Imagine you were back in your golden college days, and eyeing a motorcycle to commute around the town. Your checklist would comprise - present-day looks, decent features, a peppy engine, and some scope for spirited riding. One year ago, most of these would make you discount Royal Enfield’s cruiser-dominant lineup almost in a jiffy. But in 2023, the Indian bikemaker now has the Hunter 350 in America, intending to fit this MO like a glove. The motorcycle flexes the “most affordable Royal Enfield” badge and promises a decent package on paper. Yet it’s the real world where the Hunter impresses most, as we found out after spending a few days with it. Here are key takeaways.
2023 Royal Enfield Hunter 350 - Is It Good-Looking?
So we’ve only seen cruisers in RE’s 350cc lineup, but the new Hunter changes that with its roadster-like design. And that’s a good thing, as it feels tightly wound, compact, and fresh, unlike the familiar Meteor and Classic 350. Couple this with the old-school touches - round lights, indented teardrop tank, ribbed saddle, fork gaiters - and the motorcycle manages to turn a few heads. This is complemented by blacked-out mechanicals and a handful of stellar dual-tone color options, all of which infuse some neo-flavor to lure in youngsters. Oh, and don’t judge the book the cover, as the Hunter will impress you more in the flesh, than in the images. RE also has a plethora of accessories - a tinted windscreen, bar-end mirrors, bash plates, and LED indicators - to dazzle it up further.
2023 Royal Enfield Hunter 350 - Is It Comfortable?
Like the design, the Hunter has different ergonomics than its cruiser siblings. Royal Enfield has moved the footrests backward and thrown in a lower handlebar, which joins with a single-piece saddle, to create a somewhat sporty riding triangle. The sportiness doesn’t come at the cost of comfort, however, and you can easily spend a few hours on the saddle with little to no fatigue. It’s only when you go extra-long distances that your tushy can feel a bit numb. Same goes for the pillion seat.
As for the cockpit, the Hunter is pretty identical to the Meteor 350. You get the same semi-digital round readout, paired with RE’s bespoke rotary switchgear. The latter looks and feels good, but takes a little while to get accustomed to since no other bikemaker does them like this–a slight compliment in a way. Meanwhile, our only gripe with the instrument cluster is the lack of a tachometer. The redline can come quick and slap you in the face with no warning as we experienced a few times. Other notable features you would appreciate are the USB charging port (near the clutch lever), a center stand (perfect for DIY jobs), and a hazard light switch.
2023 Royal Enfield Hunter 350 - How Is Its Performance?
Under the skin, the Hunter 350 employs Royal Enfield’s 349cc, single-cylinder engine (with 20.2 horsepower and 19.9 pound-feet), and this mill is no short of a thing of beauty. Why? Well, because the motorcycle feels ultra-refined at city speeds and idle, so much so, you might not even feel it under you when stopped at a traffic signal. At the same time, it’s not boring and there’s enough grunt to hoon around in the city, thanks to the abundant low-end torque. This also bodes well for the tractability - even the penultimate fourth gear pulls cleanly from around 20mph - without compromising on the punch. All this while, the ‘Eco’ light flashes on the MID to give you upwards of 85 miles per gallon.
However, the engine behavior changes when you increase the pace. Around 55mph, the vibrations start to creep in through the handlebar and footrests, which only get worse till you reach its top end at around 80mph. The rearview mirrors add to the experience, making most objects behind you unnervingly hallucinatory. That being said, Royal Enfield hasn’t built this to go fast or hit the freeway but to take on the urban jungle, which the Hunter feels perfect for. Bonus points for the fruity exhaust note of the small, well-finished end can.
2023 Royal Enfield Hunter 350 - How Does It Handle?
This is where the Hunter impressed us most, as the roadster is easily the sharpest handler in the company’s 350cc lineup if not its entire bandwagon. The motorcycle tips into corners in a jiffy, with ample clearance to lean further, and doesn’t feel snakey or nervous while at it. What makes matters sweeter is the wide handlebar with luxurious amounts of leverage to make tight maneuvers (plus U-turns) undemanding yet drama-free. Meanwhile, credit for all this goes to the motorcycle’s revised geometry (sharper rake and shorter wheelbase than the Classic) and its sub-400-pound curb weight (around 30 lbs down on the Classic). The stiffer suspension tune (than its cruiser siblings) further helps with the corner carving.
But everything can’t be hunky-dory, right? Well, it isn’t. The front brake lever is quite spongy, and you’ll have to press it hard to unlock the full stopping power from the ByBre calipers. This doesn’t inspire too much confidence, which is only made worse by the not-so-grippy CEAT rubber. In comparison, the rear brake slows you down well, but you will invite some ABS drama if you apply sudden pressure. That’s again down to the tires, in our opinion.
2023 Royal Enfield Hunter 350 - Should You Buy It?
Heck yes! Considering there are no major setbacks for the Hunter, we’d be happy to recommend this Royal Enfield. Add to this its $3,999 MSRP, and there are very few motorcycles that offer this sort of value for the money. Together, all these make the Hunter an excellent proposition in the American market, and we expect it to do well, especially among the young crowd. After all, it ticks the checklist mentioned in the opening paragraph. You should also know Royal Enfield has already sold over a lakh of these, so it’s clearly a global hit.