The new CBR300R is better in just about every way over the previous CBR250R.
Bigger isn’t necessarily always better, but it is when it comes to the all-new CBR300R.
Honda upped the ante with its CBR300R that takes over for the outgoing CBR250R, a machine aimed at first-time buyers, beginners, or for those who are just looking for an inexpensive and practical, yet still sporty, mode of two-wheel transportation. And for many, the CBR250R fit the bill, but when the CBR’s number-one competitor, the Kawasaki Ninja 250R, recently made the leap from 250 to 300, Honda had no choice but to follow suit. In doing so, Honda used the opportunity to revamp and refresh the entire motorcycle, giving it an all-new look and many updates to go along with the increased displacement.
The meat and potatoes of the CBR300R are pretty much the same. It’s still powered by a single-cylinder, DOHC, four-valve, four-stroke motor that is carried in the same chassis with pretty much the same suspension package, but there are plenty of differences elsewhere, most obvious being styling.
The CBR250R was modeled after the company’s VFR1200F, while the new CBR300R gets its inspiration from Honda’s CBR500R, CBR600RR and CBR1000RR sport bikes. There are three color schemes to choose from: solid black, solid red, matte black metallic with yellow striping, and HRC-inspired pearl white/red/blue. All look good, but the black and yellow model seems to get all of the attention.
Being a beginner doesn’t mean you have to look like one anymore. The entry-level CBR300R has Sportbike style.
Gone is the single headlight in favor of a more modern looking twin headlight design, and there is a sleeker windscreen and reshaped mirrors. But the CBR300R’s new curves weren’t all about looks, the new bodywork and contours, combined with a revised seat, result in a slimmer profile, making it easier to reach the ground with your legs, though the seat height is already at a low 30.7 inches. If that’s still too high, Honda offers an even lower accessory seat for the CBR300R.
But in stock form, the CBR300R should fit most riders just fine. It sits low to the ground and the clip-on handlebars are comfortably positioned—not too high and not too low. And the footpegs are just low enough to keep you from feeling cramped, even for my 6’1” frame. Adding to the rider’s sense of confidence is its ultra narrow profile and lightweight feeling. (Claimed weight is 357 pounds wet.) Throw in easy-to-read instruments and you have a comfy and well thought out cockpit.
On paper, it appears as though the CBR250R has grown from 250cc in displacement to 300cc, but in reality, its grown just 37cc, from an actual 249.5cc to 286cc. The 76mm bore, however, remains the same, only the stroke has been changed from 55mm to 63mm. Throw in updates to the Honda PGM-FI fuel-injection system and a new exhaust system and you have what Honda claims is a 17 percent increase of horsepower.
On the road, the boost in power over the CBR250R is noticeable but dramatic. It has more torque in the lower rpm range and runs a bit stronger in the higher rpm range as well. To make the most of the CBR300R’s power, it’s important to run out each gear and make quick shifts through the bike’s six-speed transmission, which does a fine job making the transition from one gear to the other while under a load. However, for just casual riding, the CBR300R can be short-shifted with good results.
Both the beginner and experienced rider can have great fun on the CBR300R.
The clutch has a light pull and is progressive, offering good feel. When you match the Honda’s excellent clutch with the motor’s increased torque and crisp on/off throttle fueling, beginners will master launches in no time on the CBR300R.
Our first, and so far only, taste of riding the CBR300R took place during an introductory ride hosted by Honda that was conducted on mostly low-speed roads with some gentle curvy sections, and there were plenty of stop-and-go sections in between. Overall, the little CBR300R was fun to ride. It’s relaxed seating position makes city riding very tolerable yet is still aggressive enough to make more spirited rides comfortable, as well.
We made a detour onto the freeway for a short run in top gear and it held its own just fine. It doesn’t scream quite as much as the CBR250R at 65 mph and accelerates a little better at speed. Again, the difference between the CBR300R and CBR250R on the freeway isn’t night and day but every little bit—in this case, power—helps.
The CBR300R’s suspension isn’t anything to write home about, but it gets the job done well enough. It’s not plush by any means; it’s actually a little on the stiff side and you feel every bump in the road. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, the CBR’s suspension is not adjustable except for shock preload. Still, the CBR300R is a very good handling machine that rides well and can be ridden fairly hard through the S-turns with excellent results. Like with any small-bore motorcycle, though, momentum—no mistakes—is the key for maintaining a good clip through the twisties on the CBR300R. Luckily, the CBR300R doesn’t promote mistakes; it is a great-handling machine that is agile and quick to respond to rider input.
Getting slowed down for the turns is simple enough. The CBR’s brakes are strong, but the back brake is a little touchy. For that little extra piece of mind, ABS is offered for an additional $550. Rather than being combined, the 300’s ABS works independently with each wheel via a two-channel system, which we feel is a move in the right direction.
Without question, the CBR300R is bigger and better in every way over the bike it replaces, except that it does cost $200 more (though it’s still a bargain at $4399, add $50 for the multi-colored versions and, as mentioned, $550 for ABS) and doesn’t quite get as good fuel economy. Honda claims the CBR300R gets 71 mpg, which is six mpg down from its claim with the CBR250R. However, these two strikes against the 300 are hardly causes for concern when you consider all of the positives it has to offer—more power, more comfort, and, best of all, more fun—for both the beginner and experienced rider.