Whether you're talking about handling, throttle response, brakes or styling, the one word that Honda's CBR250R mini-sportster brings to mind is “sharp”.
Sling a leg over the saddle - only 780mm off the ground - and the first thing you notice is how slim this 249cc fuel-injected single is; the engine is less than 300mm wide across the cases and the handlebars, at 710mm, are only just street-legal.
Punch the button to fire up the engine and blip the throttle: throttle response is as fast - and as precise - as a cobra strike. Pull away, and I promise you will stall it at least once, as you learn that the clutch is as sharp as a light switch.
This bike makes absolutely no concessions for ham-fisted riders: you will ride it right, or you'll look like an idiot.
IT GOES WHERE YOU LOOK
But it's only when you get it out on your favourite twisties that you find out what sharp is all about. In the time-honoured tradition of lightweight European sports machines (think Ducati 250 Diana) you don't ever steer the CBR250R; it goes where you look, with precision response to the slightest input that makes you concentrate on what you're doing - which is never a bad thing on any motorcycle.
The seat is little better than a plastic plank (although perfect ergonomics ensure that the bike is surprisingly comfortable) and the suspension on the race-track side of firm, so the CBR250R tells you in razor-sharp detail exactly what's going on 'twixt tar and rubber.
Nevertheless, it's seldom twitchy; I was quite surprised at how well it coped with the poor surfaces and sudden camber changes of my everyday commute, and it ran straight and steady at full taps, for as long as I wanted.
I held it wide open all the way down our six-kilometre test straight, draped over the tank like melted cheese, with knees and elbows neatly tucked in, trying to squeeze out a genuine 160km/h (100 miles per hour in the old language) but the best it would do - even with the race-spec Yoshimura tailpipe - was 154, with 164 showing on the digital speedometer and the rev-counter halfway between 9 and 10.
A quick look at the specifications, however, reminds you the that the twin-cam, quarter-litre single delivers peak power (19.4kW, according to Honda) at 8500rpm; that the power doesn't begin to tail off for another 1000 revs is a striking tribute to how sharply the boffins at Honda Thailand have set up the 38mm fuel-injection system.
As is its overall fuel consumption of 4.5 litres per 100km, given that this bike lends itself to being ridden almost everywhere flat out - and was!
“What have you been up to?”
Which is what makes the CBR250R just as sharp a commuter as it is a Sunday-morning canyon carver; there are not many modern sports bikes that can be ridden hard enough in traffic to make them work properly, without placing their riders in grave and imminent danger.
The afternoon commute becomes the Eastern Boulevard Grand Prix and the grin on the rider's face wide enough to prompt Herself to ask: “What have you been up to?”
The brakes are discs at both ends, albeit with low-budget Nissin sliding callipers, and are sharp enough to inspire confidence that they can handle anything this 161kg (with a full tank!) bike can throw at them. They got hot enough on one 6am 'down' run through a favourite bit of inner-city lunacy that I could smell them, but manfully refused to fade.
The styling is just as sharp, seemingly equally derived from CBR1000RR Fireblade and the VFR1200F sports-tourer and reflecting, in particular, the latter's 'layered' lower fairing.
The execution is clean and tidy (when last did you see a fully lined fairing on a 250?), fit and finish a cut above the average, while the comprehensive and stylish instrument panel would do justice to any sports bike and is, in fact, significantly easier to read than that of Honda's much-hyped VFR800X Crossrunner.
Even Herself, who stands 1.8 metres tall and usually disdains anything boasting less than 850cc, said she didn't feel that she was on a 'little'
bike and would happily go shopping on it.
At R39 999, Honda's spicy little Thai is one of their sharpest blades yet, a precision tool whether slicing the commute or the circuit; in fact Honda SA has already developed a racing version for the Northern Regions 250 Production Class series, including the Yoshimura tailpipe you see on the test bike.
Engine: 249.6cc liquid-cooled four-stroke single.
Bore x Stroke: 76 x 55mm.
Compression ratio: 10.7:1.
Valvegear: DOHC with four overhead valves per cylinder.
Power: 19.4kW at 8500rpm.
Torque: 23.8Nm at 7000rpm.
Induction: PGM-FI electronic fuel-injection with 38mm throttle body.
Ignition: Computer-controlled digital transistorised with electronic advance.
Clutch: Cable-operated wet multiplate clutch.
Transmission: Six-speed constant-mesh gearbox with final drive by chain.
Front Suspension: 37mm conventional cartridge forks.
Rear Suspension: Pro-link monoshock adjustable for preload.
Front brake: 276mm disc with twin-piston floating calliper.
Rear brake: 220mm disc with single-piston floating calliper.
Front tyre: 110/70 - 17 tubeless.
Rear tyre: 140/70 - 17 tubeless.
Seat Height: 780mm.
Kerb weight: 161kg.
Fuel tank: 13 litres.
Price: R39 999. (Yoshimura tailpipe R2250 extra) Test bike from: Honda South Africa.