2020 Royal Enfield Meteor 350 Test Ride Review
We do a detailed test ride review of the new RE Meteor 350.
Bike tested: Royal Enfield Meteor 350; Road Test No. 1257; Test Location: Mumbai
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 2,26,049/- (Supernova)
The Meteor 350 is the most modern RE to date, and it shows
The Royal Enfield Thunderbird lineup had a pretty decent name in the market and they were the second feather in RE’s cap after the Classics. RE discontinued them a while ago, though, and people have been waiting for a suitable replacement. In comes the Meteor 350, which is an attempt by RE to up the Thunderbird’s standards. Along with this, the Meteor 350 is also RE’s attempt to become more technologically advanced, and it packs some features that we haven’t even seen in the 650s. Additionally, RE says that the Meteor is an all-new offering and nothing much has been carried forward from before. Does it stand up to the hype created by the numerous sightings in the past? We find out this and everything else in our detailed test ride review of the RE Meteor 350.
Motor Quest: The RE Meteor 350 is the freshest Royal Enfield in the market and not just by launch date-wise. It packs many modern bits, which are a first for RE and even for the segment. The Meteor might look similar to older REs but it is an all-new motorcycle. It is also the starting point for an all-new segment of bikes for RE, and even the engine is completely brand new. The bike looks to replace the Thunderbird 350, and it’s safe to say that it has big shoes to fill.
Styling: Royal Enfield says the Meteor 350 boasts of an all-new design, but it reminds us of the Thunderbird. We couldn’t help but compare the round headlamp, tank shape, and the overall stature to the Thunderbirds and find an uncanny resemblance. Then there are things like the U-shaped 10-spoke machine-cut alloy wheels, LED DRL ring in the halogen headlamp, chrome inserts here and there including the FI cover, black engine casing, windscreen and the backrest which make it look fresh and premium. There are three variants to choose from- the Fireball, the Stellar and the Supernova and the backrest is only available in the last two while the windscreen is only available in the top-model.
Paint quality, chrome, and fit-finish are all top-notch on the new Royal Enfield Meteor 350
If you are someone who likes colour in life, the Meteor will impress you even more. The Meteor gets 7 colour options spread across the variants, with the top model getting dual-tone paint jobs. Not just the colours, the fit and finish is also commendable, and not just by RE standards. The bump in quality comes as a product of the R&D, which took place at RE’s UK facility and the new Chennai plant. However, the mudguard and mirrors are not steel and there are some rough edges around which we couldn’t really ignore. All in all, RE has done a great job with the Meteor 350 and it definitely looks and feels more premium than the bike it takes over. We think full-LED lighting would’ve made it even better, though.
Instrument Cluster and Switchgear: Like the design, the instrument cluster and switchgear is brand new for the RE Meteor 350 as well. The dual-pod nature might remind you of the Thunderbird’s speedo, but the Meteor’s setup is a whole different story. The bigger pod of the Meteor includes an analogue speedometer and a digital display which shows the fuel level, time, gear position, and has 2 trip meters too along with the basic telltale lights. The analogue speedo also has readings in MPH, which we think comes as a necessity for international sales. However, the second display is where things get really interesting. The second pod consists of RE’s new ‘Tripper’ navigation system, which connects to your mobile via Bluetooth.
The dual-pod instrument cluster is all-new and gets RE’s new ‘Tripper’ navigation system
How is it? Pretty amazing, especially if you consider this is RE’s first attempt at it. The system was made in partnership with Google, which makes the system very refined and easy to operate. There is a whole list of symbols that the system shows and it even includes special ones for flyovers and merging traffic, which makes it pretty hard to fault. Coming to the switchgear, it is also brand new and includes a hazard light switch and a USB port too. The headlamp and ignition switches are never-seen-before designs and might be attractive to some people while being not-so-pleasing to some. We, for one, really like the new instrument cluster and the switchgear of the RE Meteor as it is pretty functional. The quality standards are also a huge step-up and definitely something we’d want on other RE bikes!
Ergonomics: The Meteor 350 might be an all-new product, but the ergonomics are pretty similar to the Thunderbird. Like the predecessor, the Meteor 350 also has a foot-forward riding posture with an upright stance. The pegs stretch towards the front of the bike which gives it a leisurely posture. However, the handlebars aren’t as tall as the Thunderbird and are on the flatter side. The resulting posture is very comfortable, though, and the split-seat has plenty of room on offer as well. Pillion comfort is also decent, and the backrest definitely helps ensure comfort. Coming to other bits, the mirrors are decent by RE standards as the field of view has remained just as well. The seat height is 765 mm, making it friendly for riders of all shapes and sizes.
