Put simply the new Honda NT1100 is a low-ride Africa Twin with new bodywork and road-going 17in wheels.
Designed to be friendly, easy-going and comfortable, Honda talk about it in the same breath as the old Deauville and Pan European. It has a whiff of CBF1000 about it in the flesh, too.
It’s a hugely competent tourer – soft, friendly, comfortable, well-built and generously equipped. It takes the spacious, upright stance of the Africa Twin and mixes it with more road focussed handling and a low seat to help shorter riders feel more comfortable.
Power delivery is spritely, if not outright sporty and although the DCT gearbox works well enough, we’d go for the manual version and save a grand.
It’s stable, light steering and its tyres are excellent in the wet. It may be too sensible for some and the screen can be noisy, but it’s a great value all-rounder.
Ride quality & brakes
To ride the NT1100 feels more like a softer, cuddlier Yamaha Tracer 9 GT, Kawasaki Versys 1000 or BMW F900XR, than the sports tourers that’ve grabbed headlines lately.
It’s a tourer through and through, but doesn’t have the muscle, or playfulness of bikes like the Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX, BMW R1250RS, or Suzuki GSX-S1000GT.
Based on the Africa Twin the NT1100 is unsurprisingly spacious (the riding position is canted forward 10 degrees from its adventure sibling) and the seat is so comfy there’s neither a leg stretch or bum-shuffle during our day’s riding at the Honda’s world launch near Barcelona.
We don’t have a friendly pillion on hand, but their pegs are nice and low, too and the 60mm back seat looks just as plush.
There’s plenty of weather protection, which is handy in today’s rain and the lower wind deflectors do a great job to keep the spray off your feet. You should also be able find one of the five screen positions to suit you, but the mechanism is too stiff to adjust on the move (it pulls up and down by hand).
Buffeting can also be quite loud when it’s windy and if that puts you off, a more road bike-shaped tourer with a raked screen will be much quieter. The left switchgear block is a messy mass of buttons, too, which are fiddly to find, especially wearing thick gloves.
Although the frame is the same as the Africa Twin’s, the NT1100 has a new swingarm, slightly sportier steering geometry and shorter travel suspension. It weighs a not insignificant 248kg in DCT trim (the manual version is 10kg lighter), but the Honda carries its weight well.
It’s stable at high speed and although softly sprung, is nicely balanced in the bends, nimble around town and when it’s time to stop, low enough to get your feet flat on the floor.
We never see dry tarmac during our test, but it gives the standard Metzeler Roadtec 01 sports touring rubber a chance to show off their immense wet grip – so much so, the traction control and ABS never make an appearance. Braking feel and power in the conditions are top notch, too.
With tweaks to the mapping, longer intake ducts and a new exhaust can the 101bhp 1084cc SOHC eight valve parallel-twin engine’s power has been smoothed-off to suit its new life on the tarmac.
It has a smooth spread of power, a gusty exhaust note and purrs along at 70mph at 4000rpm in top. But this is a bike designed to waft, so if you’re after a slightly less sensible tourer, the NT1100 may not be the bike for you, but then you’d probably guessed that already.
After our 150-mile test we fill up with one bar showing on the fuel gauge. You could probably eek out more, but probably not as much as the 250 miles Honda claim.
On the face of it, a semi-automatic touring bike sounds perfect and indeed it adds to the NT’s friendliness when you’re cruising or around town. But the DCT often won’t change down enough gears into slow corners (giving a slightly unnerving freewheeling feeling) or for swift overtakes and can be clunky at low speed.
You can use the DCT as a ‘flappy paddle’ manual, but it’s synthetic feeling and isn’t as engaging as the real thing. We’d save money and weight and go for the manual version.
Reliability & build quality
Honda reliability is never in question and the Africa Twin it’s based on has had no major faults, but paint finishes around the frame on a handful of bikes (including MCN’s 2020 long termer) have been below par and caused rust problems.
Only time will tell how the NT1100 will survive a winter, but from new it appears robust and well finished.
Watch our live first impressions from the NT1100 launch here:
Value vs rivals
In base trim the NT1100 isn’t exactly loose change, but it’s similarly priced to close rivals like the Yamaha Tracer 9 GT, BMW F900XR TE and Kawasaki Versys 1000 Tourer.
But the Honda comes with the best array of standard issue touring goodies and electronics for the price.
Watch MCN’s review of the Honda NT110 rival, the Yamaha Tracer 9 GT below:
Styling and colours (grey, black, white) might be typically conservative, but the NT’s sparkle comes from what you get for your money: cruise control, a centre stand, two chargers (USB and ACC), five stage heated grips, five rider modes (three pre-set and two custom), combined three-way adjustable torque and wheelie control, ABS, LED lights, self-cancelling indicators and remote preload adjuster.
It also gets a manually adjustable, five position screen that raises by 164mm and its angle straightens the higher it goes. Hands and feet get extra wind deflectors.
65 litre panniers (33 litres left, 32 right) are standard, but not deep enough to take a full-face helmet. 50 or 38 litre accessory top boxes are also available.
A multi-function 6.5in colour TFT touch screen from the Africa Twin has three layouts, Apple Car Play and Android Auto. Extra LCD display seems pointless.
If that wasn’t enough, Honda also have a full range of NT1100 accessories including Urban, Tour and Voyage Packs. Keyless ignition and electronic suspension are conspicuous by their absence, but that would no doubt push up the price.
Despite its generous level of spec and excellent build quality, it’s still a lot of money, but times have sadly changed and it’s more palatable with a PCP deal.