Price: £6,999 | Power: 90.5bhp | Weight: 190kg | Overall BikeSocial Rating: 3/5
Honda has been teasing us with sketches and concept images of its revived Hornet model for a year now and finally the time has come to show the bike in full – and while it might look tame compared to those earlier images it still promises to be an extremely convincing contender in the affordable middleweight market that its old namesake once dominated.
The Hornet name might be familiar, harking back to the 600cc and 900cc four-cylinder machines that used to be some of the firm’s most popular models, and it shares their conventional stance as a straightforward naked street bike. But the CB750 Hornet is a completely different proposition mechanically, with a brand-new parallel twin engine that takes its inspiration from the Africa Twin’s motor and Honda’s motocross power units to offer similar power to the old four-cylinder CB600F Hornet but with more torque, less weight and much improved emissions performance.
The bike also marks the starting point for a whole new range of Hondas, with the same engine expected to be adopted in a variety of models including the much-anticipated revival of the Transalp name and perhaps even a future CBR750 sports bike.
- Back-to-basics middleweight strikes the same appealing notes that made the original CB600F a winner
- On paper, the specs of the chassis, suspension and brakes set it a level above the likes of Yamaha’s MT-07
- Styling avoids ‘retro’ clichés in favour of a look that’s modern but not gimmicky
- As is so often the case with extended teaser campaigns, the hype raised expectations that the real bike couldn’t hope to fulfil, particularly in terms of the appearance. The real thing is just less exciting looking than the concept or the sketches.
- Suspension could be better.
- Some riders complained of a snatchy throttle – I didn’t have a problem, but we don’t all ride the same way so maybe it’s subjective.
How much is the 2023 Honda Hornet CB750? £6999. Priced specifically to undercut its main rival, the Yamaha MT-07, which (at the time of writing) is available from £7,200, as well as the Kawasaki Z650 (£7349) though comes with radial calipers, colour TFT and Bluetooth.
The Hornet is due in dealers early next year, with colours including Pearl Glare White with a metallic red frame and red anodised forks, Graphite Black with red frame and forks, Matte Grey Metallic with a black frame and silver forks, or Matte Goldfinch Yellow, also with a black frame and silver forks.
The Hornet is available with three accessory packs, as shown above (all prices exclude fitment).
SPORT PACK: £555
STYLE PACK: £410
TOURING PACK: £765
Comes with 16.5-litre semi-rigid rear panniers, 3-litre tank bag and 22-litre seat bag
Parts can be bought separately – the up/down quickshifter is £240 (excluding fitment)
|Miles per year||4000|
|Excess miles||5p per mile|
It’s instantly apparent that the new Hornet’s engine takes a leaf from the Africa Twin’s book, sharing a similar Unicam setup – where a single overhead camshaft acts directly on the four intake valves and opens the four exhaust valves via a set of rockers – to give similar performance to a DOHC design but with fewer components and a more compact layout. Honda’s CRF450R motocross bikes have long adopted a similar setup.
Intake air comes from a set of downdraft intakes in an airbox fed by scoops either side of the tank, and patented ‘Vortex Flow Ducts’ ensure that the air in that airbox is evenly distributed. The air travels past ride-by-wire throttle butterflies, via 35.5mm inlet valves into combustion chambers with a compression ratio of 11:1.
A 270-degree firing interval makes for a V-twin-style power delivery and exhaust note, in line with most of the Hornet’s parallel twin rivals, and the spent gasses escape through 29mm exhaust valves into a very conventional exhaust system with a catalytic converter under the engine and a single end can on the right-hand side. It’s not the most glamorous-looking exhaust in a market where many rivals use less obtrusive, belly-mounted systems, but it will lend itself to the old-school tuning option of a slip-on silencer.
The new engine manages to avoid the complexity and mass of a separate balancer gear, instead allowing the primary drive gear to also drive the balancer shaft. Honda also points out that there’s no need for an additional oil cooler, and the cylinders are nickel-silicone carbide coated.
The engine drives through an assist-and-slipper clutch to a six-speed transmission, and unlike bikes using the larger 1084cc Africa Twin engine or the 745cc NC750 motor, there’s no option of a semi-automatic DCT gearbox. If you want clutchless shifts, there’s the option of a quickshifter in the accessories catalogue.
