The Outboard Expert: Honda BF Portable 4, 5, and 6 Horsepower Outboards
Honda Marine has introduced a new line of small portable outboard engines which bring new technology into the mini motor market.
I love a little pea-shooter outboard like the new Honda BF6 because I really enjoy exploring in a small boat. The new Honda portable is a motor I could spend the day with—it’s easy to start, smooth and quiet, and has enough power to plane a modest aluminum boat or inflatable and really get you someplace. Here’s an up-close look into the new line of small portable Honda outboards.
Honda is actually introducing three new portable outboard models: the four horsepower BF4, the five HP BF5, and the six HP BF6. Each use the same 127cc (7.75 cubic inch) powerhead. These motors replace the current BF5 model, which also displaces 127cc and weighs 60 pounds. But that old BF5 has been around for more than 20 years; I found the 1989 BF5 owner’s manual posted on the Honda website. And the new Honda portables feature many long over-due updates, the most important being an internal fuel tank, which was never a feature of the previous Honda BF5. The 1.5-liter (about 0.4-gallon) tank holds a little more than the 1.1-liter tank on the Suzuki DF6 and Honda claims the BF6 model can run for 40 minutes at wide-open throttle on its capacity. An on-board tank means these motors are truly self-contained, and eliminates the space-hogging clutter of a separate tank in very small boats. If you need more range, the BF5 and BF6 models are equipped with a fitting for a remote fuel tank. Fuel quality being suspect all over the world these days, it’s good to see that Honda positioned both the fuel pump and a good-size filter in a handy location under the cowl, and made it easy to drain the carburetor float bowl.
New features on the single-cylinder, overhead-valve powerhead include an automatic decompression mechanism that cracks open the exhaust valve when the recoil starter is cocked. Tugging the rope is now a two-finger proposition. The engine is equipped with an ECU that monitors oil pressure and cuts rpm to 2300 if pressure drops, perhaps saving the engine while retaining “get home” thrust. There’s also a very bright LED oil pressure monitor lamp on the front of the engine that glows red when pressure is low. You can run this motor for hours without getting tingly fingers, thanks to large motor mounts that are very effective at isolating the vibration of the engine from the tiller and the transom. Electric starting is not an option, but the motor may be equipped with a dealer-installed six amp 12 volt charging system (price is not yet available) that will maintain a battery you might carry onboard for lights, an aerator, or even a fish finder. The optional charging system for the previous Honda BF5 is only rated at three amps. All three of the new Honda portable models have a 2.08:1 gear ratio and come with a three-blade 7 7/8” x 7 1/2” prop, with three prop options (5 7/8” pitch, 8 1/4” pitch and a 7 1/2” x 5 1/2”) available to help dial in performance.
I tested the portability of the BF6 by toting it about 100 yards down to the beach at our test venue, aided by a large carry handle on the transom side and a grip surface under the back of the pan. I also like that the tiller can be folded all the way down and out of the way. The 59.5-pound dry weight (for the 15” shaft length model) is typical for motors in this category, but the claimed 52-pound weight for the new Suzuki DF6 is best-in-class. That’s not an insignificant difference. The little inflatables Honda provided for testing were kind of squirrely, so we dropped a BF6 on the transom of a 135-pound, 14’ Alumacraft 1436 Jon Sierra LT with a 15 HP rating. The little Honda managed to plane this boat with the stock prop, although I think it would be over-matched were the boat loaded with two people and a heavy dog. The point was to provide a steady platform for running the motor at speed, and as already mentioned, the BF6 was very smooth and quiet. The motor has 90 degrees of steering radius; in some tight situations you might wish for a little more.
These three Honda models are mechanically identical in nearly every way. The BF4 is limited to 5500 RPM, while the BF5 and BF6 rev out to 6000. The BF4 and BF5 are fitted with a restrictor behind the carburetor to limit air flow and thus power output. The 15” BF4 has an MSRP of $1,875; the 15” BF5 with the remote tank fitting is $2,025, while the full-power BF6 starts at $2,150. I guess it costs $125 to remove that air restrictor plate. The Honda three-gallon remote fuel tank kit, complete with hose and EPA-compliant cap, is $166.86.
More Honda News
Other Honda news for the coming season includes the availability of the Intelligent Shift and Throttle (iST) drive-by-wire system for the 3.4-liter V6 BF200 and BF225 models. Honda iST, which can control up to four motors from two stations, was previously available only for the 3.5-liter BF250 model. Honda has also announced that its BF200, BF225 and BF250 models will be offered in white as an alternative to the classic Honda silver color.
For more information, visit Honda Marine.