BMW G 310 R review | UK road test

Honey, I shrunk the BMW

1
Steve Farrell's picture
Submitted by Steve Farrell on Thu, 29/06/2017 - 16:15

IT’S like a BMW, only smaller. Oh wait, it is a BMW. It must just be far away.

No. It’s an actual small BMW. The firm’s first modern sub-500cc street motorcycle in fact, and the only model in its current range under 800cc.

It’s the first fruit of BMW’s partnership with TVS, the firm that builds it in India.

Which will help explain why it’s also the cheapest BMW currently available to buy in the UK by more than £3,000.

So has this 34hp single got what it takes to compete in a sub-500cc market that includes the likes of KTM’s 390 Duke and Yamaha’s MT-03? Let’s find out with a UK road test…

Engine

‘Lively’ is how this 313cc single might be described, pulling reasonably well from as little as 30mph in fourth gear, where the revs are at just over 3,000rpm. It doesn’t delight at being worked from that low in the range but it gets to 40mph soon enough and by then it feels positively perky.

That flexibility will clearly be useful for novices and commuters.

What it seems to be lacking though is a bit of what you might call ‘fiz’. The red line on the digital dash is at 10,000rpm. Between 8,000rpm and there, you find a very slight final surge in power but it doesn’t seem to relish being up there.

Compare it to Kawasaki’s 39hp Z300, a parallel-twin with a satisfying little power band that can keep you entertained all day. Or KTM’s single-cylinder 390 Duke, with some proper punch and 43hp.

The G 310 R’s engine may have a snazzy reverse cylinder with the exhaust coming out the back but it’s still a single, and not a very big one. In engine performance terms, it has more in common with Honda’s 31hp CBR300R or even Kawasaki’s 28hp Ninja 250SL/Z250SL than the big hitters in the sub-500cc market.

At fast motorway cruising speeds, you’re nearing the edge of its performance envelope, as you would be on those other single-cylinder machines. At over 60mph it’s getting vibey, so you sense it’s working hard.

And it makes that slightly agricultural sound of some small-capacity singles, not entirely unlike a lawnmower.

Handling

You can’t fault the G 310 R here. With a claimed road-ready weight of 158.5kg, an upright, wide-barred riding position and short-ish wheelbase of 1,374mm (6mm shorter than an MT-03’s), it turns more readily than Theresa May. Although thankfully with more stability.

According to BMW, a benefit of that backward cylinder is that it permits a longer swing-arm while retaining a short wheelbase. Because there’s no exhaust sticking out of the front of the cylinder, the engine can be closer to the front wheel. And where the exhaust does come out, at the back, it bends downward through the front section of the swing-arm, so doesn’t encroach on overall swing-arm length.

Give the bars a little nudge at speed and you get a sense of how ready the chassis is to respond to the lightest input – as you’d expect on a diminutive wide-barred machine like this – but it seems totally stable up to the speeds it’s capable of, a maximum 90mph according to BMW.

Suspension

It’s not doing badly here either, with KYB 41mm upside-down forks and shock that work as good as they look.

The pre-load adjustable shock is firm and well-damped for the sub-500cc market, which relies on budget components.

The forks are non-adjustable but well set-up as they come, soaking up hard braking while keeping the G 310 R settled and stable.

If anything, the suspension might be a little too sporty for its market, which will include commuters. I faced a 100-mile ride home after picking it up and by halfway I knew all about the firmness of the shock.

Brakes

If it’s built to a tight budget, the G 310 R is doing a pretty good job of hiding it: the brakes are excellent at this price point. It’s only got a single front disc (show me a modern sub-500cc machine that hasn’t) but there’s a radial-mounted four-piston caliper biting it, from Bybre, Brembo’s Indian-built brand.

I kept grabbing the lever (after checking nothing was behind me) purely because I was so impressed with the progression and power.

They’re not as good as actual Brembos of course – you have to give the lever a firm squeeze – but there’s loads of power when you do.

ABS is standard.

Equipment

As well as a fuel gauge, information available on the digital dash includes average fuel consumption, range till empty, average speed, a gear indicator, time and date. What more can you possibly need?

But there is more: a useful space under the seat, big enough for a large-ish disc lock, which is probably important for commuters. Just pop the disc lock on top of the tool kit and seat will go over it. You’ll see.

We like

The styling and finish. The G 310 R looks like a shrunken S1000R, with way more presence than the likes of Kawasaki’s teeny-weeny Z250SL, which I compared it to earlier.

The white headlight and radiator cowls, the gold-coloured forks and white shock spring, the belly-pan, the angular mirrors – there’s a lot of detail in this machine, all helping to make it a proper BMW rather than just a budget commuter.

The tank, which leaves its matt black plastic body exposed in between two large white cowls, looks good and will also probably do away with any need for a tank protector. 

We don’t like

I want a bit more to like about the engine. Not power necessarily. Character would do it. Perhaps a bit more top-end to chase, or just a greater sense of willingness to be thrashed. Just that little bit of magic that reminds you every day why motorcycles are great. The very best suspension, handling and braking cannot make up for its absence.

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Comments

"The firm’s first modern sub-500cc motorcycle in fact, and the only model in its current range under 800cc."

You forgot the BMW G450X that they sold for a couple of years around 2009-2010.

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