Honda reveals concept sketches of the new Hornet
First introduced at the 2021 EICMA show, the new Hornet concept advances towards production form, as suggested by new design concept sketches stemming from Honda’s European R&D center, but the kind of motor it’ll use is still shrouded in mystery.
Honda created the CB600F Hornet in 1998 as a naked sportbike built around a tamer version of the in-line four-cylinder motor of the CBR600 supersport. It remained in production under the Hornet moniker until 2012, by then relying on the power plant of the last CBR600RR before Honda effectively shut down its supersport program.
In 2013, Honda introduced the CB650F with a new four-cylinder engine that was designed for the road, with more midrange performance. It was no longer called Hornet, and in fact the name has not been used since by Honda in a similar bike, except for some Asian small-capacity models that feed off the Hornet’s fame.
As publicized at last year’s EICMA show, Honda's plans to revive the Hornet were illustrated with a digitally-created, abstract outline of a very modern and angular bike. Although Honda didn't hint on the engine it plans on using, the mention of the Hornet name automatically implies a four-cylinder.
Following several months of complete silence on the matter, the Hornet front sees fresh action as Honda revealed a new sketch, penned by its European design team that’s based in the Italian capital, Rome. It’s the same studio that has designed motorcycles like the CRF1100L Africa Twin and CB650R, and scooters such as the X-ADV and ADV350. And it's the lattermost’s Italian designer, Giovanni Dovis, who is responsible for the latest concept sketches of the new Hornet.
“Honda’s design philosophy is to create something pure and functional in an uncomplicated way – models which are both beautifully simple and emotionally appealing,” said Dovis. “The sketches show how the Hornet design concept promises agility, dynamism and light weight thanks to its slim proportions, pointy tail section and super-sharp lines. It creates a new compactly proportioned look, and has hallmarks of tension and aggression from front to back, outlining the Hornet’s true sporting purpose.”
What Dovis isn’t revealing is what lurks under the pointy fuel tank side panels and behind the angular, tilted headlight that appears to draw inspiration from KTM’s Super Duke design. Honda persists in withholding all information on the nature of the new Hornet’s powerplant.
Assuming that it will be an in-line four, there are two possible options: either go for the existing CB650R engine, which is an evolution of the CB650F unit and already has a full decade and two sets of Euro-norms on its back, or we could be looking at a brand new engine.
But there’s another, quite plausible, possibility. In April, Honda Spain introduced a short teaser video on its Instagram account, in which a hornet flies off a flower overdubbed with the sound of an engine that doesn’t seem at all like a four cylinder, but rather a twin.
So could Honda be planning to revive the Hornet with the Africa Twin’s engine? It could certainly be so, especially since the same engine has already migrated to the 2022 NT1100 sport tourer. The only other eligible twin-cylinder engine above the CB500F in Honda’s line-up is the one from the NC750 family – but its undersquare, low-revving, fuel-saving nature seems too docile to support such aggressive looks.
Of course, Honda could be about to introduce a new twin-cylinder platform, something that has also been rumored for quite a while. In fact the Japanese press has recently disclosed rumors that Honda is planning a new sportier 750-cc twin to use in the Hornet and a mid-capacity Africa Twin (or Transalp, another classic Honda model that could return), and this would certainly make sense.
Honda hasn’t set a definite timeline for the new model’s arrival, yet this fresh round of official sketches, teasers and rumors probably didn’t happen by accident, so there’s a strong possibility we’ll get to see the new Hornet sometime before the year’s end, preferably at the 2022 EICMA show in November – one year after Honda announced its plans at the very same venue.