While most of the new two-wheeler brands that have been launched in India in the recent years have been EV specific, there are a handful of Chinese brands which made their way to India with their petrol powered two-wheelers. Together, the four brands that arrived in India this year – Keeway, Moto Morini, Zontes, & QJ Motor – launched 20 motorcycles in the matter of months. Of these, Zontes falls under the Moto Vault umbrella of companies that were brought here by Adishwar Auto Ride India. The Chinese brand currently has five offerings in our market, which are all powered by the same engine. With us this time around is the Zontes 350X, which is the sports tourer of the lot. Let’s find out what it offers.
The Zontes 350X shares its engine with the other 350 models in Zontes’ range, but it offers a form factor that’s unique in its segment.
Zontes 350X Design
The 350X poses a look that belongs to sports tourers a couple of segments above, and that really turns heads out on the street. And its not that the design is too radical or polarising either. The bike appears sharp and muscular, and a set of panniers or a top box would only enhance its visual appeal. Yes, it could have shed some of the extra body work in order to save some weight, especially since it only has a relatively small 350 cc engine, but the visual drama that the bike possesses makes it just about worth the compromise.
At first glance, the Zontes 350X appears like a middle-weight sports tourer than a sub-400 cc machine.
Not just that, but the 350X brings the ‘sports tourer’ form factor to the sub-400 cc segment for the first time in India, meaning, there is no direct competition to this motorcycle. The segment currently has multiple ADVs – like the KTM 390 Adventure, & the BMW G 310 GS – which can also double as good touring machines. However, this sport tourer characteristic with smaller 17-inch wheels & a low 795 mm seat height has given the 350X a less intimidating and more inviting appeal, specifically over tall ADVs, & especially for shorter riders. The same can’t be said about the pillion seat though, as it is much higher than the rider seat and quite a big trek to get onto.
The pillion seat is quite high to easily get on to, but offers great comfort and visibility once you’re seated on it.
Zontes 350X Features
The entire Zontes range in India has arrived in feature rich guises, and the 350X is no stranger to the same. It has some very clever bits on offer, and while they may appear gimmicky, they are quite useful. The bike gets entirely keyless operation, so much so that the keys aren’t even shaped like keys; they are just tags that you can just put in your backpack or pocket and forget. This means that the fuel filler lid, and the seat, both open at the press of a button. The bike also gets an electronically adjustable windscreen, and you can pop it up at any speeds, again, by the press of a button. It also gets dual USB Type-A charging ports, & all-LED lighting, amongst other features.
It gets an electronically adjustable windscreen, which can be popped open at the press of a button, even on the move.
The bike also gets a 5-inch full-colour TFT screen which is crisp and responsive. The screen also offers bluetooth connectivity, and even a tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS). There are also four layouts to choose from on the screen, which are all nice to look at. The bike also gets connected features which can be used via the Zontes app, but it hasn’t been launched in India yet, so we will reserve our opinions on that.
The 5-inch TFT screen is crisp, and offers bluetooth connectivity, TPMS, and multiple display layouts.
There are a couple of shortcomings though. For starters, the range and fuel economy readouts on the screen were largely inconsistent and unreliable. The placement of the screen too, is a bit far from the rider, which makes the 5-incher hard to read while on the go. The motorcycle is built well though, and apart from a few plasticky bits, the overall feel is quite nice.
The 350X has a button for almost every prominent feature, which makes the switchgear a bit crowded at first glance, but it is quite intuitive to use.
Zontes 350X Engine
Powering the Zontes 350X is a 348 cc single cylinder engine which is shared across the 5 motorcycles that Zontes has in India. The engine puts out 38.3 bhp at 9,500 rpm, and 32.8 Nm torque at 7,500 rpm. It is fairly tractable and rev happy, and has plenty of power all across the rev range. The power is developed in a very linear manner from 4,000 rpm, but the engine doesn’t feel very exciting. It also gets an ‘Eco’ riding mode for city usage, and from what I tested, the power deficit wasn’t too significant. The engine has one very big problem though.
