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CFMOTO CFMOTO 700CL-X Heritage (2021) UK first road test review

700CL-X-Visordown-Review

The CFMOTO 700CL-X Heritage has landed in the UK ahead of its official launch and Visordown was first in the queue for a test ride

Details
Manufacturer:
CFMOTO
Category:
Naked
Overall
Not rated

WE first set eyes on what would become the CFMOTO 700CL-X at a crowded bar during the EICMA show in 2019. At that time the bike was being touted as a concept, and therefore its final spec and design were possibly still not what we’d see on the production bike.

Standing next to the production version outside of North Lincolnshire Motorcycles, I’m having to get out my phone and scour pictures from the event to spot what’s changed – and it isn’t much!

There are two real tests of a bike like this before you ride it; the 10-yard test and the close up one. From ten yards, the CFMOTO 700CL-X looks great. It’s got a nice chunky silhouette, with no gaping holes behind the engine to catch your eye. It’s hard to define what style it actually is... I’m settling on Neo-retro-flat-track-roadster. It’s a bit of a mouthful but it should catch on.

Getting closer to the bike and we get to the point when most Chinese-built bikes start to give up their secrets. Shoddy welds, parts bin switchgear, and nasty finishes are all too often what lets down bikes that should – on the face of it – be quite good. That’s most definitely not the case with the CFMOTO 700CL-X. The back brake and gear selector are lovely little cast items that look nicely finished and made with care. The switchgear is from BMW and has a classy feel to it and all the cables are neatly rooted. Test one and two passed with flying colours.

CFMOTO 700CL-X price and colours

Okay, so we don’t have much to tell you on this front, as CFMOTO hasn’t confirmed the UK price for the machine. Our Italian counterparts have got the price for the bikes on the continent though, and it makes interesting reading. Our European friends are forking out a mere €6,400 (around £5,500) for the funky machine, making the CFMOTO a genuinely enticing alternative to bikes like the Yamaha XSR 700 (£7,702) and Honda CB650R (£7,299). And just as a disclaimer – we aren’t suggesting that £5.5k is the number for UK buyers. We are guessing the machine will be sitting just above the £6k mark including OTR charges.

The bike is expected to officially land in the UK in September this year and will be available in two colours, Twilight Blue (as ridden), and the Coal Grey option you can see above.

CFMOTO 700CL-X engine

The 700 CL-X engine started its life as the venerable old Kawasaki Z650/ER650 unit. In this latest guise, the engine has now been through enough updates and changes for CFMOTO to genuinely (and probably legally) call it their own. It’s a punchy little unit, producing a handy 74bhp at 8,500rpm and 50lb-ft of torque at 6,500rpm. Those figures alone are flinging the stylish looking CL-X right into the mix with the Yamaha CP2-powered bikes (72bhp) and the Kawasaki Z650 (68bhp).

Out on the roads around Cadwell Park and the surrounding area, the 700CL-X feels like about all the bike I need. The weather is good, and the roads are stunning; 74bhp seems to be the magic number. The oversize end-can gives the impression that it's going to have some massively offensive exhaust note, but it's quite the opposite. Trickling through towns and villages, not even the vicar’s mother in law would bat an eyelid. Give it a squirt once the speed limits allow though, and you’re rewarded with a rich and throaty induction roar and a baritone bark from the low-slung pipe.

The fuelling is taken care of by a Bosch ECU and fuel injection system. That brings with it a ride-by-wire throttle, two riding modes (Eco and Sport), and cruise control. The benefits of the Bosch system can be immediately felt, with just a small flat spot between 4,000 and 5,000rpm giving any hint of emissions strangulation.

The conventional 180° crank gives the bike the kind of chunky low-end delivery that makes these A2-friendly bikes so much fun to ride. It’s compliant and easy-going on the one hand, with enough top-end pep to raise a grin and even the front wheel on the other.

With the bike I was riding being fairly new, an MPG test would have been a bit unfair on the CFMOTO 700CL-X. After a full day and one hundred miles of trying (vainly) to keep up with Gary Johnson (who was riding a smaller and much less powerful bike than me), the 13l fuel tank was showing two bars of fuel left. Some finger in the air maths has me believing that there should be around 150-ish miles of normal riding to be had.

