First Ride: Honda NC700X review

Progressive Jazz

Posted: 5 December 2011
by Mark Forsyth
Honda NC700X review

Click here to read Honda NC700X owner reviews.

Where to start?

Well, let’s look at the facts first – or at least a very quick paraphrase of Honda’s lengthy NC700X mission statement. There’s a lot going on here – so much so that Honda officials felt the need to show us a ‘word cloud’ to help explain the bike’s positioning. I hope I never hear that phrase ever again.

The NC700X is an adventure-styled ‘fun crossover.’ What does that mean, you quite rightly ask? Well, it’s exactly the same bike as the NC700S and the recently launched Integra but with different clothes/handlebars. Honda call this base bike their ‘Mid Platform’.

There’s nothing new about this modular concept of bike production. Take the same engine and chassis, dress it up differently and pitch it into another market and another group of customers. It’s efficient and ubiquitous in the car world. As an example, the Fiat 500 uses Fiat Panda underpinnings and so too does the Ford Ka.

John Bloor founded Triumph on this very same platform-principle back in 1991 because it was an efficient way to create a range of motorbikes. You could also argue that Ducati have done a very good job of using their air cooled, belt-drive V-twin in a (modular) wide range of motorbikes over the years.

Honda has taken the modular approach with the NC (‘New Concept’) range. Underneath the NC700X, 700S and Integra are the same steel tube chassis, wheels, suspension and engine. One set of development costs, three bikes, three markets. It’s got to be efficient, hasn’t it?

Just as cannily, Honda tapped into their car division’s experience when they were developing the engine for the NC range. It is no coincidence that the project started with half a Honda Jazz engine. The finished motor might be bespoke but the cylinder’s bore and stroke are still the same as the Jazz.

Honda claim that the NC is about ‘commuting and fun’ and its pitched at a 90% male audience, the core of whom are in their thirties. The range is aimed at car drivers, people moving up from 125s, riding schools and new riders.

To satisfy this criteria the design brief was that it should be torquey, have a low centre of gravity and good stability. Also factor in class leading mpg and a ‘reasonable price’.

We were told that the NC was borne of market research. This information suggested that 90% of commuters never exceed 87mph or 6,000rpm. The engine was built around this data. Whether this was a good idea or not depended on who you spoke to - such was the spilt in opinion.

The chassis is ultra basic but ultra stable. With a conservative 27 degrees of rake, 110mm of trail, a 1540mm wheelbase and a very low centre of gravity its more stable than a horse’s house. The suspension is crude but effective, the brakes the same. Other than the fact that there’s room to store full face helmet where the tank is, there’s nothing to report here.

The engine is what marks the NC out as being very different.

You can read more about the technical aspects of this MPG-led engine here. There’s no doubting it’s a strange thing to ride at first but once you’ve mastered the art of kicking gears at it frequently and super-early it’s not an unpleasant way to travel. Not everyone, however, mastered this after a day’s riding and the sound of 6,400rpm rev limiter was often heard.

It’s a tricky balance, though. Like driving an old diesel car, there’s not much spread of power when your revs are capped with such a lowly ceiling and peak torque (a healthy 60Nm) is made just 1,400 or 1,500rpm before it’s all over. In reality it means you’re busier with the gear lever which might not be ideal for a rubbish (new) rider. If ever an engine screamed out for a CVT or DCT transmission as standard, this, surely, is it.

I know it's got twice as many wheels as befits this website but I drove Ford's new Focus Zetec S last week and such is the flexibility of that engine that it'll pull from 14mph to 95mph all in just one gear - third. This is not the sort of thing you could do on the NC700...

The engine’s offered in 38 and 35kW, the latter to satisfy new A2 licencing directives and, to be honest, it’s fast enough to be a logical step up from a 125 or 250. It’s also fast (and stable) enough to be able to deal with the outside lane of a motorway without feeling like you’re putting yourself at risk, such is the way with some small wheeled scooters.

