Top test Honda Hornet 600
Watch out! Honda has another perky, angry hornet on offer: the new Hornet 600. It’s stronger and more exciting than its predecessor. But it also stings more violently?
S.e sunrays have been pulling the cold out of the ground for days, transforming the brown meadows all around into lush green.
And a motorcycle. The angry roar of a four-cylinder in-line tears the silence apart, scurries past and follows the ideal line of the gray asphalt strip that winds like a tapeworm through the hilly landscape for kilometers between Hannober and Amtzell. Gently curved curves alternate with hairpin turns. Hardly a straight line is longer than two gear changes in quick succession. The lively four-cylinder steps up and down the speed ladder like Fred Astair in his prime. Wow, what a roller coaster in the middle of the Allgäu! And what an ideal terrain for motorcycles that are free of extra pounds that only make you sluggish and clumsy. Stringy, wiry, agile and energetic two-wheelers are in demand on such winding country roads. One like the new Honda Hornet 600, a sporty mid-range naked bike.
The Japanese did a lot of spring cleaning on that. The last time it was two years ago, but in contrast to when Honda mainly tuned the chassis more tightly, this year, in 2007, no component was left untouched. It starts with the more rigid frame, which is welded together from three cast aluminum parts and replaces the old tubular steel frame, and continues with the compact inline four-cylinder. This is because it also fires the current CBR 600 RR, but for the Hornet it has been completely differently tuned via airbox, engine management, camshafts and smaller throttle valves (36 instead of 40 millimeters in diameter). Less peak power, 102 instead of 118 hp, but a fuller torque curve, was the maxim.
For Honda standards, the Hornet’s outfit is extremely daring. The stacked headlights, the knobby cockpit and the short stub of the muffler silencer, which peeks cheekily from under the compact gear unit, catapult the Hornet from a staid past into a new world. Although these modern stylistic devices are really nothing new. Kawasaki has already practiced them on the ER-6n.
But first take a seat. The ergonomics of the Hornet fit like a glove. The pleasantly cranked, not too wide tubular handlebar, the well–contoured, barely padded bench that converges narrowly at the front, which, in conjunction with the wasp waist of the tank, ensures a tight knee, the relaxed knee angle, these are all measures that make handling the Hornet Design permanently stress and fatigue-free. You can sit on it for hours. Even the passenger will find a comfortable, generous seat on the Hornet, which is not designated as a tourer. It sits relaxed on the flat surface. And fellow travelers can hold on to the easily accessible handles on the side.
The 600 four-cylinder already plays the role of the cultivated drive almost perfectly from the lower stanchions of the speed cell. If the engine drops from its high idling speed of 2000 rpm after a long period of cold running, it accelerates smoothly and puts itself in the limelight when starting without playing with the clutch. It purrs unobtrusively, neither annoying with constant speed jolts nor with harsh load change reactions.
According to Honda, the old Hornet already had 97 hp. A somewhat optimistic statement, as MOTORRAD found in a comparison test with the Kawasaki Z 750 and Yamaha FZ 6 two years ago. Only 89 came together on the dynamometer. Too little to achieve the promised 230 km / h with a long overall ratio. The new one, however, is far more honest in their statements. Almost all of the specified 102 hp are present. MOTORRAD measured exactly 100 at 12200 rpm. And this time, the performance achieved also fits better with the overall ratio of the six-speed transmission. The top speed is still 230 km / h in the vehicle registration, but this year it is much closer. With the driver crouching down and after a long run-up, the digital display scratches at the 230 mark, while the four-cylinder almost cranks out at almost 13,000 rpm in the last gear.
But it’s not fun. The wind pressure is too strong, the crouching sitting position too exhausting to sweep across the track at this speed without being disguised.
