HONDA CL500 (2023 - on) Review


  • User friendly, frugal 471cc engine
  • Fifth addition to Honda’s popular 500 range
  • Easy and unintimidating to new riders

At a glance

Owners' reliability rating: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Annual servicing cost: £280
Power: 46 bhp
Seat height: Medium (31.1 in / 790 mm)
Weight: Medium (423 lbs / 192 kg)


New £5,999
Used £5,500 - £5,900

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
4 out of 5 (4/5)

The Honda CL500 is the fifth model in Honda's range to be powered by their rev-happy, dependable 471cc parallel twin motor. An easy-going scrambler-style motorbike dressed in minimalist bodywork, it shares the same tubular steel main frame as the Honda CMX500 Rebel cruiser – with a new subframe and swingarm - plus an extra tooth on the rear sprocket for an added spring in its step.

Revealed at the 2022 Eicma trade show in Milan and launched at the beginning of 2023 with a UK base price of just £5999, it goes up against the likes of Royal Enfield’s Scram 411 as a gently set road-biased naked soft-roader that’s capable of cutting through congested city streets and buzzing playfully along a wiggly back road.

Styling is said to be inspired by the early Honda CLs of the 1960s and 70s, with a charming twin exit raised exhaust swept up to the right, dinky 12-litre fuel tank, bench seat, and rubber fork gators as standard creating a look that’s bang on trend with the current crop of modern retros.

Honda CL500 ridden on the road

Up front sits a set of non-adjustable 41mm forks, with twin rear shocks offering five-stage adjustable preload. It’s soft at both ends, but appropriate for the endless potholes and speedbumps of urban living – with a charming ability to playfully flick from one corner to the next when the going gets twisty. There’s even enough travel for some light scrambling, however the 155mm of ground clearance and road-biased Dunlop Trailmax Mixtour tyres preclude any serious off-roading.

You also get ABS at the front and rear to help meet Euro5, which will only kick in if you’re being particularly unkind and - being a Honda - you can expect the indicators to flash under hard braking.

These hazards are LED (as are all the lights) and there’s a single-unit LCD display lifted straight from the Rebel up front. This became hard to read in the intense Spanish midday sunshine on our European launch test and lacks features such as a rev counter.

The similarities between the CL and Rebel are clear and whilst a new air intake makes for a smoother throttle response down low, Honda’s claims of boosted low-end torque are less evident. Being an A2 licence compliant 46bhp parallel twin, the motor still needs to be worked hard, like the rest of the firm’s 500 line-up, when out on the open road.

Honda CL500

Adding to the CL’s appeal is a wide range of accessory packs, offering everything from heated grips to beaky off-road mudguards, and strap-on luggage to flattrack inspired rear number boards. We were able to sample a variety of these mix-and-match bolt-ons and while the choice is impressive, the added bodywork is only available in white, and the off-road foot pegs generate an uncomfortable vibration through your feet at motorway speeds.

Watch Dan's full Honda CL500 video review here:

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
4 out of 5 (4/5)

The biggest complement you can give the Honda CL500 is that it requires very little brain power to operate. It’s a new riders’ dream – with the easy 790mm seat, gently-set handlebars, roomy pegs, and light controls helping you feel right at home from the very first flick of the key.

Suspended by non-adjustable 41mm conventional forks and twin shocks with five-stage preload adjustment, the CL is soft without getting flustered – providing a generous dose of damping to iron out any potholes, speedbumps, and offering enough support for a light gravel trail.

Our circa 190km route had two 1km stretches of dusty trail – with 150mm of front and 145mm of rear travel ironing out much of the rocky surface beneath us. It’s hardly a full-on mud plugger though - with 155mm of ground clearance, and no bash plate for the blacked-out exhaust headers.

Honda CL500 turning right

At around 10 stone all in, I didn’t feel the need to wander from the standard suspension settings, which allow for easy direction changes with the slightest push on the inside bar. You can feel the bike moving beneath you if you decide to really up the pace, but it’s never a concern and - as that’s not really what the 500 is for - it would be unfair to really criticise the bike for it.