Bearing in mind it’ll do nearly 80mpg, fuel range is a claimed 250 miles from the 14.1 litre under-seat fuel tank. Speaking of which, the last under-seat fuel tank I remember over filling and pouring fuel all over my back tyre was a 1997 Laverda Ghost. Guess you’ve just got to be ultra-careful.

So, all-in-all, it’s a commendable effort by Honda to attract new riders to biking with some fresh new thinking, particularly in the way they’ve adopted some best practices from the car industry.

But I have two major problems with it all. Learner riders will struggle with the whole short-shifting technique (even some ‘experienced’ journos were not getting to grips with it) and for prices to start at £5,850 in the UK is £850 too much. The excellent DCT system is expected to add anther £700.

That, however, is just my opinion. If you're paying £7,500pa for your season's rail ticket you may disagree. The acid test will be how the Honda dealer network gets on with selling this concept when the bikes arrive in January…

Read our Honda NC750X first ride review

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Discuss this story

Honda's lost the North since CB1000R, imo...
One front brake Disc, insultingly flimsy swingarm, 14,1 lt. fuel tank...
For God's sake!...and this price!!!
Please, Mr.Honda, take a look, a real deep look I mean, not just to COPY some solutions, to Aprilia Mana, and clean your karma...;)

Posted: 05/12/2011 at 17:56

Actually on the plus side, being well over retirement age and still enjoying my sports tourer, one of my fears is that I wont be able to go on forever. When something new and sporty appears that I fancy I feel a bit down, knowing that I probably couldnt do it justice. However if the future is burgeoning legislation and new bikes likes this I really dont feel too bad!!!

Posted: 05/12/2011 at 20:47

As the engine is "half a Honda Jazz" does that mean it only needs servicing once every 12,500 miles, like the Jazz? If so, I'm warming to this "New Concept".

Posted: 06/12/2011 at 17:15

No, but close. Service intervals are at 8,000 miles but the (expensive) Iridium spark plugs will last 32,000.

Posted: 07/12/2011 at 08:50

The first poster really is missing the point with this bike. It clearly wasn't designed for muppets like you so go and ride your Ducati like real men do. Coz your a real man who needs a mans bike right?! Sore arse, aching wrists and a service every 3 minutes all for your ego? Good job! And why exactly are you insulted by a swingarm?

If Honda hadn't released this bike then new riders would continue to decrease in numbers. Honda did a load of research into what riders need and want from the next generation of bike. What research did you do exactly to come up with your blinkered and pointless opinion? It's odd you say they've lost the plot, when the Blade is still the best selling litre sports bike out there and their build and finishing quality still trumps everything in the market.

As fuel continues to rise in costs and will never come back down everyone will have to start considering this sort of machine or else they'll be buying fuel thirsty machines just to look at in the garage. I'd rather be riding. Honda are lucky in that the company's car division is well established and has great technology that they can utilise in their bikes. No other bike manufacturer can do that. BMW are the same and it's no coincidence that their bikes are also as fuel efficient as their cars. Suzuki cars are crap. Ducati cars, well, they never made it passed the electrical QA department!

Posted: 15/01/2012 at 09:41

gunshot 72, you have excellent points. I've read around the web and so many people are complaining about the horsepower numbers, low rpm, and whining up a storm. But many are entirely missing the most beautiful thing about this bike, and that's the torque! Torque is a beautiful thing! You don't need high horse with this bike; it will haul plenty fast for the average rider from 2000 rpm. With this bike you have almost diesel like torque.

