2022 Royal Enfield Hunter 350 First Ride Review: Trailblazing Hipster | The Financial Express

2022 Royal Enfield Hunter 350 First Ride Review: Trailblazing Hipster

Royal Enfield Hunter 350 First Ride Review: The new Hunter is the most affordable and agile 350cc in Royal Enfield’s portfolio. Is that enough to make it the segment leader in the neo-retro class?

Royal Enfield Hunter 350 Review
2022 Royal Enfield Hunter 350 First Ride Review

Royal Enfield is one of the oldest motorcycle manufacturers in the world, but when the top management insists that they are a 120-year start-up, this reveals that the company hasn’t lost a millimetre of its passion quotient for pure motorcycling. A company well-known for making retro motorcycles has in recent years forayed into the cruiser, Adventure and Scrambler segments. As it continues to evolve with time, Royal Enfield is now eyeing motorcycle buyers who would usually shy away from this iconic nameplate with the Hunter 350. Royal Enfield believes the new motorcycle will introduce attributes that no other motorcycle in its portfolio offers while retaining the company’s DNA.

To find out whether this is a marketing pitch or it is a new dawn for the company, we rode the new Hunter 350 on the bustling streets of Bangkok to the fast-moving freeways for a couple of days.

Watch Video | Royal Enfield Hunter 350 First Ride Review:

Royal Enfield Hunter 350: What is it?

The new Hunter 350 is a roadster, which is designed to tackle whatever the urban jungle throws at it. Though it is based on the J-Series platform like the Classic 350 and the Meteor 350, Royal Enfield has worked overtime to shave off some of its weight and make the roadster compact and nimble to handle. The Hunter’s wheelbase is 1,370mm in length making it 20mm shorter than the Classic and 30mm more compact than the Meteor. Due to this, Hunter’s entry-level trim, the Retro, weighs 178kg and 181kg for the top variant, the Metro. To give a perspective on how light the new motorcycle is, the Classic and the Meteor weigh 195kg and 191kg respectively. 

To ensure that Hunter is nimble in the handling department, Royal Enfield has made the front rake angle sharper at 25 degrees as compared to the Classic’s 26 degrees. In simple words, what this means is that Hunter weaves through traffic with full confidence and effortlessly.

Royal Enfield Hunter 350: Simple Yet Striking

Royal Enfield has purposely opted for a clean and uncomplicated design for Hunter so that it doesn’t intimidate new bikers. The company has taken a departure from its traditional teardrop-shaped fuel tanks and has opted for a muscular fuel tank with a capacity of 13 litres.  

What will straightway catch your attention are the 17-inch tyres both in front and back. Even though they are smaller than Classic, Hunter’s tyres are wider. The Retro gets 17-inch spoke wheels while alloy wheels for Metro. Starting from the front, Hunter gets 41mm front forks with 130mm travel and 6-way adjustable twin shock absorbers in the rear with 102mm travel, just like the Classic. It is equipped with a 300mm front disc, which is standard, but in the rear, the Retro gets drum brakes while the Metro has a 270mm disc.    

Hunter 350’s base-spec ‘Retro’ variant

Also Read: 2022 Royal Enfield Hunter 350 variants explained: Metro and Retro

Royal Enfield has blacked out the engine and the shortened exhaust, giving it a sporty look. Hunter’s one-piece saddle is new and offers comfort to both the rider and the pillion and also complements the engaging riding stance. 

Moving on to the lights, all are halogen except for the LED tail lights. One can opt for LED turning lights as an accessory. The speedometer is an analogue one with a digital multi-information screen that reads out the odometer, gear indicator, two trip meters, low fuel warning, clock, fuel gauge, eco indicator and service reminder alert. Royal Enfield continues to offer the Google-based turn-by-turn navigation system, the Tripper, as an accessory. The motorcycle also comes standard with a USB port under the switches on the left handle. 

Royal Enfield Hunter 350: Riding Characteristics

Time for some serious saddle time. The first day’s ride took place at night and the reason behind this was that we all experienced Hunter’s temperament in slow-moving traffic under the glitzy lights of Bangkok. Before firing up the 350cc engine, we noticed the riding stance is different from other Royal Enfield bikes. The foot pegs were pushed back slightly but with a flat handlebar, you aren’t forced to sit in an aggressive position. It is ideal for both city commutes and long-distance rides. With a seat height of 790mm and a ground clearance of 150mm, Royal Enfield wanted Hunter to be its most accessible bike for both men and women riders.

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We fired up the engine and it sounded awake from the word go. There was no hint of a lazy and laid-back exhaust note. We shifted the leaver to first gear and gently twisted the throttle, Hunter smoothly responded without thinking twice. As the bike started picking up pace, we could feel how light the bike was. Before we could stretch the legs of the 20.2 ponies, we entered China Town where the speed dwindled to single digits. This allowed us to find out whether it can carve its way out of bumper-to-bumper traffic. Without fail, Hunter weaved in and out of a sea of slow-moving cars. We continued to ride in the lanes of Bangkok where tight corners and turns were negotiated without batting an eyelid. This is where the roadster was showcasing its light chassis and rake angle advantages.  

We finally hit the freeway where the roads welcomed Hunter to pick up the pace and it responded instantly. No doubt, the engine is the same as in the Classic and the Meteor, but the powertrain has different ignition and fuel maps making it spritely and offering punchier responsiveness. Having said that, when pushed, one can feel mild tremors from the foot pegs and seat. It isn’t something to stress over, but vibrations can be felt. 

We will have to ride the new motorcycle in Indian road conditions to figure out its ride quality as the tarmac was flat and without any blemishes in Bangkok. With crisp handling characteristics, the rear is on the firm side though it is adjustable and it should be able to adapt to our challenging roads.

Royal Enfield Hunter 350: Final Word

Royal Enfield has unleashed a segment disrupter as Hunter starts from Rs 1.50 lakh while the mid-and top trims cost Rs 1.64 lakh and Rs 1.69 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi. It targets the 225cc TVS Ronin and undercuts all its other competitors like the Honda CB350RS, Jawa 42, and the Yezdi Roadster. With nimble handling characteristics, a keen and eager engine and accessibility in terms of height, light clutch and a smooth gearbox, Hunter should appeal to first-time Royal Enfield buyers. Sure, it isn’t perfect. The brakes could have been more responsive, the mirrors don’t offer a great view and mild body vibrations are there, but in our opinion, none are deal breakers and will stop the juggernaut from giving its rivals sleepless nights and roll towards success.  

Also Read: 2022 Royal Enfield Hunter 350 vs Rivals: Price Comparison

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First published on: 10-08-2022 at 10:00 IST