Glancing at the Hornet’s spec sheet a few days before the launch test ride in Spain, its bore and stroke figures suggest Honda have designed an engine predisposed to high revs – with an overly oversquare 87mm bore and 63.5mm of stroke, the CB750’s 1.37 bore/stroke ratio is higher than most comparable current production parallel twins, including KTM’s 890 Duke and Aprilia’s RS660. And they’re pretty sporty motors.
But Hornet doesn’t feel like that. Although its motor definitely gravitates towards the upper end of its rev range – it’s redlined at 10,000rpm – it’s not a revvy, peaky engine; the spread of power is well-distributed, and linear. Acceleration from standstill is snappy and instant, if not as whimsically lively off the button as Yamaha’s MT-07. And when the Hornet hits its stride and starts to use its midrange and top-end power in taller gears – pumping open the throttle delivers a healthy full-bore moan from exhaust and airbox – it almost grows a pair of actual legs. It’s no inline four, and doesn’t curdle the blood or blur eyeballs the way its inline four namesake would a quarter of a century ago (is it really that long? How old are we?).
But the parallel twin is nonetheless turning out a claimed 90bhp in a light, lithe chassis – the new Hornet is not a slow bike. Honda reckon it’s got the highest power-to-weight ratio in its class – but only if the class they’re talking about excludes the KTM 890 Duke.
And for all that, the Hornet’s parallel twin doesn’t generate a thrilling, exciting power delivery – it’s neither captivating nor charismatic; too calm and measured to be flamboyant or exuberant. In that sense it’s very modern Honda – rapid enough to get nicked for sure, but too efficient and mild-mannered to be instinctively naughty. It’s the opposite of a Yamaha. Twin balancer shafts smooth out almost all vibration, and the rider is left with a speedo, a soft-edged throb from the exhaust and a throaty gulping from the induction system to determine the Hornet’s pace. Seat of the pants says sensible rather than rebellious – which is undoubtedly what Honda are aiming for. After all, can’t let the nasty motorbikes corrupt carefully curated automotive brand values. You meet the nicest people on a Honda. But never a speed-addled recidivist.
Several fellow riders on the launch criticise the Hornet’s fuelling, saying they find it snatchy. I don’t – but snatchy throttles are often a subjective matter and it’s entirely possible I’ve become inured to them after all these years, and automatically ride around the issue without even noticing it. What I can say is if you think the Hornet is snatchy, thank God you never had to deal with a 2006 Yamaha FZ1, Suzuki GSR600 or a 2008 KTM RC8 in the wet. Because they were bloody terrible.
What can’t be faulted – although saying that, it’s another subjective judgement – is the accessory up/down quickshifter Honda have thoughtfully fitted to the launch Hornets. At £240 (excluding fitment), for me it’s an absolutely must-spec item; I wouldn’t buy a Hornet without one. The shifter integrates with the Hornet’s electronics to give three options of shift style each to the downshift and upshift – Hard, Medium and Soft. I preferred using Soft for both up and down, plenty of time to get the right gear in, and enough time to get more of a backfire/burble. Great fun. Thankfully there’s no DCT option, sparing us an extra 10kg and £1000 of (admittedly very clever) technology.
Handling, suspension, and weight
While 90hp isn’t going to blow anyone away in an era of 200hp-plus motorcycles, most will agree that it’s still more than enough for a fun recipe when combined with a lightweight, compact and affordable bike. That’s what Honda’s aiming for here, wrapping the engine in a steel diamond frame that weighs only 16.6kg, helping keep the total wet weight of the Hornet, including fuel, to an impressive 190kg.
The geometry is pretty conventional, with a 25-degree head angle and 99mm of trail. The wheelbase is a moderate 1420mm, and the result should be handling that strikes a comfortable balance between quick steering and stability.
As usual for Honda, we get Showa suspension in the form of 41mm upside-down SFF-BP forks, giving 130mm of travel, while the rear monoshock provides the only adjustability in the form of a five-step preload adjuster. Honda hasn’t gone overboard with the wheels and tyres, favouring a relatively narrow 160/60-ZR17 rear along with the usual 120/70-ZR17 front.
