2021 Honda CB 350 RS Test Ride Review
Most detailed review and test ride of the new Honda CB 350 RS.
Bike tested: Honda CB 350 RS; Road Test No. 1312; Test Location: Mumbai
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 2,32,500/-
The Honda CB 350 RS is the sportier urban-retro motorcycle from the brand for our country
Honda launched the H’ness CB 350 quite some time back and it was doing pretty well. However, they realised that the sub-500cc neo-retro segment was getting pretty monotonous and there is a clique that always wanted a slightly sporty, slightly aggressive design but never got something like that. Soon after, Honda added the “RS” badge to the CB 350 lineup. The RS differentiates itself from the H’ness largely in three ways – ergonomics, dynamics and a bit of design. What are the changes? How does it ride? And lastly, the biggest question of all, which one should you get? Let’s find out.
MotorQuest: The CB 350 RS is a new addition to the CB 350 India lineup. The H’ness was the first neo-retro bike from Honda for India following up with a sportier urban variant, the CBB 350 RS. The CB 350s are made at Honda’s Manesar plant in Haryana and exported worldwide too.
Styling: The RS takes a lot of inspiration from the H’ness but it pulls off everything with a sporty swag. Since the RS is aimed at a younger audience, it doesn’t go all-in with the classic design and mixes it up with sporty elements. The classic round LED headlamp is surrounded by a black garnish and a contrasting grey highlight which looks pretty dashing while the sleek and edgy LED indicators break the old-school round design. The fork gators look very purposeful and add to the muscularity of the front. However, to keep things balanced, the front fender is very minimalist and is finished in matte black treatment while the chunky front tyres add to the overall built-up look of the RS. The CB 350 RS is offered only in two colour options – radiant red metallic, and a black with pearl sports yellow.
Every material on the RS feels very premium and easily outshines the competition
Coming to the side profile, the RS looks quite compact. The single-piece tuck and roll seat looks very premium. Moving down, the quarter panels have the CB 350 RS badging in chrome which stands out. The upswept exhaust is finished in black with chrome heat shields which add a sporty touch. And just beside that is the engine finished in gloss black and with chrome highlights that unquestionably looks stylish. Additionally, the engine bash plate gives the RS a rugged look. The rear of the bike is very minimalist, the sleek LED taillight is neatly tucked under the seat while the grab rails are placed on the sides. While the tail looks quite quirky. Overall, the RS is a smart-looking bike that has a lot of presence over the H’ness.
Instrument Cluster and Switchgear: The instrument cluster is the same system offered on the H’ness except that this one isn’t as equipped. It bids farewell to the Bluetooth system and also the beloved, type-C charging port. Considering the RS demands a premium of almost Rs. 10,000/- over the DLX Pro variant, this is extremely shocking. With such a considerable price bump, one naturally expects better functionality besides, in 2021 an all-digital unit makes a lot of sense. Nevertheless, this analogue-digital unit offers all the necessary information. It packs an odometer, twin trip meters, fuel gauge, gear position indicator etc. The telltale lights on the right remain as standard.
Everything from the handlebar grips to the switchgear feels premium and a notch above the competition
Looking from the value perspective, we are not happy with the alteration done to the cluster and the RS clearly deserves more. Since the Bluetooth system no longer exists, the joystick switches on the left switchgear have also been dismissed. Rest everything stays the same including the unusually placed horn and indicator switch. On the right, there is an integrated kill switch with a starter button and a hazard-light button which again, is similar to what is offered on the H’ness. We really like the piano black backsplash, it feels premium and the buttons feel sturdy. The overall switchgear quality is good.
Ergonomics: In favour of the RS badge, there are quite a few changes made in the ergonomics of the bike. For starters, it gets a wider seat while the 800 mm seat height remains unchanged however, the space for the pillion is still very limited. Further, it gets a new handlebar which is a bit wider and 44 mm away from the rider, meaning that the rider sits a bit leaned in. The mirrors are round and hence don’t offer a good view of what’s behind. However, the tank recess is quite narrow and if you are above 5’8″ you wouldn’t find yourself as comfortable. Lastly, the footpegs have been moved 11 cm behind and are placed 1.2 cm higher than the H’ness. This setup translates to a sweet combination that is a bit sporty yet comfort-oriented. Overall, the RS has well-balanced ergonomics.
