2023 Honda CB350- Seems familiar!
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
A modern retro segment that has been ruled by the one and only Royal Enfield Classic 350 and the Bullet 350 which I suppose is one and the same, many brands dipped their hands in the batter in an attempt to have a share in the pie – but the share they occupied was meagre compared to the behemoth of the Royal Enfield and its 350’s.
Two-wheeler brands like Benelli, Jawa and Honda tried their hands at the retro segment – and no matter how good they were or what more they offered over the Royal Enfield models they still came short at the accountant’s table – Royal Enfield enjoys uncontested reign of that segment.
A few years back Honda launched their retro bike – the Honda H’ness CB350 on paper it packed more power more torque and the added value of a Honda badge which comes with its assurance of quality and perfection seemed to be sure short hit among prospective buyers, it did some damage to the sales of Royal Enfield models but it was very insignificant and those who wanted something Unique and remotely rare opted for – but unlike other brands it did at least managed to be on the list of hardcore Royal Enfield fans for consideration.
But it still felt short anyhow- since the sales for Royal Enfield models kept surging – Honda needed something exciting to catch buyers’ attention- so, Honda launched a more aesthetically sporty version of H’ness CB350 – calling it the CB350 RS, which did well as its segment domain was slightly different than the Royal Enfield 350s or at least it claimed to be different.
There were reports of Honda working on a 350cc motorcycle for the Indian market and Honda themselves confirmed this but it was never clear what it would be – but lo and behold the questions were answered when Honda relaunched the CB350 for the 2024 model year.
What grasped the attention of many was the way the new relaunched Honda CB350 looked, it eerily resembled the Royal Enfield Bullet 350 and has become a source for online discussion and also giving rise to some unique memes on the internet.
rise to some unique memes on the internet.
Since Honda struggled to match the Royal Enfield in terms of sales they went ahead and copied the most successful model in the segment- and someone like me who personally harbors a serious dislike against the Royal Enfield Bullet would easily mistake the CB350 for Bullet 350.
From the tail section to the front forks that made the CB350 an astute copy of the Bullet 350 even from its side profile, it takes a lot of styling cues from the Bullet 350 from the battery cover to the tank profile. Despite being presented with a lot of criticism I think it might be a great move by the Honda and even greater by the people who’ll get one – For all its success and buzz Royal Enfield Bullet 350 had its drawbacks and they were a lot of them – I had a chance to ride one for a very brief period and I refrained myself from writing a review on it out of respect for the owner – since I had very few good to say about it and a lot of negative.
Now, Coming to the powertrain of the CB350, it is powered by the same 348.36 cc single-cylinder air-cooled unit that produces 21 bhp and 29 Nm of torque, mated to a 5-speed gearbox assisted by a slipper clutch.
Imagine now, A Royal Enfield Bullet with a Honda engine and everything good that comes from being associated with the Honda badge – Japanese engineering, respected after-sales service at least more respected than the Royal Enfield.
I see this as a win-win situation for the consumer who is quite neutral and doesn’t worship the brand Royal Enfield and is on the look for a good retro motorcycle that not only looks good but also rides great and perhaps this would force the hand of Royal Enfield engineers to make a better engineered motorcycle that doesn’t masks its shortcoming behind the facade of retro or classic.
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