Once in a while, the manufacturers ante up and bring something stateside despite its potential for dismal sales. They want us to like them, remember? Even more rare is the occasion for the OEMs to bring us a model that we Ďneedí here in the states. Honda has done it for the second time this year, for model year 2010, supplying U.S. riders with a unit thatís already popular in the European Union.
Earlier this summer, we saw the best-selling scooter in Europe come to us in the form of the fuel-injected liquid-cooled economic-minded SH150i. Shipped to the U.S. for the first time, Honda again seeks to fill a gap in its lineup with units priced for everyoneís wallet.
Today weíre looking at the next model to come from Japan, via European consensus, as yet another economical price-point bike for its 2010 lineup, the NT700V.
Youíve already heard the news, maybe even sat on the bike at the IMS show, but we got a ride on the girl this week and weíre impressed with its overall package, if not for itís striking similarity to the bigger brother ST1300 Ė a husband and wife combo for sure!
Isnít the Deville a Cadillac? Thatís Deauville, ya dork!
Selling in the EU since 1999, the Honda Deauville has been serving as a popular commuter and weekender-touring bike where short trips are more common. Since weíve got this big olí piece of land and wanna take everything with us when we travel, Honda has been offering the American market the full-touring capable ST1300. However, not everyone can afford the $15-grand or the vacation time these days, thus the NT700V gets dropped on our doorstep for next year as a smaller sibling to the bigger ST. In fact itís already at your local dealership.
At the core of this middleweight tourer is a 52-degree, 680cc, SOHC, 4-valve-per-cylinder V-twin with the same architecture and spec as the DN-01 (and Transalp in Europe), sans the auto-tranny HFT, of course, in a decidedly more commuter- and touring-oriented package.
Revving to a peak of 8500 rpm, the oversquare Twin (81mm x 66mm) cruises along the highway at 70 miles per hour revving around 4750 rpm in top gear, but it really screams for a 6th gear. The NTís Twin felt a little more comfortable down at 65 mph and 4300-ish rpm, where the little tourer settles into a harmonious groove.
The ST-familiar and favorable intake growl heard upon heavy acceleration between 2500 and 3500 rpm is a welcome and enjoyable tone, but at highway speeds, the little powerplant does a lot of whining (gear whine) on abrupt decel. You donít notice it so much in the canyons and under 70 mph, but at higher speeds, itís noticeable if youíre stashed inside the windscreenĎs cone of silence.
A 5-speed tranny easily shifts the power to a shaft drive for virtually maintenance-free miles. A long-but-light clutch lever pulls easily but isnít adjustable. Shifting is light and spot on Ė never a moment of confusion or missed shifts. The brake lever on the other hand, literally, is adjustable with a screw-type adjuster disc.
With an EPA-rated 50 miles-per-gallon and a 5.2-gallon tank (including 0.9-gallon reserve) has the potential for 250 easy-going miles for your buck. The combined analog and digital dashboard displays amongst the standard sweeping speedo and tachometer, temp and fuel gauges, a handy average fuel consumption notation where we saw up to 55.4 miles per gallon on our one-day tour.
The dash and fairing also include another ST13-like carryover: two glove boxes, one locking, one non-lockable and big enough for a can of soda, a sandwich, your wallet and a camera.
Making all those miles comfortable is a firm 31.7-inch high saddle and a 5-position windscreen. In itís highest position, the windscreen is big, comfortable and chin high, leaving clean airspace for sightlines and aerodynamic flow. Lowered, itís a sleek and unobtrusive and sternum high. Reminiscent, again, of the ST1300 and its windscreen. Compact and sleek, easily forgotten and adjustable, but like a relatively-smaller billboard when put in the fully upright position. A little slouching would easily bring your eyes inside the shield for the colder mornings. Where the STís adjustment was electric, the NTís screen is manually adjustable, but very easily so. Easy enough to change at every stop signal in fact. Bringing it up requires both hands, then you can tap it down to flavor while riding.
The narrow and nimble NT is commuter friendly and fun to ride.
Suspension chores are handled by a 41mm telescopic fork up front, with 4.5 inches of travel, and in back thereís a single rear shock with preload-only adjustment and 4.8 inches of travel. The rear is adjustable with a handy left-side remote dial.
Hung from the twin-spar steel frame and simple suspension setup is a Bridgestone Battlax 120/70 front tire and a 150/70 rear, spanning 58.1 inches; both 17-inchers for optimal future tire selection. Stuffed beneath all that is a center stand for solid parking and maintenance.
When the road ends, dual 296mm discs and 3-piston calipers up front work together with the single 276mm, 2-piston caliper in the rear to bring the 562-pound curb weight to a halt. With Hondaís Combined Braking System (CBS) on your side and optional ABS Ė available only on the silver model Ė anti-lock brake safety is also at your fingertips.
Weíd last seen a version of Hondaís CBS on the SH150i. On the NT, the system links one piston of the left-front caliper along with the rear caliper in full affect when applying pressure to the rear brake pedal. The front brake lever is all-front only, keeping the sport in the NTís sport-touring duties. The big and bright taillight lets those behind you easily gauge your intent from a distance.
Getting you to work or the cabin in the woods with all your goodies, the NT sports a slim overall design but still manages to pack on a pair of lockable, key-operable only, hard-mount saddlebags. With a capacity of 27.4 liters in the left bag and slightly less (26.9L) in the right bag due to the single-sided exhaust, thereís plenty of room for an overnighter or a few bags of groceries.
Despite not being able to store a full-face helmet as the bigger brother ST1300 could, the bags do have one cool feature: a pass-thru chamber for safely carrying items like fan posters, baguettes or camping pads inside the luggage. Utilizing space beneath the rear rack and fender, thereís a cavity that crosses over between the two saddlebags for carrying those longer items without having to strap them to your passenger or back. A pretty trick feature in my opinion. And if you rather, itís a good space for a full-feature tool kit without detracting from common luggage storage capacity.
In the end, getting to know the NT a little better, we can now see how the package can be popular in Europe as an everyday rider as well as weekend getaway mount, especially with a 250-mile range. Itís an efficient do-it-all machine that sips fuel and costs less than the bigger, more touring-oriented bikes in Hondaís lineup - cruisers and scooters simply donít have the comfort or carrying capacity that the NT offers its riders.
Iíd like to see a slightly wider bar however, or perhaps an inch taller rise in the bars, as I found my arms fully locked a few times while riding settling into a more upright riding position. But thatís an easy change thanks to a standard triple-tree connection and tubular handlebar instead of some specially cast bar mount and handlebar.
The NT700V is available in two colors, Metallic Red and Metallic Silver for an MSRP of $9,999. Add a grand for the ABS option, but also limit yourself to one color. Sorry, the ABS is only available on the Silver this year.