While smaller capacity motorcycles are largely used by commuters, young and old, the median age of premium motorcycle (150cc and above) owners in India is just 24 years, and 31% owners are students (data by JD Power).
To tap into this user base early on, Royal Enfield didn’t have the ‘right motorcycle’, one that is accessible both physically (small in size) and financially (affordable to a larger section of consumers). While the 650cc Twins, the Meteor 350 and the Himalayan are fine motorcycles, these are a little too aspirational, especially for first-time riders.
The Hunter 350 is both accessible and aspirational. We recently rode it on urban roads (where it is meant to be ridden) and on the highways (where also it feels at home).
What is the Hunter 350?
Light, agile and fun—the Hunter 350 isn’t your usual Royal Enfield. While it gets the same 349cc engine as the Meteor and the Classic, the Hunter 350 is the lightest Royal Enfield motorcycle (181 kg), the most affordable (Rs 1.49 lakh), has the smallest wheels (17-inch), and the lowest seat height (790 mm).
What makes it unique?
When a person goes to take a motorcycle test ride, there are five steps (boxes) towards decision making. The Hunter 350 has been designed in a way that younger customers will likely tick all these five boxes.
—One, it wears youthful colours and paint job. It has the aura to invite customers into the showroom and occupy their mindspace.
—Two, its seat height is just 790 mm, so riders of a short stature can feel comfortable astride.
—Three, its exhaust note isn’t the usual Royal Enfield ‘thump’, but more of a ‘vroom’. It’s like fast music.
—Four, it accelerates fast, really fast. When you take a test ride in a city, the likely speeds you’d do is a 0-60 km/h run. Here, the Hunter 350 impresses.
—Five, the Hunter 350 is priced at least Rs 50,000 less than similar-sized motorcycles, and in the same price range as TVS Ronin. It is marginally more expensive than the 150-200cc club.
How does it ride?
Outright acceleration: At lower RPMs, the power delivery is very eager, i.e. the Hunter 350 feels very quick off the starting block. Top-end grunt, however, appears to be missing (it’s not in the same league as the Classic 350), and the Hunter 350 struggles to pick up pace after 100 km/h.
City riding: Because it has a low seat height and is light in weight (181 kg), the Hunter 350 feels very easy to manoeuvre on urban roads and even in traffic where you have to constantly put your feet down to balance the bike. It’s the most comfortable Royal Enfield motorcycle ever for riding in the city.
Highway rides: It’s not in the same league as the Himalayan (which is more comfortable), but short intercity rides such as Delhi-Jaipur and Mumbai-Pune can be easily done non-stop.
Can it be improved?
Mechanically, the Hunter 350 is possibly the finest Royal Enfield motorcycle ever. From paintwork to the colours chosen, from exhaust note to the seating angle, and from power delivery to ride comfort, everything is top class.
An area where it can be improved is technology on the tripmeter. Because it is targeted at college students and first-time buyers, it should have new-age and relevant features such as real-time fuel efficiency and distance-to-empty. While there is the Tripper—a navigation screen that mirrors Google Maps—and USB charging port, more technology on the tripmeter is needed.
Is it better than rivals?
It may not be better, but is definitely more value for money. The Hunter 350 is priced from Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 1.69 lakh (ex-showroom). Its competitors are Honda CB350RS (Rs 2.03 lakh), Yezdi Roadster (Rs 2.09 lakh) and Jawa Forty Two (Rs 1.72 lakh). It’s in the same price range as the smaller-engine (226cc) TVS Ronin.
At this price, it is distinctly unique within the Royal Enfield line-up and outside as well.
Engine: 349cc petrol
Power: 20.2 bhp
Torque: 27 Nm
Top speed: 114 km/h
Fuel economy: 36.2 km/litre
Weight: 181 kg
Fuel tank: 13 litres
Seat height: 800 mm
Ground clearance: 150.5 mm
Tyres: 17-inch tubeless
Brakes: Both disc (300 mm, 270 mm)
Price: Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 1.69 lakh (ex-showroom)
Competitors (similar engine size)
Honda CB350RS (Rs 2.03 lakh) 348cc
Yezdi Roadster (Rs 2.09 lakh) 334cc
Jawa Forty Two (Rs 1.72 lakh) 293cc
Competitors (smaller engine)
TVS Ronin (Rs 1.49 lakh) 226cc