Performance: Powering the CB 350 RS is a 348cc air-cooled engine that produces 21 PS of power at 5500 RPM and 30 Nm of torque at 3000 RPM. However, in real life, the RS badge seems to fade away when it comes to performance. We say this because the power figures are untouched and the performance remains the same. The low-end is just about adequate however, the mid-range is stuffed with a punch and the top-end feels very tight. Maybe a power bump is too much to ask for but, a different engine tune isn’t too much. The 0-100 km/hr sprint takes 13.86 seconds while the motorcycle maxes out at 124 km/hr on the VBOX test.
The well-tuned engine continues with the same exhaust note which roars rather than having a bassy note
The gearbox is a slick-shifting 5-speed unit with a slipper clutch. Although the gearing isn’t tall, you wouldn’t find yourself in the top end as the peak torque comes in at 3000 RPM; unless you are pushing to the limit. The H’ness returns a mileage of 32 km/l which isn’t the best and gets a 15-litre fuel tank and can go 480 km when full. Vibrations from this motor are very well contained and you only feel slight buzziness in the top end. Nevertheless, the RS still sustains the standards of Honda in terms of engine refinement which is expected from a fine-calibrated Japanese engine.
Riding Dynamics: At the front, the RS sports non-adjustable telescopic forks and at the rear, it gets adjustable twin hydraulic shock absorbers. Although the suspension setup is basic, it’s quite stiff. This results in better riding dynamics while riding enthusiastically. But things get bumpy on bad roads which isn’t likeable for the comfort seekers. The RS is based on a split-duplex frame that offers the least flex and grants an ample amount of feedback and feels very settled on high speeds. Its ability to tip into corners makes the ride very fun and while doing so, the bike feels similar to a street naked. Weighing at 179 kgs, the RS is 2 kgs lighter than the H’ness which gives it a slightly better power to weight ratio.
In the city or on the highway, the RS offers excellent riding dynamics
The tyres are very chunky and offer stupendous grip in every scenario, however, the rear 150-section tyre seems to be overkill, as the bike doesn’t feel easy to flick around and the RS isn’t as nimble. The braking department is handled by a 310 mm disc at the front and a 240 mm disc at the rear backed by Nissin callipers. Although the brakes are quite sharp, the feedback isn’t the greatest as the rear wheel feels quite a bit heavy. The bike also gets a traction control system that assists you in case you slide out the rear by cutting the power which is a thoughtful touch. Lastly, the RS gets dual-channel ABS that is well-calibrated and ensures a safe halt.
Verdict: At 2,32,500/- (on-road, Mumbai) the RS promises to look retro but handle modern. Yes, it loses out on some features but adds sporty ergonomics which nobody offers, the RS is very unique. If you believe that chrome is too old-school and a street-naked is too sporty, the RS sits right between and is a sensible choice as it offers the best of both worlds. However, just like the H’ness, it is only available for sale and service at Honda BigWing dealerships which are limited to tier-1 and tier-2 cities. Nevertheless, if you want to make a bold impression as you arrive, the RS is the one for you. But if you want the VFM tag, you’d rather pick the H’ness.
* Sporty design and balanced ergonomics
* Fit for touring too, great dynamics and comfort
* Best fit-finish in the business with a great build quality
What’s Not So Cool
* Slightly overpriced
* Pillion comfort isn’t much
* Lack of features like Bluetooth and USB charging
* Engine: 348.36cc, Single-Cylinder, Air-Cooled, FI
* Power: 21 PS @ 5500 RPM
* Torque: 30 Nm @ 3000 RPM
* Transmission: 5-speed
* Fuel Consumption: 32 km/l
* Fuel Type: Petrol
* Frame: Split-Duplex Frame
* Suspension: Showa Telescopic Forks (Front), Dual Hydraulic Shocks (Rear)
* Tyres: 100/90/19 (Front), 150/70/17 (Rear)
* Brakes: 320 mm Disc (Front), 240 mm Disc (Rear), Dual-channel ABS
* Length x Width x Height: 2171 mm x 804 mm x 1097 mm
* Wheelbase: 1441 mm
* Ground Clearance: 166 mm
* Seat Height: 800 mm
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 15-litres
* Kerb weight: 179 kgs