SIXTY years ago, the first Honda Cub was sold in Malaysia. The name Boon Siew Honda was adorned on its flanks and history was made.
And by January or February next year, the five-millionth Honda would be going off the Boon Siew production line. That is an awful lot of Hondas.
And Boon Siew Honda is now ready to level up in the Malaysian market.
Chief executive officer of Boon Siew Honda, Nobuhide Nagata remarks that, “we are now ready to reinforce the big bike business”. “I am really sorry that we (have) kept you waiting, but I promise that I will bring many new big bikes from now (on)”. Good news indeed for enthusiasts of big bore Hondas.
Boon Siew Honda has done its homework and for the Malaysian market, it has categorised Malaysian customers’ needs as Financial and Emotional.
To fulfil these needs, it has categorised its models to suit. Financial Needs include models such as the Wave Alpha, EX5, Beat and Wave 125i.
Emotional Needs are more premium models such as the RS150R, MSX125 and the larger capacity models like the CBR, Dakar and CRF range of bikes.
Honda’s tagline of ‘The Power of Dreams’ will now become a reality for many loyal Honda customers as Boon Siew Honda has now released the first wave of big capacity models for the Malaysian market.
Following the success of the CB650F and CB500X, it is now releasing the CBR650 and 250, the NSS300 scooter and the CRF250L and Rally.
Datuk Seri Tan Hui Jing, deputy chairman of Boon Siew Honda, stresses: “We are very positive with our current model lineups and these models have boosted our sales in recent years. We (have) already introduce some models since last year, (in the) coming few months, and of course in future there will be more and more to come.
“We were privileged to have first taste of the new models at the Sepang Circuit. All of the new models were on hand as well as the current models in the lineup. Luckily, the test session was held on the North Circuit as many of us were fasting. But the lure of trying out the new models had us forgetting that fact. Alpinestars was also present for us to try out its new range of suits, boots and gloves.”
The Sepang track promises the bikes would be hard-pressed to show prowess in handling and also power. Not quite the habitat for the first bike handed to me, the NSS300 scooter. But still, it was the bike most journalists were impressed by. Fast and smooth running, the NSS300 handled with aplomb as well, right up to the stands scraping on the left and right sides. Even through Turn 5’s notorious high-speed left, the NSS300 was cool and collected, even with a pillion (ahem).
Next up, I had the new CBR650 to try out. As usual, Honda’s ergonomics shined through as I immediately felt at home with the sportster. It handles very well for an entry-level sportsbike with quality suspension and brakes. Power delivery is very smooth and friendly with no jerking or hesitance. A worthy stepping stone perhaps up to a CBR600 or 1000.
The one bike I tried which felt most uncomfortable in Sepang was the CRF250 Rally. Tall and softly suspended, it nevertheless was utterly stable at top speed down Sepang’s main straight. Built for blasting down rutted trails and terrain at high speeds, Sepang was not its’ home at all (unless I took to the gravel traps). Power-wise, it is on a par with other manufacturers’ 250s, with perhaps a little bit extra up the rev range. And that suspension rivals the best in terms of compliance and feel.
The other bike you would feel less suited to Sepang’s fast straight and fast corners was the Rebel. Quite surprisingly, the Rebel did not suffer as much as you would think. It handles extremely well for a cruiser, right up to the footpegs limits without complaint. And the suspension was up to the job as well, even braking hard for Turn 1 did not see it bottoming or wallowing. The engine was an eager beaver, accelerating hard through the gears and matching the other 500 twin, the CB500X easily. Which was the other bike I managed to test before time and sunlight ran out. I didn’t get to try the CBR250, unfortunately, but perhaps the test unit will be available soon. Remarks from the others were very encouraging and the quarter-litre CBR would probably be more than a match for the Yamaha R25.
The buka puasa event was only marred by the fact that I didn’t win the Marquez-autographed Shoei. But we hope that Boon Siew Honda will see fit to do more events soon. Its range of bikes is well thought out and should only reinforce its position in the Malaysian motorcycle market. Many other new model introductions are planned and the CEO has promised a very special present in conjunction with the Sepang MotoGP race. Here’s to the next five million Hondas.
CRF 250 RALLY: TRIBUTE TO PARIS - DAKAR
Drawing inspiration from Honda’s participation in many Rally Raids, especially the iconic Paris-Dakar Rally, the Honda CRF 250 Rally is a perfect replica of the racebikes that were built for those long-distance endurance events.
Based on the CRF250, the Rally is equipped with a full fairing equipped with a large screen, assymetrical LED headlights, a comprehensive digital meter, a 10-litre fuel tank, handguards and long travel suspension. The suspension offers 25mm more travel and 15mm more ground clearance. The seat is 20mm higher and the Rally is 50mm longer than the CRF250L.
The engine is the same as the L, a four stroke liquid-cooled 249cc single producing 24PS. But the Rally is equipped with variable riding modes and two channel ABS, which allows you to switch off ABS at the rear.
The Rally is a bit tall if you are under 5’8” (172.7cm) but is perfectly manageable once moving. The engine torque is tuned towards the low and mid ranges but the Rally will top 140+ kmh if you must. It doesn’t vibrate much so it feels perfectly at home cruising long distances. The fairing also does it bit to reduce wind resistance to allow you to utilise the range of that big fuel tank (more than 400km if you cruise).
Handling is geared towards bombing rutted open trails at high speeds. The suspension is soft initially but firms up enough to not bottom out while braking hard. The Rally is not a sportsbike nor a large dual purpose and so requires a measured pace in the twisties. In any case, the potholes, manhole covers and ruts of your typical roads will pass under you unnoticed.
The Rally will be launched in July with a estimated price of RM27,000.00. Wait in line behind me, please.