Royal Enfield Hunter 350 first ride review | King of its class?
Have you ever looked at or owned a Classic 350 or a Meteor 350 and wondered, “If only there was a sportier, more engaging version of this”. Apparently, enough people have thrown their coins into this wishing well, because Royal Enfield has just launched the Hunter 350 which is what they claim to be the most engaging bike yet, to deploy the much beloved J-Series power plant. No, this isn’t a mere sticker job and Royal Enfield has burnt plenty of midnight oil, working under and over the skin to transform handling dynamics and make the new bike stand out from the current crop of RE bikes. Has all this worked? Has Royal Enfield managed to make a bike that appeals to a wider audience, that wants more than another laid-back thumper? We went to Thailand to get you all the answers.
Royal Enfield Hunter 350 design
The Royal Enfield Hunter 350 is a striking motorcycle to look at. It has a contemporary, different looking design, but still screams Royal Enfield at the same time. If you look at the Hunter 350 long enough, you start to see the amalgamation of various bikes. A hint of Brit from the front, some Jap bits at rear and in the larger scheme of things, a lot like Royal Enfield’s very own Interceptor 650. Starting from the front, you have that iconic round headlight, below which sit fork gaiters that lend the bike a rugged, scrambler like stance. Run your eyes further down and you find the first of many major changes the Hunter 350 offers — 17 inch wheels on a Royal Enfield. The wheels on the top end Metro are alloys while the base Retro variant uses spoked units.
Behind the Metro handlebar, you see the same instruments found on the Meteor 350, with a trip pod being an optional extra. The instruments on the Retro are differently designed, with the MID providing rider’s less info. These sit atop a nice wide handlebar, behind which you get a well chiseled tank, capable of holding up to 13 litres of go-juice. Then there’s the single piece and lightly scooped rider seat. The seat is comfortable and should be just right for most, but I found it felt a tad too soft for someone of my bulk. So, I sank in faster than I liked. Behind, you have a two-piece split aluminium grab rail, while the Retro variant makes do with a single steel bar unit. The tail is completed by three circular lights, the brake light and turn indicators. The J-Series engine is blacked out, with stubby exhaust upswept, this goes really well with the roadster vibe. On the whole, the Royal Enfield Hunter 350 makes a rather handsome motorcycle and shows off just the right touch of RE DNA, that should help this bike appeal to both RE and non RE enthusiasts.
Royal Enfield Hunter 350 chassis and handling
The next big change on the Royal Enfield Hunter 350 is its chassis. A complete departure from what you find on the Classic 350 and the Meteor 350. The bike uses a new twin downtube frame sans the cradle RE uses on the Classic. The frame is suspended on 41mm telescopic forks at front and twin rear shock absorbers. The foot pegs are ever so slightly rearset, not as far behind as on a sports naked but definitely farther back compared to the Classic 350’s wide pegs. The leverage from the wide handlebar and new chassis lend the Hunter 350 handling you just don’t expect from a thumper. True to its name and thanks to those 17 inch rims, the new Hunter feels extremely agile and nimble, responding immediately to quick steering inputs. It almost feels like you’re riding a 150-180cc motorcycle.
All the new chassis elements have resulted in a 181kg kerb weight making it over 10kg lighter than other 350s in Royal Enfield’s lineup. What this means is, you need significantly lesser effort to pick the bike up from one side and chuck it to the other. As part of the first ride experience, Royal Enfield had us ride a few laps around a go-kart track, where the Hunter 350 felt quite at home. This agility is also courtesy of the Hunter 350’s short wheelbase, something I never thought I’d see on an RE bike. The suspension uses a different setup that for the most part, works rather well. Although, the rear shocks feel a bit stiffer sprung compared to the plush front, a combination that makes the Hunter 350 sometimes feel a touch uncomfortable, when going over sharp speed breakers and potholes. The Hunter 350 uses a similar brake setup as found on the Classic and Meteor. The anchors do an acceptable job of bringing the bike to a halt, but just as on those other two, the front brake would benefit from some more initial bite. Overall, the Hunter 350 definitely feels like a sharp handling bike and is definitely more engaging to ride than its more touring focused siblings.
Royal Enfield Hunter 350 engine and performance
The Hunter 350 uses the same J-Series engine we have all come to love over the last couple of years. The engine is in identical state of tune, making the same 20.2bhp at 6100rpm and 27Nm of torque at 4000rpm, mated to the same slick shifting five-speed gearbox, supported by identical feeling clutch. Although, to lend the Hunter 350 an identity of its own, one that goes with the handling chops, Royal Enfield has given this engine a sharper throttle map. A change that’s evident from the get-go. The throttle feels sharp and the Hunter 350 offers quicker acceleration off the line. This could also be down to the fact it weighs a lot less than its siblings, with the same engine. So, it will be interesting to see how different the performance figures actually are. The comfortable cruising zone is around 85-90kmph which leaves some power in hand for zippy overtakes. Anything more than that though, and refinement takes a beating. The Hunter 350’s exhaust note is rorty, a treat on the go and even lets out a crackle and pop every now and then.
Royal Enfield Hunter 350 verdict
As is the case with all Royal Enfield motorcycles, the Hunter 350 gets a host of bespoke GMA accessories, including LED turn signals, rearview mirrors, touring seats, a tail tidy and panniers. These allow you to customise your Hunter 350 to best fit your individual needs, always an enriching experience. Prices for the Hunter 350 Retro start at ₹1.49 lakh while the Metro variant starts at ₹1.63 lakh, going up to ₹1.68 lakh. At this price, the Hunter 350 makes excellent value-for-money. It not only undercuts rivals like the Honda CB 350 RS, the Jawa 42, the Yezdi Roadster but also to some degree, the new TVS Ronin. Most importantly, the Hunter 350 undercuts Royal Enfield’s Classic 350 and Meteor 350, making it a new entry point to the RE portfolio. With its fresh styling, engaging handling and most importantly, accessible pricing, not only is the Hunter 350 certain to appeal to RE customers, but you can also bet on it attracting a whole new audience, who’ve always yearned for a lighter, sportier RE. So yes, Royal Enfield has certainly managed to make a truly engaging bike, the Hunter 350 providing oodles of extra appeal sure to rope in a wider, younger audience.