Honda NC700X: new take on all-rounder
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Never mind that there are scooters out there that will out-drag a Ferrari and hit 160km/h (the old “ton”) with contemptuous ease, there is still a whole generation of riders for whom any two-wheeler with a hole in the middle is for wusses.
For those guys - and any rider who'd like to see motorcycles picking up on the practical advantages of the scooter layout - Honda has designed the NC700X, an typically middle-of-the-road Honda take on combining scooter simplicity and storage with “real motorbike” architecture and performance.
Rationalising that scooters are used mostly for going to work and back, the Big Red Aitch has pitched this one straight at the commuter market - by which it may be doing itself a disservice, because this thing could just turn out to be a classic all-rounder.
It all starts with the engine, as always - in this case a compact, steeply inclined, long-stroke 670cc parallel twin, tuned for a lean-burning, economical 38.1kW at 6250 revs and 60Nm at 4750rpm, while achieving a quoted 3.6 litres per 100km.
We'll take that last figure under advisement; fuel-consumption claims that sound too good to be true, usually are.
MORE THAN ONE JOB
Both inlet and exhaust ports are siamesed so it has only one 36mm throttle body and one exhaust system and, wherever possible, components have more than one job - for example, single overhead camshaft drives the water pump and the oil pump is on the end of the balancer shaft.
All of which reaches the back wheel via a very conventional wet clutch, six-speed constant-mesh gearbox and chain final drive - simply because no more efficient method has yet been devised, although it must be said that toothed-belt final drive a la Harley is so much cleaner and more elegant I would have expected to see it in this application.
The engine sits in a tubular-steel diamond frame, with real-bike-sized 17” rims and decent rubber (120/70 front, 160/60 rear), modulated by 41mm conventional forks and a Pro-Link monoshock rear suspension set-up - which should give it a substantial handling advantage over even maxi-scooters such as the Gilera GP800 and the attitudinous Yamaha T-Max.
Borrowing from the popularity of dual-purpose and motard-styled machines, the NC700X has an upright seating position and relatively wide handlebars, for commanding visibility and agility in traffic, and a tall narrow screen for comfort at cruising speeds.
But this is where it gets really interesting: the 14.1-litre fuel tank is under the seat, while the dummy tank is taken up by a 5.3-litre air-box and a lockable storage compartment big enough, says Honda, to hold a rainsuit or small rucksack while you're riding, or a full-face helmet while you're not, putting the NC700X on a par with most scooters for sheer, everyday practicality.
Honda describes the styling as “crossover” - a term that's been so misused by the car guys that we refuse to apply it to motorcycles; suffice it to say the NC700X blends off-road ergonomics with smooth street-bike contours.
At R64 999, however, it does promise a relaxed, comfortable ride, whether in traffic or weekending in the country, with enough power that you'll never be bored. We've been promised one on test soon; we'll tell you more about the NC700X - and in particular whether it lives up to Honda's fuel-consumption claims - when we've ridden it for a week or so.
Engine:670cc liquid-cooled four-stroke parallel twin.
Bore x stroke:73 x 80mm.
Valvegear: SOHC with four overhead valves per cylinder.
Power:381.kW at 6250rpm.
Torque:60Nm at 4750rpm.
Induction: PGM-FI electronic fuel-injection with 36mm throttle body.
Ignition: Computer-controlled digital transistorised with electronic advance.
Clutch: Cable-operated multiplate wet clutch.
Transmission: Six-speed constant-mesh gearbox with final drive by chain.
Front Suspension:41mm conventional cartridge forks.
Rear Suspension: Pro-Link with monoshock, adjustable for preload.
Front brakes:300mm petal disc with twin-piston floating calliper.
Rear brake:240mm petal disc with single-piston floating calliper.
Front tyre:120/70 - 17 tubeless.
Rear tyre:160/60 - 17 tubeless.
Fuel tank:14 litres.
Fuel consumption(claimed): 3.6 litres per 100km at 120km/h.
Price: R64 999.