CFMOTO is on a roll. The NK series is dominating the entry-level, and 400s are leaving dealerships faster than the bike itself. In fact, supply dwindles because of how many riders are opting for it. So how does Motostrada deal with suffering from success? It brings its biggest and most attractive model to date, the CFMOTO 700 CL-X Heritage.
Is it a naked? Is it a cafe racer? Is it a scrambler? Well, it’s pretty much everything and anything that you need it to be. Here’s our review.
- Outstanding value for money
- Great engine performance
- Impressive tech features
- Attractive design
- Uncomfortable seat
- Handlebars tend to vibrate
- Side stand has no locking detents
If you were glancing at it, you would think that it was a mix between the Ducati Scrambler Icon, and the Honda CB650R. Is it a Scrambler? Is it a CB? It’s a bit of both and it’s absolutely gorgeous. The headlight is especially eye-catching. It has an ‘X’ shaped DRL and reflector LED front light that catches the eye. Subsequently, the ‘X’ theme carries over to the gorgeous taillight that requires no tail tidy and is easily one of the most attractive parts of the motorcycle.
Quirky design elements, however, include the frame’s integration with the tank. While most backbones will have a tank sitting above the top portion of the frame, CFMOTO designed the tank to sit in the frame flanked by two panels bearing the CL-X badge. Following that, the seat features Alcantara-like material that is grippy and has a rather aggressive curve to it, suggesting that this bike is quite serious in the performance department. The handlebars are also really wide, and the switches are—dare we say— BMW-like in their execution, returning satisfying clicks and actuation on top of a superb finish.
However, it’s not without its gripes. The mirrors are quite usable, but they’re a bit tall for our taste. The ‘X’ DRL isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and the seat is hard. While it may look like it’s got a decent amount of padding, in reality, it’s pretty thin and may require a gel insert for longer rides. It’s a shame because the ergonomics are so comfortable and laid back, and the seat holds it back from being a perfect all-rounder from the factory.
With 73.75 hp on tap thanks to a ride-by-wire throttle, the CL-X has a very potent powerplant. Is it the best parallel twin in the market? Not really. Yamaha’s MT-07/XSR 700 with its crossplane crankshaft is by far the more exciting parallel twin in the market. In contrast, the CL-X seems more like a Kawasaki Z650 in its powerband with a beefier midrange. Much like the 650 NK in the CFMOTO stable, you get a very similar experience with the CL-X. The engine even sounds similar to the twin-cylinder NKs. A couple of us at the office said that CFMOTO missed an opportunity to really set themselves apart and create something special—after all, they do have access to some KTM designs. That being said, it’s still a machine that is plenty impressive. It also has 68 Nm of torque, which is by no means anemic. It’s got a very beefy low and mid-range and a kicker of a top-end. If you’re used to motorcycles with two cylinders and about 400ccs worth of displacement, then the CL-X is a nice stepping stone for you to get into. If this will be your first bike, however, extra caution is required.
That being said, it’s not as docile as a 400cc-class bike. It’s a pretty serious performer, and with the other goodies that come with it, it handles the part as well. For starters, CFMOTO made a big deal about it being a lightweight motorcycle for its class. It features a curb weight of 196 kg and while it is lighter than even the 400 NK, it’s pretty much on par with its other competitors. Handling is very apparent just by looking at it. You get a fully adjustable set of inverted front forks, a rear center-mounted mono-shock that’s also adjustable, and footwork is provided for by a pair of Pirelli MT-60 dual-sport tires. Yes. Dual sport tires. The Heritage variant of the CL-X is more of a scrambler than a true road-going bike. This is further augmented by its 18-inch front tire. While we weren’t able to take it out on the trail, the CL-X can still corner well and we were even told that it could pop the front wheel—allegedly. You will have to be a bit slower than other motorcycles on sport tires, however. The front tire comes in at 18-inches and with a width of 110 mm. For a bike as large as the CL-X, however, you may run into some stability issues at illegal speeds. At 100 km/h, it was plenty straight, however. The rear makes up for the lack in front width thanks to a massive 180 mm rear. You still get the dual-sport rubber at the rear, but you will be hard-pressed to erase the chicken strips at the back. Not once did the rear step out in our testing. There’s enough surface area and contact patch for you to use if you’re into very spirited rides—just be careful when the road is a bit wet or rough.
However, one gripe that we have with the CL-X will be with its rear brake. The front features an all co-axial setup that makes the single-disc feel like a twin. The J.Juan system really is one of the best in the business at this price point and nets significant performance benefits. However, that’s only half the story as the rear tends to feel a little weak in comparison. It could be that the test unit we received needed a bleed after being abused by other motoring journalists, but we were a bit disappointed as our experience with J.Juan systems on other CFMOTO motorcycles was very positive. Aside from that, the Heritage variant of the CL-X makes us wonder just how good the platform will perform when given the right tires and 17-inch wheels in the front and the rear. It’s too bad the Sport variant of the CL-X hasn’t been announced for the Philippine market—we’ll hold our breath for that one.