I had an XR650L for years, and it only made about 28.5 foot-pounds of torque stock, and only about 33 horsepower. Those are low numbers on paper for a 650! Many people bitched there too. But that XRL, while not a racebike, was a tractor on two wheels! That thing could pull stumps out. It made it easy to ride, very tractable, and it snorted from 1000 rpm's! This NC700 has 1.55 times a much torque as the XR650L had, and the weight only went up 1.38 times as much, so this NC has an even better torque-horsepower/weight ratio. And these numbers are combined with close to 80 miles per gallon? Sure a scooter gets 100 mpg, but they have all the horsepower and stump pulling torque of a weed eater! Alright, enjoy your scooters!

Man, this bike would be an absolute blast to ride. People will quickly adapt to the torque curve on this bike in their for all these expert journalists and sport-bike jocks who can't figure it out, well, that says something about them doesn't it. Most critics here don't know what they are talking about. And what's this about "crude but effective" suspension and brakes? The auther just slammed half of the bikes on the road with those assanine comments.

Fill this bike up with some Amsoil and the mileage and longevity will increase even more, on top of Honda's famous quality levels. I wish they used this engine in an updated dual-purpose bike. But I'll take it, and enjoy it riding around everyday. Good work Honda.

Posted: 09/02/2012 at 05:22

This is my second response to this blog. I'm getting used to the idea of just 51hp, but that 6500 rpm limit just stinks. It's like running into jello after a good start !!! Do you think any after market power chips or rpm override devices will appear to appease we long time riders ?? I have already visited my US dealer and the earliest delivery dates look like late summer of this year. I will buy a DCT equipped bike and hope the shift points with this setup will smooth out the the sport performance. Even BMW's new scooter allows 7000 rpm redline. Honda put together a nice bike but US riders don't have to put up with stupid Euro beginner rider limits !! Big Red, you should have learned more from your DN-01 error. I am a left foot impaired rider who just wants to extend my riding longevity with DCT. Thank you Honda...J Penney

Posted: 09/02/2012 at 22:32

Where's the review!?! The article was titled "first ride" but you mentioned none of the ride.

Posted: 22/02/2012 at 08:05

hi you hit the nail on head just traded my 2010 kwack z1000 for honda nc x, road tested nc in freezing and wet conditions bike gave loads of confidence even in those conditions, punched to 80mph no quickly! on motorway run excelerated from 80 to 90 efficiently, small screen also offered decent protection, dont now why people are complaining about seat height either at 5.8" had no probs due to low centre of gravity, ordered bike on return.
kwack was a stunning bike, only problem was i wasnt enjoying riding it as spent next two weeks dreading the postman comming (dreaded speed cameras) coupled with 90 miles to each refuel and 2000 miles per set of tyres wheres the fun in that!
sure nc x will return real pleasure in motorcycling well done honda.

Posted: 29/02/2012 at 23:56

Mr John Penney, please try and get this ridiculous notion out of your head that 6500rpm is a bad thing. When you ride the NC, and assuming you can adjust to short-shifting, you will realise it doesn't matter about higher rpm.

By the way, I'm not sure what you mean by 'stupid Euro beginner rider limits'. We have these for good reason and looking at motorcycle road accident statistics and some of the riding displayed by our US friends on youtube, I think we've got it just right in this respect thanks very much! Just to be clear though, the bike is not necessarily just for beginners. I've just ordered an NC700X and I came from a background of a Tiger 1050, ZZR1400, 2 x Fireblades.

Posted: 01/03/2012 at 21:54

I think that gunshot has hit the nail right on the head in his comment about the low rev ceiling. I cannot get my head round the assumption that you have to rev the nuts off an engine to get performance on the road! "Short shifting" has been a natural riding technique to me all my riding life, (over 35 years) even when riding 2 stroke road bikes or peaky enduro machines, a technique used when needed.... I do like the analogy of a diesel engine where 3K RPM is peak torque and who needs more than that :)

I am looking at the Integra model purely because I am no longer able to ride a conventional bike because my knees will not take being tucked back any longer... I miss my Transalp like mad, similiar hp and engine feel, but not an option now :( Just waiting for the test ride to make certain...

