HONDA VFR400 (1988-1994) Review

Published: 09 February 2010

"Effectively a 400cc version of the iconic VFR750R (RC30)"

Honda VFR400R

"Effectively a 400cc version of the iconic VFR750R (RC30)"

  • At a glance
  • 399cc  -  60 bhp
  • 40 mpg  -  133 miles range
  • Insurance group: 10 of 17
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  • Low seat height (705mm)

Overall Rating 4 out of 5

The Honda VFR400R, or NC30 as it’s commonly known, is effectively a 400cc version of the iconic VFR750R (RC30) and as such is a cheaper alternative to the RVF400R which succeeded it in 1994. It has excellent handling, still looks good and a usable engine for road and track, although it’s not as quick flat out as some of the other 400 imports.

Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5

The Honda VFR400R is lightweight,  small, agile, and carries scary amounts of corner speed. Brakes are impressive, however most have their suspension set up on the soft side and require some adjustment. The 18-inch rear tyre also limits choices, but can still cut it on the road and track. 

Engine 4 out of 5

The Honda VFR400R’s water-cooled DOHC V-four produces just short of 60bhp, but its usability comes from its very flat torque curve, compared to other racy 400cc imports. However this gives the feeling the bike is lazy which it certainly isn’t, deceptively quick and still revs to 14,500rpm. 

Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5

The Honda VFR400R/NC30 has a high level of finish and typical Honda build quality. At the time it was considered advanced with is tiny V- four, single-sided swingarm and huge aluminium twin beam frame. Engines have proven reliable as long as they remain standard and serviced, however tuned engines can have crank problems.

Insurance, running costs & value 5 out of 5

The Honda VFR400R/NC30 always held its prices high due to desirability and ease of use. However if you shop wisely you can grab a bargain. It’s an arguably iconic bike for around £2000 and in many ways it makes much more sense than its pricier brother the RVF. Find a Honda VFR400R for sale.

Insurance group: 10 of 17 – compare motorcycle insurance quotes now.

Equipment 4 out of 5

The Honda VFR400R  comes with 41mm conventional adjustable forks compared to the inverted items you find on the later RVF400/NC35. The single rear shock onto a single sided swing-arm is adjustable for pre-load and rebound only. There’s just enough room under the seat for storing waterproofs. Compare and buy parts for the VFR400R in the MCN Shop.

Owners' Reviews

6 owners have reviewed their HONDA VFR400 (1988-1994) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

Review your HONDA VFR400 (1988-1994)
Summary of Owners' Reviews
Overall Rating 5 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4.7 out of 5
Engine 4.8 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4.2 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4.8 out of 5
Equipment 4.2 out of 5
5 out of 5

So good, it's about time they reinvented it.

18 November 2015 by Skote123

A truly great bike that flatters good riding, forgives bad and always puts a smile on my face. After owning one for 4 years and selling it, I grieved for another 4 years before buying another. Styling is oh-so-90's, but also really cool. This bike... Read more turns heads everywhere, and even an average rider can run rings around someone on a modern 1,000cc sports bike on the twisties. Everyone should try one of these bikes at some point in their lives!

