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Honda

Tuesday 6th May 2014

Honda CB650F: Review

Far more than simply a re-badged Hornet



Honda's new CB650F could slip under most riders' radars. At a glance it is easy to assume that this is simply a Hornet with a new set of clothes and a capacity increase but nothing could be further from the truth. Although the CB replaces the Hornet in Honda's model range, the two bikes are chalk and cheese and share virtually no components - not even the engine.

A whole new thing, not just a reimagined Hornet
A whole new thing, not just a reimagined Hornet
Hence the keenness to drop the name and put distance between the two. Most riders associate the Hornet with a rev-happy and buzzy supersport engine, something that is about as far removed from the CB650F's design ethos as possible. According to Honda, the CB is a 'step-up' bike, aimed at younger riders who want hassle free commuting in a good-looking naked bike. If that is the target, then Honda has hit the nail on the head.

Sting like a...
For a start the CB is a great looking bike. Hunched up and aggressive, it is a far cry from the dowdy CBF600 commuter while also appearing more modern than the outgoing Hornet. The bike is loaded with quality touches and nods to classic CB models such as the side-swept header pipes and twin split LCD clocks. Neat metal bungee hooks come as standard, as does a tank pad (you can choose if you want to have it fitted or not) and ABS. The colour schemes are, unusually for Honda, vibrant and the whole bike feels fresh and spirited. However while it looks quite aggressive, the engine is anything but.

Handsome, dependable, cheap ... enough about Jon
Handsome, dependable, cheap ... enough about Jon
Although an in-line four that can trace its roots back to the CBR600RR, the CB650F's motor is totally new. Designed to deliver low- and mid-range torque thanks to a longer stroke, new valve timing, revised intake and exhaust ports and long, narrow, intake funnels, it makes a reasonable 87hp with 46lb ft of torque. While not earth shatteringly fast (it is actually less powerful than the Hornet), it is beautifully smooth, fairly vibration free and loaded with low-end grunt. Unlike the old Hornet, there is no need to go hunting out revs on the CB; you can keep the needle below 7,000rpm and it will pull happily, meaning you aren't continually tap-dancing on the gear lever.

Working 9-5
If you want relaxed riding then it's a lovely motor with a feeling of refinement that extends to the smooth throttle response, light clutch and slick gearbox. Newer riders will appreciate ABS being fitted as standard while commuters should find the claimed 59mpg and 215-mile tank range to their liking. Anyone familiar with the Hornet's legendary peanut sized fuel tank (later models were slightly better) will find this music to their ears...

A hint of the Hornet's sting has been preserved
A hint of the Hornet's sting has been preserved
Explore the upper end of the rev range and the engine does have a bit of a buzz about it as the power builds up, but that adds a dose of character to what could otherwise be accused of being a bland bike and is no bad thing. The CBF600 was lethargic to the point of tedium, so I'm all for a few vibrations here and there. And just because this is a 'step-up' bike, don't think Honda have sacrificed the old Hornet's famous sporty handling.

Despite the slightly budget looking suspension, Honda has made every effort to ensure the CB handles well. The tubular steel chassis and aluminium swingarm are fairly agile in their set-up and the extra weight the in-line four has over lighter parallel twins help give it a reassuringly solid feel in bends. On smooth roads the soft suspension is very good, however throw in a few sharp bumps and it can get a touch overwhelmed. This is a bike built to a budget so while the forks are unadjustable, you do get seven-stage spring preload adjustment on the shock.

Fast, fun and affordable - PH2 approves
Fast, fun and affordable - PH2 approves
Fit for purpose
Surprisingly for a bike aimed at less experienced riders, the CB has loads of ground clearance while as you would expect, the ABS was excellent. OK, the brake calipers may be two-piston sliding units but they work perfectly well and the lever even has a span adjustor, a small detail that is so often missing in budget middleweights.

As a bike designed to encourage new riders onto two wheels it is hard to fault the CB650F. It's easy-going, sporty when required and great looking. Priced at £6,399 it is about £1,000 more than the lighter parallel twin models such as the new Yamaha MT-07 and Kawasaki ER-6, but by the same token it is cheaper than the sportier Suzuki GSR750 and Kawasaki Z800. Theoretically its main competition is the £6,499 XJ6, however the Honda feels and looks more modern than the Yamaha and you get the feeling that with the arrival of the MT-07, the XJ6's days must be numbered.

While the term 'step-up' bike conjures up images of a rather dull and uninspiring commuter, the CB650F is anything but. It may not be quite as thrilling as the MT-07 but if you are after a solid, practical, easy-going and very well built first big bike that you won't 'out grow' for a number of years, the CB is well worth considering.


2014 Honda CB650F
Engine:
649cc 4-cyl, liquid cooled
Power: 87hp@11,000rpm
Torque: 46lbft@8,000rpm
Top speed: 135mph (est)
Weight: 208kg (wet)
MPG: 59mpg (est)
Price: £6,399





   

 

Author
Discussion

smilo996

Original Poster:

1,350 posts

95 months

Tuesday 6th May 2014
quotequote all
Hinda appear to be trying to breath some bonkers into the range. Though it is still quite conservative. The CB1000 seems to be further along the scale of trendy. However it will go well and not fall apart.