Performance: The Meteor 350’s motor is an all-new engine by RE, and it definitely shows. The new 349cc engine with fuel injection is BS6 compliant and makes 20.2 BHP at 6100 RPM and 27 Nm of torque at 4000 RPM. The numbers aren’t class-topping or mind-boggling, but none of us expects it to be. What we did expect was it to be refined and we’re happy to report that the Meteor is a very smooth bike. The addition of a counterbalancer is to thank for this, and we’re glad that RE has finally parted ways with its shakey nature and the pushrods. Coming to characteristics, the engine is linear but has a punchy midrange which helps a lot in city conditions. The bike also has a higher top-end and takes much shorter to reach a tonne in comparison to the Thunderbird 350 or even the BS6 Classic 350.
The new engine is much faster and refined overall in comparison to the previous 350cc RE bikes
Like the engine, the gearbox is all-new as well, and it is a significant improvement too. The clutch is light and the gearshifts feel slick as ever, which isn’t something people say about smaller REs. A sixth gear and a slipper clutch are missing, though, which some bikes in the segment get. Moving on, the Meteor’s motor feels apt for touring as well, as the rev-band is well spread, and the bike doesn’t feel stressed even at triple-digit speeds. Lastly, the fuel efficiency is decent as well at around 35 km/l, which rounds the total range of the smaller 15-litre fuel tank to about 520 kms. In conclusion, the Meteor 350 is an amazing blend of refinement and usable power, making it one of the best sub-500cc REs ever!
Riding Dynamics: The RE Meteor 350 is 6 kgs lighter than the Thunderbird 350 and gets an all-new chassis too. Both these things work in favour of the Meteor and make it a pretty good handling bike. The bike tips into corners quickly and the tyres support that as well, thanks to the wider profile. The wheelbase has also increased in comparison to the Thunderbird, which gives the Meteor good straightline stability as well. Suspension-wise, the Meteor uses 41 mm conventional forks upfront and a 6-step adjustable twin-shock setup at the rear. While the front suspension is on the softer side, we feel the rear setup is firm and could’ve been softer for a plusher ride.
The thicker tyres and the new chassis result in a great combo but peg scraping is a usual affair in corners
The Meteor 350 is surprisingly good at low speed manoeuvres, again thanks to the chassis and the U-turns are hassle-free. This shows that RE did their homework pretty well. Like everything else, attention has been paid to the brakes as well. The Meteor gets a bigger 300 mm disc at the front and a bigger 270 mm disc at the rear, which has made a positive impact on the braking performance. The bike stops quicker and gets a dual-channel ABS, which ensures safety too. However, the brake lever feel is mushy and you’ll have to pull the lever hard during emergencies. Also, while the weight has decreased, at 191 kgs, the Meteor is still a healthy lad and one can feel the weight when moving the bike around. The ground clearance at 170 mm is also decent but might be an issue for healthy riders and big potholes.
Verdict: At Rs. 2,26,049/- (on-road Mumbai, Supernova variant), the Meteor 350 isn’t the cheapest 350cc bike in the market and it is a little more expensive than many of us expected RE to price it at. But, the Meteor is definitely a much better product than the bike it replaces i.e. the Thunderbird 350 in almost all aspects. It provides better performance, better features, better rideability, more premium feel and better practicality which make it a solid case and somewhat justify the price-tag. However, if you’re looking for a standout head-turner motorcycle, we would recommend you to look at the “Make It Yours” initiative by RE and customize your own Meteor from the factory!
* Plenty colours and trims to choose from
* New engine performs significantly better
* One of the neatest instrument clusters out there
What’s Not So Cool
* Pillion comfort could be better
* Plastic quality and feel can improve
* Design isn’t too new and people still mistake it for a Thunderbird
* Engine: 349cc, Single-Cylinder, FI
* Power: 20.2 BHP @ 6100 RPM
* Torque: 27 Nm @ 4000 RPM
* Transmission: 5-speed
* Top Speed: 115 km/hr (VBOX)
* Fuel Consumption: 37 km/l
* Fuel Type: Petrol
* Suspension: 41 mm Telescopic forks (Front), 6 Step Adjustable Twin Shock Absorbers (Rear)
* Tyres: 100/90/19 (Front), 140/70/17 (Rear)
* Brakes: 300 mm Disc (Front), 270 mm Disc (Rear)
* Length x Width x Height (mm): 2140 mm X 845 mm X 1310 mm
* Wheelbase: 1400 mm
* Seat Height: 765 mm
* Ground Clearance: 170 mm
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 15-litres
* Kerb weight: 191 kgs