Yep, another 10hp will probably be wished for on occasion, but in the real world of a 2500 mile tour, I suspect MPG and comfort will win out as long as the aftermarket boys come up with sensibly priced luggage and weather protection. Looks like a rear hugger would be useful too?

Posted: 10/03/2012 at 21:47

about time someone made a bike for riding rather than boasting about .
the performance bike gravey train has pulled into the siding.
You may now get people going out for a ride and enjoying it rather that the deluded boasting about top speed you get from future hunchbacks.

Posted: 30/04/2012 at 18:54

Just test drove it, Versys is better in my opinion... and I'm beginner.

Posted: 02/05/2012 at 19:33

"Sore arse, aching wrists"? What on earth can you mean, gumshit? Well, it's not illegal.

I don't think you present your case very well, it's just a spluttering rant and abuse.

Stoppit, willya?

Posted: 12/05/2012 at 14:06

Well i've ridden one of these, as in test ride. Took one one out for about 30mins on a mixture of twisties and faster roads, and obviously town riding. To answer critics of the low rev range, don't buy this bike as it's clearly not for you, as you're clearly missing the point of the design.
It's supposed to be like that to keep fuel efficiency as frugal as possible. As mentioned in the article, most people don't go above 90mph or above 6k rpm. Once you get used to this concept of only having 6,5k to play with on the NC, it's surprisingly quick on acceleration. Flicks easily left and right and handles just as easily as my Tiger 800.
Any moans about the 14L tank, pleeease. It will do nearly 250 miles to a tank, i don't know about anyone else but i want to get off by then. For anyone thinking of getting one, it needs a hugger and a fenda extender, also think about a new screen. Don't bother with the Honda luggage as it's very expensive. Givi already make the topbox fitting and pannier racks.
In conclusion, a great mini touring bike imho, commuter, or just plain fun bike. Seriously thinking of getting one of these as this type of bike is the future, as fuel prices are never going down again people. Think about that.

Posted: 26/05/2012 at 21:55

Here in the US we have had smaller displacement v-twins for a loooong time from the jappanese- like a little harley with luggage- except they don't break down every ten minutes and leave puddles of oil- anyway most of those bikes here have very similar torque and HP numbers as this new honda along with the short RPM band- my father owns one- a suzuki c50 - 50 hp and 650lbs loaded and it is still a blast to ride up to about 80mph tops around 110 - these bikes are great fun on twisty roads because of the torque - don't let the numbers fool you- ride one before you count it out, I am rather sure it will be fun -- and being an american I usually travel with my laptop and a gun, so a locking center trunk would be very convienent!

Posted: 14/06/2012 at 21:55

bike seems interesting to me. ergos, storage, fuel economy. side bags seem kinda small...i dont mind the low hp but wonder how how you all think this will affect things with a combined two up weight of around 330lbs. can some of you chime in about this a bit?

Posted: 23/06/2012 at 03:16

I just test rode one. Very nice bike. I enjoyed the torque. Short shifting wasn't a problem for me. It handled nicely and felt very stable in turns. The low centre of gravity makes it feel lighter than it actually is when you're riding it. I am also considering a 650 Versys and hope to ride one soon. It will be interesting to compare the two

Posted: 10/08/2012 at 06:38

Have now ridden both the S and the X versions. The latter has longer travel suspension thus a taller seat. Handlebars are also higher than the S. We noticed wind buffet from the screen on the X but there is just a vestigal screen on the S and surprisingly, it worked very well. We rode them over winding back roads on a rainy day and the stock tyres worked fine. The engine torque is so good there is no need for multiple gear changes. Surf the torque. Braking was very good, plenty of feel and no worries about locking up the front in the wet. The power delivery is very good and these new Hondas are quiet. No unholy racket to wake the neighbours here. Photographer came along on a Suzuki V-strom. We fuelled all three bikes at the start and zeroed the trip meters. The two Hondas achieved 3.9 l/100 km (25 km/litre) while the Suzuki sucked petrol at an unholy 6.5 l/100 km (15 km/litre) at the same speed over the same roads. Honda has got this right, and it is about time we had motorcycles capable of decent open road speeds that are also frugal. Phil Irving would approve...

