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Honda CL500 (2023) - Launch Review

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2023 Honda CL500 Review Details Price Spec_02
2023 Honda CL500 Review Details Price Spec_03
2023 Honda CL500 Review Details Price Spec_04
2023 Honda CL500 Review Details Price Spec_05
2023 Honda CL500 Review Details Price Spec_06

Technical Review - Ben Purvis

Launch Review - Simon Hargreaves


Price: £5999 | Power: 46bhp | Weight: 192kg |


Honda have released two major new models in 2023 so far, and both have famous names drawn from the company’s past: the Hornet CB750 (that’s two names, come to think of it) and the Transalp.

And now there’s a third, the Honda CL500.

The CL name is probably less well-known but draws deeper into Honda’s history for inspiration. In 1962 Honda added scrambler styling elements to their parallel twin CB250 Dream road bike to create the CL72 – a 19in front wheel instead of 18in, rubber fork gaitors, knee pads on the tank, high bars, a mini-sump guard and – most visually – upswept exhaust headers on the left of the bike, feeding into a high-level end can.

Back then, scramblers – lightly modified road bikes – were pretty much the starting point for future enduro bikes, motocross and eventually modern adventure bikes. The scrambler scene took off around the world, but in California the CL72 – followed in 1968 by the CL350, then CL450 in 1970 – gave birth to desert racing. And it was in the US that the CL was most popular.

Fast forward half a century and the CL name is back again (a CL400 was launched in 1998, but that was a single not a twin so we’ll skip over that attempt). This time, the CL is taking a CB500 parallel twin – or, specifically, the engine and frame from a CMX500 Rebel cruiser – and adding scrambler-style on top.

Honda say they’ve sold over 133,000 bikes in the CB500 family – CB500F roadster, CB500X adventure bike, CBR500R sportsbike and CMX500 Rebel cruiser – since 2013.

And BikeSocial is at the launch in Seville, to ride the latest addition.



  • At £5999 the CL500 is the cheapest of the CB500 family

  • A2-ready, fun, easy to use, stylish and ideal for the urban commute

  • 60mpg even when it’s being thrashed, from an unburstable engine

  • uncomplicated and easy to use

  • maybe a bit too quiet – more noise from exhaust or induction would be good

  • suspension is super-soft and lacks damping control over long undulations

  • no quickshifter option

  • clocks are a bit dim in daylight and the seat gets a bit squishy after a long day


Review – In Detail

Price & PCP
Engine & Performance
Handling, Weight, Suspension and Brakes
Comfort & Economy
Equipment & Styling
Technical Specification


2023 Honda CL500 price

The CL500 comes in under six grand, at £5999 on the road. That makes it the cheapest member of the CB500s (CMX500 Rebel is £6299, CB500F is £6099, CBR500R is £6599 and the CB500X is £6699).

There are four colour options: Mat Laurel Green Metallic, Candy Caribbean Blue Sea, Candy Energy Orange (which some may remember from the CB500F, and is very pretty) and Mat Gunpowder Black Metallic. All colours are the same price.

PCP example





36 months


Final payment






Miles per year




2023 Honda CL500 Engine & Performance

The CL500’s 471cc 180° crank parallel twin makes an A2-ready 46bhp at 8500rpm and 32 lb.ft @ 6250rpm. It’s easy, these days, for some of us to sniff a little at ‘only’ 46bhp, but that’s not far off the power some stock sports 400s were making at the rear wheel back in the mid-1990s – I’ve dyno’d a few, and they weren’t slow.

And this is the fittest 46bhp you’ll find. The CL’s CB motor is a deceptively healthy, flexible, muscly unit – flick out the ridiculously light clutch from standstill (it feels as if the cable has snapped, there’s so little resistance) and twin flaps away happily like an excited spaniel; soft, cuddly and absolutely packed with boundless energy – or at least boundless up to the point it runs out of puff somewhere around the ton, but below that there’s plenty of pace in the CL. And there’s nothing edgy or manic about throttle response or power delivery – both are simplicity to meter and deploy, as you’d expect from a novice-friendly machine. And you’ll never find a rough edge or trace of misbehaviour in the engine character.

