2012 Honda NC700X | First Ride


2012 Honda NC700X

New Concepts in a Broad-Band Beginner Bike

By , Photography by Kevin Wing
2012 Honda NC700X

Motorcycle manufacturers agonize over a lot of things, chief among them is how to bring new riders into the sport and how to encourage those who have left to slap down the old Visa card and jump back in. Honda’s recent success on this front is the CBR250R, an utterly conventional motorcycle that happens to be dead cheap and unexpectedly well built. That it’s scads of fun doesn’t hurt at all.

And now we have the NC700X—the NC standing for “new concept” and the X denoting the adventure-bike version of it. A world model, meaning that it was developed in and for other markets, the NC-X is elsewhere joined by a fully naked version and a quasi-scooter called the Integra. Because ADV bikes are selling well here, American Honda selected the X to launch the line.

Honda is blurring a lot of lines with the NC. The basic architecture is, in fact, almost scooter-like, with a low-slung steel-tube frame encircling a lay-down parallel-twin engine. Careful packaging of the drivetrain allows a massive central storage compartment in the place normally used for fuel and an airbox; it’s big enough to swallow all but the largest full-face helmets. Fuel, 3.7 gallons of it, resides in a steel tank beneath the seat and rear bodywork—you flip up the passenger saddle to find the filler cap.

  • 2012 Honda NC700X

    Two-up isn’t out of the question, thanks to a roomy, two-piece saddle and sufficient power
  • 2012 Honda NC700X
  • 2012 Honda NC700X

That doesn’t sound like a lot of fuel, but it should be fine considering Honda’s claim of 64 mpg. Honda wanted to push all the cheapskate buttons, so the NC, along with its amazing $6999 base price ($8999 with ABS and a second-generation Dual Clutch Transmission automatic), is designed to positively sip fuel. Look closely and you can see that the bike’s new 670cc engine was built with an emphasis on low consumption rather than high power. With a 73mm bore and an 80mm stroke, it’s one of the few undersquare engines in a sporty role. The general philosophy appears to favor inexpensive manufacturing over high-tech, big-power solutions. Build cheap, ride for less.

On the road the NC’s engine reveals itself as smooth and torquey, utterly incapable of surprising you with a sudden burst of power or even so much as a polite post-soda belch. Honda gave the engine a 270-degree firing order by twisting the crankshaft 90 degrees, so the character is more like a V-twin than a traditional 180-degree parallel twin. Tuning that emphasizes low-rpm power helps explain the 6500-rpm redline, and it’s also why you need to treat the bike like a small cruiser—short shift and let the torque do its thing.

2012 Honda NC700X

Or you could opt for the DCT version, which is an evolution of the system currently on the VFR1200F. Here, the DCT makes a lot more sense. It doesn’t have the VFR’s dramatic torque cut in the lower gears, and the auto-shift modes work perfectly with the engine’s nature; running the D (drive) or S (sport) modes also keep you from looking like a rookie by banging into the rev limiter so often. Everything about this application of the DCT synchs up: Seamless throttle response joins ideal clutch-takeup programming, prompt shifts and no-fuss demeanor for a package new riders will adore. Yes, it saps some of the bike’s already modest performance, but beginning riders won’t care.

If the available thrust is less than experienced riders would want, the NC’s chassis is good enough to make them grin. There’s sufficient cornering clearance for a good time, well-controlled (if slightly soft) suspension, adequate brakes (the combined/ABS system is slightly better), and really sweet, intuitive steering. The NC reminds us of the best light, sporty standards, including the Suzuki SV650 and Honda’s own short-lived 599. What’s more, the ergonomic layout is ideal for the mission—upright but not dirt bike-y, benefitting from good wind protection and effective dispersal of engine heat.

Honda is betting big that the NC700X’s low base price will lure people into dealerships. Once they arrive, they’ll be surprised by the bike’s very good fit and finish, complete feature set and extensive selection of accessories that Honda proudly says were developed during the basic design of the bike, not as afterthoughts. That the NC700X has such a gentle, forgiving nature should certainly help seal that deal.

  • 2012 Honda NC700X
  • 2012 Honda NC700X
  • 2012 Honda NC700X

    An early design sketch for the NC700. Very early, we presume.
  • 2012 Honda NC700X

    That’s more like it.
  • 2012 Honda NC700X

    Nothing missing here.
  • 2012 Honda NC700X

    Honda’s all-new 670cc parallel-twin powerplant uses design and manufacturing technologies
  • 2012 Honda NC700X

    Optional wind deflectors should be welcome in colder climates. $89.95.
  • 2012 Honda NC700X

    You want a centerstand? See the man in accessories, please. $149.95
  • 2012 Honda NC700X

    A tubular-steel “light bar” is another Honda option
  • 2012 Honda NC700X

    Optional heated grips with “smart heat allocation” and integrated battery protection
  • 2012 Honda NC700X

    Buy one heated grip for $289.84 (including mounting kits) and get the other one for free!
  • 2012 Honda NC700X

    An optional 45-liter trunk holds two full-face helmets. The quick-detach system is $299.95
  • 2012 Honda NC700X

    On the DCT model, the small paddle switch at the bottom of the cluster initiates downshift
  • 2012 Honda NC700X

    While the button on the front of the cluster commands upshifts.
  • 2012 Honda NC700X

    The drive-mode selector resides between the kill and starter switches.
  • 2012 Honda NC700X

    Linked/ABS brakes come as part of the DCT package
  • 2012 Honda NC700X

    Hey, that’s where it is! Flip up the rear seat to add gas.
  • 2012 Honda NC700X

    That’s 21 liters of storage capacity right under your chin.
  • 2012 Honda NC700X

    Linkage-equipped rear suspension includes a Showa shock adjustable for spring preload
  • 2012 Honda NC700X

    What we call a hat trick.
  • 2012 Honda NC700X

    Auto-styled, all-digital gauges live just under your beak.
2012 Honda NC700X

A taller windscreen is part of Honda’s accessory package for the NC.