CFMOTO 700CL-X handling suspension and brakes

It is really no surprise that the county of Lincolnshire produces so many talented bike racers. It features some of the best roads and arguably one of the best tracks in the land. It was also a perfect test for the CFMOTO, which surprised me with a classy-feeling set-up. It’s supple and not overly damped, although on the base settings felt sporty but not uncomfortable. The front end is a delight, with great feel through the bars allowing you to trail brake into the heart of the corner. For riders bigger or smaller than me, the forks feature pre-load, rebound and compression damping adjustability. The rear shock was nicely set up to, smoothing out the lumps and bumps without feeling wallowing. If I was to have one as a long-termer, I’d probably wind a tad more preload into the shock, just to sit the bike on its nose a bit more than for anything else.

J.Juan brakes were a bit of an oddity in the motorcycle world a few years ago, although their credibility was never really questioned by those who’ve used them. The system on the CFMOTO features a single disc up front with a four-pot, Brembo-a-like caliper and two-channel ABS. A twin-disc set-up would always be welcome, although in truth you’ve got a light lever that allows you to brake with one of two fingers, enough power to get the job done and unobtrusive ABS. Personally, a bit more initial bite would be nice, although taking into account who the bike is aimed at, that might not be the best idea.

At 196kg ready to ride, the CFMOTO 700C-X isn’t the lightest machine in the pack although with 10kg covering pretty much all of the competition, you’ll be hard pushed to pick out the extra pounds. It even features a neatly set up slipper clutch as standard, an item some of its peers in the category can’t match. All in all, the chassis feels nicely balanced and most importantly for me, it retains the fun factor that is so vital in a category that is designed to be grabbing punters and getting them hooked on the world of two-wheels.

I said it in my video review and still stand by my comment – it feels like CFMOTO spent their time and money developing the CL-X in just the right places. It’s most definitely not a bike that you’ll get bored of riding in a hurry.

CFMOTO 700CL-X equipment and comfort

Middle-weight nakeds in this sub-100bhp segment can sometimes be too stripped back for their own good. Refreshingly the CL-X comes with a smattering of creature comforts to whet your whistle. The dash is a neat looking LCD jobbie that’s nice and clear and easy to read. Sure, they could have slotted a TFT on it, although I have a feeling that would have been to the detriment of another area of the machine. The left-hand switch-cube features your riding modes and cruise control. Flicking between the modes can be done on the fly, and there is a noticeable step up and down in the delivery when you change. The cruise control was mainly redundant given the roads we were riding, although as the switchgear is BMW-derived, you’ll engage with the vertical part, and change the speed with the rocker. All the lighting on the new CL-X is LED from nose to tail, and there is a neat looking DRL that acts as a bezel around the expansive headlight.

Away from the electronics CFMOTO went to a well-known brand to supply the hoops for the bike. It’s shod with Pirelli MT60 RS flat-track lookalike items. They look like they’ll have about as much grip as a jellyfish on a bouncy castle, but in truth, they’re actually quite good. With no rain on the route, I can only give my thoughts as such, but the bike turns quickly, feels lively and seems to have grip in abundance.

Obviously, 100-mile in the saddle isn’t enough to get a proper idea of the comfort – we’ll wait for an extended loan for that. What I can tell you though is that it feels quite roomy, both upper and lower body. The pegs are quite low and while you can deck them out, they leave you in an easy-going and relaxed position. The bars also place you in a relaxed upper body position. The ergonomics added to the 800mm seat make the bike a perfectly accessible machine for tall and shorter riders.

CFMOTO 700CL-X highlights:

  • Fit and finish is impeccable
  • The chassis as a whole is great – the front end is a stand-out feature
  • A four-year warranty adds peace of mind

CFMOTO 700CL-X verdict

Diving headfirst into one of the most competitive market segments on two-wheels really is no mean feat. It’s not a move that can be taken lightly and I like the way the firm has gone about this bike. It doesn’t feel like it has been rushed in any way. We first clapped our eyes on it at EICMA 2019, and it was clear even then that the project had already been some time in the making. Instead of forcing the CL-X to market, the team behind it have built up the buzz, kept the story going and are actually pointing its smart-looking nose into the world at just the right time.

CFMOTO’s bikes have for some time being the most credible Chinese-built alternative to the Japanese giants, and the new CFMOTO 700CL-X feels like the most convincing machine of the lot so far. It may be built in the land of the Red Dragon, but it has a distinctly European heart and soul.

To check out the full range of CFMOTO bikes, head to: cfmoto.com

Thanks to North Lincolnshire Motorcycles for sorting the test.

CFMOTO 700CL-X Review 2021 | UK First Ride And Video Review

CFMOTO 700CL-X Review 2021 | UK First Ride And Video Review