Engine vibes from the 180° parallel twin are almost entirely absent. A 180° is in perfect primary balance – with one up and one down, the pistons balance each other out – and a balancer shaft takes out vibration from a ‘sideways’ rocking couple. Nakamura-san, test project leader for sound and vibration, explained how there are six points of rubber contact ‘feet’ between the seat and the subframe, with holes in the rubbers – he went through over 20 types of rubber and different numbers and sizes of holes to find the right permutation for optimal vibration feel passing through to the seat.

But dull the CL certainly isn’t and, given the right roads, it delivers all the thrills and entertainment even a hoary old rider will appreciate, let alone a new rider. In fact a large number of CB500F and X owners are riders who’ve stepped back from the hassle and demands of reining in the latest 150bhp adventure bike or naked, and it’s a fair bet the CL500 will occupy the same space (especially at £5999).

They won’t hear it though – in stark contrast to Honda’s new 750cc parallel twin in the Hornet and Transalp, the CL500’s engine is pretty quiet. 180° parallel twins don’t have the most thrilling exhaust note for a start (unless they’re on open pipes) – but the CL’s airbox (like other CB500s) is behind the engine and the rider’s ears – and the exhaust is a long way back too. But either way, it’s a not a loud bike – a bit more aural zasp might add an extra touch of excitement. I’ve even seen some owners make airbox modifications to increase the induction noise.

The square motor (67mm bore x 66.8mm stroke) is in an almost identical state of tune as the other CB500 engines – it differs only because the CL’s intake and exhaust routing is slightly altered, mostly to suit the bike’s scrambler style. Its ECU and fuelling is tweaked to suit – but in terms of tuning, an extra tooth on the rear sprocket (from 40 to 41 teeth) is far more noticeable and peps up the CL’s acceleration and midrange response, with a tiny trade-off by raising the revs at cruising speed – not that you’d notice, because the CL hasn’t got a tacho. Nor has it got any form of traction control or rider modes – one of the key mantras of the CL design team was to keep it simple.

Speaking of the design team, it’s worth noting the CL500’s Assistant Large Project Leader, Yamasaki-san is only 36 years-old. And he’s the eldest of the team – the CL500’s Styling Design Project Leader, Kurobe-san, is 29. To have a team that young is unusual, but it’s a welcome, hopeful sign and an exciting prospect for Honda. If only there was a way of getting people of a similar age actually riding the things... the average age of a UK motorcyclist is 57.




2023 Honda CL500 Handling, weight, suspension and brakes

In the same way the CL’s motor is funky but cheerfully tame, the 500’s handling dynamic is also light and agile without being intimidatingly sharp. Wide, high bars, a 19in front wheel, plentiful steering lock, an absence of mass – 192kg wet – and Honda’s signature mass centralisation means the CL500 can be turned on an absolute pinhead – as a morning dash through Seville traffic jams showed. It’s also physically slim – knees feel like they touch under the tank – and that means the CL will squeeze through the narrowest of gaps between cars.

The CL’s steel tube frame is identical to the CMX500 Rebel – a different subframe supports a flatter, taller seat, putting the seat height at 790mm, 100mm higher than its cruiser counterpart and 5mm higher than the CB500F. But it feels well-proportioned rather than tall, and definitely not bulky. In fact the CL also strikes a good balance between being manageable – which it very much is – without ever feeling like a toy from a Christmas cracker. The Thai-assembled CL, like its siblings, is solid; a proper motorbike.

The suspension shows some cut corners. Showa 41mm rwu forks and twin Showa rear shocks sound good on paper, but only the shocks have just preload adjustment (the kind you can add more by grasping the spring with your hand and twisting; never a sign of stiff springing) and both front and back end are super-soft, which the damping struggles to control – especially over dips and yumps in the road, which can get close to bottoming the back end out completely. On the other hand, ride quality is nice.