Posted: 13/08/2012 at 04:31

I've had several bikes over the years as well as ridden a few others, started on the 50cc then up to 125cc two stroke engines, a cbr 600 and now I own a cbr 954. The fact is that I've grown a bit weary of owning a large displacment speed machine, yeah it does give you huge quicks when you find some good back road, with good tarmac and you have nice weather, good knowledge of the road, the tires are properly warmed up and, if your lucky, you get a few sets of turns that can scratch the abilities of such quick bikes... my question is... what's the purpose of it all? There I am in a track day body position, with around 150 bhp under the tank a top speed of around 290 km/h and I, if the sun shines enough and I made offerings to all the right gods, I can do 2 or 3 ripping corners, hust to go home again, can't even take the girl out for a blast cause she can't handle the passenger seat.. Since it's the only bike I've got, I have to say its a poor choice. Drinks gasoline like it's starved, cooks my nuts if I go under 60 km/h, expensive maintenance, insurance etc.. all for those 3 corners? The liter sport bikes are track bikes, anyone that isn't a pro rider and claims to take full advantage of said bikes is either lying, to feed their ego, or can actually go to trackdays and use all that grunt, and if so you are fortunate. Of course I love how the bike feels and looks and behaves, but like I said, only having one bike as primary means of transport, it isn´t a good choice.

This new Honda, on the other hand, is a real world bike all the way. I test drove it yesterday and I was amazed. Smooth as you wouldn´t believe, really comfortable seating position, can carry some luggage, can carry a passenger, lots of grunt in low med rev's, realy easy to turn in corners, good suspension for bumps etc, maintenance every 12.000 kms, and an average of 3.5l/100 kms, that's 125cc scooter economy my friends. I felt like I had this bike for ages and that I could go wherever I wanted on this thing. The power however is a bit awkward, especially for me, used to revvy bikes. This one tops out at 6500 rpm, but the torquy feel it has from 1500 up until 6000 is amazing and can get her over 100 km/h quite easilly and quickly.

So, just so that some peak power jukies can take another prespective at this bike, look to the use you do on your revvy engine and tell me how often do you get to pass the 6000-8000 rev's on a liter bike in back roads?This Honda NC 700X is a fun bike, inexpensive to run and can still crack some very good corns with perhaps the same corner speed as the liter class, depends on how closed the corner is. Defenetly trading my 954 in for this one as a primary bike to commute, have some fun drives and take my girl to the beach, in comfort. Will get a duc 848 when the money is around but only for the occasional wekend blast. I choose this Honda for al the other posible uses, great going Honda

(sorry for the lenghty post)

Posted: 06/09/2012 at 13:51

Can't wait for the 900,every thing else (more or less) the same, it would make a great touring machine for two!

Posted: 19/02/2013 at 14:32

What are the real world mpg figures for this NC700? What are the alternatives based on mpg? A friend owned a 2004 BMW F650 Dakar that regulary averaged mid 70's. and his current 2012 KTM 690 Duke averaged(without even trying to ride frugally) 80mpg. BTW that's a 72bhp single cylinder engine, with acceleration on par with my Yamaha Fazer 600 up to 90mph.
I'm guessing the NC700 should exceed 80mpg easily on commuting duties?

Posted: 05/11/2013 at 00:06

Yes, there are a scant few bikes that can get better mileage, and yes you can cruise a f650 at 75mph all day, one up. The difference would be on the NC YOU CAN DO IT TWO UP, AND CAN'T WAIT TO DO IT THE NEXT DAY!! Rather than wishing you were already home as you would on the other bikes.

Posted: 23/12/2013 at 19:24

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