EICMA 2021: Honda Hornet Concept Stings Like a Streetfighter

As in the car world, motorcycle nameplates rarely die for good, though sometimes their resurrections take some time. And Honda is no stranger to either side of this name reincarnation. It’s bringing back the Integra, for example. But it’s not just car names that are getting dusted off. There’s news from EICMA 2021: the Honda Hornet is making a return.

The naked Honda Hornet has swarmed all over the world, sometimes under different names

A silver 1996 Honda CB600F Hornet
1996 Honda CB600F Hornet | Honda

As the classic Africa Twin demonstrates, Honda hasn’t sold every motorcycle model it makes in the US. However, the Honda Hornet isn’t one of them. Well, sort of. While we didn’t get a motorcycle emblazoned with a ‘Hornet’ decal, we did get the actual Hornet. Or at least some of the later versions of the Hornet.

Let’s backtrack a bit. The Hornet is part of the same inline-four lineage as the CB750, the brand’s first inline-four production bike. The original model debuted in 1996 as a naked bike with a modified version of the contemporary CBR250’s engine. Then, Honda updated it in 1998, giving it a new engine and a new name to reflect its origins: CB600F Hornet.

In Europe, though, Honda called it the Hornet 600. And three years later, it got a sibling in the form of the 2001 CB900F, aka the Hornet 900. Like the CB600F, the Hornet 900 has an inline-four engine. Only instead of the CBR600’s 600cc engine, the CB900F has the same fuel-injected 918cc engine as the contemporary Fireblade.

A black 2004 Honda 599 aka 'CB600F Hornet'
2004 Honda 599 aka ‘CB600F Hornet’ | Honda

If all these ‘CBXXXF’ names sound familiar, it’s because their descendants are available in the US. The nomenclature started in the 1970s with the CB400F. And using the ‘CB’ prefix to describe a naked bike arguably started with the 1992 CB1000 Super Four. But while we have models like the Honda CB300R, CB500F, and CB650R here, we don’t have the Hornet.

However, we briefly did. In 2004 Honda introduced the updated version of the CB600F Hornet here. But because Chrysler, through its AMC ownership, had ‘Hornet’ trademarked, Honda had to call it ‘599’ after its 599cc engine. The same issue is why the CB900F Hornet was sold as 2002-2007 919 in the US before the CB1000R replaced it.

EICMA 2021 showed a new streetfighter direction for the Honda Hornet

The side view of the 2022 Honda New Hornet Concept
2022 Honda New Hornet Concept side | Honda

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Although the Hornet name disappeared from Europe in the mid-2000s, too, Honda still uses it in India on a line of small-capacity models. However, the 2022 New Hornet Concept that recently bowed at EICMA 2021 only vaguely resembles those naked bikes, RideApart says. Instead, its sharp styling—complete with a few modern Fireblade touches—makes it look more like a more extreme streetfighter, Cycle World muses.

It’s worth noting that the 2022 New Hornet Concept is essentially a 3D-wirework model rendered into real life. So, it’s difficult to analyze specific details about its design. And because it’s still a “design exercise,” RideApart reports, the concept bike doesn’t have or need a powertrain. Indeed, as of this writing, Honda hasn’t released any technical details about what could power this bike.

The lack of detail hasn’t stopped speculation or the rumor mill, though. Historically speaking, an inline-four engine makes sense, perhaps a modified version of the modern Fireblade’s mill. However, the silhouette shown in the EICMA 2021 concept suggests a parallel-twin, Cycle World says. Furthermore, Japanese sources refer to this next-gen Hornet as the ‘CB750S,’ claiming it has a 755cc parallel-twin, Cycle World notes. Given that the next-gen Transalp is supposed to use the same engine, these rumors have some merit.

But for now, all we officially know is that Honda is planning to revive the Hornet.

When could the Hornet streetfighter buzz over to the US?

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Hypothetical technical specs aside, the other big question is whether Honda will bring a new Hornet here.

It makes sense from a lineup perspective as it fills a gap between the CB650R and the CB1000R. And apart from the Shadow cruisers and the NC750X touring bike, Honda doesn’t have any models in the 750cc class. Also, it would give Honda a solid naked bike rival to Triumph’s Street and Speed Triple, as well as Husqvarna’s 701 models.

But as noted earlier, Honda hasn’t offered a bike called ‘Hornet’ in the US ever. It’s difficult selling a nostalgic name when your audience doesn’t have any inherent nostalgia, after all. Therefore, if Honda offered its future streetfighter motorcycle here, it’d likely use that ‘CB750S’ moniker, Cycle World says.

As for when it could come here, the New Hornet Concept has a ‘2022’ designation. So, Honda will likely reveal a more production-ready version sometime next year. Until then, US customers will have to wait and see if they’ll get stung or not.

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