Quickly back to the country road to the roller coaster in the Allgäu. The Hornet is in its element here. If only because the engine has increased its torque over the entire mid-range speed, and even without a lot of switching work, it goes to great lengths to ensure that brisk cornering leads to pure enjoyment. Between 7000 and 10000 rpm, it plays with its power very effortlessly, revs up cleanly and takes on the gas well. In the last upper third, the four-cylinder takes a little back in its spontaneous power delivery. In the area where it also reacts very directly and roughly to gas commands and accelerates a bit hard from overrun. Fortunately, you don’t have to keep your tachometer in your sights all the time so as not to lose sight of the often narrow range of usable power and not miss the right connection in the next gear, as is usual with sophisticated 600cc four-cylinder units. Rather, the speed range of the Hornet is user-friendly. Just one example: Compared to its predecessor, the new model takes a second less time to go from 60-100 km / h and up to 140 km / h it can make up another half a second. One of the less glorious things about the Honda is the transmission. It switches easily and over a short distance, but not always exactly. The aisles should be sorted out. Nonchalance when changing gears is punished immediately. Often the gears do not find each other or you get stuck in a higher gear when you quickly downshift before the traffic light. The clutch also requires high operating forces.
The chassis of the Honda Hornet is reduced to the essentials. The masses are centralized around the engine, which can be clearly seen from the short-cut exhaust. This promotes balance and makes handling easier. Sports riders with a play instinct look in vain for adjustment options for the damping on the spring elements. Only the spring base on the central spring strut is adjustable. That’s all. If you are toying with the Hornet but are concerned about comfort, you should rather use the CBF. The new Hornet is even less made for him than the old one. The upside-down fork is too tight, the shock absorber too rigid. Which has its advantages from a sporting point of view. A connection between man and machine could hardly be more honest and direct. The Hornet likes to let the driver feel tar stains and parting lines, but the spring elements are definitely more flexible when the asphalt becomes rougher and the holes deeper. That doesn’t change anything about the matter: The Hornet moves steadfastly on its way, cannot be disturbed by anything, remains stable on track, stoically calm and relaxed. At the same time, it can be kept safely on course in a playful way, does not appear wobbly, and steers evenly. Certainly thanks to the standard Michelin Pilot Power, when it comes to reliable grip in every situation as well as high steering precision.
The brakes also bring driving pleasure to the point. Stops like this don’t need to be crisper. Its controllability is great, the sensitive ABS, which hardly pulsates in the hand lever, is worth the money for an additional 700 euros. Even if the Hornet with this safety package and the associated combination brake is four kilograms heavier than its ABS-free predecessor.
Nevertheless, the new Hornet is not a special offer, even with ABS. At a price of 8360 euros, the customer should be able to expect that not only the reach of the handbrake lever but also that of the clutch lever can of course be changed. A dirt-repellent cover for the rear wheel should not be missing either. It doesn’t have to be painted in the vehicle color and cost an additional 189 euros.
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Top test Honda Hornet 600
Changes in detail
More aggressive optics with double headlights arranged one above the other
Compact, open rear with LED rear light
Complete drive unit from the 2007 CBR 600 RR with performance characteristics specially tailored for the Hornet via airbox, engine management, camshafts and injection system
Compact four-in-one exhaust system guided under the engine
Torsion-resistant aluminum mono backbone frame with a motor as a load-bearing element
Revised aluminum box swing arm
41 Upside-down fork with cartridge system
Tighter coordination of fork and central spring strut
Lightweight five-spoke aluminum rims
ABS with composite brake (at an additional cost)
Larger 19 liter tank for more range
Was there anything else?
Adjustment of the spring base on the strut is easy to reach
The oil filler neck is easily accessible and the sight glass is clearly visible
Well-assorted tool set to be able to make all the important settings from mirror adjustment to chain tension
The rear gets dirty very quickly up to the bench because a wheel cover is missing, which could also protect the shock absorber
Fiddly seat lock, not possible with a handle
The mirror booms could be a little longer. The upper arms cover about a third of the mirror surface
Takes getting used to
When the last bar flashes on the LED fuel gauge in the cockpit, a good five liters of reserve remain. That’s enough for around 120 kilometers
The new Hornet stands out from the old one. Your engine is more powerful and more torque-intensive. The chassis is trimmed more consistently for sport, without straining the driver. What has remained is the coherent concept, a good suitability for everyday use and the safe controllability in all situations through to the foolproof optional ABS. You should definitely afford that.
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