A few days before I arrived in Seville for the launch of the Honda CBR600F, the Spanish government reduced the national speed limit to save fuel. It seemed like the ideal moment to be launching a middleweight sportbike intended to be a less expensive, more economical alternative to the CBR600RR.
With 600s generally getting more racy, specialized and expensive, Honda has decided there's a gap for a cheaper, more versatile four-cylinder along more traditional lines. Hence the introduction of the new generation CBR600F, which is intended to look sporty while being practical and inexpensive enough for everyday use.
A key F-bike feature is its full fairing. The sharp lines, low screen and kicked-up tail give an appearance that's almost misleadingly aggressive, given the CBR's all-rounder status. Competitive price was also deemed crucial, which meant keeping development costs to a minimum. Fortunately, Honda had a suitable donor bike in the CB600F Hornet, which provided the F's frame, swingarm and engine.
For a middleweight, the Honda felt reasonably roomy as I leaned forward slightly to the bars. Yet with a reasonably low, slim seat and a curb weight of 465 lbs., it felt compact and light enough to be manageable for most riders. Straight-line performance was almost identical to the Hornet's, with the crucial difference that high-speed riding was distinctly easier and more comfortable thanks to the fairing and windscreen. This bike is very much a middleweight, which means it likes to be revved and doesn't deliver much power unless it is. Things livened up nicely once the digital tachometer hit about 7000 rpm; suddenly the CBR leapt forward with increased force, its engine spinning urgently toward its 13,000-rpm redline.
The next stretch proved just how enjoyable the CBR can be. For about 10 miles, the road followed a lake in a superbly winding, smooth-surfaced ribbon of tarmac, giving the Honda a perfect opportunity to show off its rev-happy engine and wonderfully well balanced chassis. Despite having reasonably soft suspension, the bike stayed impressively stable through the high-speed sweepers, occasionally shaking its bars momentarily but always recovering quickly and without drama.
Ergonomically, the only difference between the CBR600F and the Hornet is handlebar height.
Cornering clearance wasn't an issue, and the brakes were outstanding. The twin 296mm front discs and three-pot calipers delivered huge stopping power, while standard ABS adds an extra level of assurance. The CBR is certainly fast and agile enough to be great fun.
Honda set out to build a worthy successor to the versatile, popular and successful original CBR600F. On the evidence so far, that's exactly what it's done. In fact, this new-generation Hurricane seems so capable and poses such a good value that it makes me wonder why Honda hasn't had a model like this in is range all along. And, more to the point, why isn't it being sold in the recession-hit USA?
Engine type l-c inline-four
Valve train DOHC, 16v
Claimed horsepower 100 bhp 12,000 rpm
Claimed torque 47 lb.-ft @ 10,500 rpm
Frame Aluminum backbone
Front suspension Showa 41mm fork with adj. spring preload and rebound damping
Rear suspension Showa shock with adj. spring preload and rebound damping
Front brake Dual Nissan three-piston calipers, 296mm discs w/ABS
Rear brake Nissin single-piston caliper, 240mm disc w/ABS
Front tire 120/70ZR-17 Bridgestone Battlax BT012
Rear tire 180/55ZR-17 Bridgestone Battlax BT012
Seat height 31.5 in.
Wheelbase 56.6 in.
Fuel capacity 4.9 gal.
Claimed curb weight 465 lbs.
VERDICT 4 out of 5 stars
An excellent all-around motorcycle. Let's hope Honda brings it Stateside soon!