Royal Hunter 350 Test Ride Review: In perfect shape to ‘Hunt’ rivals! – Times of India

On the face of it, the new Royal Enfield Hunter 350 comes across as a redesigned version of the Classic or the Meteor but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Despite sharing the engine and few other parts, the Hunter 350 is nothing like its two siblings in terms of its character or the way it rides.

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Royal Enfield believes that the Hunter 350 will bring in a new set of buyers into the brand including those upgrading from a 150 cc motorcycle to the likes of a first-time buyer who’s looking at a light, agile and fun-to-ride bike. That’s a huge task as with the Hunter 350, Royal Enfield will be entering uncharted waters in the 350cc segment. So is the new Royal Enfield Hunter good enough to appeal to the targeted buyers or not? We rode the motorcycle at length over varied conditions in Bangkok, Thailand to find that out and here’s what surprised us.

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One look at the Hunter 350 and it clearly looks different from any other 350cc Enfield out there. Unlike the Classic or the Meteor, the Hunter 350 looks light, quick and eager in flesh. More importantly, it looks more accessible and easier to ride and that’s exactly what the new kind of buyers would want. Compared to the Classic, the Hunter 350 has a shorter wheelbase, wider tyres, less body panels and a roadster design, which give the motorcycle a zip zap zoom character. What really works well for the Hunter 350 is its minimalist design approach without compromising on functionality.

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The dual-tone paint job on the nicely sculpted fuel tank does a really good job of adding flair to the motorcycle’s youthful character, a trait that other 350 cc Royal Enfield motorcycles do not have presently and one that makes the Hunter 350 unique.

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One of the things that stood out for me on the motorcycle was the paint quality, which added further adds to the already rich character. Even the plastic quality was impressive in most places along with clean weld spots and wiring clamps. The switch gear was particularly impressive with the semi-rotary controls for engine start and head lamp functions, like the Meteor.

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The digi-analogue pod cluster isn’t entirely new but works flawlessly giving clear readouts. The tripper display also works well, allowing for hassle-free usage of turn-by-turn navigation on the go.
The Hunter 350 comes in two editions –

Retro Hunter and Metro Hunter

– both finished with blacked-out engines and components. The

Retro Hunter

runs on 17” spoked wheels and has a 300mm front disc brake combined with a 6” rear drum brake, single channel ABS, an uncluttered retro-styled digital-analogue instrument cluster and a choice between two classical, single-colour tanks.

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Metro Hunter

has a more contemporary look with dual-colour liveries, cast alloy wheels, wide tubeless tyres, and rounded rear lights. There are five colourways across two editions on the Metro Hunter. This edition is the one that is compatible with the Tripper navigation but only as an accessory.

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Swing a leg over the Hunter 350 and the focus on making the motorcycle more accessible becomes apparent. The seat height now sits at a fairly low 800 mm, which means even shorter riders will have better confidence in the bike from the word go. Adding to their confidence will be the fact that the Hunter 350 is the lightest Royal Enfield motorcycle on sale so even with feet not planted firmly on the ground, there is less weight to be worried about.

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The riding position is fairly comfortable and straight, which means the Hunter can be used for touring also. The handlebars and footpegs are positioned just right and hence one doesn’t end up straining their wrists, shoulders or back even after a long ride. The well-cushioned seat further adds to the comfort.
The Royal Enfield Hunter is powered by the same J-Series engine that powers the Classic and Meteor but has been tuned for sharper throttle and low-end response. This change is quite evident when you accelerate off the line as the Hunter feels eager to rev to the redline and make its way through the gears. Power and torque output is rated at 20.2 hp and 27 Nm, respectively.

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In the real-world, the performance is adequate considering the urban focus of the motorcycle. It gets to 100 kmph in a fairly easy manner and I was able to touch 125 kmph on some stretches but progress after about 110 kmph is quite slow. The motorcycle feels most comfortable between 90 and 100 kmph and will easily sit at those speeds for a day.

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The other thing that did manage to impress most riders in Bangkok was the throaty sound from the short and stubby exhaust. With a strong bass the exhaust sounds good from the moment one cranks the engine and is at its absolute best between 3,000 to 5,500 rpm. The five-speed gearbox has been paired well to the engine and one can comfortably do just about everything in 2nd gear when it comes to going through dense urban traffic. The shifts are smooth when going through the ratios in a relaxed manner but rapid shifts can at times catch the gearbox lagging.

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In short, the performance was adequate but I would want to see some more power and top-end in the coming times. That would make the Hunter 350 a far more improved versatile roadster.
Now while the engine performance lived up to my expectations, what really surprised me is the way the Hunter 350 handles. Our ride started late evening, a time that Bangkok traffic is notorious for being bad at but the Hunter 350 felt up to the job.

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The low-seat, shorter wheelbase, 17-inch wheels, wider tyres, tighter frame and the riding position fell in place in a perfect synchrony in the middle of some insane traffic. The motorcycle feels light and the front doesn’t mind changing directions quickly. With the flickability and agility on offer, we were able to maintain surprising pace through the traffic. Once out of city confines, we were going at triple-digit speeds for most part and the stability of the bike turned out to be impressive there as well.

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The grip from the wider rubber is helpful and also aids quicker and confident braking from the single-disc setup on both wheels. That said, I would’ve preferred the front to have a bit more bite towards the end and a slightly less-spongy feeling at the lever.

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Through the corners, again the Hunter 350 shone and the Harris-tuned chassis lived up to expectations. You can throw this roadster around with ease around sharp or high-speed turns with great confidence. One limitation I found was the front-end that feels a bit light and wavy close to the limit at high-speed corners. Except that, the Hunter 350 turned out to be an agile and engaging motorcycle to ride that felt brilliantly easy to ride.

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That said, there are a few things that need a quick fix including the rear view mirrors, which vibrate a lot and hence don’t offer a clear view of things behind. The headlamp illumination felt just about ok but could do with a slight improvement.
Clearly, the Royal Enfield Hunter 350 has managed to achieve most of the things that it claims. It is easily the most engaging 350 cc motorcycle in Royal Enfield’s portfolio so one would expect some classic/retro buyers to shift to the Hunter, right? Well, Royal Enfield doesn’t want that happening at a large level because that would defeat the purpose of the Hunter 350.

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The motorcycle is aimed at bringing new buyers into the brand and it has all the ingredients to do the same. It makes for a brilliant buy for someone upgrading from a 150/160 cc motorcycle or even young buyers looking at getting their first motorcycle. What sweetens the deal even more is the outstanding pricing of the Hunter 350.

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Royal Enfield Hunter 350 prices start at an unexpected Rs 1.5 lakh, which puts some of the 200 cc roadsters in a serious spot of bother. Also, the higher variants are priced very aggressively and offer great value-for-money. All in all, after riding the motorcycle for more than 250 km around Bangkok and then hearing about the price, I can stick my head up and say that the Royal Enfield 350 is a no-brainer buy in its segment in the country right now. A totally fun-to-ride motorcycle that will put a big smile on your face and all this at a shockingly low price. Who thought all this could be said about a Royal Enfield a few days back!

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