Testdrive Honda CBR250R provides a fine combination of style, performance and street-friendly handling. Rishad Cooper rides the bike in Thailand

Honda has managed to out-do itself time and again by improving on technology and building higher rate motorcycles on a consistent basis. The Japanese bikemaker now claims its new CBR250R fulfills Indian riders' diverse needs and is suited to our unique market, while still being affordable. I took it for a ride at the Bira race circuit in Pattaya, Thailand.

The CBR250R's extensive fairing gives an impression of a larger capacity motorcycle. Styling cues are similar to the bigger VFR1200F. A front fairing extends downwards to shroud its engine bay and also serves to mount the rearview mirrors. The bike's curved visor provides first-rate wind protection at high speed, and wraps around a sporty cockpit. Neat attention to detail is apparent in the attractive steering head, as well as clip-on handlebars. We like the 250R's blue backlit LCD instruments, with silver trim and a compact, easy to decipher layout. An analogue tachometer dominates this bay, with the redline counting 10500rpm upwards. You also get a large digital speedometer, in addition to an odometer, trip counter, clock, fuel and temperature readouts, apart from the usual gauges.

The classy fuel tank is perfectly sculpted. Futuristic flank panels swoop back into the bi-colour tail, split grab bar and edgy brake warning light. Even the lower sections look dandy; beginning in a sharp belly pan, they lead into a stubby silencer crafted from blackened stainless steel and neatly executed rider and pillion footrests. A utility box is tucked under the CBR250R's split seats.

The 249cc, four-stroke, dual overhead camshaft engine in the CBR has been developed from scratch. The liquid-cooled, single-cylinder powerplant is fuel injected using Honda's PGM-FI system, and employs a host of cutting-edge technologies to maximise efficiency.

Honda has used a wet air-filter in view of India's dusty conditions, and the new engine uses four lightweight valves, with thin (4.5mm) stems. The world's first roller rocker arms for a DOHC engine debut on the CBR250R. Bearings support the crankshaft journal in another first for any single-cylinder Honda, while a balancer cuts vibrations. While peak power developed will be about 25.8bhp at 8500rpm in India, a maximum torque figure of close to 2.3kgm at 7000rpm is expected.

All this reads very well on paper, but feels far more fun when commanded by a rider's enthusiastic wrist. The engine note is pleasantly gruff, yet still soft. Engine revs build with a willing thrum the instant you select first, open throttle and let out the well-weighted clutch.

Throttle response is crisp, the CBR250R enjoying a wide, thoroughly refined powerband that even novice riders won't hesitate to exploit. The riding position felt midway between commuter-friendly upright and sporty and kept my wrists reasonably stress-free during this short ride. The CBR250R seat has good padding, helping make this a comfortable bike. Ride quality felt plush, although this was difficult to judge on a racing circuit. Handling is light, street-friendly and stable through the corners. This Honda is soft and forgiving, surefooted enough for an occasional track day, but feels a relatively comfortable motorcycle that is better suited to daily use.

Combined ABS front (296mm floating disc) and rear (220mm) disc brakes as a paid option, the CBR250R has superb stopping power. The combined system is calibrated to intervene and allocate brake pressure to the front and rear brakes whenever you depress the rear brake, while the front brake lever works independently as on any motorcycle. Both brakes are ABS-enabled, the system modulating hydraulic pressure to prevent wheel lock in every situation.

The uphill back straight at Bira ends in a tricky chicane lurking just over a crest, leaping out of nowhere into the bike at about 130kph with frightening regularity. That's precisely where I could feel the CBR chassis and my limited track abilities shimmying close to the edge, only to be rescued lap after lap thanks to the amazing brakes. My contribution was to jump on the brakes and hang on, while the C-ABS system took over and worked its magic without any drama. I never needed to alter my braking habits or found the combined ABS system intrude on brake feel or riding pleasure. This clever system will make a pro of most novices.

We are yet to test the economy of the bike which will happen in a complete road test when Honda gets the bike to India.

Until then, we assure you; this bike will set a benchmark in India. Honda has managed to understand the Indian market extremely well. The 250R is slated to be launched in India around April 2011 and will provide enthusiasts a fine combination of style, adequate performance, street-friendly handling as well as advanced brakes, at Rs. 1.5 lakh for the base CBR250R. The ABS variant will be priced higher.