Honda CB300F First Ride Review: Utterly Confusing

  • Aug 17, 2022
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Why has Honda built another 300cc naked motorcycle?

After weeks of speculating and building up hopes of grandeur, adventure and formidability, Honda has now brought out yet another 300cc naked motorcycle. Unlike the CB300R, though, this new bike went the more traditionally striking design route. But when you start to pick through the bike, you realise it is not so new after all. In fact, whatever it shares with the CB300R is a notch or two lower. So, why did Honda make the CB300F?

Hornet 3.0?

I am not going to lie, the sporty silhouette, sharp cuts and same three colour options on the CB300F instinctively made me feel as though it was the same Hornet 2.0. There’s not much to differentiate between them in size as well. The CB300F is very small and compact. During our time with the bike, many onlookers stopped and said that it looked like a small 150cc motorcycle.

It does have its distinctive elements, like the vents in between the tank and its extensions. However, because of its derivative styling and lack of unique colours, it does not manage to stand out from the crowd.

A Unicorn 300?

The experience from the saddle is very much like a commuter, not sporty at all. The riding posture is fairly relaxed and comfy for city riding. The accessible seat height of 789mm is a great boon for riders of all heights and at 153kg, it is certainly light to move around in the parking lot, no need for anyone to break a sweat.

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And this commuter-ness continues with the engine. While Honda engineers have shied away from commenting more on the origins, the bike’s spec sheet gives it away. It has a 1mm larger bore and the same stroke as the CB300R. The engine loses its liquid-cooling for a simpler air-/oil-cooling system. But the biggest difference is that it is heavily de-stressed, the compression ratio relaxed from 10.7:1 to 9.3:1. All things point to it being extremely tractable and super refined.

Unfortunately, only one of those two virtues is present, and that is the former. One can literally slot the bike in fifth or sixth and ride around town effortlessly. The clutch action is pretty light but gear shifts could have been smoother. But it was super easy to just roll on the throttle and go from 40kmph all the way up to 110kmph in top cog. 

While it is tractable, it is far from exciting. At 24.47PS and 25.6Nm, it is quite a lot less powerful than the CB300R. This motor lacks the zestiness and enthusiasm that one hopes from a modern 300cc naked. Even at 110-120kmph, there is no real excitement. And there’s a bigger hazard when you start picking up the pace but I will get to that in a while.

Fans of Honda’s refinement levels are bound to be disappointed. Even though the motor is relatively relaxed, one can feel pulses all across the rev range, which become irritating towards the top of the rev range, above 7000rpm to be exact. The vibes for sure aren’t harsh. However, when you are used to a buttery smooth experience with Honda, this feels more peanut buttery. 

So, like the Unicorn 160 of the past, this too feels disappointing in the engine department. Does it make up a bit in handling?

Over-tyred And Not Slick

Again, while Honda engineers haven’t stated it out loud, the split-twin downtube frame of the CB300R seems to have originated from the CB300R. The engine mounting points and the tubular steel frame members are eerily similar. 

What’s not from the CB300R is the suspension. The USD fork is unique, the swingarm is box-section steel and not aluminium and the monoshock has less preload adjustability. 

By using wider section tyres, Honda has robbed the bike of a natural smooth cornering rhythm. We weren’t expecting the bike to be carving up the apexes. However, there lacked a smooth motion between leaning the bike into the bend, staying leaned over and coming back up again. The bike felt a little jittery as I had to make small checks and corrections to go fast round the bends. 

What does limit your thirst for trying to ride the bike faster even more are the shoddy brakes. As lacklustre as the performance is, the stopping power on the bike is even worse. Honda has kitted the CB300F with disc brakes at both ends and it even has dual-channel ABS. But they do not do a good job of instilling confidence when braking hard. Even after you grab a handful of the front brake lever, the bike refuses to slow down rapidly. You have to tap a bit extra on the rear brake pedal as well to aid retardation. ABS intervention is neatly executed but the stopping performance needs to be improved immediately.

Feature Rich But Necessary?

Honda hasn’t necessarily skimped on offering tech and features on its products in recent times. This bike is no different. You get LED lighting all around, which is great. The USB-C charging port is also a welcome addition to the bike, keeping future-ready bikers charged up on the go. The placement of the port could be better, though, as it is currently located beneath the console and behind the bikini fairing. So, plugging in a cable could lead to some dire consequences.

Then there’s the traction control. One should commend Honda for giving this safety feature on a 300cc bike. However, with less than 25PS and 25Nm on tap, the system didn’t step in at all. Even when the roads were at their slipperiest, the traction offered by the MRF tyres was more than enough to handle the performance on hand.

Lastly, the Bluetooth connectivity feature only works well with a helmet communication device. Without it, there’s no real advantage of having the aid. 

Why Does It Exist?

I still don’t know. Honda is asking Rs 2.26 lakh for the DLX and Rs 2.29 lakh for the DLX Pro (the one with the Bluetooth option) for the CB300F. If you extend your budget a bit more, you could get bikes like the TVS Apache RR 310 or the BMW G 310 R which offer you a far more rewarding riding experience.

And if you don’t want to spend that much, bikes like the KTM 200 Duke, Suzuki Gixxer 250 and the recently updated Bajaj Pulsar N250 with dual-channel ABS also make for better purchases.

Honda’s CB300F comes across as a fairly underwhelming 300cc bike. It is a large capacity commuter in every sense and when we do get this bike for a road test, I think its fuel efficiency scores are going to be high. But when you are shelling out over two and a half lakh rupees, are you really looking for a commuter? I know there are folks who appreciate a chilled out and matured experience but this is plain boring.

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