What can we expect from the return of the Honda Hornet?

The all-new twin-cylinder Honda Hornet will be one of the Japanese firm's most significant new launches for some years as it targets the Yamaha MT-07

Honda Hornet sketch, Honda CB750S

As the largest and most far-reaching motorcycle manufacturer in the world, the launch of any new Honda is never anything less than an ‘event’.

Even so, there is still a hierarchy of significance among these with the likes of the Africa Twin and Fireblade ranking highly in the order of importance whenever they receive a significant overhaul.

If we gloss over the ‘nice but a bit dull’ NT 1100, then the brand-new 2023 Honda CB750 Hornet is arguably the Japanese firm’s most significant new launch since the aforementioned seventh generation CBR1000RR-R was first revealed in November 2019.

While certainly not a new name to those in the know and still in service suffixed to a low capacity urban runaround in parts of Asia [in blue below], the Hornet will mark a return of the nameplate to European shores having been discontinued back in 2013.

Back then it was apportioned to the more formally-termed CB600 F and CB900F, roadsters that were ultimately squeezed out of the range by the launch of the CB650 F [below in silver] and the CB1000R above.

However, while the phasing out of the CB900 F was logical given it encroached on segment space occupied by two of its siblings, since its effective successors were four-pot models, it has left Honda with a noticeable gap in the rather humdrum but high volume twin-cylinder roadster categories.

Which is where the new Hornet - or CB750 S as it is more generically termed -  fits in, providing more accessible and less intimidating twin-cylinder zip in a more defined position with its 750 or so cc engine. 

A more like-for-like rival to the Triumph Trident 660, Suzuki SV650 and Yamaha MT-07, the Hornet will err towards a sportier, more dynamic direction for Honda compared with the more sophisticated CB650 R.

This is demonstrated by the design direction previewed first by a telling silhouette unveiled at the 2021 EICMA show in Milan and then again in more detail with the release of a few sketches, including the process of getting towards what will be the final look.

Seemingly borrowing inspiration from the very thing it is named after, Honda’s Rome-based R&D department has evolved the Hornet into a sharp, tapered and forward-angled roadster that both looks very Honda and yet represents a different design direction for the traditionally conservative firm.

While the final version will mellow some of the details out by adding items like a screen, wing mirrors and number plate holders, the design bears quite a resemblance to the KTM 890 Duke, otherwise referred to as the ‘Scalpel’.

It would have likely been more so had Honda opted against hiding the previously exposed trellis frame in favour of a side panel, but compared with the chunkier, neo-retro CBxxxR models, the Hornet appears slicker and racier.

The importance of the Hornet is not to be measured solely on this model alone. It is understood the new 750cc engine and platform will be modular, allowing it to spawn a whole new range of twin-cylinder motorcycles.

This includes the return of another mothballed Honda nameplate in the ‘Transalp’, a model that has been rumoured for some time without yet seeing the light of day. 

Indeed, speculation of a ‘baby Africa Twin’ have been circulating for some time, but whereas the talk initially suggested a tweaked version of the 1100cc twin-cylinder engine to something in the region of 900cc, Honda have likely gone back to the drawing board to reconfigure it with the 750cc platform instead, pitching more directly at the Yamaha Tenere 700 and Aprilia 660 Tuareg.

It could also give rise to an NT version as a follow on from the launch of the Honda NT 1100, which would rival the Triumph Tiger Sport 660 and Yamaha Tracer 7.

We might have a little bit more time before we find this out because given the Hornet sketch was presented at EICMA last year, it is likely to set the stage for its formal world premiere a year down the line in November 2022.