Honda’s smallest CBR got a little bit bigger and better with the release of the 2015 CBR300R. Last year, the CBR250R was absent from Honda’s lineup, but not because the 250’s sales were lacking. Rather, Big Red was busy beefing-up the CBR’s Single and restyling the bodywork. Honda invited MotoUSA for an abbreviated test ride on the new CBR300R around the hills and coast close to its Torrance, California, headquarters.
In order to align with the rest of the CBR line, Honda restyled the curves and angles of the 300R. Gone is the single headlight, replaced by a dual-unit configuration resembling the CBR500R and CBR1000RR. Honda claims the styling updates allow entry-level owners to sport a more veteran look on their first-ever mount. And save for the slightly diminutive size and less aggressive rider stance, the CBR300R does look the part of a high performance repli-racer at a glance. I say wear your size deficit or newness to riding with pride, but more self-conscious riders can hold their heads high on the CBR300R. It’s a great looking little sportbike.
In the saddle of the 300R, the first thing that comes to mind is how low the seat feels thanks to the thinner midsection. Even though the seat height is just 30.7 inches, shorter riders should not struggle getting both feet to the pavement. Honda also offers a lower accessory seat that cuts another inch off the height.
Positioning of the clip-on bars is just sporty enough to allow for a slightly forward rider position, but not so aggressive that you’ll find pressure on your wrists like a full-on supersport. The pegs are just low enough for a comfortable position for my 5’10” frame, while still offering enough leverage when swopping through the corners.
In our last entry-level sportbike shootout between the CBR250R and the Kawasaki Ninja 300, the CBR carried a 47cc disadvantage and it showed. Even in the small bore world there are horsepower wars, and Honda has stepped up to plate with 37 more cubes in the CBR300R. The 76mm bore has not changed, but the stroke has been increased from 55 to 63mm for more power throughout the range. Honda’s PGM-FI fuel-injection system has been remapped to match the increased displacement,and the restyled exhaust canister has a larger internal volume. Peak horsepower is 17% more than the outgoing 250.
On our short ride, we did plenty of stoplight-to-stoplight blasts and the CBR300R is more than capable of leaving four-wheeled traffic in the dust. While the horsepower increase is noticeable, it’s not a night and day difference. More impressive is the increase in torque that makes for less rowing through the reasonably slick six-speed transmission. You can chug down to just above 2000 rpm and still have enough beans to accelerate. This will make life for both beginners and experts easier.
The CBR300R’s handling is light and nimble around the mean streets of Torrance and Palos Verdes. In town, a less hunched-over ride makes for plenty of leverage to get the little Honda pointed anywhere you want it. While the curvy bit of the press ride consisted of five passes through two S-corners for photos, the 300R is a capable handler at speed. The IRC Road Winner tires go from upright to leaned-over smoothly and once in the corner you can alter the CBR’s trajectory easily and without fuss. The non-adjustable suspension – save preload on the rear shock – does a great job handling spirited cornering, even with my 220-pound frame. The smoother you are coming to the corner the better things work; push too hard or get sloppy and the rear will jump around a bit. In the hands of an expert, the littlest CBR can embarrass less skilled riders on larger and more high-tech bikes in the turns.
On the binders the CBR300R has a split personality. At slower speeds the single 296mm front disc and four-piston caliper feels soft, but give it a solid stab at speed and the power kicks and feels great. The rear is solid as well, but will lock up fairly quickly. For those that are newer or worried about a few skids, Honda offers ABS for $500 more. For 2015 the ABS is two-channel rather than being combined, which we applaud.
With a pricing increase of just $200 to $4399, the CBR300R is an excellent small-bore sportbike for any skill level. The new look and better fit for all riders combined with more usable power makes the CBR300R much improved over the CBR250R. Looks like it is time for another showdown now that the CBR300R is packing more of a punch.