HONDA RVF400 (1994-1996) Review

Published: 05 January 2010

"A pin-up race replica that had sports bike fans dribbling down their paddock jackets in the mid-nineties"

Honda RVF400

"A pin-up race replica that had sports bike fans dribbling down their paddock jackets in the mid-nineties"

  • At a glance
  • 399cc  -  59.4 bhp
  • 39 mpg  -  154 miles range
  • Medium seat height (780mm)

Overall Rating 5 out of 5

Honda’s RVF400 was a pin-up race replica that had sports bike fans dribbling down their paddock jackets in the mid-nineties. The trouble was that Honda never officially brought the NC35 (its ‘factory’ code name) into the UK, which was a crying shame, although many have found their way here as ‘grey’ imports. Replacing the VFR400R (NC30), which Honda did officially import, the NC35 is a V4 400cc baby version of the mighty RVF750R (RC45). It looks almost the same as its big brother, but it has tiny fox-eye headlights, compared to the RC45’s ‘moon eyes’. It sounds great, is beautiful to look at and handles like a demon. Many can still be found tearing up the circuit on trackdays and club racing. A low seat height and lightweight makes the RVF400 a manageable machine for shorter riders. It’s also an ideal donor bike for a 33bhp kit for new riders.

Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5

By today’s standards the RVF400 is a little bit soft around the edges, but in its day it handled with all the agility and precision of a 250cc Grand Prix bike compared to old litre-sized buses like the GSX-R1100, and relatively big supersports machines like the FZR600. Compared to the out-going NC30, Honda’s new pocket rocket it had upside forks and a 17” rear wheel replacing the old 18-incher for improved handling. It’s still good today and can be made even better with a suspension overall and fitting the latest sticky tyres.

Engine 5 out of 5

This liquid-cooled, 399cc, DOHC, V4 motor with gear driven cams and four 28mm carbs, may be small but it’s beautifully formed. The NC35 doesn’t make peak power (59.4bhp) until the rev needle sweeps all the way to 13,000rpm. You have to thrash it mercilessly to get anywhere fast, which let’s face it, is the thing that makes the RVF400 so exciting to ride. 

Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5

This is Honda at their very best, so fit and finish is superb. Reliability isn’t an issue and there are some super-high mileage machines still pounding our streets. Because these bikes weren’t officially imported here there are some scrappy ones about and those that have been raced have obvious pitfalls.

Value & Running Costs 4 out of 5

Good condition RFV400s are still holding their money. Low mileage, good condition examples are fetching around prices around £6000. You can get pick up a high mileage model for as little as £1450. Find a Honda RVF400 for sale.

Insurance group: 12 of 17 – compare motorcycle insurance quotes now.

Equipment 4 out of 5

The RVF400 came with all the latest kit: a stiff aluminium frame, single sided swingarm, 17” wheels, upside down forks and big brakes. There are no creature comforts here, just everything you need for going fast on track. Compare and buy parts for the RVF in the MCN Shop.

Owners' Reviews

3 owners have reviewed their HONDA RVF400 (1994-1996) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

We’re currently improving the way this section works, which means we’ve had to suspend the submission of new owners’ reviews for a short period. Please check back soon.

Summary of Owners' Reviews
Overall Rating 4.7 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4.3 out of 5
Engine 4.7 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4.3 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4.3 out of 5
Equipment 3.3 out of 5
5 out of 5

