Honda VFR800 VTEC REVISITED Fast touring for half the price of a Ducati Supersport
What we said then
“In the late 90s the old VFR800 was a great bike but it needed updating. Its replacement, the VFR800 VTEC, is a beautiful thing and rides, goes and handles superbly, but the variable valve timing is causing some controversy – it’s clever but is it really necessary?” MCN launch report.
But what is it like now?
The VFR has come to define modern sports-touring, having been a staple in Honda’s range since 1998. With a V4 engine that traces its lineage back to the complex-but-characterful 750s of the mid ’80s, the 2002 launch of the Vtec-enabled 781cc version proved Honda were back to their cutting-edge best. Or so they thought.
But dyed-in-the-wool VFR fans were not impressed with the new machine; many were turned off by the alienfaced angular styling, while others criticised the underseat exhaust system’s impact on strapping on soft luggage. Then there was the VTEC which put a disconcerting step into the delivery when it kicked in at 6800rpm.
Fourteen years down the line, those criticisms look more like nitpicking when you come face to face with a VFR800 VTEC from today’s used market, as this 2003 example recently purchased in a private sale for £2600 proves. With 45,000 miles under its belt the bike has shrugged off anything the elements have thrown at it. It is still fitted with the original exhaust, and is showing no signs or corrosion.
The engine fires up from cold with no rattles or unwanted noises, and everything from the throttle response to the switchgear feels good. The V4 is legendary; its 107bhp is tractable and flexible, and perfectly suited to the bike.
Although the VTEC is described as Variable Valve Timing, this is something of a misnomer. In fact, there is no variation at all. It works simply by shutting off an inlet and exhaust valve on each of the four valve heads at low revs. So below 6800rpm the VFR runs an eight-valve head, and above that it runs on 16 valves. Subsequent models did have changes to the way it worked. But nevertheless the V4 is still engaging, providing great flexibility.
Any worthwhile extras?
Previous owners have fitted tasteful and practical accessories, and they’re fairly typical of other used VFRS on the market. The taller screen helps keep wind pressure off the upper body, reducing fatigue on long runs. There’s a set of good quality, adjustable heated grips, and the rear hugger looks good and keeps the worst of the road dirt from the underside of the bike. Another popular accessory is a hard luggage system, as the heat from the underseat exhaust does limit your options as far as soft luggage is concerned. There was a colour-coded factory-fitted luggage system available from Honda, but not many owners went for it as it was pretty pricey. Honda offered the VFR800 either with or without ABS.
Is it a worthwhile used buy?
There is no question that the VFR800 has stood the test of time. For sportstouring, or even weekend blasts, it's still an excellent choice, especially when you take into account the comfy riding position and rangy 22-litre fuel tank. Bikes in of this age and condition are excellent used buys, and £2000 - £3000 will buy a good example, like the one we have tested here, and the beauty of it all is the price has now hit its base value. Kept in good order, a VFR800 of this vintage won’t cost you anything in depreciation or breakdowns.
Fast, slick and comfortable – the VFR is hard to beat