2015 - 2018 Honda NM4
Decidedly Unconventional Stylingby TJ Hinton, on
Honda has been in the game for a long time now, but so has its competitors, and theirs has become a competition of inches with minor shifts in momentum here and there, but nothing very dramatic. The NM4 — absent in 2017, but back for 2018 — represents Honda’s attempt to increase its footprint by creating a new market segment geared toward drawing in new riders that might otherwise never have bought into the two-wheel lifestyle. I suppose that’s one way to do it; if you can’t attract as many customers as you’d like, just grow new ones. The factory packed in features that make it new-rider friendly and provide relaxed, easy-mode cruising for experienced riders. Won’t you join me while I take a good look at this rather unusual looking ride and see what Honda is using to bait the table in its bid to convert cagers to more of a two-wheel persuasion.
Continue reading for my review of the Honda NM4.
2015 - 2018 Honda NM4
One part alien, one part Batman with a dash of anime, the NM4 is certainly interesting, to put it mildly. Heck, it even displays a bit of Star Trek with an undeniable, futuristic bent. Now, I realize that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but in my humble opinion, this thing is ugly even for Honda. I’m definitely hearing the “nanner-nanner” from the Batman theme song over here, and the part at the front edge of the fairing forms a recess for the headlamp that leaves it looking like a weapons port of sorts. I am digging the molded windshield that is held off the fairing a bit to form a vacuum-relieving vent to help reduce head buffeting, which is often a problem on bikes with a big front fairing and tall windshield.
Viewed in profile, I have to admit it actually has some grace to it after all, with the passenger seat in the horizontal position anyway. Sticking up like it does in the rider backrest position is rather off-putting for me, but I suppose it probably isn’t all that conspicuous with a rider on it. As sporty looking as the NM4 is, the cruise-tastic rider triangle puts the rider deep into windsock territory with an upright back and feet well forward, a posture that doesn’t really fit with the look. I can tell you from personal experience that while highway pegs are nice to have so you can stretch your legs out, putting the foot controls that far forward can sap a rider’s confidence if they are reaching for the footboards and can be a bit tiring over long hauls.
The on-board storage is something of a joke. Tiny storage compartments in each side of the fairing provide a little storage, very little, even though the left-side box does come with a handy, 12-volt charging port for a mobile device, but it’s the rear bags that steal the show. Outwardly, they look like they have some volume to them and are well-molded into the rear fender in order to maximize space while minimizing visual impact. As it turns out, that is just an illusion. The bags are a lie, with far less room inside than you could ever imagine looking at it from the outside, sort of a reverse of the TARDIS from Doctor Who. In short, it doesn’t have the cargo capacity to meet my definition of a tour bike, no matter how the rider triangle is shaped.
The bones set the tone with a long and low build that leaves us with a 64.7-inch wheelbase and 25.6-inch seat height. This is definitely down near the bottom of the scale height-wise, and should be able to accommodate even the shortest inseam. The steering head layout gives us 33 degrees of rake and 4.3 inches of trail for a ride that trends more toward the stable, and isn’t necessarily going to be the best pick for canyon carving or tail-of-the-dragon type rides. Suspension components are something of a yawn with standard, fixed-parameter forks up front and a Pro-Link monoshock in back with 3.9 inches of travel all around. This is definitely sufficient for street work, it ain’t a dual-sport after all, but the lack of tune-ability in the suspension cuts into the NM4’s versatility and comfort on long trips.
Brakes are likewise fairly vanilla with a twin-pot, piston-and-anvil caliper to bind the single, 320 mm front disc, and a one-pot caliper pinching the 240 mm disc in back. Honda throws ABS into the mix, but decided against linked brakes, which is fine with me ’cause simpler is almost always better, and at least the rider will have control over each wheel separately, which is as it should be. Cast rims mount the 120/70-18 front hoop and massive, 200/50-17 rear for a nice, secure contact patch at both ends.
Honda went with an engine that isn’t quite as unusual in its layout as the rest of the bike. The liquid-cooled, parallel-twin actually runs with a 73 mm bore and 80 mm stroke that leaves it a smidgen undersquare. Compression is reasonable at 10.7:1, and a SOHC times the eight-valve head. In order to make room for the long and low build, the factory tipped the engine forward at a 62-degree angle to minimize its vertical intrusion into the rest of the bike.
Digital engine management times the spark and the fuel injector in the 36 mm throttle body, but lacks any sort of swanky traction control or rider mode for variable power delivery. Not exactly a powerhouse, the mill cranks out a modest 41 pound-feet at 4,900 rpm, so while it will get out of its own way, it may struggle to pull hills or pass with authority.
