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Some companies like to watch and wait. They check out what the competition develops, and then come up with something thatclearly different.

Honda is a good example with its Jazz. The engineers moved the fuel tank under the front seats and instantly achieved the most luggage space in the class. Moreover, the engine was designed not so much for performance but peak economy and ease of driving.

And the relevance to the bike you see here, HondaNC700S? Well, it uses half a Honda Jazz engine. No, really.

In what is a rare undertaking, people from the car and bike divisions of the same finn decided to talk to one another and produce a what-if scenario, perhaps encouraged to do so by the general economic malaise. Whatever, the NC700S is a good example of Honda thinking laterally, using existing engineering to get the job done. The 670cc displacement of the NCengine is half the size of the 1340cc Jazz, but the SOHC, long-stroke architecture remains.

HondaNC700SWhat makes this such an unusual engine is not the fact that it is canted over at 62 degrees to an almost lying-down position but the fact that it doesnrev, or not like a regular motorcycle engine, at least; rather, it revs as hard as a Jazz engine, with the limiter cutting in at 6500rpm.

Bear in mind that fuel economy relates to engine revs. Thatwhy motor manufacturers are currently employing turbochargers and displacement downsizing to improve economy. With generous torque created at low revs, therelittle need to spin a turbo engine to the redline; hence, the marked improvement in fuel economy. And no, the NC700S engine isnturbocharged, but Honda points out that even with conventional motorcycle engines, riders use less than 6000rpm over 80 per cent of the time, so why not optimise engine efficiency at modest revs?

The 670cc twin makes 60Nm at a low 4750rpm, so has decent torque, but with just 35kW overall developed at 6250rpm, it has not that much in the way of power. Little middleweight machismo results but rather lots of accessible grunt for ease of riding at everyday revs, and super economy. When (he rules around displacement are eventually reconsidered, it could well earn a possible spot as a learner bike. The long-stroke design allows the easy torque, while a single throttle body and fuel injection keep the fuel use to a minimum. Honda quotes 3.7L/100km overall (just shy of 80mpg), which translates to a tank range of nearly 400 kilometres. Expect around 4.3L/100km in town riding. Ita pity thereno readout of the average fuel use to verify this.

In the UK, Bike magazine said it was the second-most fuel-efficient bike it had ever tested, after HondaCBR250R, our current BOTY titleholder.

Another significant contributor to the fuel economy is the NC700car-like gearing. At 100km/h, the engine ticks over at just 3000rpm, much the same as a manual Jazz. The upshot of this is almost zero vibration at open-road cruising speeds, and therefore perfect, buzz-free images from the mirrors, despite just the use of a single balancer shaft to save weight. Not that itexactly the ballerina of bikes —fully fuelled it tips 209 kilograms —but like most Hondas, weight centralisation helps make it dynamically as interesting as anything in its class.

The handling is intuitive and instantly confidence-inspiring, aided by Metzler Roadtec tyres. With the laydown engine and low seat height, that 200kg-plus kerb weight is forgotten as soon as itrolling. The steering is lively and precise, with nice feedback at the bars.

Also contributing to the impression of nimbleness is the fact the bike has no fuel tank evident, as it is hidden under the seat somewhere, a la Jazz. Where the fuel tank conventionally resides is instead a storage space that takes a full-face helmet —a small one, anyway —opened by a turn of the ignition key in a secondary slot, which flips up the cover. The fuel filler is accessed under the pillion seat.

HondaNC700SSo whatthis novelty two-wheeler like? First of all, it looks better than some of the other offerings Honda has released of late, like the beaky CrossRunner. In fact, most we showed it to thought it classy, especially the young , who admired its single wavy disc up front and the laid-over engine, like FZ Yamahas of last century. And when you flip the storage lid, onlookers are astonished. I took full advantage of its boot space, and stopped off at the Mercer Cheese Shop to fill up on their wares. Youno idea how handy it is to have a usable locker on a motorcycle. No wonder so many people buy scooters, most of which have decent under-seat storage, for round-town use.

As a ride, those wedded to sports bikes will be frustrated by the NC700S. Though it can hoist the front wheel in the air, itquickly earthbound again, because you run into the 6500rpm limiter, meaning stunting is off the menu. But nor is it scooter-slow, and it actually feels quite spirited to ride, especially when you short-shift at 3000rpm in town, and at 4500rpm or so out in the country. Hook into the next gear, and it surges away, though the pull in top is a bit less forthcoming, given itso tall. Nevertheless, it still hauls up the south side of the Bombay Hills in top. With the VBOX attached, it completed the 0-100km/h discipline in 5.6 seconds, enough to see off 90 per cent of all cars.

We found the gearbox action a touch clunky, but then our bike had only done a few hundred kilometres, and it seemed to free up somewhat over tire ensuing days. It was the same with the brake action, as the single front disc felt dull at first, but as the days wore on, it gained more bite and feel.

If thereanything not quite up to par, itthe usual component, the monoshock. Considering the cost of this Honda, its suspension is pretty decent, but Icertainly ridden bikes that are comfier out of town. This is neither unforgiving nor plush. The seat design doesnhelp, as the foam is too firm and the lining a little slippery, but the riding position is exceptionally good. You can slide rearward and wedge your butt up against the pillion perch, with your knees locking you nicely into a position thatas natural as youget on a naked bike. The wee flyscreen is just that: it stops flies only.

So there you have it, a genuinely new motorcycle that looks and feels fresh and different, and a bike for the times —for some people. Think of this as the diesel of the two-wheeler genre and yougot a basic grasp on how the engine operates, smell aside, but the lightweight, inspirational handling and decent practicality also make the NC700S special, particularly at its $11,995 asking price. Factor in 12,000km service intervals and the value is even greater. The primary competition includes KawasakiER-6n, which is worth a ride before buying. Check out the NC700X, too, with its better weather protection and longer travel suspension, for $12,495. This is smart, left-field thinking from Honda.