Elsewhere, the standard seat also allows for easy movement around the bike should you need to and there’s enough ground clearance to encourage plenty of lean angle and explore the full potential of the adventure bike-style, road-focussed Dunlop Trailmax Mixtour tyres.

There may only be one twin-piston caliper up front, latching onto a 310mm disc, but it’s ample for a bike of this size and offers considerably more feedback and feel than the CMX500 Rebel the bike is based on. There’s also no intrusion from the ABS unless your particularly brutal with the controls, but the rear intervention cannot be deactivated for off-road use, which could be a turn off for some.

Honda CL500 front brake


Next up: Reliability
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Honda’s 471cc parallel-twin engine now appears in five models in the range and remains capable of providing a gentle helping hand to new riders, whilst also putting up with countless hours of high-revving abuse from experienced users, determined to extrapolate its fullest potential.

Combined with a light non-adjustable clutch lever for easy manoeuvring in traffic, it delivers a predictable dose of power that’s unlikely to fluster beginners but should also provide enough of a surge for those looking for a smaller second bike in the garage or something stylish to commute on.

A Euro5-friendly two-pot that meets A2 licence regulations without need for a restrictor kit, it differs from its closest CMX500 Rebel sibling thanks to an extra tooth on the rear sprocket (taking it to 41) and a reworked air intake bespoke to this model.

Honda CL500 engine

Consequently, Honda are claiming improved acceleration, torque, and throttle response – although only the latter is truly noticeable. The Rebel can sometimes be guilty of jerking at low speeds but there are no such issues on the CL. Exactly how much more it pulls low-down and accelerates through the gears is only very marginal at best.

Overtakes still need to be planned methodically and often require at least one down shift before committing and it starts to feel breathless at the top end of the rev range when you really decide to press on.

Instead, the CL500’s engine is happiest in the middle of the rev range – making use of its modest 32lb.ft of torque and encouraging riders to slow down and drink in the surroundings rather than hunkering down over the 12-litre fuel tank.

Honda CL500 ridden by Dan Sutherland

Another change for this bike is the upswept exhaust, which exits to the right and is designed to mimic the looks of the original 1962 Honda Dream CL72 Scrambler. Much like the engine itself, the twin exit pipe generates very little heat however its placement means you can only have one saddle bag to the left of the bike. It also produces next to no audible soundtrack above 40mph - becoming lost behind the wind thanks to the exposed riding position.

Not only is it quiet, but the 180-degree crank motor produces almost no vibrations in standard trim. Although showcasing that classic Honda refinement, it lacks the authentic character and charm of some other retro scrambler offerings and does without any of the pops and bangs under deceleration enjoyed on the likes of the identically-powered Honda CB500X.

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
4 out of 5 (4/5)

This is a very well built bike for not a lot of money. There are no panel gaps, and the paint on the tank is deep. The glossy orange and blue look particularly good and are a refreshing change from the often humdrum options found on many wallet-friendly motorcycles.

The switchgear might be basic, but it’s chunky and idiot proof – activated with a satisfying click and giving the impression it will stand up to years of abuse.

Honda’s 471cc parallel twin is proven and they’ve sold more than 133,000 bikes using it across Europe since 2013. This is backed up by a two-year warranty and a strong dealer network.

Honda CL500 right turn

Owners haven't reported any issues for the CL500 yet, but it is still a very new model and few will have put more than a few thousand miles on theirs yet.

That said, MCN owners’ reviews of the similarly specced CMX500 Rebel have criticised Honda for issues experienced with rust, pitted forks, and visible stone chips on the fork legs. Best to keep an eye out for that here.

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
5 out of 5 (5/5)

The Honda CL500 will arrive in dealers in 2023 with a base price of £5999 – keeping it in line with rest of the firm’s 500 range and making it a direct rival to the Royal Enfield Scram 411.

The Enfield may only produce 24bhp at 6500rpm, but it starts at over £1000 cheaper at £4849 and could be enough to turn the heads of some customers looking solely for urban usage.

With all five Honda 500s sharing the same base 471cc twin-cylinder engine, it could be argued that they are also rivals – especially the £6299 CMX500 Rebel, which has the same main frame, LED light set-up, and LCD dash.