The launch test ride: handling, suspension and weight
Although the Hornet’s new engine is the bike’s centrepiece, it’s not its defining characteristic. The Honda’s most conspicuous asset is its compact chassis and electrifying handling dynamic – specifically, its steering and agility. This thing turns on a pinhead, diving for apexes like a ferret down a rabbit hole. Flicking around cars is ridiculously easy; there isn’t a great deal of traffic to navigate on the test ride, but what there is, gets dispatched with alacrity. Honda call this characteristic ‘kibi kibi’ – it describes the rate at which a bike will flick from one side to the other – and it was a Hornet design target. They achieved it in several ways: steering geometry is sharp but not remarkable, but combined with low weight, a compact and mass-centralised riding position and – significantly – a 160-section rear tyre, the result is a high degree of rolling manoeuvrability… even by the standards of the class, which is full of sharp steering, compact rivals.
The 160-section rear tyre isn’t unique, but it’s odd to ride a 750 – a 750! – with such narrow rubber. It’s long been fashionable to fit 180-section rears to just about anything, in some cases entirely for styling purposes. The Hornet’s 160/60 Michelin Road 5 is proof anything wider is on a sub-100bhp road bike is as much for fashion as it is for handling.
It’s a shame the Hornet’s unadjustable 41mm Showa USD forks and no-brand preload-only rear shock aren’t quite up to the task of managing the chassis’ extreme handling dynamic. For bog basic budget suspension units they’re adequate, but too soft and too unsophisticated to keep pace with the Hornet’s radical steering abilities. You can flick the bike from its ear on one side to the other with the distinct impression the springs aren’t quite keeping up, and allow too much travel movement to influence the end result, taking a millisecond too long to settle. The bike feels as if it would benefit from a more controlled ride on better-damped suspension. Ride quality isn’t poor, and the Hornet rides smaller bumps well – but big holes and rucks in the tarmac pass back into the chassis bounce the Hornet around like a dinghy in a storm.
When it comes to comfort, Honda has kept the seat height down to a relatively low 795mm, combined with an upright riding position and slightly rear-set pegs. Pillions will have to clamber up to a passenger pad that’s set substantially higher thanks to the bike’s upturned tail – a stylistic decision that reflects both current trends and the pointed stinger of the Hornet’s insect namesake. That tail isn’t actually as sharply pointed or foreshortened as it initially appears, particularly on brighter-coloured Hornets, as there’s a large black area under and behind the painted surface of the rear bodywork.
A consequence of a compact chassis and engine is a compact riding position. The Hornet is definitely not a spacious bike – pegs are quite high (but still capable of grinding, ahem) relative to a low-ish 795mm seat height and set a good way back meaning feet instinctively slip onto the pegs on the balls of your feet. The bars aren’t clip-ons but are low enough to complement the pegs and lend a naturally sporty, active feel to the Hornet’s riding position. It’s not uncomfortable – like all Hondas, it fits the human form – but it’s a figure-hugging fitment and anyone significantly over six feet tall might find it cramping their style.
Fuel consumption is claimed by Honda to be over 60mpg, giving the 15.2-litre tank a theoretical 200 mile-plus range. This is pretty optimistic and the launch ride was between 45 to 50mpg, giving a more realistic 150 to 165-mile range to empty; with a four-litre reserve, that’s 110 to 125 miles before the reserve light starts flashing. On the (somewhat hectic) test ride, the fuel gauge was showing half full after 62 miles. So that’s about right.
Nissin provides the Hornet’s stoppers – again a case of Honda sticking with its favoured suppliers – but despite the bike’s clear nod to keeping within a budget there are twin, radial-mount, four-pot calipers at the front, clamping 296mm wave discs. The single rear disc, 240mm across, also gets the same wavy edge and a single-piston caliper. There’s ABS, of course, but at this price point there’s no cornering function to the anti-lock.
From the launch: plenty of stopping power; with only 190kg to haul up, the Nissin four-pot radials and 296mm wavy discs are sharp and effective. They also test the fork damping, compressing the Showas like biro springs.
Not that the Hornet is completely devoid of rider aids. As standard you get Honda’s ‘HSTC’ (Honda Selectable Torque Control), which is the firm’s take on a traction control system, along with wheelie control. The HSTC system has three modes can also be switched off if you prefer to live dangerously, and there are three default riding modes – Sport, Standard or Rain. These modes each engage one of three power levels, three engine braking settings and the aforementioned trio of HSTC settings. Sport uses maximum (level 3) power, level 1 engine braking and level 1 HSTC. Standard puts power, engine braking and HSTC all into level 2 mode. Rain puts the traction control to level 3, drops the power to level 1 and sets the engine braking in the middle setting. Of course, you can also mix-and-match the three settings for each rider aid to create your own user-set combination.
