The NC700X is one of three...
The NC700X is one of three new models from Honda that share technology with the company’s automobiles.
The new NC700X from Honda, introduced last year at the EICMA show and available in the USA as a 2012 model, strikes me as an important motorcycle. With just 50 horsepower and weighing 472 pounds it’s certainly not a sportbike, but the ideas behind it could have an impact on the company’s sportbikes in the future, and even the whole motorcycling industry.
The NC700X is one of three New Mid Concept models from Honda that share an all-new 700cc engine and steel tube frame. The “global engine,” as Honda calls it, is essentially one half of the four-cylinder automobile engine used in the Japan-model Fit, which is also sold in Europe as the Jazz. The NC and Fit engines have identical undersquare cylinder dimensions (70.3 x 80mm) and both have a single overhead camshaft with four valves per cylinder. The camshaft and rocker arrangement appears the same in each engine, and their compression ratios are almost identical. As you’d expect, the NC engine makes about half the horsepower and torque of the 1339cc Fit engine, and makes peak power at about the same leisurely 5700 rpm.
The shared design is what I find interesting about the NC. Certainly Honda saved a bundle on development costs, and any parts that are taken directly from the Fit will be likewise less expensive. In fact, if a steady supply of parts designated for the NC disappeared from the Fit assembly line, I doubt the car people would even notice them missing. Shared design and parts only takes you so far, however; there are other cost-saving tricks employed in the NC. The intake ports are all consolidated inside the cylinder head to a single port, and a single throttle body is used. Likewise, the exhaust ports are joined inside the head, requiring a single exhaust pipe. The parallel twin’s crankshaft is a 270-degree design to give the engine some character, but is actually forged as a 360-degree crankshaft to keep material waste to a minimum. Before the crankshaft cools after forging, it is twisted to its 270-degree phasing. This is another technique borrowed from Honda’s automobile division, which uses the same process for V-6 engines.
The innovative design and manufacturing techniques are not limited to the engine. The NC’s brake discs, the first with a wave design used on a Honda streetbike, are stamped from the same sheet of stainless steel; the rear disc fits inside the front disc, with the waves in the rear disc making room in the material for the mounting tabs on the front disc. The design of the engine and chassis are such that the same platform is shared between three models: The adventure-touring X, the naked S and the Integra scooter — although only the NC700X will be sold in the U.S. for now.
It all adds up to a motorcycle with a very modest $6999 base price ($8999 with ABS and second generation DCT). Compare that to another 700cc Honda, the NT700V, which cost $9999 for a non-ABS model in 2010 and is now discontinued. Because of the automotive technology used, the NC is also very environmentally friendly. Emissions are said to be quite low by the usual motorcycle standards, and fuel mileage is claimed on the world Honda website to be 65 mpg — almost as frugal as the CBR250R’s. With numbers like that, the NC will certainly attract new riders as well as experienced riders wanting a bike for simple transportation.
Honda’s material for the NC indicates that there is more to come: “Honda has created a new value, environmentally responsible engine with forward-looking features such as a more compact, lower-volume fuel tank that provides both ample riding range and greater scope for layout, design and storage innovations.” While the NC is on the economical end of the scale, Honda has plenty of other automotive engines to draw from, and we may see some similarly equipped bikes in the future. For example, it would make sense to use an already existing automotive design for a low-revving cruiser engine, rather than start from scratch. Or start with something that makes loads of torque for a naked bike, rather than neuter an existing sportbike engine. A CB model using one-half of an Acura V-6 engine could be fun; it would be a 1.8-liter triple with 150 horsepower and 135 foot-pounds of torque.
If the NC700X is successful, it’s likely that Honda will follow it up with other models based on the company’s automotive line. And other manufacturers with already existing automotive relationships could follow suit. A selection of low-cost models that are inexpensive to operate and appeal to a wide range of riders may be just what the industry needs right now. SR