By Dave Abrahams
Whether you call it a scooter, a bike or just plain weird, Honda’s NC700D Integra is a praiseworthy attempt at bringing together the best of current car, motorcycle and scooter technology in one package.
Its 670cc parallel twin - widely rumoured to be half a 1.3-litre Jazz car engine - uses only one throttle body and one exhaust port, where conventional motorcycle engines have one per cylinder, and it drives via a six-speed dual-clutch semi-auto transmission.
When Honda introduced the first dual-clutch gearbox on a motorcycle petrolheads everywhere went “Wow!”, but the truth was there was nothing the VFR1200FD could do that its conventional manual sibling didn’t do better. This second attempt at getting the kinks out of an astonishingly complex operating system achieves significantly better results.
Even in Manual mode, it will still change down unbidden if the revs fall too low and it still hesitates for a heart-stopping moment when you ask it to change down, but the shift points are better chosen and, no matter which mode you’re in, it will nearly always come up with the goods when asked to deliver - although a swift overtaking manoeuvre is usually more swiftly taken care of with a quick stab at the ‘Down’ button.
The only difference between the controls of this dual-clutch version and its manual NC700X motorcycle sibling is that the auto has not one but four extra handlebar switches – a thumbswitch on the right to go from Neutral to Drive, a forefinger-trigger on the right to switch from Manual to Auto and back, another forefinger-trigger on the left to change up and a pushbutton above the hooter on the left to change down.
Frame and running gear are almost identical to its NC700X motorcycle sibling, with bike-sized 17” wheels at both ends and decent rear suspension so, despite its initially intimidating kerb weight of 238kg, the Integra handles well (very well, by scooter standards), steers with commendable accuracy and has way more ground clearance than you’d expect from a step-through.
Honda, renowned for never using one component where three will do, has also graced this flying sofa with both ABS and linked brakes. The right-side handlebar lever operates two of the three pistons in the front calliper, while the left-side lever operates both the remaining front piston and the single-piston sliding rear calliper.
The result - especially when using both together - is plenty of Brick Wall Effect, and even braking in the middle of a corner seems to have little effect on the Integra’s stability.
RELAXED GETAWAY MACHINE
The Integra’s legshield and stylish screen offer considerably better weather protection than does the abbreviated flyscreen on the NC700X, giving the impression that the Integra – which is a bit bulky for carefree commuting - is seen by Honda more as a relaxed weekend getaway machine.
The reality, however, is that its sit-up-and-beg riding position concentrates all the rider’s weight on the lowest points of the pelvis rather than spreading it along the long muscles behind the femur, as do sports-touring machines. While the forward-leaning NC700X provides all-day comfort, its Integra stablemate makes your nether regions complain after no more than four or five hours on the road.
Yes, Cyril, the footwell behind the legshield provides plenty of room for moving your feet around, but that doesn’t change the position of your hips on the seat, luxuriously upholstered though it is.
The footwell also takes up the space occupied by the dummy fuel tank on the NC700X, which is actually a gloriously practical storage compartment capable of swallowing a full-face helmet.
There’s a neat oddments compartment in the Integra’s legshield - opposite the lever for the parking brake - and a recess under the seat, which opens gracefully on a gas strut at an anti-clockwise twist of the ignition key to reveal the 14.1-litre fuel tank, but it won’t hold much more than a lunchbox.
The Integra is a technological tour de force and one of the best-handling scooters we’ve ridden. It’s on a par with Yamaha’s T-Max, still the gold standard for step-throughs, and with far better ground clearance, but, sad to say, there is still nothing it can do that its more conventional NC700X sibling doesn’t do better - unless, of course, you insist on riding in a skirt.
Price: R79 990.
Test bike from Honda SA.
Engine: 670cc liquid-cooled four-stroke parallel twin.
Bore x stroke: 73 x 80mm.
Compression ratio: 10.7:1.
Valvegear: SOHC with four overhead valves per cylinder.
Power: 38.1kW at 6250rpm.
Torque: 62Nm at 4750rpm.
Induction: PGM-FI electronic fuel-injection with 36mm throttle body.
Ignition: Computer-controlled digital transistorised with electronic advance.
Clutch: Dual automatic hydraulically actuated wet multiplate clutches.
Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch transmission with final drive by chain.
Front Suspension: 41mm conventional cartridge forks.
Rear suspension: Pro-link with hydraulic shock absorber adjustable for preload.
Front brake: 320mm petal disc with three-piston floating calliper and ABS.
Rear brake: 240mm petal disc with single-piston floating calliper and ABS, linked to front brake.
Front tyre: 120/70 - 17 tubeless.
Rear tyre: 160/60 - 17 tubeless.
Seat height: 790mm.
Kerb weight: 238kg.
Fuel tank: 14.1 litres.
Fuel consumption (recorded on RFS Econorun): 4.06 litres per 100km.
Service intervals: 12 000km
Warranty: Two years unlimited distance
Price: R79 990.
Test bike from Honda SA.