On the accessories front, Honda is promising a selection of options including a quickshifter that works both up and down through the box, with an auto-blip downchange function and three sensitivity settings. A pillion seat cover leads the cosmetic options, along with alloy bar end weights, a flyscreen, replacement rider foot pegs and crash bungs. For the more practically-minded buyer, there’s a selection of luggage including a tank bag and seat bag as well as panniers, while heated grips can also be specified.
Honda is also grouping those options into three packs. The Sport Pack has the quickshifter, screen, pillion cowl and foot pegs. The Style Pack includes the end weights, a new bar upper clamp, a tank pad, wheel stripes and crash bungs. And finally, the Touring Pack includes panniers, the tank bag, the seat bag and a stitched rider’s seat.
The Hornet scores a major victory over it rivals when it comes to rider aids and dash functionality. Nothing in the class (at this price point) gets close to Honda’s clear, crisp and customisable 5in TFT display. With four different style of dash to choose from, plus four rider modes (Sport, Standard, Rain and User), with variable traction control, engine braking and throttle response (which trims the shape of the power curve rather than making the bike more or less snatchy), that’s a lot of customisation and control from a bike costing less than seven grand. There’s no cruise control, but nothing else at this level has it either.
Switchgear is also crisp and concise, with an Africa Twin feel but, thankfully, not an Africa Twin complexity. The horn button is still in the wrong place, and the Honda still won’t let us turn off the ridiculous flashing indicators when braking with only mild pressure. In a final flourish, the Hornet has a USB charger – but it’s under the seat, which is clearly where it’s most useful. If you like storing your £1000 Samsung under the seat.
The Hornet is likely to tempt customers who might otherwise have migrated towards Yamaha’s MT range – although it sits somewhere between the MT-07 and the MT-09 in terms of specifications and performance. It’s also going to face competition from Suzuki’s new-for-2023 GSX-8S with its own parallel twin engine. Riders might also be tempted to look to Europe for rivals, particularly to bikes like Ducati’s Monster, BMW’s F900R or KTM’s 890 Duke, although those are more expensive alternatives.
Here’s a high-level comparison chart of the closest rivals:
|Honda CB750 Hornet||Suzuki GSX-8S||KTM 890 Duke||Yamaha MT-07|
|Engine||Liquid cooled parallel twin, 755cc||Liquid cooled parallel twin, 776cc||Liquid-cooled parallel twin, 889cc||Liquid-cooled parallel twin, 689cc|
|Power||67.5kW (90.5hp)@ 9500rpm||61kW (81.8hp)@ 8500rpm||85kW (114hp)@ 10,500rpm||54kW (72hp)@ 8750rpm|
|Torque||75Nm (55.3lb-ft)@ 7250rpm||78Nm (57.5lb-ft)@ 6800rpm||92Nm (68lb-ft)@ 8000rpm||67Nm (49lb-ft)@ 6500rpm|
|Weight||190kg (wet)||202Kg (wet)||188kg (wet)||184kg (wet)|
At £6999, the Hornet is amazing value in terms of its outright performance (90bhp) and its technology spec (dash, traction control, custom functions). Nothing in the market gets close, with the MT-07 costing £7500 (£500 more) on the road and the newly announced Suzuki GSX-8S costing £8155 on the road.
But no matter what it costs, the Hornet isn’t perfect. The chassis writes cheques the suspension can’t quite cash, and if you didn’t spec the bike with an up/down quick shifter (not an option on most of its rivals) and bring its price to £7250-ish (still less than an MT-07, and probably also KTM’s newly re-released Chinese-built 790 Duke – price tba) you should have a word with yourself (because it’s ace).
But then, it’s hard not to keep coming back to that price. It’s really, really good.
Above: Mann is 6ft tall, fyi
SECOND OPINION – Michael Mann (UK roads)
What a tale of two halves. Having read Simon’s report and watched his video, my appetite had been further whetted and I was eager to give the affordable Hornet a whirl. The first surprise came as the bike was wheeled down the ramp of the delivery van outside my house with an SC Project exhaust fitted – here we have a sub-£7k brand-new, rider-friendly, budget-beating, 160-section rear tyre-wearing parallel twin, equipped with a £935 accessory roarer. A juxtaposition, you might say.
