CFMOTO has been a bit of a sleeper brand in the New Zealand market, but with a big push to grow its range of high-value-for-money motorcycle offerings, should the establishment be worried?
CFMOTO's first large-capacity bike to arrive in NZ was the firm's 700CL-X, which is available in two trims, the Sport and Heritage. With both powered by a 693cc parallel twin and bringing to the table a range of features, should the middleweight naked king, Yamaha's MT-07, be worried? I think so.
Despite being a comparatively large company, CFMOTO’s presence in the New Zealand motorcycle market has been based mainly in the quad bike field. However, with a full range of LAMS and full-power motorcycles arriving in an increasing number of dealerships, the brand is really starting to make itself felt here.
Leading the charge into the full-power end of the market are CFMOTO’s 700CL-X models, with both running a 693cc parallel twin and chock full of desirable features. The main difference between the models being the CLX Heritage offers a more traditional ergonomic package, while the Sport switches to an aggressive sports riding position. There’s even a scrambler variant with slightly more rough road ability promised, but this sadly isn't currently destined for the New Zealand market CFMOTO's distributor, Mojo Motorcycles, tells me.
The main point of difference from its Japanese competition is that the CL-X range is all suspended by fully adjustable KYB suspension. Add to this the bike's sporting 52kw (69hp) of peak power, and the CL-X Heritage fills a gap in the market that has slowly grown wider since the implementation of the Learner Approved Motorcycle Scheme in 2012. As most manufacturers in the space have focussed on the more popular LAMS bikes rather than their High Output versions, so seeing a bike launch in the sphere without the LAMS tag is quite refreshing.
While the Japanese manufacturers do offer full-power middleweights, they are priced noticeably higher and don’t offer the same value in terms of specifications as the CFMOTO - particularly in the suspension department.
The CL-X Heritage we collected for an extended test ride initially entered the New Zealand market priced at a seriously low $9,990 before on-road costs. Sadly with the skyrocketing inflation since then the price has risen to $10,990. No matter, it's still a cracking deal.
Build quality is quite good, with the only obvious indicator of the bike's low price being a less-than-perfectly placed sticker on the fuel tank.
Where the two CL-X models differentiate themselves is in their rolling stock. While the Sport rides on appropriate 17-inch wheels the Heritage rolls on an 18-inch front and 17-inch rear rim.
Thanks to the bike's throttle-by-wire system, CFMOTO has even included two rider modes and cruise control in the bike's impressive list of specs. Eco mode is quite tame, but Sport mode noticeably ups the ante unlike other bikes to recently arrive at a similar price point.
I have to admit this throttle-by-wire system did cause a bit of a problem for me during my time with the bike. Not being particularly used to the intricacies of the throttle-by-wire, when all of a sudden the bike's throttle cut out and OBD codes started flashing on the dash I thought I'd landed a dud.
Thankfully, it turns out that rather than the major fault my mind immediately went to, the real culprit was simply that the plug for the ride-by-wire throttle wasn't fully plugged in. My mind turns to the hijinks of a tiny person who was a little too attracted to the CFMOTOs shiny styling in the garage as the probable culprit as to how this happened...
For the most part I also quite dig the styling of the Heritage. The one thing I think the bike visually needs is a bit more of a bum. The saddle is beautifully sculpted and quite comfy, but there isn't anything behind the pillion seat which limits you if you want to chuck a bag on the back and go for a long weekend ride.
Those long weekend rides are also hindered somewhat by the 13-litre fuel tank, which I suspect ran through its load rather quickly in part due to my lack of finesse with the throttle with the bike in sport mode.
The CL-X is more of a day tripper, however, and when you think of it in that vein it is quite a joy to blast about on.
While not an outright powerhouse, the sheer number of features ensures a versatile ride that is both fun and rewarding. There's a nice balance to the overall package in which I found myself jumping on board and heading for the nearest twisty road.
The bike tips in nicely and has a nice power curve, but where it truly excels beyond its price point is its J.Jaun brakes. Not only do they have some great bite to them, but the feel at the lever is also incredibly good. Having since ridden CFMOTO's 800MT which also sported J.Jaun brakes they are undoubtedly the highlight of the CFMOTO experience.
Dollar for dollar, it really is hard to beat. Yes, there are a few areas that are lagging behind the so-called market leaders like the LCD dash, but the 700 CL-X makes up for this in its other features.
If it's a fun, naked middleweight with great features and an attainable price you're looking for, you definitely want to check the CFMOTO 700 CL-X out.
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