2010 Honda NT700V Long-term Evaluation

Text: Ken Freund • Photography: Kevin Wing

Squint and the NT700V looks like a scaled-down ST1300. And with sport-touring styling and credentials, plus an attractive price, the versatile NT clearly helps to fill the gap left by the departed VFR800.

Although the NT700V was introduced in Europe as the Deauville back in 1999 and has since sold about 47,000 there, Honda waited a long time to bring this recently updated and popular model to the US market. RoadRUNNER was lucky enough to test one for a six-month period - plenty of time to assess the pros and cons.

Power comes from a liquid-cooled 52-degree V-twin that's also found in the European TransAlp and the DN-01, which means it wouldn't be too difficult for Honda to offer an automatic on the NT700V. The 680cc engine has an 81 mm bore and 66mm stroke with 10:1 compression, and a single-overhead cam (SOHC) operates the four-valve cylinder heads. As with all of Honda's current street-bike lineup, the NT comes with programmed fuel injection (PGM-FI) - this one breathing through 40mm throttle bodies. An automatic-enrichment circuit handles cold starts, and warm or not, the bike stirs to life at the touch of the starter button.

The compact twin purrs away without protest even when ridden immediately after starting. It's not a powerhouse, but torque builds palpably as revs climb, with a lively power band from 5,000 to 8,000 revs, and redline is 8,500. Honda's USA division doesn't provide power ratings, but in European trim it puts out a claimed 67 crankshaft horsepower at 8,000 rpm, with 49 lb-ft of torque at 6,500 rpm. Cruising down the highway at 60 mph shows slightly over 4,000 rpm in fifth gear, and engine vibration doesn't become noticeable until above 75 mph. I barely felt vibes in the control surfaces, only a mild pulsation that's not fatiguing.

Clutch-lever effort is light and easy to modulate, and engagement is smooth and solid. Likewise, gear changing with the five-speed box is quick and neutral is easy to find, but we'd really like to see a six-cog transmission. Power moves aft via shaft drive to an enclosed final drive, so there's no fiddling with chains. That's a great feature for riders like me who rack up a lot of miles, particularly commuters. There is considerable gear whine during deceleration, which we thought would go away after break-in, but remained the same.

Chassis

A tubular-steel twin spar frame, steel swingarm and conventional damper-rod fork support the NT. The single rear shock has a convenient remote-adjustment knob, which facilitates quick changes in rear preload settings for passengers and cargo.

Ride quality and handling is somewhat compromised by the budget suspension components and it can feel harsh on bumpy roads, but the bike still manages to acquit itself nicely on most surfaces. Steering is very light, easy to handle and the turning radius allows U-turns on narrow streets. Bridgestone Battlax BT020 rubber is standard fitment, and the tires provide good grip along with secure, predicable tracking and stability. Although the NT is not a full-on sportbike, it's a joy to ride through the twisties and canyon roads.

Braking feels strong and fade-free with low lever effort. Our bike had the standard brakes, which consist of a pair of 296 mm rotors and three-piston calipers up front, with a solitary 276 mm disc and two-piston clamper at the rear. Optional ABS raises the price by $ 1,000 and includes partial linked braking.

Ergonomics

Riding posture is quite relaxed and upright. Both front and rear seats offer all-day riding comfort and large hand-grabs provide a secure feeling for passengers. The 31.7-inch saddle height will accommodate a lot more riders than the tall adventure bikes, but seat-to-footpeg distance feels a bit cramped for taller riders.

The manually adjustable five-position windscreen has a range of six inches and can easily be set at the preferred height. In the fully upright position it offers good wind protection without buffeting at highway velocities. Its lowest position is good around town at lower speeds, particularly in hot weather when airflow is desired. Our bike had the accessory heated grips, which helped me get through the cold winter months in comfort - highly recommended

The dash is nicely laid out, with four analog gauges that display fuel level, a 120-mph speedometer, rpm, and coolant temperature, flanked by the usual indicator lamps. Above that, an LCD shows the time and odometer, and you can select additional functions including twin trip odometers and mpg. Honda reports EPA mileage of 50 mpg (it runs on regular), but my measured overall average mpg showed 45.7, which included a lot of highway miles along with some hard riding. That pencils out to 237 miles on a tank to empty. Air-temperature and miles-to-empty readouts would be nice to have, and there's no low-fuel light - don't ask me how I know.

Storage is important and the NT has small cubbies (the left one is lockable) for keys, cell phone, etc. The integrated saddlebags have a combined capacity of 54 liters, which is rather limited; in Europe, Honda offers larger saddlebag covers. There's an interesting pass-through compartment within the luggage that allows you to carry a rolled-up poster in a mailing tube. The one problem we had with the NT was that the luggage lock didn't work and the bags would sometimes pop open while riding. Our bike was also fitted with the Honda accessory tail trunk, which adds a very useful 45 liters and can hold two full-face helmets - love it.

Final Thoughts

The NT700V may lack a great name, but it's a solid touring machine with good road manners and comfortable ergonomics, showing excellent fit and finish and build quality in a fine-running package for a reasonable price. Six months and 6,000 miles is long enough to know if you like a bike, and I hate to see this one go. It's been a great everyday companion, taking me on everything from runs to the market to several-day road trips, and it's been reliable and maintenance-free. Styling on the NT700V is conservative, clean, and current, without a lot of gimmicks or design trends that will be outdated in a few years. I predict that the NT700V will become something of a cult classic with time, much like the Pacific Coast model has become.