Ride Quality & Brakes
3 out of 5
While suspension is usually too soft, the ride is often crashingly hard due to the short wheelbase and cramped riding position. Don't buy one for comfort. The stock front brakes are adequate (but are really bad in the wet) while the rear doesn't do much other than stabilise the bike. I have SP1 brakes on mine and thus much greater stopping power.
Engine
4 out of 5
A flat torque curve, strong pull in the upper rev range and screaming, howling, whining & whirring like a banshee at high revs make for an excellent soundtrack, thanks to a 14,500 rpm redline and gear-driven cams. I liken mine to a miniature Spitfire. Aftermarket cans don't seem to free up much power, but save weight, add kerb appeal and heighten the soundtrack. There's a flat spot around 6,000 rpm on both the bikes I have owned, where the engine seems to bog down a bit, but it's easy to ride around. Clipping along at 70 mph sees the far side of 7,000 rpm, so it ain't no comfy tourer on the ears. I have seen the far side of 130mph on both my NC30s while tucked in behind the tiny screen. In terms of the gearbox, there's the characteristic '90's Honda *crash* from 1st to 2nd. My 1st bike was easy to find neutral on, while my 2nd is impossible without raising the revs to 2,500 or more. It has far fewer miles and I'm currently investigating why.
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
Most will be quite old now and thrashed / crashed / abused. Still, my first bike had 40K+ miles on it and started first time with a charged battery, whatever the weather. Lower fairing pieces tend to crack at the bottom, head bearings take a hammering and have to be replaced, and the stock regulators are crap. Other than that, and age-related wiring, rubber component and thermostat problems, both of mine have been faultless, in spite of being ridden hard.
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
Regular servicing and decent oil will see your NC30 last nicely. I take the battery out of mine for the Winter and leave it in a warm place in the house. Parts are now generally hard to come by from Honda (fairing pieces impossible) but loads of enthusiasts like Rick Oliver and parts archaeologists like David Silver can keep your bike going for you. Some Honda and other parts are interchangeable too like calipers from older 'Blades and the SP1, GSXR generators (lighter!) and an S1000RR rear shock. The 18" rear tyre limits rubber choice. A 17" VFR750 wheel can be made to fit, but I have never tried one.
Equipment
4 out of 5
For its day it was fairly well equipped. Don't expect anything digital, or even a fuel gauge. Most are grey imports so clocks usually come calibrated for kilometers. These can be converted. Some also have a speed limiter that can be removed. Early bikes have preload-only suspension. You'll also get used to reaching towards your left thigh for the reserve fuel tap at 100 to 120 miles in to a ride when the engine starts to burble as it's starved of fuel. I have commuted on an NC30, but it's not a comfort ride. That said, with my 1st bike I had a VFR750 at the same time which was supposed to be my commuter, but I took the NC30 to work more than half the time because the 750 was so boring by comparison.
Buying experience

I bought my first bike from a dealer and was a bit fleeced because I was inexperienced and using my heart and not my head. My second example came from a dear friend and is practically in concourse condition.

5 out of 5

Gem

16 March 2010 by JohnPierre

The VFR400 was my first road bike. Its forgiving nature attracted me to it, not just its stylish looks high red line. I still have it now even though i dont ride it much, i still refuse to sell it. it has so much character and the ride feels like... Read more something special. Its Low powered engine damands very skillfull riding to get the best out of it. but once you've finally mastered the engine it can easily keep up with bigger bikes on the tight twisties. Its stiff chassis and low center of gravity coupled with a short wheelbase and sharp brakes make the VFR an immense back road scratcher. with the ability to out corner most bikes. The gear box is very smooth and well spaced to make the most out of the high power band (11,000 - 12,000 RPM)and quick shifiting helps in keeping them revs high. if you let the revs drop corner exits become soggy and slitghtly boring, but if your not screaming the VFR you simply missed the point of the bike. Brakes are very impressive for their age and have the right amount of feel to be used well as variable braking rather than on/off. The VFR is the perfect bike to hone your skills and could be compared to that of a 250 two stroke. The simple back to basics of the bike make the rider work to get the most of it, which is most rewarding. Reliability wise the engine on my bike has never faulted and is still running very sweet with regular oil changes. The only fualts have been a slipped clutch (due to an unwitting father putting fully synth in), a blown rectifier and a sticky front brake piston. The bike is now due a new rear suspension unit and re-worked forks as its 21 years old. The engine is totally standard and runs great. the carbs are due synchronizing as the rev range has a few flat spots across it. the only problem people may have with the bike is the small riding postion and the hard to get hold of tyres when you do find some there is only a small selection to choose from. Great bike, highly recommended