The 348 cc mill under the 350X’s fuel tank puts out 38.3 bhp & 32.8 Nm torque.
The engine does get liquid cooling, and it doesn’t get all that very hot when you’re on the move. But in stop start traffic, the engine does tend to overheat, and the radiator fans don’t kick in as often as they should. Now that all by itself wouldn’t have been a very big problem, but the engine radiates a major chunk of the heat on the top side, and you can really feel the heat coming up through the seat and the edge of the fuel tank. What that is, is a bad recipe for comfort, which is a shame because other than that, this motorcycle is very happy and easy to use in urban environments.
Apart from the engine heat, the 350X is easy to use in urban conditions too.
Zontes 350X Suspension, Ride, & Handling
The 350X has a decent seating position, and with a low seat height of 795 mm, it is accessible for shorter riders too. Getting on the pillion seat may feel like you have to climb a small hill, but once you’re on it, the position is comfortable again, and you’re also left with a good view of road ahead. The 350X gets a pair of 43 mm USD forks up front and a monoshock at the back, which do a decent job of soaking up bumps and potholes. That paired with the comfortable seat makes the long miles feel short.
It gets a monoshock at the back, and 43 mm USD forks up front.
That said, the motorcycle doesn’t feel very confident while cornering, thanks to a top heavy design, and a general lack of grip from the tyres. Especially with a full tank of fuel on board – and the tank is quite big too, at a usable capacity of 15 litres – the top of the motorcycle becomes even heavier. The full tank of fuel though gives you a good range figure, and I had absolutely no anxiety doing 350 kilometres before considering stopping for petrol.
The keyless fuel filler lid makes way to 15 litre fuel tank, which translated to a range of over 350 km.
At 152 mm, the motorcycle has a low ground clearance, and you will bottom it out on speed-breakers quite often, especially with a pillion on board. Another thing that we noticed was that while the adjustable windscreen is very cool to use and a nice feature to have, even at the raised position the windscreen doesn’t do an outstanding job at deflecting air away from the body.
The adjustable windscreen is a great feature to have, but it only does a sub-par job at deflecting wind, even in the raised position.
Zontes 350X Brakes
The mixed trend continues on the braking front too. The 320 mm front disc and 265 mm rear disc returns a very positive feel and bite, and they are at par, if not better than most other motorcycles at this price point. However, where the brakes excelled, the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) felt inadequate to deal with the stopping power, and often led to lock-ups. The lock ups were especially pronounced over loose surfaces, which is a big negative considering its chief rivals are ADVs that thrive on such surfaces, which are plentiful in India to say the least. All of this is also enhanced by the lack of grip from the Migra S3 tyres, and a swap to a better compound may solve most of the problems in the handling & braking department. Now I can’t comment if that solution definitely works until I test it out, but I sure believe that this chassis deserves a better pair of boots.
The brakes on the 350X are sharp and provide good feel, but the ABS is inconsistent.
Zontes 350X Review: Verdict
The Zontes 350X has great promise, but the motorcycle drops a few points on some important aspects. Should Zontes give this bike a better set of tyres, a better shaped windscreen, and iron out the niggles in the instrument cluster & ABS, the motorcycle would be a much, much better offering right away. And half of these problems can be solved by you, as a customer, by adding some after-market bits too. That would leave the 350X with just one major problem – engine heat.
In its current guise then, there are just a few too many shortcomings for it to be a perfect first touring motorcycle, and if you are still okay with dealing with those issues, a starting price tag of Rs. 3.35 lakh (Ex-showroom) puts it right up against two very prominent ADVs from big brands like BMW Motorrad & KTM, and while the sports tourer format is a delight to use, on Indian roads an ADV will be – by a decent margin – a better choice for a touring motorcycle. And if ADVs are not to your liking, neo-retro motorcycles like the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 offer great touring credentials too with a much bigger and more powerful engine, which makes the Zontes 350X a hard sell.