Honda CL500 rear

Having ridden both bikes in close succession, the CL500 makes far more sense on the UK’s busy road network – thanks to its taller 790mm seat, upright stance, and wider bars. The Rebel’s stumpy 690mm perch sits you in line with the wheel nuts of some trucks and you can’t help but feel vulnerable as you negotiate your way through traffic.

It’s also more uncomfortable over distance and the rear suspension is far less capable of dissipating energy. With the CL being cheaper too, it’s a no brainer.


3 out of 5 (3/5)

Being a sub-six grand A2 compliant scrambler, the Honda CL500 is unsurprisingly basic. You get LED lighting across the board and up front there’s a 100mm negative LCD display lifted straight from the CMX500 Rebel, which features your speed, gear position, fuel gauge and more. What is doesn’t have though is a rev counter, but that’s not the end of the world.

This small display is ideal for the bike’s minimalist design, but it gets lost in the direct sunlight – becoming hard to read at a glance. I have also sampled this dash on the Rebel cruiser and during a miserable English downpour, it can also be difficult to make out the smaller information on the dial.

To help it get through Euro5, there’s ABS at the front and rear too, with Honda’s signature hazard light flash when you give the anchors a particularly big squeeze. The rear anti-locking system cannot be deactivated for off-road adventuring, but this shouldn’t be an issue on light trails the CL is capable of. Remaining on the blacktop, the system barely ever gets involved at either end, allowing you to brake later and with confidence when you want to make serious progress.

Honda CL500 dash

There are no fancy modes, or lean sensitive gimmicks here either. It’s a stripped back riding experience designed to appeal to everyone and that’s perfectly alright with us – there’s not enough power or torque to require any more electronic intervention.

If you want to add a bit more pizzazz to your CL though, you can always bolt on some of Honda’s optional accessory packs. With three in total, these include an ‘Adventure’ package that gets a beakier front mudguard, hand guards, off-road pegs, and a rear shock covers.

Another is the ‘Travel’ pack, which gets you a 14-litre left saddle bag (the exhaust is on the right), a 12v socket, heated grips, a span-adjustable brake lever, and tank pad. If none of the pre-set options tickle your pickle though, you can always mix and match – choosing from top boxes, taller seats, bodywork, and much more.

Honda CL500 headlight

Although screwed together nicely, some of these extras do detract from the riding experience. The off-road pegs for example offer less vibration damping and as such produce an annoying tingle through the base of your feet at motorway speeds after around 20 minutes.

Elsewhere, the stitched, padded brown high seat in the third ‘Style’ kit has a small amount of play in it when bolted in – meaning you can feel it moving beneath you when you’re on the move. Slightly narrower than the standard perch, it also adds 30mm to the seat height and reduces the feel of the bike beneath you. Furthermore, it pushes you in towards the fuel tank and is generally less comfortable than the standard option. I’d save your money…


Engine size 471cc
Engine type Liquid-cooled, 8v, DOHC parallel-twin
Frame type Tubular diamond steel
Fuel capacity 12 litres
Seat height 790mm
Bike weight 192kg
Front suspension 41mm conventional forks, non-adjustable
Rear suspension Twin rear shocks, five-stage preload adjustment
Front brake Single 310mm floating disc with two-piston axial-mounted caliper
Rear brake 240mm single disc with single-piston caliper
Front tyre size 110/80 x 19
Rear tyre size 150/70 x 17

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption 78.5 mpg
Annual road tax £80
Annual service cost £280
New price £5,999
Used price £5,500 - £5,900
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two years

Top speed & performance

Max power 46 bhp
Max torque 32 ft-lb
Top speed -
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range 207 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

2023: Honda launch the CL500 – an A2 compliant scrambler and the new fifth member of Honda’s ever-popular 471cc parallel-twin A2 motorcycle range. The main chassis is shared with the CMX500 Rebel cruiser with a new subframe, longer-travel suspension and minimalist retro looks helping it to stand out from the rest of the range.

