and especially its Japanese rivals. Honda is doing so by offering a wide spread of choice for the customer dollar in developing new models aimed at addressing the belief that you won’t attract new customers with the same old bikes. So after the debut a year ago of the CB500 twin (in three different versions), here’s the next stage in that step-by-step climb up in the capacity, price and performance ladder.
This began with the debut of the CB650F four-cylinder model introduced at the EICMA Milan Show last November, together with a fully-faired CBR650R sportbike variant with identical chassis and engine tune - just dressed up differently. But with Honda Europe anticipating that this will only represent at best a 30 percent share of the 14,000 such fours it’s bringing to Europe this model year, it was the Naked F-version that Honda focused on at its Alicante-based press launch on Spain’s sunny Costa Blanca.
This new bike is more of a landmark model for Honda than any other of its recent plethora of novelties, because like the CBR250R single and trio of CB500 twins, it’s entirely manufactured in the company’s factory in Thailand. This makes its all-new powerplant the first Honda four-cylinder engine to be manufactured outside of Japan – ever. And that’s a significant milestone in Honda’s globalization.
Essentially, Honda is following a similar strategy to KTM’s, which seeks to attract younger recruits to motorcycles via its range of affordable but cool-looking Duke singles. Only KTM does so with its Indian connections while Honda has opted for India. Well, there’s also that twin and four-cylinder thing rather than just singles.
As such, the CB650F’s arrival signals an attempt by Honda to develop a higher-performance but still easy-riding motorcycle that’s accessible to younger and/or less experienced customers, while still offering fun, functionality, and especially value for money - at Euro 7600 ($10,300) in Europe, against Euro 5500 ($7400) for the 471cc CB500F with half as many cylinders and quite a bit less performance (both prices in Italy, just as an example, and including 21 percent tax).
To create the all-new bike, whose engine supposedly has not a single part in common with the outgoing Honda Hornets, Honda recruited a team of young engineers who’d be more likely to interpret what the model’s youthful target audience were looking for in such a model. But the result is a package that will appeal to riders of all levels of experience, whose sharp styling with minimal front or rear overhang gives the CB650F a muscular so-called ‘Mass Forward’ appearance. Hunched and ready for action.
To read more of our Honda CB650F first ride in this week’s Cycle News, click here