But the Honda’s Showas are, for me, the right side of budget – the soft side. It means they might not always control chassis movement, but they always stick the wheels to the road when it matters. I like this – a bit of movement is fine – and it’s infinitely preferable to some other brands’ budget suspension which is just over-damped, and consequently harsh and chattery, with mediocre ride quality and the feeling they’re skipping over bumps rather than following them.

And it’s worth noting this is all under fairly extreme riding conditions – the sort of thing you’ll notice when you’re carry a bit of speed (and rider weight, ahem) while changing direction. Everyone rides differently, but there’s a good chance the CL’s target demographic might never experience it. Point being, I guess, if they do, the CL absolutely will not bite back – worst it’ll do is flop over and ask for its tummy to be tickled.

Brakes are perfectly good, despite the low-spec: single 310mm disc gripped by a two-pot sliding caliper, with ABS – and Honda’s fairly annoying emergency brake system that activates the hazard warning flashers under hard braking. There’s a fair chance it distracts the rider as much as alerts anyone behind.

With its scrambler styling, 19in front and Dunlop Trailmax Mixtour tyres, there’s always the temptation to take the CL off-road – and, on the launch outside (and inside) Seville, we had the chance to ride the CL down a bone-dry dirt track. It managed the job perfectly well, clattering over a few potholes – but otherwise it’s so light it’s hard to go wrong.

But this hardly constitutes a rigorous off-road test and with only 30mm more ground clearance than a CMX500 Rebel, I wouldn’t be taking the CL near a green lane with raised ruts anytime soon. It really is only a scrambler, not a trail bike.



2023 Honda CL500 Comfort & Economy

The CL’s riding position is classic sit-up-and-beg – long, flat, soft seat (too soft; after 100 miles I was squirming around), low pegs, high bars is a kind of universal fit. As stated, seat height is 790mm which is a surprise – it feels lower. Maybe it’s because the CL is so slim. Or maybe it’s because by the time to soft springs have compressed under my manly frame, it’s taken about a foot off the ride height. Either way, Honda have been building riding positions like this since the 1950s; we may all have got a little taller and definitely a little wider since then, but it still works. Wind blast isn’t over-demanding and it’s not a struggle to hold on at the Honda’s happy cruising speed of around 70-80mph.

The 500 is a frugal motor – Honda claims 78mpg, giving a theoretical 206 mile-range from the CL’s fashionably diminutive 12 litre fuel tank. This is bobbins, of course. I spent a day thrashing the poor beast and still averaged 62mpg – from a 12-litre tank that’s over 160 miles till bone dry, or around 125 to reserve. And that’s heavy (literally) use – ordinary riding will likely see a CL get over 140 miles before refuelling.



2023 Honda CL500 Equipment & Styling

The CL is designed to be simple to use, which is a handy mantra if you also want to keep costs down. So the CL clock, singular, is a round LCD dial using the same display as found on the 2019 CBR650R and CB650R – sort of inverted gold numbering on a black background, which is hard to see in direct sunlight, even on its brightest setting. The information is need-to-know: speed, gear position, fuel gauge, realtime mpg, average mpg, two trips and a clock. Switchgear is correspondingly sparse.

There are no engine or rider modes, no traction control, heated grips – or even bar ends – cruise control, centrestand or quick shifter: this is a basic, basic bike. The most complicated thing is working out where the ignition key goes – the barrel is on the left side of the bike, just below the front of the tank.

Styling and quality is good – especially considering the price. Corners have mostly been cut by leaving stuff off, rather than cutting the quality of what’s left. The paint is deep and lustrous – especially the Tango Orange version, which has an unexpected depth of sparkle. And don’t think because the CL500 costs less than £6000, no-one at the factory pays attention to details: Honda changed the direction of the brushed finish on the aluminium exhaust shroud from horizontal to vertical, to better accentuate the radius of its curvature.

The CL comes with plenty of accessories. There are three ‘packs’, but all components are available individually.

The Adventure Pack is £375 for a tall front mudguard, rear shock covers, hand guards and wider, rally-style footpegs.

The Travel Pack is £500 and adds a 12v socket, a nylon saddlebag and rail for the left side of the bike (the exhaust is in the way of one on the right), a tank pad to match the tank’s side grips, heated grips and an adjustable brake lever.