EVOLUTION
A clean-sheet design using an engine with Honda Fit bones.

RIVALS
Kawasaki Ninja 650 and Versys, Suzuki V-Strom 650

TECH SPEC
Price 6999
Engine type l-c parallel twin
Valve train SOHC, 8v
Displacement 670cc
Bore x stroke 73.0 x 80.0mm
Compression 10.7:1
Fuel system EFI
Clutch Wet, multi-plate
Transmission 6-speed, DCT automated manual optional
Claimed horsepower na
Claimed torque na
Frame Tubular-steel twin-spar
Front suspension Showa 41mm fork
Rear suspension Showa shock with adjustable spring preload
Front brake Nissin two-piston caliper (three-piston caliper ABS), 320mm disc
Rear brake Nissin one-piston caliper, 240mm disc
Front tire 120/70ZR-17 Metzeler Z-8
Rear tire 160/60ZR-17 Metzeler Z-8
Rake/trail 27.0°/4.3 in.
Seat height 32.7 in.
Wheelbase 60.6 in.
Fuel capacity 3.7 gal.
Claimed curb weight 472 lbs.
Colors Light Silver Metallic
Available Now
Warranty 12 mo., unlimited mi.
Contact American Honda Motor Co. Inc.
PO Box 2200
Torrance, CA 90509
866.784.1870
www.powersports.honda.com
VERDICT 4 out of 5 stars
Soft-spoken sweetie for the starter set.

18 thoughts on “2012 Honda NC700X | First Ride

  1. They were definitely aiming at the Versys / VStrom crowd and I think with the price point they may have a winner. If it does sell well that will create a nice after market for farkles. Not for me though, looking at something a little more in line with the BMW GS or Triumph XC series from Honda

  2. A few thoughts…

    Full specs available on the Honda UK website – http://www.honda.co.uk/motorcycles/adventure/#!/nc700x/

    Note that our pricing includes 20% tax, road tax and licensing fees… in this market ABS is standard on all models, perhaps it’s a package option with the DCT in North America but it doesn’t really make sense not to offer it with the manual…

    What’s interesting is they seem to mitigate some of the performance loss on the DCT version by increasing power from 35 (47hp) to 38.1kW (51hp) yet despite this, the consumption is *slightly* better on the DCT. Of course North American models may have slightly different outputs due to the emissions/fuel standards being different.

    In February I had a chance to do a quick ride (about a mile) because the dealer just got their stock in and wanted me to cross-shop it against my F800GS—not an obvious competitor but I would have seriously considered it if i didn’t have the weight and storage requirements the F800GS offers (240kg max compared to 180kg max on the Honda). Despite about half the power of the F800GS (and 20kg more weight), it was surprisingly sprightly due to the huge torque. The faux tank storage would be really handy also, it’s big enough for a couple bags of shopping and on a longer journey so much handier than a tank bag.

    I would say in London at least, about 2/3s of the GS riders (nearly all R1200GSs, it’s rare to see the F twins here oddly) would want for nothing with the Honda (except perhaps the lack of snob appeal when they park up at their local Starbucks). Sadly in London the GS range (particularly the R1200GS) has become something of a fashion accessory for people with money to burn, the bike equivalent of the Range Rover—most of them never see dirt beyond what sprays up from the city streets. Indeed, it seems to appeal to the City crowd (brokers, bankers etc) who like the idea of appearing adventurous but the most adventure they encounter are the speed humps going into their City office carpark!

    To each their own, I suppose, but Honda have come out with the bike equivalent of the CR-V and that’s not a bad thing at all.

  3. A few thoughts…

    Full specs available on the Honda UK website…

    Note that our pricing includes 20% tax, road tax and licensing fees… in this market ABS is standard on all models, perhaps it’s a package option with the DCT in North America but it doesn’t really make sense not to offer it with the manual…

    What’s interesting is they seem to mitigate some of the performance loss on the DCT version by increasing power from 35 (47hp) to 38.1kW (51hp) yet despite this, the consumption is *slightly* better on the DCT. Of course North American models may have slightly different outputs due to the emissions/fuel standards being different.

    In February I had a chance to do a quick ride (about a mile) because the dealer just got their stock in and wanted me to cross-shop it against my F800GS—not an obvious competitor but I would have seriously considered it if i didn’t have the weight and storage requirements the F800GS offers (240kg max compared to 180kg max on the Honda). Despite about half the power of the F800GS (and 20kg more weight), it was surprisingly sprightly due to the huge torque. The faux tank storage would be really handy also, it’s big enough for a couple bags of shopping and on a longer journey so much handier than a tank bag.

    I would say in London at least, about 2/3s of the GS riders (nearly all R1200GSs, it’s rare to see the F twins here oddly) would want for nothing with the Honda (except perhaps the lack of snob appeal when they park up at their local Starbucks). Sadly in London the GS range (particularly the R1200GS) has become something of a fashion accessory for people with money to burn, the bike equivalent of the Range Rover—most of them never see dirt beyond what sprays up from the city streets. Indeed, it seems to appeal to the City crowd (brokers, bankers etc) who like the idea of appearing adventurous but the most adventure they encounter are the speed humps going into their City office carpark!

    To each their own, I suppose, but Honda have come out with the bike equivalent of the CR-V and that’s not a bad thing at all.

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