Other versions

As mentioned above, there are five members of Honda’s A2-friendlly family – with over 133,000 units sold across Europe since the first models arrived in 2013. All share the same novice-friendly engine structure, with options for adventure riders, sportsbike fans, upright naked enthusiasts, and even laid-back cruisers.

Read our other Honda 500 reviews here:

Honda's 500 family

Owners' reviews for the HONDA CL500 (2023 - on)

4 owners have reviewed their HONDA CL500 (2023 - on) 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 CL500 (2023 - on)

Summary of owners' reviews

Overall rating: 4.8 out of 5 (4.8/5)
Ride quality & brakes: 4.2 out of 5 (4.2/5)
Engine: 4.8 out of 5 (4.8/5)
Reliability & build quality: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Value vs rivals: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
Equipment: 3.8 out of 5 (3.8/5)
Annual servicing cost: £280
5 out of 5
22 September 2023 by Luis

Year: 2023

Will Honda launch a CL1100 version? It would be the best Scrambler on the market.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5
Value vs rivals 4 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
5 out of 5 Better than expected!! In fact so good I bought one!!
11 July 2023 by Brad Hollywood

Year: 2023

Annual servicing cost: £160

Honda have done it again!! Visually pleasing, great engine and the price almost seems like a misprint!! I have traded down and wanted something comfy, looks good, economical and a good price, the Honda hits the nail on the head. I've gone for an orange with the optional brown high seat. Hiw can Honda do a search for £85.00 when the other Japanese manufacturers want 160 plus!!

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

Really comfy, single front disc with ABS, enough power snd feel. Handling is really good, tad soft, but forgiving. It's not a sports bike, but does very well on the back roads.

Engine 5 out of 5

Take it for what it is, 500 cc 180 degrees crank, sounds like my old GPZ500 from the 90s (showing my age a bit there). I've had 250 2 strokes, 1000 cc V twins, 1200 4 cylinders, and for some reason, this little unit has got under my skim. It pulls well, sounds good, and is perfect for real-world riding.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

For the price its well built, under stressed and very reliable engine. Too early to tell anything else, but fit in finish is Hondas usual high standard.

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

5995 on the Road for a brand new 500 scrambler, so cheap it is ridiculous good value. Servicing us low at £160.00. Around 70 mpg around lanes and town.

Equipment 3 out of 5

The only thing that let's it down... ABS, and a very dim basic dash that's hard to read in sunlight, real shame to put this on a perfect bike!!

Buying experience: John Banks Honda. Best I've ever dealt with, good PEX, and really good service.

4 out of 5
27 June 2023 by Shardlake

Year: 2023

Annual servicing cost: £400

Light clutch, smooth gearbox very easy going suits a new rider or like myself something for some back lane exploring with enough to manage faster roads if required. Brakes good for the power/weight.The exhaust, bit of an eyesore, although you get used to it. Dash is very basic but functional

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

Bench seat, so easy to reposition, a few aches at 2hrs seat/bike a brand new so may get better.

Engine 4 out of 5

Ample power, need to work it to get the best out of it, although for an A2 compliant bike certainly not a slouch.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

Brand new bike

Value vs rivals 4 out of 5

4 services paid for as part of a service plan.3 fill ups so far averaging 90mpg

Equipment 4 out of 5

I have light cowl and hand guards - cowl makes the front end look better, hoping the handguards will keep some wind off in the winter, too early to say at present.

Buying experience: Honda main dealer - £5999 + OTR and accessories - managed to get a deal on some accessories and they charged much less than the Honda fitting charges.

5 out of 5 CL500 Ticks all the boxes for me
02 May 2023 by USH66

Version: Green

Year: 2023

Best - Easy to ride, nimble & responsive - wide bars give good control Worst - Pegs seem to get in the way when putting your feet down

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

Seat a bit hard after a few hours Squidgy at the back improved by adding pre load

Engine 5 out of 5

Torquey motor perfect for this bike

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

High quality finish - no issues

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

Bargain at £5995 on the road

Equipment 4 out of 5

Travel pack worth getting at £500

Buying experience: New from Honda dealer £5995

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