There’s no bigger or more successful motorcycle manufacturer than Honda, and to prove that fact in 2019 the Japanese company announced they had built their 400-millionth bike since the company was founded back in 1948. The first was the 1949 Dream D-Type.
In the past 70 years many of our favourite bikes have worn the Honda badge, and whether you’re after the smallest, most basic commuter or the most advanced superbike, Honda has a bike for you.
Which Honda motorcycles are best for me?
The choice of new and used Hondas is so great the only limiting factor is you. What sort of bike are you after? An A1-licence 125? Novice-friendly middleweight or full-bore superbike, adventure machine or tourer? Next, what’s you budget? This might dictate whether you’re better off buying used. Oh, and don’t forget Classic now out-of-production Hondas such as the Super Blackbird. Here’s our pick of the best new Hondas plus a couple of brilliant used buys and some ‘golden oldies’…
MCN's guide to the best Honda motorbikes
2018 GL1800 Goldwing
Spec: 1833cc / 124bhp / 365kg / 745mm seat height
Price: £18,999 (used) or £27,499 (new)
Honda’s Gold Wing may have been the definitive full-dress tourer when it first appeared in the late 1970s but this latest version, with the previous update being back in 2001, has been a long time coming. It’s been worth the wait, though. Launched last year and all-new from its now DCT-equipped, 125bhp flat six to its Hossack-style front end, it’s set the new benchmark for sophistication, equipment, luxury and comfort. Simply, if you want the slickest, tourer money can buy, this is the one. Talking of money… it’s not cheap, but a more basic version has since been launched from ‘just’ £22,299.
BUYING ADVICE Yes, this latest Wing is all-new and, potentially, there’s an awful lot that could go wrong, but it’s also beautifully built, the engine is understressed and it’s so new that mileages will be low, so we’ve no concerns.
Spec: 471cc / 47bhp / 192kg / 785mm seat height
Price: £2700 (used) or £6099 (new)
First launched in 2014 as the sporty member of Honda’s all-new, purpose-built, A2-licence-friendly CB500 twin family, the CBR has been repeatedly updated since, most recently for 2019, and remains the definitive, affordable, novice sportster. Now with Fireblade-esque styling, new LCD dash, LED lights and subtle engine and suspension changes to go with its already easy, idiot-proof manners and pleasing twin cylinder performance, the CBR, with its Honda quality and proven reliability, is the go-to choice for anyone looking for their first A2-compliant sports bike.
BUYING ADVICE Although updated for 2019, earlier models date back to 2014 and it has proved hugely popular with no scare stories, despite plenty of novice style sue and abuse. If buying used, though, watch for signs of novice neglect or scuffs and scrapes.
Spec: 1140cc / 88bhp / 255kg / 790mm seat height
Price: £7300 (used) or £10,999 (new)
Although it seems like Honda’s retro air-cooled four has been around forever it’s only recently come good. First unveiled in 2010 it only came to Europe in 2013 and, though the smooth four was a technological marvel it wasn’t packed with power and had a small tank and some other details that annoyed. The revamped 2017 version, however, although still only 88bhp, has matured into a class act. The 18in wire wheels, a new ribbed seat and larger tank, plus easy manners make it a class act among retros. Practicality may be minimal but the CB’s a classy jewel.
BUYING ADVICE This brilliant air-cooled four is not just beautiful… it’s as smooth as a Swiss watch. All round quality is superb and bikes are likely to be well looked after. Earlier versions can be had for as little as £4K but the later model is the best.
2014 NC750X DCT
Spec: 745cc / 54bhp / 229kg / 830mm seat height
Price: £3500 (used) or £7519 (new)
First introduced as the NC700X in 2012 it was enlarged and face-lifted into 750 form in 2014. Don’t let those muted, understated looks put you off; the 750X is clever, effective and brilliantly practical. It’s based around a low-revving, hugely economical parallel twin with Honda’s clever, DCT twist and go gearbox, so you can ride it pretty much like a scooter. There’s also a scooter-style luggage space in the (fake) tank and it is a doddle to ride, as well as being cheap and economical; all of which helping to explain its huge Europe-wide sales.
BUYING ADVICE The low-revving NC engine is under-stressed, the DCT system is now long-established and overall quality is good – watch out for novice dings, although with plenty to choose from that shouldn’t be a problem.
Spec: 745cc / 53bhp / 238kg / 820mm seat height
Price: £6250 (used) or £9959 (new)
Admittedly this is something of an oddball choice and it’s unlikely to appeal to all, but the wacky X-ADV is so good and so ‘Honda’ we had to include it here.
This wacky Honda scooter/adventure bike crossover was first launched in 2017 then updated slightly in 2018 but the fundamentals remain unchanged. It’s based around the same, clever, frugal 750 twin powertrain as the NC750X but with more scooter practicality and a healthy dollop of off-road sass. It works, too, even though often attracting confused looks. On the downside, it’s pricey new and we’re still not quite sure what use an off-road scooter is – but we still love it.