It looks very smart against the black and red colour-scheme, a far superior colour than the yellow I hasten to add. This particular model was also equipped with the optional £625 (prices inc. VAT & fitting by the way) ‘Sport Pack’ comprising of a quickshifter, fly screen, rear seat cowl and fancy footpegs. Total bill if you fancied this version: £8,559, which is £400 over the stock Suzuki GSX-8S.
Leaning on the practical side of the bike, I decided to strap a tank bag to the seat cowl and take it for the 120-mile round trip to Lincoln to attend the BikeSocial members vs British Superbike stars Go-Karting event. Even with the bonus practicality of a (tiny) screen, the Hornet just didn’t make me feel interested in motorcycling – yes, I was comfortable enough (any leg discomfort was caused by the short-but-accessible seat-to-peg distance and the triple-layer Gore-Tex Dainese kit combination), and yes the bike was a godsend when it came to skipping through the city traffic near my destination, though plodding along the very straight and rather wet A16 and A15 is not the Hornet’s home. Oh, and the mudguards don’t protect anything in those conditions, my riding kit was filthy.
Thankfully, my time with the bike soon moved to hurtling around towns, suburbs and the playgrounds which the 21st century CB750 was designed for. Firstly, these surroundings are much more suited to the bike’s key attributes namely the lack of weight and the narrow rear tyre resulting in a dynamic handler – and that’s very much the story of the second half of the short-term loan.
The 270-degree crank in a parallel twin engine makes the Hornet sound more interesting and attractive, more like a V-Twin, while it’s throttle action from neutral-to-on mid-corner/roundabout might have a new rider bum-clenching at first, the accelerator is actually very sociable. Much like the overall riding experience. Around Peterborough’s city streets the low-end power delivery is ideal. A very friendly application plus a light clutch action makes for unfussy yet rewarding journeys, while the bike’s dimensions suit traffic scything too. As narrow, light and simple to manoeuvre as you might expect a bike of half its capacity and power are significant perks of the very same machine that can canter along at motorway speeds with ease and stability, and has both mid-range pull and an attraction to top-end revs too. There’s an entertaining ride for those of any ability or experience.
Arguably, it’s not the most aggressive or unique-looking machine in its class, and the suspension is on the soft side, plus anyone over 6ft is going to feel restricted with the peg position and minimal seat length, the Honda Hornet is a whole lot of bike for the money, and a real hoot to boot. If you’re opting for a new one, please have a quickshifter fitted. You’ll thank me.
|Bore x Stroke||87 x 63.5mm|
|Engine layout||Parallel twin, liquid-cooled|
|Engine details||SOHC, Unicam, 270-degree crank, ride-by-wire|
|Power||67.5kW/ 90.5bhp @ 9500 rpm|
|Torque||75Nm / 55.3ft lbs @ 7250rpm|
|Average fuel consumption||Claimed: 65mpg / 4.348 l/100km|
|Tank size||15.2 litres|
|Max range to empty||Claimed: 211 miles|
|Rider aids||HSTC (3 levels), ABS, 4 riding modes, 3 power levels, 3 engine braking levels|
|Front suspension||Showa 41mm SFF-BP USD forks|
|Front suspension adjustment||None|
|Rear suspension||Showa monoshock|
|Rear suspension adjustment||Preload|
|Front brake||Nissin 4-piston calipers, 296mm discs (x2)|
|Rear brake||240mm disc, single-piston caliper|
|Front wheel / tyre||120/70-ZR17, cast alloy|
|Rear wheel / tyre||160/60-ZR17, cast alloy|
|Dimensions||(2090mm x 780mm x 1085mm)|
|MCIA Secured rating||TBA|
|Warranty||2-year, unlimited mileage|
What is MCIA Secured?
As we all know, the more security you use, the less chance there is of your bike being stolen. In fact, based on research by Bennetts, using a disc lock makes your machine three times less likely to be stolen, while heavy duty kit can make it less likely to be stolen than a car. For reviews of the best security products, click here.
- A steering lock that meets the UNECE 62 standard
- An ignition immobiliser system
- A vehicle marking system
- An alarm system
- A vehicle tracking system with subscription
The higher the star rating, the better the security, so always ask your dealer what rating your bike has and compare it to other machines on your shortlist.