The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.1
The CBR500R is the sporty model of Honda’s trio of closely related 471cc parallel twins, and offers A2 licence holders an appealing blend of sharp styling, lively all-round performance, practicality and value for money.
Reasons to buy
- Stylish, fully-faired looks
- Solid all-round performance
- Rider-friendly character
At a glance
There’s an intentional hint of Fireblade about the CBR500R’s fully-faired look, and although the 47bhp twin can’t approach the mighty four’s performance it gains a little glamour by association. Apart from the fairing it’s almost identical to the naked CB500F but if the CBR500R doesn’t have any extra power or speed, at least it looks as though it does.
Despite its super-sports styling the CBR500R doesn’t have a particularly aggressive riding position, as its clip-on bars are slightly raised above the top yoke, though they’re 40mm narrower and 49mm lower than the naked CB500F’s flat, one-piece bar. The footrests aren’t particularly rearset, either, so combine with the reasonably low, 790mm seat height to make the CBR respectably comfortable and manageable. The R-model’s main advantage over its siblings is not performance but its full fairing’s wind-cheating ability, which adds to the comfort on longer trips.
All three of the CB triplets were designed as sensible all-rounders, and you could argue that the sporty CBR is actually the most practical, as it has the best wind protection yet is still comfortable and manageable. It comes with a fuel gauge and a respectably large 15.7-litre tank that is good for around 200 miles in normal use. The seat gave no aches on the launch ride; a pillion passenger gets solid handles to hold. All in all there’s not a great deal that the versatile Honda can’t do reasonably well.
Performance & braking
Honda’s 471cc parallel twin engine was purpose built for the A2 licence class. The dohc, liquid-cooled motor has a balancer shaft to reduce vibration, and makes a maximum of 47bhp at 8,500rpm. There’s a bit of tingling up near the redline but that doesn’t become annoying, and at most engine speeds the CBR is pleasantly smooth. Throttle response is excellent, helping to make the bike easy to ride.
There’s a reasonable amount of acceleration available at low- and medium revs, while the CBR is fine when ridden in a relaxed way and is well suited to inexperienced riders. If you’re cruising at a lazy 50mph in top and need a burst of speed for overtaking, you’ll need to tread down a couple of gears, but that’s not a problem as the six-speed ‘box shifts smoothly enough.
It’s got enough top-end performance to make it fun to ride, too. The CBR has no more power than its less sporty CB siblings but gains at higher speeds because its rider is shielded quite efficiently by the fairing, so can sit at speed without too much effort. If you crouch behind the low screen there’s enough performance to put more than 110mph on the clock, and to cruise with 80mph or more showing on the simple but clear digital display. Stopping power is good, too, thanks to an efficient single disc at front and rear, with ABS as standard.
Ride & handling
The CBR doesn’t quite have the sporty handling that its fully-faired looks suggest, but it’s a very capable bike that works well on the road and is even fun on a track. Its tubular steel framed chassis’ performance is almost identical to that of the naked CB500F, as the only difference between the two is the CBR’s additional 2kg of weight due to its fairing.
With a kerb weight of 194kg the CBR is respectably, if not outstandingly, light. Its suspension gives a balance between firmness and comfort that is just about right for roadgoing use, at least one-up, without needing adjustment of the shock preload. The Metzeler tyres are well up to using much of the Honda’s generous ground clearance, too.
The CBR launch involved a road ride plus a blast round the Parcmotor circuit, near Barcelona. The Honda was fun on the track although its non-adjustable front end felt a bit vague at the higher cornering speeds that were possible despite the slightly dusty surface. To justify those two Rs in its name, it really could do with slightly firmer or at least more adjustable suspension. But for the majority of its intended customers, and especially on the road, the CBR is sweet-handling and fun enough just as it is.
The CBR is economical on fuel, giving over 70mpg in normal use although the figure can come down to 60mpg with hard riding. As a relatively light and modestly powered bike it’s also easy on tyres and brake pads.
Honda’s middleweight twin family is produced in Thailand rather than Japan, which caused some eyebrows to be raised on their launch. But the firm insists quality is unaffected, and the CBR seems reliable so far. Build quality seems perfectly acceptable, too.
Warranty & servicing
Like most Hondas, the CBR 500R comes with a two-year, unlimited mileage warranty. Honda faced criticism shortly after the CBR’s launch when it emerged that the 471cc engine required a valve clearance check at its first service after 600 miles. That adds £250 or more to running costs in the early days but it’s hardly fair to complain too much because the next service is at 8,000 miles, and the valves don’t require checking again until 16,000 miles.
Standard equipment is pretty basic, as you’d expect on a model like this. But the CBR gets an advantage over its CB siblings and many rival A2-friendly models from its fairing, which is also available with an accessory high screen that gives even more protection. The accessory list includes heated grips, pillion seat cover, rack, top-box and panniers. You could make the CBR into a useful sports-tourer provided you didn’t plan on riding too far with a pillion.
It’s no surprise that the CBR500R has been a big success since its launch in 2013. If you have an A2 licence and are looking for a bike that is respectably quick, fun to ride and practical, the Honda ticks those boxes. The CBR’s fully-faired look is attractive, even if the bike is not quite as sporty as its styling suggests. As an A2-compliant sports bike it has recently gained some classy rivals in KTM’s RC390 and Yamaha’s YZF-R3, but the CBR is still a sound machine that is also good value for money.