Whether you’re looking at a 125 because it’s all your age and licence permit, or because you want something small and light for commuting, price is important. So it’s good news that the on-the-road price of Honda’s replacement for the top-selling CBF125 is £200 less, at £2499.
It’s no coincidence that the CB125F’s price is £100 below that of its key rival, the Yamaha YBR125, which was a consistent best seller until the CBF came along at the end of 2008, since when the Honda has been Britain’s most popular motorcycle. To put that price in context, it’s £1400 cheaper than the excellent and much higher-spec Yamaha MT-125 and £1500 less than the similarly excellent KTM 125 Duke; but it’s roughly £500-£1000 more than decent Far Eastern alternatives from Kymco, Keeway and Sym.
How have Honda cut the price? It’s to do with a shift from an Indian factory to one in China, where the CB will be produced both for the UK and the local market.
Honda say quality will be improved – not that we had any issues with the quality of the CBF, which for us scored highly as an unpretentious and capable bike that was easy to ride and easy to live with.
The CB has a new frame, larger-diameter wheels (up by one inch to 18in), revised fuel injection, a new engine balancer shaft, a more spacious riding position, and more youthful styling that ties it in with the CB500 and 650F. It loses the CBF’s half fairing, with its useful screen, but keeps the centrestand. There’s now a gear position indicator and prominent indicator repeaters, both regarded as important for novices, and the new one-piece seat is slightly lower with less of a step for pillions.
It also loses a tiny amount of peak power and torque, having been retuned for more midrange torque. On our 120-mile test ride, it maxed out at an indicated 65mph, with the engine revving beyond the 9000rpm redline. Ride like that for long and you lose the benefit of the balance shaft, with plenty of vibration reaching your hands.
The wheels and tyres are unusually skinny – the rear is 10mm narrower than the CBF’s – but on our dry test ride there was no shortage of grip. Not much feedback either, but then you don’t need to worry too much about that on a bike that makes a shade over 10bhp. The handling is predictable, the brakes OK, and the skinny front forks struggle to cope with really bumpy roads. Everything feels sturdy and properly put together, from the grabrail to the neat new footrest hangers, but the fully fuelled weight has stayed the same at a very manageable 128kg.
It’s not an appreciably better bike than the CBF125 it replaces, but plays its part in offering a good choice of Honda 125s; the 2015 range also includes the cute MSX and sporty CBR, along with four scooters.
The cash price of £2499 represents good value, and there’s currently an excellent finance deal: £99 deposit and 36 monthly payments of £73.77. Compared to public transport or a car, that looks like a very rational option that can also be a fun way into the pleasures of two wheels.