The NM4 comes with the same Dual-Clutch transmission as is used on the CTX700 family for effortless, automatic shifting with the option of making manual shifts with the thumb switch and shifting the drive mode between S (sport) and D (normal) to tailor how aggressively the transmission moves through the gears. In the end, the mill doesn’t quite match the space-age nature of the overall look, and the bike begins to look more mundane than I had originally hoped even if the transmission has its interesting points.
The NM4 rolled for a base MSRP of $10,999 in 2016, but comes back in 2018 for $11,299. You can get it in any color you want as long as you fancy Matte Black Metallic. The NM4 comes with Honda’s one-year, unlimited-mileage warranty.
This is one unusual bike, and as such, requires an unusual competitor for a fair comparison. In this case, I wasn’t able to find any one bike that fit the bill just right, so instead I pulled a small handful of bikes that might appeal to the same sort of rider.
First I looked at the now defunct Victory Magnum because of its futuristic/alien vibe and swoopy lines, but the engine was just way too big at 1,731 cc for any sort of serious comparison, and the bag space makes it much more appropriate for long trips. Oh, nevermind that the Magnum is twice the price.
I tried to stay with the light-touring theme, and my search led me to the Suzuki Boulevard C50T. Say what, you ask? Bear with me. The bag space on the C50T isn’t really greater than on the NM4, it’s just split into two places instead of four and so has more utility, and the big windshield provides almost as much protection as the fairing on the Honda. Suzuki enjoys a slight edge in engine displacement over the C50T with a total of 805 cc, but is priced quite a bit lower at $9,399 and the look of the bikes are just too different. I mean like chalk-and-cheese different, and liable to appeal to two very dissimilar buyers.
My last choice is also a stretch, and before any of you Honda-forum fanbois get all worked up, I am not the one who slapped the scootercycle label on this ride. Behold, Piaggio’s MP3 500 Business ABS. This one worked for me for a number of reasons. First, it seems to have a similar alien-versus-predator look about it with some similar design threads. Secondly, the delta-config-trike setup of the MP3 may well appeal to someone who never considered riding before because reasons, which puts it in the same potential new riders look-at-me platform.
The MP3 surrenders a few cubes at 493 cc, but it manages to push out 39.6 horsepower and 33.6 pound-feet of torque versus 44 ponies and 41 pounds from the NM4. See? Not really as far off as all that, are they? The MP3 doubles down in the drivetrain with an automatic, continuously-variable transmission (CVT) that offers twist-and-forget operation similar to the automatic-shift mode with Honda’s DTC tranny.
Price swings a little in Piaggio’s favor with a $9,099 price tag, but I would point out that’s almost 10 grand for a proper scooter, while the NM4 is actually a full-size motorcycle.
“Ok well, just the fact that it’s associated with anime is enough reason to not like it, but you have to understand that it was popularized in the U.S. after I had grown out of my cartoon stage, so you can go ahead and pencil me in as “doesn’t get it.” That aside, its a funny-looking bike, but if it does what Honda hopes and draws some folks into the two-wheeled lifestyle, I’m all for it.”
My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “Oh please, husband dear, you were not too old for anime. I remember back to the Speed Racer days, which was well before your time, but I digress. The NM4, however, is a departure from Honda’s usual boring styling; but not a departure in a good way. It’s absolutely the most hideous bike. However, the low-low seat height is a plus. Being a short person, that’s one of the first things I look for, and the only saving grace is that if I’m on it, I don’t have to look at it. The storage is a joke. Those large, molded cases house what amounts to barely a glovebox-size storage compartment on each side. I mean really, what’s the point? You can chalk me up for ’not feeling this one’ and making no apologies for it.”
|Engine Type:||670cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin|
|Bore And Stroke:||73mm x 80mm|
|Induction:||PGM-FI, 36mm throttle body|
|Ignition:||Digital transistorized with electronic advance|
|Valve Train:||SOHC; four valves per cylinder|
|Transmission:||Automatic six-speed with two automatic modes and a manual mode|
|CHASSIS / SUSPENSION / BRAKES:|
|Front Suspension:||43mm fork; 3.9 inches travel|
|Rear Suspension:||Pro-Link® single shock; 3.9 inches travel|
|Front Brake:||Single 320mm disc with two-piston caliper with ABS|
|Rear Brake:||Single 240mm disc with single-piston caliper with ABS|
|Front Tire:||120/70ZR18 radial|
|Rear Tire:||200/50ZR17 radial|
|Trail:||110.0mm (4.3 inches)|
|Seat Height:||25.6 inches|
|Curb Weight:||562 pounds. Includes all standard equipment, required fluids and full tank of fuel—ready to ride|
|Fuel Capacity:||3.06 gallons|
|Emissions:||Meets current EPA standards. Models sold in California meet current CARB standards and may differ slightly due to emissions equipment.|
|Warranty:||One Year Transferable, Unlimited-mileage limited warranty; extended coverage available with a Honda Protection Plan.|
|Available Colors:||Matte Black Metallic|