On the spec sheet it might be limited and appear anachronistic, but as a riding experience it offers something bigger bikes can’t – the need for the rider to work for some reward. The 300 is fast enough to pass traffic, but it’s not easy to go fast on it. Anyone can ride a 600 at speed, but going quickly on the smaller CBR takes skill. The chassis can happily cope with the 30bhp motor it’s hugging, but the suspension is crudely effective rather than deft. And the standard IRC Road Winner rubber lacks feel. When it all needs hauling up, the twin sliding piston front caliper and single piston rear do their job effectively and the ABS is a welcome addition.
The 300R's engine is stronger than you might expect it to be. From around 5000rpm it starts to go, with another lift at 6000rpm and then a strong surge at 7500rpm. Revs are rewarded, but they aren’t an essential part of the show. In top gear, the 300 is showing 70mph at around 6800rpm, then gives another 10mph for each additional 1000rpm until topping out at an indicated 104mph as the tacho needle teases the 10,500rpm redline.
We'd suggest changing the oil more frequently than the recommended 7500-mile intervals for improved durability, but the longevity of the outgoing CBR250 is good.
The fact that ABS comes as standard is a real plus point on a bike which, at £4299, is marginally cheaper than some 125s and is £900 less than the ABS version of its main rival, Kawasaki’s Ninja 300. But the Ninja is available without ABS for £4799 and its parallel twin engine claims a much bigger punch than the Honda, at 38bhp to the CBR’s 30. None of this is particularly cheap, though, when a thoroughly decent middleweight like the Suzuki SFV650 Gladius wears a pricetag of £5000 and Yamaha’s impactful MT-07 costs £5349. Both will put riders on a twin-cylinder engine with 70-odd horsepower for only a grand more than the CBR300.
The Honda has very obviously been manufactured with low cost in mind. The simple black swingarm, run-of-the-mill black wheels, plasticky grips and rubber-covered footpegs attached to basic hangers all smack of attention to budget. Still, the revamped overall look is strong, the new fairing and twin headlight making it a welcome member of Honda’s sportsbike family rather than the old 250, which was more of a black sheep with its single light.