Remember that cousin of yours who was mean and quite demanding and you two used to have some differences, especially in childhood! Well, a similar situation is going on with the H’ness CB350 that happens to be our most favourite bike from the lot that we tested in the year 2020. Honda’s CB family in India recently welcomed a new member, better known as the CB350RS and as mentioned, it’s meaner, has a number of noteworthy differences and is also demanding in terms of pricing compared to the H’ness CB350. So while the RS shares the engine, frame, suspension and brakes with the H’ness CB350, it misses out on three key features compared to its sibling and despite that, It is Rs 3,500 costlier than the fully-loaded DLX Pro variant and Rs 9,500 more expensive than the base DLX variant of the H’ness. Confused? Well, don’t be. Because in this review, we are going to decode this price equation, tell you over 15 differences that the RS has against the H’ness and more importantly, reveal does the RS also deliver on the fun part just like its classic sibling!
Design has to be a very important area in this review as this is where the RS primarily stands out from the H’ness. Take the look at the Honda CB350RS and possibly the first thing that you will notice about this bike is the all-black theme that makes it looks a lot more menacing and sportier than the rather humble-looking H’ness CB350 that gets a lot of chrome. You do get chrome finished bits on the RS as well but just at a couple of places like the rear view mirrors and the exhaust shield. The headlamp is the same all-LED unit but you get an all-black bezel on the RS. Also, the turn indicators are sharper-looking here (or eye-shaped as Honda likes to call them) compared to the ring styled units on the H’ness.
Also, these aren’t ‘always ON’ units at the front like the latter. The tail lamp too is a different all-LED rectangular unit and is fitted just under the seat while on the H’ness, it is fitted on the rear fender. Fenders, talking of which, these are shorter units on the RS to give the bike a more energetic appeal and make it look like more of a Scrambler. The pillion grab rails on the RS are mounted on the sides compared to a conventional-looking unit on H’ness that is fitted at the rear.
Now, here comes one of the biggest differences. Both, the H’ness and the RS have been fitted with 19-inch front wheel with 100-section tyres but at the rear, you get a wider 150-section tyre with a smaller 17-inch rim on the RS compared to 130-section rubber with 18-inch wheel on the H’ness. The tread pattern of the tyres on the RS is also off-road inspired and Honda says that this variation in the tyre and wheel size is done offer more of a Scrambler-like appearance and experience.
Now, if you go deeper into the details, the rear brake lever on the Honda CB350RS is an off-road/ADV bike like unit while on the H’ness CB350, it is a conventional setup. In addition, while the latter gets a toe and heel gear shifter, it is only a toe shifter on the RS. Features like Honda Smartphone Voice Control System (HSVCS), USB charger and an extra horn are missing on the RS (available on DLX Pro variant of the H’ness CB350), though it gets an added bit in the form of an engine bash plate. The instrument cluster remains the same as the H’ness CB350 and the compact looking digital analog unit gets twin tripmeters, battery voltage indicator, gear position display, average and instantaneous fuel efficiency, range along with the telltale lights for side stand, HSTC and the usual bits.
The RS shares its 348cc, single-pod, air-cooled engine with the H’ness with identical power and torque outputs at 21hp and 30Nm. The transmission is also the same five-speed unit with a slip & assist clutch. All that torque is delivered under 3,000 rpm as a result of which, the RS feels quick on its feet and has a punchy low and mid range. The engine feels the most lively between speeds of 40 kmph to 70 kmph and this is the spot in which you will actually love playing with the throttle.
Speeds of upto 90 kmph are achieved quite effortlessly after which the RS takes its own time to proceed towards the top whack. As we have already experienced on the H’ness, the biggest highlight of this engine is the supreme level of refinement and even at 100 kmph, you will not feel even a hint of buzz. The top speed of the bike, however, has gone down and during our test runs, the RS managed to max out at 128 kmph. In comparison, the H’ness achieved 135 kmph and the drop can be attributed to the fatter rubber at the rear. The vibrations even at 120 kmph are quite minimal and hence, if you are looking at those long distance highway rides, maintaining a 100+ kmph speed most of the time isn’t going to be a problem at all.
Talking of fuel efficiency, well, we couldn’t test it as the bike was with us for a short period of time. But here is a hint! After riding for a few kilometeres in the top gear at close to 60-70 km and the fuel tank nearly at the full mark, the bike showed a maximum range of 619 km, which is a good sign. In real-world conditions, we are expecting a highway fuel efficiency of over 35 kmpl and a detailed road test shall do the justice with the exact numbers.
Get onto the saddle of the Honda CB350RS and if you have ridden the H’ness, you will clearly feel a difference. The RS offers a sportier riding position and that is because in comparison to the Hn’ess that offers a relatively upright position, the handlebar on this one is set 10mm higher and 41mm away from the rider. Moreover, the footpegs have been rear set by 112mm and are also positioned 12mm higher. The sporty riding position is just for the sake of delivering more fun and is not demanding enough to discomfort you over long distances. The seat height remains the same at 800mm, however, it gets a new tuck and roll design, thanks to which we experienced a slightly better level of comfort. However, the pillion seat gets narrower in the favour of aesthetic appeal and hence, the one sitting behind you might not be happy at times. The RS also has an extra 2mm ground clearance than the H’ness at 168mm and is lighter by 2 kg at 179 kg. Fuel tank capacity remains the same at 15-litre.
The straight-line stability is commendable and with the wider rear tyre, the RS feels a bit more planted than the H’ness CB350 during triple-digit speeds. The grip from the tyres is decent and with the slightly stiffer set suspension, you have enough confidence to lean around corners at high speeds. Moreover, just like the H’ness, the CB350 retains its exceptional flickability that certainly adds to its fun to ride city bike credentials. The best part here is that the wider rear tyre doesn’t seem to hamper the handling or cornering abilities of the bike. The overall ride quality is exceptional and with the ergonomic changes, the RS certainly feels a lot more engaging than its classic cousin.
All said and done, just like the Hness, the CB350RS also turned to be a super sweet motorcycle and with all the sporty treatment that Honda has thrown into it, it is actually more fun than the H’ness CB350. Now while overall, the RS seems a great offering at its pricing, when you compare it with the H’ness and look at just the value for money part, many of you might think that it’s not the better deal out of the two simply because of the fact that with the H’ness, you get more features and tech for a few thousand rupees lesser. Well, if you are one of those, I wouldn’t say you are wrong at your place but there is a set of audience that wants their bike to stand out, to look unique and enticing. So all that premium is purely for the aesthetic appeal and to deliver a Scrambler-like experience on a budget.
The RS then would be a perfect pick for you if you have a thing for sportier design, can spend a bit more for it and are looking for a modern and sportier-looking bike that has all the ingredients to constantly deliver fun not only in the city but highways as well. Moreover, there is currently no bike in this price bracket that is even close to offering such styling and appearance and hence, head turns on traffic lights are pretty much guaranteed.
BigWing Gurugram and some other Bigwings across India are currently promising delivery of the bike in two weeks but the waiting period might increase if the demand rises in future. The RS has certainly impressed us in this road test and hence, we advise you to hurry up if you are planning to get one. All mean cousins aren’t that bad at all, isn’t it?
Price in India (ex-showroom, Delhi)
Honda CB350RS Monotone – Rs 1.96 lakh
Honda CB350RS Dualtone – Rs 1.98 lakh
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