Given that the suspension is fully adjustable, and the bike has wide handlebars and an upright seating position, you can go on long rides without your back aching so much. The footpegs are also oriented flat, so you don’t have to worry about your legs bending in a compromising position as on most sport nakeds. On top of that, CFMOTO also has a beefy rubber insert on the pegs, which gives you a large surface area to rest your feet on. Pretty much the only con is that the seat is stiff and you don’t get a ton of options to slide your butt to the rear for more of a tuck, and the U-shaped curve of the saddle makes you feel weird. If you are more of a stationary rider—not as animated on the motorcycle, the seat does well to give you a sense of stability because of the Alcantara-like material. It’s really just the padding in the throne that is the dealbreaker out of the factory. The remedy is to put in a gel insert, and perhaps raise the seat height a little bit. After that, you have a bike that can pretty much do anything, and may even seem like an adventure-tourer minus all the fairings.
Technology and Safety
The CL-X comes with a fully digital gauge cluster with only one pod for everything and a round display for your speedometer, tachometer, gear indicator, and fuel gauge. Other items like your clock, voltmeter, odometer, trip computer, and temperature readout are accessible only while cycling through the menus. It’s a bit of a hassle, but it’s nothing you can’t get used to. The cluster gets plenty bright at night, however. It also gets automatic headlights, but you have to cycle through the headlight modes to turn on the lights.
Though, the icing on the cake is the cruise control. You will have to be moving and in 4th gear to get the system to work. Make sure that you’re cruising at about 80 km/h to 100 km/h to get it to work smoothly, and it’s a godsend on long trips on the highway. The cherry on top is the self-canceling turn signals, which can save you a bit of embarrassment.
Safety-wise, as most big bikes go, it comes with dual-channel ABS. On top of that, it also has a kill-switch, lean-angle sensor, and side stand sensor, which are essential for bigger bikes.
It’s relatively lightweight for such a big motorcycle, so taking it on your daily commute isn’t that much of a hassle. Having such wide handlebars is also a double-edged sword because you might not fit into tight spaces, but the tradeoff is that the bike can be leveraged pretty easily. Learning low-speed maneuvers is also pretty quick to pick up on this bike given prior experience with big displacements. In short, as long as you’re okay with modifying the seat, or you’ve got an iron butt, you’ll find the CL-X to be very comfortable.
Gearing is also short enough, and you only need to leave it in second gear when filtering through traffic, and to smoothen things out, or if your throttle hand is a bit twitchy, you can switch it to eco mode to smoothen out your power delivery. Seat height is also another pro for the CL-X because at 800 mm, it’s not that tall. 800 mm seems to be the go-to seat height for most Filipinos. Riders ranging from 5-foot 6-inches to about 6-feet tall will find it easy to get on the CL-X. Riders under 5-foot 5-inches won’t struggle all too much either, which makes this bike perfect for many.
On the highway, we were able to get 25 km/L. In the city, we got 20 km/L in traffic. With a fuel tank capacity of 13-liters, you won’t be filling up so much, but it’s a little smaller than average for the size of the bike. Spirited riding will get you a figure closer to 20 kilometers per liter, but definitely take a scooter if you’re penny-pinching for your fuel.
Verdict and Price
Now, if you think about it, the CL-X is CFMOTO’s most advanced, arguably the best looking, and the most powerful bike in its range—for now. Whatever way you look at it, the CFMOTO 700 CL-X is a great bike—not because of its price and not because of its features, it’s a great bike, full stop.
There are a few nitpicks that could be native to the unit that we were able to test, but as an entire package for just P369,800, it’s an absolute steal. In fact, we think it’s essentially a wake-up call for the other big brands in the country. CFMOTO is on a roll, and hitting its stride in the Philippine market. They have a winner in the CL-X range of motorcycles, and we hope to see more variants of this series launch in the near future.
As for alternatives, there is quite a handful, like the Honda CB650R. If you prefer an inline-4 screamer, then definitely give Honda a look. It’s visually similar to the CL-X, and it makes us think that CFMOTO took a page out of Honda’s Neo-Retro Sports Cafe recipe book. If you’re looking for similar engine performance, try out the 650 NK from CFMOTO. You will pay less money for fewer features and engine performance, but it ain’t no slouch, either. The same can be said for Kawasaki and its Z650. Parallel-twin, 650cc, and now, with an upgraded gauge cluster—if you can do without some of the creature comforts, it makes for a good alternative. Finally, we have the MT-07 from Yamaha, with its crossplane parallel-twin. It’s pricier and comes with fewer features than the CL-X, but we cannot deny that it does live up to its name—The Master of Torque.