BUYING ADVICE The drivetrain is proven and the build quality is typical Honda so we have few concerns. Then again, if it really has been used off road we’re not sure what you might find, but luckily few actually are.
2017 CBR1000RR Fireblade
Spec: 998cc / 189bhp / 196kg / 832mm seat height
Price: £11,500 (used) or £15,769 (new)
An all-new Fireblade had been a long time coming (since 2009) when this latest version finally arrived in 2017, particularly if you want your superbike primarily for the road. With 189bhp, decent electronics, great real world ergonomics and classy build, it’s the Blade most of us had been wishing for even if, on track, its performance and electronics aren’t quite as sharp as the best. That said, there is an Ohlins-equipped SP version, which is mouth-watering, and for most mere mortals, the new Blade’s class and quality makes up for those deficiencies.
BUYING ADVICE A little early to be sure about reliability and there have been a couple of electronics updates since its launch, but Honda’s general reputation and the quality of this latest offering leaves us with little to fear.
2012 VFR1200X Crosstourer (used)
Spec: 1237cc / 127bhp / 275kg / 850mm seat height
Price: £6000 (used) or £13,199 (new)
There’s a slight irony to the fact that the shaft drive, V4, optional DCT, adventure-style Crosstourer has outlived the VFR1200 on which it’s based, particularly as Honda seemed reluctant to release it in the first place back in 2012. As such, the Crosstourer is unfairly tarred with that bike’s flawed reputation when, in reality, it’s a good-looking, quality, V4, shaft-drive adventure bike with few equals. Admittedly it’s no off-roader and its spec and lack of electronics means it’s starting to age, but that unfashionable-ness means used prices can be ridiculously low for what is a solid, classy performer.
BUYING ADVICE The brilliant V4 is not just underrated it’s bulletproof. What’s more there’s a DCT version, which is tempting. Quality and durability elsewhere is good, too and many used examples come loaded with luggage, heated grips and more.
2014 CB650F (used)
Spec: 649cc / 86bhp / 208kg / 810mm seat height
Price: £3700 (used) or £6999 (new)
For 2019 Honda’s four-cylinder middleweight roadster has been updated into the CB650R after a previous update in 2017 but the original back in 2014 is basically the same bike, better looking to our eyes, fairly unique as a 600-class four-cylinder roadster and brilliant value as a used buy. The smooth, slightly soft four gives a decent 86bhp, it has neutral handling, plenty of classy touches and had a substance and classy style to it most bikes in this capacity category can’t match. If you want a first big bike that’s a proper four-cylinder yet has novice-friendly manners and an easy, upright gait, this is the one.
BUYING ADVICE The motor is generally good. Yes, it’s a budget bike so is built down to a price in a few areas, but it hardly shows. As long as there’s no novice neglect you should be on to a winner.
1997-2005 CBR1100XX Super Blackbird
Spec: 1137cc / 164bhp / 223kg / 810mm seat height
Price: £1600 (used) or £6000 (new)
First launched way back in 1997 Honda’s ballistic and brilliant hyperbike proved so good it was not only the world’s fastest production bike when launched, through the Noughties, even after that crown had been lost, it had a huge following as a slick, effective, classy mile-eater. In fact it was so good, not only did the flawed VFR1200F fail to replace it, as intended, good, later Super Blackbird’s remain in strong demand today.
Its smooth, meaty powertrain is a delight, handling is neutral, ergonomics are all-day comfy and quality and equipment is sheer class. Find a good one, and there are still plenty about, and you’ll see why it’s still makes sense even today.
BUYING ADVICE Build quality, particularly of the later injected models, is superb and reliability total. Plenty of Blackbirds rack up enormous mileages with no problems. As longs as the cosmetics are good and it’s been serviced and looked after properly you should have no problems.
1985-2002 C90 Super Cub
Spec: 85cc / 8bhp / 82kg / 760mm seat height
Price: £2500-£4500 (used)
So famous it’s become a cult machine. Honda’s humble step-thru’ scoot was first launched as the 50cc Super Cub in 1958 with a simple four-stroke engine this little commuter and it’s subsequent variants became so popular and successful it’s now considered the best selling powered vehicle of all time. Later growing to C70 and C90 forms versions from the '60s, '70s, '80s and even '90s are now collectors machines while Honda themselves launched a tribute 125 version in 2019. There’s no fancy performance or dynamics, instead what you get its simple, economic, durable commuter transport at its most basic, but with a huge amount of charm.
BUYING ADVICE Good examples from the '80s and '90s are now prized with the appreciating prices to match. Simple mechanicals and basic equipment means they’re easily fixable and restorable and not for much money, either.
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