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
4 out of 5
-
5 out of 5

Gem

16 March 2010 by Anonymous

The VFR400 was my first road bike. Its forgiving nature attracted me to it, not just its stylish looks high red line. I still have it now even though i dont ride it much, i still refuse to sell it. it has so much character and the ride feels like... Read more something special. Its Low powered engine damands very skillfull riding to get the best out of it. but once you've finally mastered the engine it can easily keep up with bigger bikes on the tight twisties. Its stiff chassis and low center of gravity coupled with a short wheelbase and sharp brakes make the VFR an immense back road scratcher. with the ability to out corner most bikes. The gear box is very smooth and well spaced to make the most out of the high power band (11,000 - 12,000 RPM)and quick shifiting helps in keeping them revs high. if you let the revs drop corner exits become soggy and slitghtly boring, but if your not screaming the VFR you simply missed the point of the bike. Brakes are very impressive for their age and have the right amount of feel to be used well as variable braking rather than on/off. The VFR is the perfect bike to hone your skills and could be compared to that of a 250 two stroke. The simple back to basics of the bike make the rider work to get the most of it, which is most rewarding. Reliability wise the engine on my bike has never faulted and is still running very sweet with regular oil changes. The only fualts have been a slipped clutch (due to an unwitting father putting fully synth in), a blown rectifier and a sticky front brake piston. The bike is now due a new rear suspension unit and re-worked forks as its 21 years old. The engine is totally standard and runs great. the carbs are due synchronizing as the rev range has a few flat spots across it. the only problem people may have with the bike is the small riding postion and the hard to get hold of tyres when you do find some there is only a small selection to choose from. Great bike, highly recommended

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
4 out of 5
-
5 out of 5

Gorgeous bike

25 February 2010 by raginggerbil

My NC30 is my first 'big bike' after passing my test. Cheap, superb handling, beautiful engine, and in my opinion one of the best looking bikes I've ever seen. Don't be misled by the 400cc engine. It still has plenty of power, and you'll be hard... Read more pushed to find a better bike on the twistys. Aswell as the beautiful V4 engine sound. Only downside is parts, which can ocassionally be difficult to acquire due to its age, but thats probably not helped by mine being a Jap import with different electrics to the UK models.

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
4 out of 5
-
5 out of 5

a jewel

14 February 2010 by simoncbr900rr

i had an nc30 in 1997 to 1999 it was and still is tne best handling bike i`ve owned these bikes are seriously quick down twisty roads and would not not get left behind by anything despite having 60bhp as the corner entry and speed is without peer.i... Read more can remember chasing a guy on a ZZR1100 he was braking like hell getting all out of shape for a corner and i went past him without even braking such is the confidence these bikes instill in the rider.if you`ve passed your test and a want a sportsbike look no further it`s faultless

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
-
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
5 out of 5
-
5 out of 5

Great Bike

10 February 2010 by wildchildbikes69

After about 6 years away from owning a road bike, through a very good mate of mine, I bought one of these for not a lot of money, basically to get my confidence and awareness to road riding back and believe me you will not be disappointed. Like the... Read more article says, go for mechanical rather than cosmetic, ie some sort of service history. There is shed loads of info on the web for this bike, great owners clubs, advice, etc, etc. The bike I was fortunate enough to own was, in my opinion, one of the best bikes I have ever ridden, the engine was strong, brakes were very good and it handled like a dream. I can only remember getting out of shape once, which was probably down to me anyway. Its only draw back and again it is down to myself is that it is a bit of a small bike! Yes, I have eaten too many pies!

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
-
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
4 out of 5
-
Equipment
4 out of 5
-
Read all 6 owners' reviews in full

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 1988
Year discontinued 1994
Original price -
Used price -
Warranty term (when new) One year unlimited mileage
Running costs
Insurance group 10 of 17
Annual road tax £39
Annual service cost £80
Performance
Max power 60 bhp
Max torque 27.7 ft-lb
Top speed 128 mph
1/4-mile acceleration -
Average fuel consumption 40 mpg
Tank range 133 miles
Specification
Engine size 399cc
Engine type Liquid-cooled, 16v V4, 6 gears
Frame type Aluminium twin beam
Fuel capacity 15 litres
Seat height 705mm
Bike weight 175kg
Front suspension 41mm telescopic forks, preload and rebound adjust
Rear suspension Single rear shock preload and rebound adjust
Front brake 2 x 296mm discs, 4-piston calipers
Rear brake 220mm disc, single piston caliper
Front tyre size 120/60 x 17
Rear tyre size 150/60 x 18

History & Versions

Model history

1988: Honda VFR400R/NC30 launched

Other versions

None

Photo Gallery

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  • Honda VFR400R
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  • Honda VFR400R
  • Honda VFR400R
  • Honda VFR400R
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