As described in the “NC700X: Fuel-Efficiency Game-Changer” sidebar, one of the greatest benefits of this low-revving, undersquare engine design is excellent fuel economy. At the end of a spirited day of riding on the NC, we recorded 59 mpg, a bit short of Honda’s 64-mpg claims but still impressive considering the throttle had been pinned wide-open quite a bit of the time. Riding more sedately but still with a touch of sportiness, we got 73 mpg on our very first attempt at a “good” number. If the 700X is ridden conservatively, 80 mpg is not out of the question—impressive by any standards.
Another benefit of the Honda’s tuning is a remarkable degree of torque from just above idle. This can be a huge confidence-builder for novice riders learning how to master a clutch by making it dead-easy for anybody to glide away from a stop. In fact, with smooth clutch application, the NC can be put in motion cleanly and stall-free with your right hand completely off the throttle.
A glance at the dyno graph explains why this is so. The engine is making 30 foot-pounds of torque at 1600 rpm, and it rises to 40 ft.-lb. by 2600, staying above that mark until 6200 revs, just 300 short of redline. And its peak torque, 44 ft.-lb., puts it right on par with Kawasaki’s Versys and ZX-6R and Triumph’s Street Triple R. But, again, the riding experience on the 700X is completely different than it is on any of those other bikes.
Although “soul” is mentioned in the same sentence with “Twin” more often than with any other cylinder layout, the NC700X’s engine will never be accused of having a lot of character. It’s too quiet, smooth and linear in delivery to be thought of as soulful. But it doesn’t sound like a scooter, either. It thrums through the bars and pegs a bit, and the low-pitched engine note is barely audible at cruise.
Judged on engine performance alone, then, the NC700X might seem a bit vanilla; but thanks in large part to its chassis, the Honda is a really fun bike to ride. There is nothing special or high-tech about the frame or suspension, yet the NC offers excellent handling, whether in a straight line or through backroad twisties. The engine’s forward-canted cylinders contribute to a low center of gravity, which also makes the bike feel lighter than its 451-pound dry weight suggests. So, despite having a longish 60.5-in. wheelbase, the 700X is surprisingly agile. It flicks into corners with a light push or pull on the grips, arcs through on the chosen line without protest, doesn’t drag anything until you’ve reached an impressive lean angle and gives off nary a wiggle along the way. The engine might not be wailing like a 600 repli-racer on boil, but the NC’s attainable speed through corners is amazingly high.
Honda’s wise choice of tire sizes plays a role here. The unfashionably narrow 160/60-17 rear matched with the typical 120/70-17 front, both Metzelers, contributes to the 700’s quick, easy turn-in. From parking-lot speeds to high-speed sweepers, the steering is neutral and predictable, which instills trust.
Honda had to cut corners somewhere to keep the base model’s price under $7000, and the suspension and brakes are what got budgetized. Neither system detracts from the overall riding experience, though, and certainly not for the NC700X’s intended use. Most riders will find that the conventional 41mm fork and Pro-Link shock’s plush ride combines with reasonably controlled overall damping to make the bike perfectly comfortable for everyday riding. And the 5.4 and 5.9 in. of travel front and rear, respectively, means it takes a big hit to bottom the suspension.