Honda VFR800F (2014-current): Review & Buying Guide

Phil West
By Phil West
PhilWestNew Former Editor of Bike, ex-Road Test Editor of MCN, ridden more bikes than he can remember. Likes: GTS, Paso, Mantra. Dislikes: own rust bucket LC and 900 T-Bird daily driver.

 

The original VFR750, in three different guises between 1986 and 1998 was a legendary V4 sports-tourer. That reputation dwindled slightly with the subsequent 800 and particularly with the fussy and flawed V-TEC, variable valve-timing version from 2001 until it was finally killed off in 2012. But this revived version, which manages to blend the best of its predecessors is a worthy reincarnation and is a classy, characterful all-rounder and sports-tourer, even if fails to quite match the performance and electronic aids of more modern rivals.

Although the V4 engine is basically unaltered aside from tweaks to the VTEC system, fuel injection and intake funnels, and the chassis is also identical, the rest of the VFR is brand new. As well as a braced swingarm, the suspension is upgraded with new forks (although not inverted) while new wheels and radial brakes sharpen its focus. However, the biggest change is to the electrical systems. As well as ABS, the VFR now comes with traction control, an optional quickshifter, a redesigned dash, LED lights and heated grips. These new features, along with a restyle that has more than a hint of VFRs from yesteryear about it, complete the revisions.

Mechanically it’s solid, proven and durable, build quality is typically Honda good, it’s comfortable with bags of V4 character and it also makes a good value used buy. If you like the style and can live without 150bhp and electronic everything you won’t be disappointed.

 

Honda VFR800F (2014-current): Price

The original, legend-defining VFR750s were quality, over-engineered machines with the premium prices to match. This revived version, however, is a quite different proposition. With no ambitions to be a world beater either in terms of spec or performance it’s a much more modest machine – though still classy and capable – with a far more affordable price to match. When launched in 2014 it came with a price tag of £10,499. That has actually reduced recently to a very tempting £9,999, which is actually a grand less than Kawasaki’s previously bargain 1000SX and only a few hundred more than Yamaha’s slightly budget Tracer 900. As a used buy it’s even more tempting. By failing to match the success of the original 750s, residual values are poor by Honda standards meaning a used example with still good cosmetics and solid mechanicals, can be had for as little as £5500.

 

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Power and Torque

On paper, the VFR800F’s peak figures of 104.5bhp and 55lb-ft of torque are nothing to write home about – and they’re not. Back in the 1990s the 750’s 100bhp was then only mildly humbled by the 120-odd of the 750cc sports bikes of the day. Twenty years on, however, 1000cc sports bikes commonly nudge 200bhp while modern sports-tourers such as Kawasaki’s Ninja 1000SX boast 140bhp or more and that deficiency today certainly shows. An extra 30bhp or so would certainly be welcome. But that’s also not the whole story. A key component of the VFR’s appeal throughout its history has been the flexible, characterful drive from its iconic V4, delivering instant, effortless drive, whatever the rpm, that’s immensely real-world relevant – and that’s just as true today. On top of that, the once annoying V-TEC system now seems fully sorted. In that sense, this ‘reinvented VFR’ is just as capable and charming as it ever was and is a welcome and worthy bearer of the name.

 

Engine, Gearbox and Exhaust

When the VFR first used the VTEC system in 2002 it was more than a little controversial. Jerky in its operation and irritating at cruising speed as the VTEC dropped in and out, it’s fair to say VFR riders weren’t huge fans of the new technology. However, over the years Honda have revised the system and it is now faultless in its operation. In two-valve mode the V4 provides smooth torque before the VTEC changes the engine’s character at around 7000rpm as the two previously redundant valves per cylinder become operational. Unlike the first generation, which signified this change with a jerk, the only indication the latest VTEC motor gives is a change in sound and a nice dollop of extra power. There is no snatch and it enhances the good points of the V4 engine rather than create annoyance. On top of that, the gearbox is faultlessly slick while the exhaust, now an ‘old school’, side-mounted item in place of the V-TEC’s criticised, twin under seat pipes which overheated your bum and luggage, emits a curdling tone so rich you’ll be tempted to ride without earplugs.

 

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Honda VFR800F (2014-current): Economy

Honda’s slick, 90-degree V4 was never the most economical engine in its class, either in 750 or 800cc form but it’s not particularly bad, either. Reasonable riding should return around 50mph which, thanks to this latest version’s respectably large 21.5 litre fuel tank, means a range well in excess of 200 miles should be possible. More spirited riding will, of course, reduce that but that’s unlikely as the VFR is simply not that kind of machine.

