2023 Royal Enfield Bullet 350 First Ride Review: A Bullet For The Modern World!
Has the iconic Bullet spirit been retained in the new bike with the refinement changes?
The Royal Enfield Bullet has been around for nine decades now and this nameplate has helped build the Enfield brand over those years with its butch and muscular road presence along with a powerful engine with that iconic exhaust note. And now in 2023, the Bullet gets a generational update with a new chassis and engine along with other refinements to better compete with other retro-roadsters in the market. But has Royal Enfield managed to maintain the aura of the Bullet in that process, though?
We have ridden the 2023 Royal Enfield Bullet 350 and here’s what we liked and disliked about the bike:
One of the biggest changes in the new Bullet 350 is the 349cc air-cooled, counter-balanced single-cylinder J-series engine producing 20.2PS and 27Nm. And the impressive engine refinement can be felt immediately after a few minutes of riding. It has ample low-end and mid-range torque, making the engine very tractable at low speeds, which makes pottering around in the city or cruising in a relaxed manner on the highway pretty fun.
The engine vibrations have gone down significantly compared to the UCE Bullet 350. You start to feel them slightly on the footpegs and the handlebar around the 60kmph mark. But, to be honest, that is not a big thing because having a manageable level of vibrations also adds to the old-school charm of a Bullet. And speaking of retaining character, the exhaust note, even though it has become more refined, still has that bassy thump and growl if you listen closely enough.
The 5-speed gearbox is much smoother and the clutch lever feels lighter. And along with the tractable engine, you can easily pull along in slow moving traffic at about 12-20kmph in 2nd gear (without having to constantly change between the 1st and 2nd gear). Or you can go over speedbumps at speeds of 20kmph in 2nd gear (with a bit of clutch and accelerator modulation to keep the engine running at higher revs) and the bike pulls through easily. On the highways, the ample mid-range torque lets you cruise along nicely at about 70-80kmph in 4th gear. And in top gear, this new Bullet will happily cruise along at 90kmph all day long.
Comfort and ride quality
The all-new chassis has done wonders in making the new Bullet 350 more balanced and able to handle sudden direction changes in all types of road conditions. It makes light work of the bike’s 195kg kerb weight, which means you can manoeuvre the bike pretty easily in traffic and also lets you handle twisty roads with much more confidence.
Also, the 41mm telescopic fork with 130mm wheel travel soaks up bumps and potholes very well without the front-end feeling like its bouncing around and losing grip. The twin shock absorbers at the rear are a bit on the stiffer side and along with the more firm single-piece seat, you do get quite a feel of the bumps and undulations of the road on your backside. But, it's still at a manageable level and not a deal-breaker.
The 300mm front disc brake, even though they do the job of stopping the bike very well, lacks initial bite and the progression feedback needed to be a bit better. But, again, that is just me nit-picking. The 270mm rear disc is sharp, though and communicates the progression of brake pressure quite well. The brake setup with the dual-channel ABS manages to complement the overall ride experience very well.
The Royal Enfield Bullet 350, throughout all the generations, has always had a muscular look with a big road presence. And the new Bullet 350 retains that aura with some refined changes here and there. At first glance, it might look like nothing has changed from the UCE Bullet in terms of design.
But look closely and you’ll notice that the new chassis along with the top portion of the rear fender being less boxy, the redesigned taillight section and the new single-piece seat gives the bike a more fluidic look. These changes bring some welcomed freshness to the bike.
And on top of that, the beautiful paint job along with the classy pinstripes and the old-school Bullet logos just turns this bike into an absolute looker! I’ll safely bet that these elements will surely make it a head-turner when people start seeing the new Bullets on the road.
Instrument Console Layout:
The addition of the LCD inset along with the analogue speedometer brings convenience to the whole experience, no doubt. But, it's the layout around the instrument console that I didn’t like. You see, on the left-hand side of the instrument console is the key hole. But, on the right hand side, it's just a round RE logo with no functionality. It is basically a space filler that looks odd compared to the rest of the bike that’s pretty well-designed.
Now if you opt to get the tripper navigation accessory, it will be placed in place of the logo near the console. But, as a standard option, Royal Enfield should have filled that space with something functional like the ammeter because it would’ve tied the design together very well and make it look more wholesome.
The base variant of the 2023 Royal Enfield Bullet 350 is priced at Rs 1,73,562 while the top-end variant with the blacked-out components and the Black Gold paint job costs Rs 2,15,801. The mid-spec variant that we’ve tested costs Rs 1,97,436 (all ex-showroom Delhi). These prices put the new Bullet too close to the Classic 350’s territory.
The Classic 350’s prices start from Rs 1,93,080 and go up to Rs 2,24,755 (all ex-showroom Delhi). If you are looking to buy the mid-spec variant of the Bullet 350, then you also have the option of paying just Rs 3,000 or so to buy the Classic 350’s mid-spec variant with the new bike having already established its reputation for reliability and refinement ever since its launch a few years ago. And the same approach goes for the top-end variants of both the bikes. This approach from the manufacturer has made the differentiating factors between the two bikes a bit too confusing to read.
It would’ve been ideal if the new Bullet 350 would’ve topped out around the Rs 1.85 lakh mark making both bikes completely standout in Royal Enfield’s lineup.
With the new J-series platform along with the upgraded suspension, gearbox and those awesome vintage paint jobs, Royal Enfield has successfully managed to retain the aura of the iconic Bullet nameplate while making it fit for the modern world. With these changes, the 2023 Bullet 350 will still make you look commanding on the road but now, with more refined performance and ride quality. It is exactly what I thought it would be and yes, I am impressed with the changes made.
But as mentioned above, how will the expensive price tag translate towards the sales numbers, especially in the face of the Classic 350? Well, that is definitely something to watch out for in the long run for sure.