Max fun

11 November 2014 by manicguitarist

I've been riding 20+ yrs and this is the smallest bike I've ever owned. To put it into some kind of perspective, my previous 3 bikes were an R1 (still got that), a YZF750 and a Ducati 900SS. I bought my RVF on a whim - because it is *tiny*. I'm in... Read more the fortunate position of being able to get pretty much any bike I want - problem is, I am short (5'6") - and when I tried a Panigale at the bike show I couldn't even get it off the side stand! Paid £3800 for a mint, 1 owner RVF400 from 2000. So that makes it the youngest bike I've ever owned - I bought my R1 in '98... I was expecting the 400 to be gutless on the road compared to my R1 - but cruising around sub 40mph it is fine - plenty of power - yes, above 80mph (obviously one only goes above 60mph on a closed private road - m'lud) it is very slow compared to the R1 - but it is *a lot* more fun. I've had to readjust my riding style - on the R1 you can (if you wish) cruise around all day in one gear, but on the RVF you need to change down for every corner and overtake. Once I've got used to this it is great - and to be honest, a great deal more interactive. I do a regular run over the country lanes to the lake district - it takes me the same kind of time (to within 5 mins) to do this 90mile trip as on my R1 - and never once did I think "I wish I had more power". I've owned it for 3 months now - and have the choice of which bike to take out when I go playing - and the R1 hasn't had a look-in. I'll be selling that in Spring. The ride was harsh when I got it - it had been set up for a much heavier rider, but after adjusting the suspension correctly it is fine. It requires no pressure to get round the tightest corners - indeed at first I was arriving at the apex early - riding it in the same as I did on my R1. Equipment wise - nothing flash - it is the same era as my R1, but that has all the digital displays and automatic reserve-fuel display - this is back to old school wind-up trip counter and fuel tap. Can't really speak on reliability - it seems very well built. A couple of dashboard bulbs were out when I got it - but they've been replaced. For the road - this is ideal. Yes, it isn't as "badass" as my R1..but in no way is it a "beginner bike". I wish I'd bought one of these from new - but back then I was in the "bigger is better" mode... If they made a similarly sized (physically) modern bike (with all the trick stuff) I'd buy one in a shot. I never thought I'd say it - but on the road the 400 is plenty (with a top speed of 120+mph - again, on a private road) and enough acceleration to get me in trouble if I want to... The only downside that I can think of is - taller & bulkier people will have no chance on them and will ache after 10 minutes. The RVF400 is fun. If you can fit on one - buy one.

Overall Rating 5 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 5 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
5 out of 5

Brilliant Bike

21 August 2012 by em2evol

I've had two RVF400s now... Reliable, great build quality, great looks... brilliant bike! Read more

Overall Rating 5 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
4 out of 5

nc35

09 November 2011 by eoinmurphy

i have owend RVF400rr now for last two years and stil get good enjoyment out of it. The bike has never giveng any trouble and does everything you ask of it. Has few mods just to free up few trapped horses. AS do be surrounded by the mate's on their... Read more 6oo's an 750. The RVF can still hang with the bigger boys on the tight an twisties. Great fun bike

Overall Rating 4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
Read all 3 owners' reviews in full

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 1994
Year discontinued 1996
Original price -
Warranty term (when new) One year unlimited mileage
Running costs
Insurance group 12 of 17
Annual road tax £38
Annual service cost -
Performance
Max power 59.4 bhp
Max torque 26.6 ft-lb
Top speed 125 mph
1/4-mile acceleration -
Average fuel consumption 39 mpg
Tank range 154 miles
Specification
Engine size 399cc
Engine type V4 four-stroke
Frame type Twin spar aluminium
Fuel capacity 18 litres
Seat height 780mm
Bike weight 165kg
Front suspension Preload and rebound damping
Rear suspension Preload and rebound damping
Front brake Twin 269mm discs
Rear brake Single solid disc; 2-piston Nissin caliper
Front tyre size 120/60 17in
Rear tyre size 160/60 17in

History & Versions

Model history

Produced from 1994-1996. Not officially imported into the UK

Other versions

None

Photo Gallery

  • Honda RVF400
  • Honda RVF400
  • Honda RVF400
  • Honda RVF400
  • Honda RVF400
  • Honda RVF400
  • Honda RVF400
  • Honda RVF400
  • Honda RVF400
  • Honda RVF400
  • Honda RVF400
  • Honda RVF400