The Style Pack is £300 and has a rear numberplate board, wheels stipes, a headlight cowl and taller, brown seat option.

A 38-litre top box is also available for £500, plus £99 for the backrest.



2023 Honda CL500 Rivals

There aren’t a lot of direct competitors when it comes to affordable, twin-cylinder, A2-friendly street scramblers, but here are a few alternatives that might be worth considering.


Yamaha XSR700 | Price: £8000

Another retro-scrambler-twin, the XSR700 is arguably a category above the CL500 in capacity, performance, and price, although an A2-compliant version with 47hp is available.

Power/Torque: 72bhp/49 lb-ft | Weight: 188kg


Royal Enfield Interceptor | Price: £6599

A proper retro, the Enfield isn’t the most obvious rival to the CL500, but in terms of price and performance it’s pretty close and could be a choice people make. Bigger, heavier and aircooled.

Power/Torque: 47bhp/39 lb-ft | Weight: 217kg


Honda CMX500 Rebel | Price: £6299

The CL500’s closest rival will, in truth, probably be Honda’s own CMX500 Rebel, the cruiser of the CB500 family. The CL500 is better-looking, more serious and has better ground clearance.

Power/Torque: 46bhp/32 lb-ft | Weight: 190kg



2023 Honda CL500 Verdict

Honda have pulled off another minor gem for 2023. Following the success of the CB750 Hornet and Transalp – both new engines and new platforms at keen prices – the CL500 takes a well-known, well-loved engine and dresses it in good-looking but fuss-free retro clothing, without sacrificing any practicality. And then sells it for less than £6000 – or £69 per month on PCP. I pay more than that per month for my mobile contract.

And it’s hard to find fault with the bike – not because it’s relatively cheap, but because there really isn’t anything to gripe about. The clocks are dim, suspension is soft (but better than than choppy), seat is soft as well, and I wish it had a quickshifter and made a bit more noise. None of which detracts from its role as a stylish, uplifting, low maintenance and thoroughly delightful introduction to motorcycling.


2023 Honda CL500 Technical Specification

New price




Bore x Stroke

67 x 66.8mm

Engine layout

Parallel twin

Engine details

4-valve, DOHC, liquid-cooled, 180-degree crankshaft


46bhp (34.3kW) @ 8500rpm


32lb-ft (43.4Nm) @ 6250rpm


6 speed, chain final drive, assist and slipper clutch

Average fuel consumption

78.2mpg claimed

Tank size

12 litres

Max range to empty

206 miles

Rider aids



Steel ‘diamond’

Front suspension

41mm forks, 150mm travel

Front suspension adjustment


Rear suspension

Twin shocks

Rear suspension adjustment

5-step preload adjustment

Front brake

Single 310mm floating disc, 2 piston Nissin calipers

Rear brake

Single 240mm disc, 1 piston caliper

Front wheel / tyre

Cast Aluminium / 110/80R19M/C 59H

Rear wheel / tyre

Cast Aluminium / 150/70R17M/C 69H

Dimensions (LxWxH)

2175mm x 831mm x 1135mm



Seat height



192kg (kerb)


Two-year, unlimited mileage



MCIA Secured Rating

Not yet rated



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What is MCIA Secured?

MCIA Secured gives bike buyers the chance to see just how much work a manufacturer has put into making their new investment as resistant to theft as possible.

As we all know, the more security you use, the less chance there is of your bike being stolen. In fact, based on research by Bennetts, using a disc lock makes your machine three times less likely to be stolen, while heavy duty kit can make it less likely to be stolen than a car. For reviews of the best security products, click here.

MCIA Secured gives motorcycles a rating out of five stars (three stars for bikes of 125cc or less), based on the following being fitted to a new bike as standard:

  • A steering lock that meets the UNECE 62 standard

  • An ignition immobiliser system

  • A vehicle marking system

  • An alarm system

  • A vehicle tracking system with subscription

The higher the star rating, the better the security, so always ask your dealer what rating your bike has and compare it to other machines on your shortlist.