It is a fact that Boon Siew Honda was responsible, over sixty years ago, for bringing motorcycles to the Malaysian mass market as cheap, affordable transportation. The first Honda Cub, which gave rise to the slang term kapchai to mean any small-displacement underbone motorcycle, gave many Malaysians the freedom of movement that we take for granted today.

Much of Boon Siew Honda’s strength lies in the commuter motorcycle market, where reliability and durability, along with competitive pricing, are the main selling points. But, there are those who have remarked that while Honda does produce some awesome motorcycles, its local representative seems to have lost the plot when it comes to the big bike market.

The loss of the CBR600RR to Euro 4, the seeming reluctance of Boon Siew to bring in much coveted large-capacity machines such as the CBR1000RR and the Africa Twin, makes it seem as if the boys from Penang are not interested in big bikes at all. This is however, being redressed, as Boon Siew heads into 2017 with some new offerings in the middle-weight market.

In August last year, Boon Siew Honda announced the arrival of the CB-series bikes – the CB500F, CBR500R and CB500X. What made everyone sit up and take notice was the dual-purpose styled CB500X, facelifted from the previous line-up.

Did this signify that Boon Siew was serious about taking away some of the market from the Kawasaki Versys 650? More to the point, how does this machine compare against the Versys, giving away some 100 cc in capacity? Here’s what we found out as we put the 2017 Honda CB500X through the paces during our review.

Over the course of the past year, we reviewed a couple of touring-oriented dual-purpose adventure styled machines. One made it to the top of our best five list – the 2016 Ducati Mutlistrada 1200. There is much to like about tall, long-travel suspension bikes, and when the Honda CB500X was handed over to us for a week, we were quite excited.

Coming with a 471 cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin, fed by PGM-Fi, the CB500X pretty much fits the definition of a middle-weight motorcycle. This is something Honda has been good at, going back to the days of the CB450 in the sixties, as a go-anywhere, do-anything kind of bike.

So, what is Honda giving us in the form of the CB500X? Well, for a start, it stands tall, in the dual-purpose style. This is a good thing, as it gives the rider a commanding view of traffic.

Getting on the CB500X, with its 810 mm seat height, puts the rider in an upright position, the wide handlebars coming easily to hand. Taking the grips, we immediately noticed the height of the two-position manually-adjustable windshield, with the top of the shield coming about eye level for the author.

Eager to see what the CB500X would do, we thumbed the starter, clicked the gearbox into first, and shot off down the road. Correction, after selecting first gear, we performed a leisurely, ambling takeoff down the road.

While the twin in the CB500X produces 47 hp at 8,500 rpm and 43 Nm of torque at 7,000 rpm, power delivery was, how shall we say it, soft. Soft like an old blanket. Soft like your first girlfriend.

Now, this is not necessarily a bad thing, as the CB500X, in Europe, is targeted at the learner/beginner class, and its sub-50 hp power rating means it falls under the EC rules for an A2-class license. So, not the fault of the bike, or with Honda, as the CB is built for a specific market.

Acceleration through the gears was sufficient to cut through traffic easily, albeit at a slightly leisurely pace. Again, not a bad thing, and fast-and-furious, rempit-type riders should look elsewhere for high speed thrills. May we suggest the MV Agusta Stradale 800, if you feel like riding on the edge?

The Honda CB500X’s six-speed gearbox was nice and smooth, although there were one or two instances when we clicked into a false neutral. Slow and steady is the order of the day here, and the CB500X doesn’t like to be rushed, because it simply is not that type of motorcycle.

What it is, and how it is set up, is as a medium-distance mile-muncher, suited for most road types and surfaces. Riding the CB500X on the highway revealed a stable, quiet performer. Roll-on torque was middling, with none of the lunge of a four-cylinder.

A quick tap on the gearshift was needed for quick over-taking situations, and once the CB500X was in the correct gear, it moved along fairly briskly. Shifting up through the gears and pressing the engine hard revealed a slight buzz in the handlebars, although the rest of the bike stayed reasonably still.

Settling into cruising position on the CB500X was easy, the seat affording a fair amount of fore-and-aft movement. There was no butt numbness be felt, even after a long, 500 km ride to Perting for a round of the Malaysian Cub Prix.

