Honda CB300F first ride review - why the F?
Honda's invitation to us to ride their new tow-wheeler at the Ramoji Film City had a very prominent 'F' inscribed on it. It had us wondering - what's the F? Could it be the CRF230 which was allegedly spied in India (though it turned out that the images came from a service centre in one of our neighbouring countries)? Could it be the Forza 350 - a maxi-scooter that a few Honda dealers had even sold in India to gauge customer feedback? It wasn't that either. What the F finally turned out to be is the CB300F - another street naked that slots between the Hornet 2.0 and the CB300R.
Unlike the Hornet 2.0, the CB300F has a more premium positioning and joins the CB300R at the Honda Big Wing Dealerships, but undercuts the R by around Rs 50,000. You could call the CB300F a more aggressive and sportier-looking alternative to the 300R and that too at a bargain. But apart from the name and the wheel and tyres sizes, there is nothing common between these 300 siblings.
Design and ergonomics
What the F uses is a completely new platform in that sense compared to the R - a new engine which isn't liquid-cooled, a different chassis which is marginally heavier, a different suspension which is slightly softer, brakes that are smaller and lower spec, a smaller 5Ah battery which should be cheaper to replace, a larger tank that looks beefy and a stance that looks sharp and very much like the Hornet 2.0. With the sharp face and tank shrouds, the CB300F looks smart in my opinion and has the right amount of aggression without going overboard with the styling. And despite that street fighter stance, it's pretty comfortable too.
The 789mm seat height is manageable for most Indians and ladies and the rear seat isn't too tall either, meaning getting astride is easy for both - the rider and pillion. The footage geometry and the seat length and width are very comfortable too, so even long distances in the saddle shouldn't be a worry. It's marginally heavier than the CB300R, yet very manageable even with a pillion. It's easy to manoeuvre in city traffic and quite stable at highway speeds too. That said, the rear suspension is quite squishy and preload adjustment is absolutely important when riding with a pillion.
Ride and handling
Thankfully the 300F sits on a higher ground clearance (177mm) than the CB300R. The front forks are the same 37mm Showa units from the Hornet 2.0 but retuned for a stiffer rebound. The CB300F loves corners and the MRF Revz FC tyres are a treat on the grippy tarmac!
Despite the softer rear setup, the bike feels stable even through the fast corners and switchbacks. It isn't as sharp as a KTM Duke, but you will like the balance it achieves between sporty handling, highway manners and commuting comfort. The ride quality is exceptionally good too - better than the Hornet 2.0 even.
The engine is all new. It has a larger displacement than the CB300R and isn't a bored-out Hornet 2.0 engine. Like its 184cc counterpart, it has four valves which make it more efficient and refined for a single cylinder - especially if you compare it to the KTM Duke or the Bajaj Dominar. I love the mid-range torque, which feels meatier than the other Japanese 250s in this space. It pulls strongly from 5,000rpm even in 5th gear and pulling overtakes at city or highway speeds shouldn't be a problem at all. The oil cooler helps in making the engine run cooler too. This 293cc mill also runs a lower compression ratio so if you go touring with it, it won't be too thirsty for premium fuel. The CB300F has a 14.1l tank, which is larger than its siblings and while we haven't been able to road test it yet, we expect a real-world fuel economy of over 38kmpl.
The brakes are smaller in diameter than the CB300R and run axial callipers, but they don't feel inadequate at all. I even like the progressive feel on both levers. Like the Honda CB350, the CB300F too features a traction control system which is a good safety net to have in our conditions even for a 24-odd PS motorcycle like this one.
Oh, and it doesn't feel like a 24PS motorcycle. The meaty torque spread makes it feel quite fruity than what the specs suggest and it's the kind of package that you can enjoy at speed or even while puttering around town at 40kms in 5th gear. The gearing feels spot on in that sense. It's only around the tastiest that I thought the 8,000rpm red line was being hit far too quickly, but otherwise, the motorcycle has left me impressed.
Though I think a better way of introducing this new 300cc platform could have been a CB300X. With two street nakeds already in their portfolio, an adventure tourer with a potent 300cc engine, long wheelbase, generous ground clearance and comfortable ergonomics could have generated a much higher footfall at the Big Wing dealerships. Honda should have capitalised on it by introducing the CB300F and the CB200X later, to attract customers of varied tastes and pocket sizes. I hope they still do a CB300X though.
To sum up this review, I would say that the CB300F is a very potent motorcycle but it's likely to get lost in the crowd of its siblings. Furthermore, being a Big Wing product its reach will be hampered by the limited dealership and service network. If these factors don't matter to you and if the likes of the KTM Duke and the BMW G 310 R are too sporty for your daily chores, the CB300F is probably that modern and likeable Honda that you have been waiting for in the 300cc space.
Photography Anis Shaikh