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It’s hard to think of a more unlikely motorcycle milestone than a low-powered middleweight. But Honda’s NC700X is not just a new machine, it represents an entirely new way of thinking.

This is not some kind of dramatic licence, this apparently ordinary 670cc twin-cylinder machine is entirely different from other bikes in having what is in effect a car engine. The design is based on the Honda Jazz four-cylinder unit, cut in half for its new two-wheeled home and extensively modified to suit this very different application, but the core philosophy has been to do away with the usual performance parameters which have defined motorcycle engine design and replace them with fuel efficient, realistic car ones instead.

This is why the rev counter shows a red line of just 6,500rpm, where you’d expect much higher, and why the torque curve is fat and healthy at 2,000rpm. It’s also why Honda quotes a fuel economy figure of 79mpg on the standardised motorcycle test cycle, substantially better than most other bikes (56 per cent less thirsty than Honda’s own CBF600 budget middleweight), and much better even than the most thrifty cars in the real world, whatever their claims.

On the press review in Portugal I achieved 64mpg in very mixed riding which included several flat out, top speed runs as well as low speed, back-and-forth photo sessions. I would expect 70mpg to be easily achievable and even the norm in everyday riding, and that includes town riding and commuting.

All of which would be academic if the NC700X was nasty to ride. In fact, for some riders it might just be that, as you have to make the same mental adjustment as you do when swopping a petrol car for a turbo-diesel: if you rev it in the hunt for more performance and power you get nowhere except bouncing off the rev limiter, and there are plenty who will hate the NC700X for that. But change your ways and ride the low rev torque instead and you can enjoy the immediate, easy performance that high torque at low revs gives. Indeed, Honda’s own research confirms what most of us know anyway, that riders typically travel at less than 85mph for 90 per cent of the time, and use less than 6,000 revs for 80 per cent of the time. The NC700X is designed to work at its best in those ranges, rather than in the small percentages we rarely access.

The engine even has a pleasing character, its offbeat exhaust note like a V-twin’s and just enough vibration coming through to the rider to be communicative rather than annoying. It’s a heavy bike at 481lb (228kg) wet, but you’d never guess to ride it: the engine is laid almost horizontally forward and the centre of gravity is very low, leading to light, natural and easy steering that any novice would be comfortable with.

ABS brakes are fitted as standard, adding confidence for the rider, important as many will be choosing this bike for its get-to-work utility capabilities rather than being bike enthusiasts, so their skills might be less well honed. They’ll also enjoy the unusual additional storage space, a compartment where the fuel tank usually sits between the rider’s knees, which is large enough for most full face helmets (though not all will fit). A top box and slimline panniers are also available as extras, and for those riders moving up from scooters there’s also the option of a fully automatic, dual clutch transmission for around £700.

The bike is comfortable over longer distances too, although the seat is too slippery and you end up sliding forward too much under braking. Otherwise the small screen fends off the windblast effectively (a larger one is available as an option) and the riding position is spacious and upright, while the passenger accommodation is roomy too.

There are plenty of traditional bike enthusiasts who will try the NC700X and hate it for the lack of revs and top end horsepower, but others will adapt and enjoy its immediacy and loping sensation first, followed by its low running costs at the fuel pump.

Get Honda motorbike insurance for the honda nc700x.



Model tested Honda NC700X
Price £5,850
Available January 2012 (DCT version, April 2012)
Engine Twin cylinder, liquid cooled, sohc 8v, 670cc
Power 47bhp @ 6250rpm for the manual version, 51bhp for the DCT option
Torque 44lb.f @ 4,750rpm
Economy 70mpg (est typical everyday)
Tank/Range 3.1 gallon (14.1 litre) / 220 miles (350km)
Transmission Six gears, wet multi-plate clutch, chain final drive
Chassis Tubular steel
Seat height 32.7in (830mm)
Wheelbase 60.6in (1540mm)
Rake/trail 27° / 4.3in (110mm)
Weight 481lb (228kg) wet

 

 

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