Which revealed what biases the CB500X for one sort of riding, and not another. Taking the fast sweepers on the highway, at slightly above highway speeds, the CB was composed, if lacking something in ultimate traction. This was more a function of the 140 mm of travel from the front fork, and 120 mm of suspension travel at the rear.

The standard shock, on the standard settings, were almost pillow soft, and proved to be great at covering long miles at highway speed. When the rider starts pushing things though, the CB500X exhibited a constant wallow in the corners, indicating that the rebound and compression damping needed adjustment.

Where there is none. Both the front and rear suspension on the CB500X are only adjustable for pre-load. So, if you’re riding with luggage, or two-up, set your suspension carefully, or be prepared for things to go sideways quickly on the edge.

This is, of course, not a problem for the majority of riders. Part of the work we do at paultan.org/bikes is finding out where the edge is, so that you don’t have to.

In the case of the Honda CB500X, the edge is a fair bit away, and the bike can be leaned over quite a bit. The OEM tyres on the CB500X were adequate for purpose, and are designed for long usage.

On the braking front, the CB500X comes with a Nissin two-piston caliper gripping a single 320 mm disc in front, and a Nissin single-caliper clamping a 240 mm disc at the rear. Brake feedback was good from the front, though after prolonged hard braking, the lever did come back a little way to the bar, and there was a slight numbness in the feel.

Addressing this with a good brake bleed and some high-end brake pads might solve the issue, but for most riding conditions, the front brake will suffice. At the back though, we found a little fun in the brake.

Now, a lot of newbie riders, especially those transitioning from kapchais, tend to overuse the rear brake. On most modern motorcycles, proper motorcycles, all the braking power is found at the front, and two fingers on the front brake lever will bring you to a safe stop from 165 km/h, with no drama.

In the case of the CB500X, the rear brake had enough power to lock the rear wheel at will, without being too abrupt as to surprise the new rider. This meant that we had some fun making the CB500X go sideways, something it did quite well.

Be careful as the rear suspension extends though, as the sudden change in geometry means a high side if you don’t catch it in time. The usual caveat applies, professional rider on a closed course, no animals were harmed in the writing of this review, etc.

Most of the riding on the CB during this review was done solo, and a couple of stints with a passenger. Since it was ridden in standard form, we had no opportunity to load the CB500X up with luggage to see what effect, if any, it would have on high-speed handling.

One thing we did like on the Honda CB500X was the fuel consumption, returning a fairly constant average of 5.2 litres per 100 km from the 17-litre fuel tank, increasing to 7.1 on a single highway run where we searched for the CB’s top speed. We only used RON 97, and your mileage may vary, as per usual. As for the top speed, enough for highway runs, with a pillion on-board.

Inside the cockpit, a single large monochrome LCD screen does display duties, with the idiot lights set in a clearly legible row at the top. The tachometer is a simple bar graph reading from the left side, while the speedometer readout is with clearly read large digits.

We did feel that the handlebars were a little spindly, and something from the aftermarket can be easily substituted for the stock item. Again, we do not blame the bike for this, as the Honda CB500X is clearly designed to be a value for money all-rounder, with dual-purpose styling.

Speaking of money, the 2017 Honda CB500X is available in Malaysia in two versions – the standard CB500X at RM31,893 and the RM35,391 Honda CBR500XA with ABS, including GST. The version we reviewed was the CB500XA, which comes with front and rear ABS.

So, who needs the Honda CB500X? If a rider needs a low-cost, efficient, easy-to-ride daily commuter, the CB500X is almost perfect, only needing a pair of panniers and a top box. A newbie rider would find the CB quite welcoming as well, with its soft power delivery and placid handling.

The nearest competition to the Honda CB500X is the Kawasaki Versys 650, which is also a parallel-twin, with 649 cc but does weigh 214 kg to the CB’s 196 kg. Going for approximately RM38,000, the buyer has to weigh the fact the Versys does not come with ABS, despite the larger engine capacity.

As a daily commuter, we feel the 2017 Honda CB500X will perform well, with its muted power and compliant suspension. For new riders, the CB would be ideal. As for the author, who prefers bikes with a little more “character,” he lives in hope Boon Siew Honda might bring in the Africa Twin one day.