Honda NM4: The Age of Anime

Honda’s NM4 blends cruiser and scooter motifs in a brash new way. Will you love it or hate it?

They say: It's the near future, where fantasy is reality. We say: Careful with those fantasies.

Honda has an interesting history of producing "what the hell?" motorcycles, and this is totally one of them. Nominally a cruiser, at least that's where Honda puts the NM on the corporate website, the NM4 defies easy description—true whether you've happened upon it digitally or when you're standing right there in front of it.

©Motorcyclist

Where to start? Let's see. No footpegs. No V-twin. (Can't be a real cruiser, right?) And no clutch lever. With that kind of feature set, Honda's NM4 really should expect some disparaging statements from those who wandered across it while shopping F6Bs and Furys. There's even a parking brake. You brain keeps saying "scooter," but Honda seems to be whispering, "no, no, no."

©Motorcyclist

Don’t let all the swoopy bodywork fool you. Underneath it is the same 670cc parallel twin engine, transmission and main frame we liked so much in the CTX700N, but with the addition of a new rear subframe. Like the CTX, the forward-mounted engine cants its cylinders at a 62-degree angle between the steel tubes, but the geometry’s a bit different on the NM, with a slightly steeper rake, a tad less trail, and a much longer wheelbase—a whopping 64.7 inches, as opposed to the CTX's 60.2. That last dimension allows the NM’s seat to hover just 25.5 inches off the asphalt.

The flat drag bar, set at what seems like waist height, is your first clue that the starting ritual will take some getting used to if you’re a long-time rider. Reach for the clutch,  and you'll only find empty space. The NM4’s Dual Clutch Transmission is a six speed "automated manual" that Honda calls "the transmission of the future," and gives the rider the option of fully automatic or manual shifting, using paddle-shift buttons. Either way, no clutch needed.

But before you side-eye it, just ride the thing. It's refreshingly easy to use, even if you don’t know how to ride. Or maybe especially.

The 670cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin engine has the torque and power to get around pretty well, even in auto mode. A 270-degree crankshaft gives the engine some texture, but it’s all pretty muted. With the DCT gearbox, any chance of tapping the rev limiter is basically eliminated; leaving it in D (drive) will have the NM lugging around with silent efficiency, while a right thumb jab to S (sport) and a big twist of the throttle prompts the gearbox to shift at higher rpm, downshift more aggressively, and give you a whole new experience. This second-gen Honda DCT lets you also toggle from AT to MT (manual), and hit the + and – paddles on the left grip to choose shift points. The paddles are nice, but just use sport mode to get the most motorcycle-like approximation. If you're a control freak, it will still royally piss you off.

Tractable power that comes on right from idle and tapers off a bit in the midrange to finish in a breathless stammer at 6,500 rpm is this engine’s very personality. Honda wanted optimum fuel efficiency so high revs and big peak-power numbers aren’t part of the deal. Honda’s DCTs go nuts on our dyno, so all we can do is guess that the NM puts down about the same power as a manual-trans CTX or NC700X—around 47 hp and 43 pound-feet of torque, at 6,300 and 4,500 rpm, respectively. If you're listening for an exhaust rumble, perhaps you should load something onto your iPod; this one’s sotto voce all the way. Windpipe obstruction probably.

But because it's saddled with an 18-inch front tire and a 200/50-17 rear, the NM's handling is pretty far removed from that other DCT cruiser. Despite its nearly 80-pound weight handicap, it has a lower center of gravity, and with floorboards that don’t stretch you out as much as the CTX’s pegs, it feels more scooter-y.

The NM4 brings a stout chassis, with 43mm fork tubes to keep it stable at freeway speeds. It steers light in the back alleys too, but there's really no ignoring that massive prow, which adds palpable heft in tight corners. On the other hand, high-speed freeway transitions are pretty well managed by the NM's 3.9 inches of suspension travel, with no jarring surprises on either end. Cornering clearance ain't great, but not terrible. Between a more traditional cruser and, well, a scooter.

©Motorcyclist
©Motorcyclist

Honda’s also built some visual entertainment into the user-friendly LED dash display, with varying background colors. Feeling morose? Click into Drive mode, and the screen shimmers in blue light; with Sport you get pink, neutral is white and manual transmission is red. Nice, eh?

Open the funky saddlebags and you'll reveal smallish cut-outs that’ll fit maybe a deck of cards and a six-inch Subway sandwich. The NM4’s front utility compartments (one on each side)  have room to stash your essentials, if your essentials include a Snickers bar and little else. An iPhone 5 just about fit, but an iPhone 6 did not. Fortunately, there's a 12-volt accessory socket in the left compartment, which is actually useful.

nm4 scooter review
©Motorcyclist

The small space theme continues to the fuel tank, which Honda’s specs say holds 3.1 gallons, enough, supposedly, for 165 miles of range. A final gripe is directed at the NM4’s low saddle. Despite the comfortable positioning, that perch offers very little in the way of actual padding, and compounded by the feet-forward floorboard position, gets uncomfortable, fast. The three-position-adjustable backrest is a nice touch, but my tailbone was crying uncle after 40 minutes on the road.

Compared to its less expensive CTX700 sibling, with which it shares an engine and transmission, the $10,999 NM4 seems spendy, but I will admit it is an exceedingly easy bike to ride, and you can still have a good ol time on two wheels. And you'll get a ton of looks.

tech SPEC

EVOLUTION  
Based on the CTX700 and the NC700X, the NM gets the fuel-sipping 670cc twin for a new crossover kind of bike.
RIVALS  
[BMW][] C650GT, [Honda][] CTX700 and N700X, [Suzuki][] Burgman 650
TECH  
PRICE $10,999
ENGINE 670cc, liquid-cooled parallel twin
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/chain
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER NA
CLAIMED TORQUE NA
FRAME Steel backbone
FRONT SUSPENSION Showa 43mm fork; 3.9-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Showa shock; 3.9-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Nissin two-piston caliper, 320mm disc with ABS
REAR BRAKE Nissin one-piston caliper, 240mm disc with ABS
RAKE/TRAIL 27.0°/4.3 in.
WHEELBASE 64.8 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 25.6 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 3.1 gal.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 562 lb. wet
AVAILABLE Now
CONTACT [powersports.honda.com][]
VERDICT  
 Odd and oddly functional, Honda bridges the gap between cruiser and scooter.
nm4, honda, scooter, reviews
Honda NM4©Motorcyclist
©Motorcyclist
©Motorcyclist
©Motorcyclist
©Motorcyclist
nm4 scooter review
©Motorcyclist
©Motorcyclist