 

Handling, suspension, chassis and weight

One of the Honda’s stronger points. It handles sublimely for a sports tourer. On twisty roads the chassis is typically VFR – agile, stable and balanced when lent over. It’s not as fast turning as a dedicated sports bike and heavier, too, but it is still far sportier than a large tourer, as well as being considerably lighter and more manoeuvrable.

It comes on sports-touring spec Dunlop D222 tyres yet despite fairly vague feedback from these, once you’re used to it you can really throw the bike around. It’s keen to turn but is never unstable and it can carry serious lean before the long footrest ‘lean angle indicators’ touch down. With more gentle riding, the VFR is better still, with a plush, cultured ride from its decent, uprated suspension, great ergonomics and precise controls.

 

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Honda VFR800F (2014-current): Brakes

Along with the improved suspension, reduced weight, sorted V-TEC and uprated dash, the latest VFR’s brakes are one of the new bike’s clearest improvements over the old. In place of the old ‘linked’ C-ABS brakes of the 800 and fairly basic four-piston calipers of the 750, the latest VFR gets proper, radially-mounted four-piston calipers biting onto big 310mm discs, all assisted by ABS. They work well, too. Not quite delivering the ferocious power of those on the latest sports bikes but with ample power and plenty of feel.

 

Comfort over distance and touring

Having defined the sports tourer class way back in 1986 when it was first launched, it comes as no surprise that the latest version is very accomplished both in the bends and on motorways. The seat is well padded and although the screen is a bit small, the riding position is comfortable, arguably sports tourer perfection in fact. Some riders felt the bars were a little stretched out, but personally I didn’t find this an issue while that plush seat is also usefully height adjustable.

 

Rider aids and extra equipment / accessories

The addition of two new electronic systems, ABS and traction control, also help bring the VFR up to date, although the latter in particular is fairly crude and not a patch on some rivals’ latest versions. To be honest, though, with only just over 100bhp to control, it’s not really necessary anyway.

Honda use a slightly different way of cutting power on the VFR than other manufacturer’s TC systems and when it does kick in, the power reduction is pleasingly gentle. Thoroughly testing TC is best done on a track rather than a road, but over slippery pedestrian crossings it did seem to catch any spins and retard the power nice and smoothly.

On the downside, the traction control switch is crude and looks like an afterthought.

The VFR’s redesigned dash is clear, comes with a gear indicator, fuel gauge and even heated grip level display (heated grips are standard, and a welcome addition) although none of it is as flash and fancy as some rivals more modern colour TFT displays. Popular aftermarket exhausts include Akropovič and Arrow, with flip-up screens from the likes of Powerbronze. Honda also offer a range of accessories including a high screen and panniers. There’s also an active and devoted online community. Go to the UK Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1680347095563071/) or VFR Discussion forum https://www.vfrdiscussion.com

 

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Honda VFR800F (2014-current): verdict

Having waited 12 years for an update (the preceding V-TEC version was last updated in 2002), VFR fans will find much to recognise and like about this revived version – which is a good thing as Honda basically built it for them. Its chassis is much improved as is the spec and its V4 charm and practicality is as enticing as ever, even if its performance and technology now lags behind the class leaders. That’s compensated for by being better value than ever – especially used, where, thanks to its classy build and rock-solid reliability, it’s now something of a bargain.

 

Three things we love about the VFR800…

  • V4 engine flexibility and character
  • Versatility and practicality
  • VFR heritage

 

Three things that we don’t…

  • Slightly basic spec
  • Now slightly under-powered
  • Lacks former prestige

 

Honda VFR800F (2014-current): spec

New price

£9,999

Used price

From £5,500-£9,000

Capacity

782cc

Bore x Stroke

72x48mm

Engine layout

90-degree V-four

Engine details

Liquid-cooled, 8v, DOHC

Power

104.5bhp (79.9kW) @ 10,250rpm

Torque

55lb-ft (75.1Nm) @ 8,500rpm

Top speed

145mph (est)

Transmission

6 speed, chain final drive

Average fuel consumption

54mpg (est)

Tank size

21.5litres

Max range to empty (theoretical)

255miles

Reserve capacity

25miles (est)

Rider aids

ABS and traction control

Frame

Aluminium box-section twin spar

Front suspension

43mm telescopic forks

Front suspension adjustment

Preload and rebound damping

Rear suspension

Pro-Link monoshock

Rear suspension adjustment

Preload and rebound damping

Front brake

2 x 310mm discs, four-piston Nissin radial calipers

Rear brake

256mm disc, two-piston Nissin caliper

Front tyre

120/70 – 17

Rear tyre

180/55 – 17

Rake/Trail

25°30’/95mm

Dimensions

2134mm x 748mm x 1203mm (LxWxH)

Wheelbase

1460mm

Ground clearance

126mm

Seat height

789-809mm

Kerb weight

242kg

 

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