Prof Prolapse

13,788 posts

115 months

Tuesday 6th May 2014
quotequote all
First question that springs to my mind for all these affordable bikes is "where is it built?"


RocketRabbit

58 posts

86 months

Tuesday 6th May 2014
quotequote all
As a CB600F owner I am a little disappointed by the ideology of new bike.

I really like the buzzy nature of the current bike and it seems to be better equipped too.

I understand Honda want an upgrade path from the CB/R500 A2 models, but they are somewhat alienating their current customerbase frown

Looks like they have done the same with the CBR600F too frown

Shame.

srob

10,509 posts

163 months

Tuesday 6th May 2014
quotequote all
smilo996 said:
Hinda appear to be trying to breath some bonkers into the range.
Is this you?



Sounds like a code from Allo Allo hehe


Chicken Chaser

5,087 posts

149 months

Tuesday 6th May 2014
quotequote all
It appears that manufacturers naturally assume that riders who want some top components on a naked or street style bike will want a 1000cc rather than sticking with a lighter fruity middleweight.



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Jujuuk68

357 posts

82 months

Tuesday 6th May 2014
quotequote all
I think I'm getting old.

I just don't get modern "styling" on bikes. This bike would look a million times better just simply by having a proper tank shape, and losing those "bingo wings" on the front edge of the tank that run down presumably covering the sides of the radiator.

I just don't know who thinks that weird tank shapes are attractive.

btdk5

1,523 posts

115 months

Tuesday 6th May 2014
quotequote all
You sure that last picture relates to this bike?

Willy Nilly

10,846 posts

92 months

Tuesday 6th May 2014
quotequote all
Prof Prolapse said:
First question that springs to my mind for all these affordable bikes is "where is it built?"
Probably in Italy, my CBR600F was built there.

moto_traxport

3,614 posts

146 months

Tuesday 6th May 2014
quotequote all
Willy Nilly said:
Prof Prolapse said:
First question that springs to my mind for all these affordable bikes is "where is it built?"
Probably in Italy, my CBR600F was built there.
Check out the chassis number. It will start with J if made in Japan, Z if made in Zeee Eeeetalia and something else if made in China, Thailand, India etcetera

moto_traxport

3,614 posts

146 months

Tuesday 6th May 2014
quotequote all
btdk5 said:
You sure that last picture relates to this bike?
+1. That piccie looks like latest VFR800 to me.

RocketRabbit

58 posts

86 months

Wednesday 7th May 2014
quotequote all
Chicken Chaser said:
It appears that manufacturers naturally assume that riders who want some top components on a naked or street style bike will want a 1000cc rather than sticking with a lighter fruity middleweight.
And this is a mistake. I have no need for a 1000cc bike as I like the nimbleness of the 600 along with the better economy and fun rev band.

LuS1fer

33,545 posts

170 months

Thursday 8th May 2014
quotequote all
I have to disagree about this being a great looking bike.

Honda used to do some fantastic paint jobs, notably the old Fireblade Urban Tiger and so forth.
Nowadays, they seem content to put dull flat paint on their bikes with some crap stickers.

There are some nice bikes in our car park, a metallic orange Kawasaki and an orange speed Triple, for example, which really draw the eye.

I am a big Honda fan, I've always bought Honda but this looks fairly dull. Give us metallic paint FFS.

Biker 1

1,898 posts

44 months

Thursday 8th May 2014
quotequote all
I've read a few reviews on this. Seems strange its got less power than Hornet. I thought this was going to be a direct competitor for Street Triple et-al, but sadly looks a little stodgy. Won't be trading in my Duke 690 any time soon....

Gixer_fan

260 posts

123 months

Thursday 8th May 2014
quotequote all
Bit strange with the CBF naming: city bike - very much yes, but no fairing!
Also no centrestand, which always used to be a CB feature.
Still the rear ali swingarm is nice (damning with faint praise)....

DrDoofenshmirtz

10,829 posts

125 months

Thursday 8th May 2014
quotequote all
No.

Biker 1

1,898 posts

44 months

Friday 9th May 2014
quotequote all
Prof Prolapse said:
First question that springs to my mind for all these affordable bikes is "where is it built?"
Looks like Thailand eekhttp://www.asphaltandrubber.com/reviews/honda-cb65...

LuS1fer

33,545 posts

170 months

Friday 9th May 2014
quotequote all
Biker 1 said:
Prof Prolapse said:
First question that springs to my mind for all these affordable bikes is "where is it built?"
Looks like Thailand eekhttp://www.asphaltandrubber.com/reviews/honda-cb65...
My MTX is built in Thailand - the quality is no different from Japanese built Hondas I've had in the past.

Biker 1

1,898 posts

44 months

Friday 9th May 2014
quotequote all
I had an XT660 a while back: Italian engine & forks, AFAIK assembled in France. Very subjective, but it didn't feel as well made as a previous Japanese made Yammy.
Can of worms I guess - are the Indian made KTMs any worse than Austrian??

peteO

1,790 posts

110 months

Friday 9th May 2014
quotequote all
is it just me that thinks this is a good looking bike then?!

even if it is just a rehash of the er6n

y2blade

56,027 posts

140 months

Friday 9th May 2014
quotequote all
peteO said:
is it just me that thinks this is a good looking bike then?!

even if it is just a rehash of the er6n
I think it looks great too.