Stirring up the nest with the new Honda CB Hornet 160R

first_imgYes, it finally looks like Honda2Wheelers has nailed it with the CB Hornet 160R. Top-looker isn’t it? But let me first draw your attention towards the very name that this bike sports – Hornet.The first question that popped in my mind was why has Honda chosen a name that their 600 and 900cc sport-nakeds have donned? This opened up to another motorcycle that was the lowest capacity bike to get this name, the CB250F. What all these bikes had in common were in-line four cylinder engines derived from their CBR counterparts.Where the Unicorns engine is butter-smooth the same unit in the CB Hornet shows eagerness lower in the rev range. (Photo: Ashish Chavan) These Hornets were special, had performance to boot and were stylish for their time. So Honda choosing the name Hornet amongst Shine, Dazzler, Unicorn et al. had to mean that the 160R was special too right?It sure is. The chiselled headlamp unit  surely reminisces the last generation of the CB600F while the sharpness continues with an equally carved-out fuel tank. A lot of plastic panels make up the continuous mid and tail section with equal aggression as the front end.All-digital meter console is informative and easy to read but misses out on fuel consumption readout. (Photo: Ashish Chavan) Look closer and you’ll realize Honda’s attention to detail that tells you that the CB Hornet isn’t a half-baked effort. An informative all-digital meter console borrowed from the CB Trigger has been tweaked in design to appear sharper, fitting to the Hornet’s image.advertisementThere’s a pair of small tank extensions in contrasting silver that accentuate the front-heavy look of the bike. The silver accent then spreads rearward into the tail section, ending with a carved black tail piece that houses the uber-cool X-shaped tail-lamp.140 section rear tyre makes the CB Hornet appear as a bigger bike than what it actually displaces. (Photo: Ashish Chavan) Both front and rear splash guards are minimalistic in design to compliment the whole look without disturbing the overall sporty appearance.There’s a carbon-fibre-look tank cover running through the centre of the tank that’s not only visually appealing but is functional too. It’ll protect the tank’s paint from the use of tank-bags and from your riding gear brushing against it. Even the grab-rails, which are in perfect symmetry with the tail-end, are properly useful for the pillion.X-shaped tail-lamp is lit up with LEDs and is arguably the best-looking unit among the current crop of 160cc motorcycles. (Photo: Ashish Chavan) Then there are the beautiful alloy wheels and petal discs at both ends to complete the whole package. Stand back and checkout the bike as a whole and you just can’t fault the design.Getting astride the 160R, I was expecting to find the familiar 163cc motor that has serviced the bikes that the Hornet is trying to better. There’s nothing wrong with that engine. It’s powerful, fuel efficient, reliable and has that unmistakable Honda smoothness.220mm rear petal disc is only available on the CBS version. (Photo: Ashish Chavan) But Honda went a step further to make sure that the Hornet stands proud as a brand new product. A needle bearing for the crankshaft now replaces the lubricated shaft to handle radial loads better thus reducing frictional losses.Honda also claims to have improved cooling performance by adding spines to the outer surface of the cylinder.276mm front petal rotor is coupled with a 3-pot caliper which is a first in segment and work really well. (Photo: Ashish Chavan) Along with the addition of a viscous paper filter and maintenance free battery, Honda has been able to crank out an additional brake horsepower.What this has resulted in is a gruff-sounding engine note at start-up and a similar feel while getting off the line. Sticky first and second gears didn’t help matters either. I should inform you that the bikes available on the day of the media ride were all brand spanking new with just about 30-off clicks on the odo.The 163cc engine has been re-worked for sportier performance while also managing to be the first BSIV compliant engine in the segment. (Photo: Ashish Chavan) Thrashing such an engine around without running them in is sure to display some negative characteristic which may not be there on a well run-in motor.Nevertheless, I carried on with the initial ride delving deeper into the engine’s characteristics. Where the Unicorn’s engine is butter-smooth and relaxed, the same unit in the CB Hornet shows eagerness lower down in the rev range building up momentum till about 6,000-7,000 rpm.advertisementRoomy, well-cushioned seat and functional grab rails will be appreciated by the pillion. (Photo: Ashish Chavan) Beyond this point the engine livens up for the next three thousand rpms before the power tapers off. This is enough to reach and sit on the 100kmph mark post which the Hornet showed little interest in top-end performance.Honda engines are characteristically high-revving in nature and there’s an evident effort put into beefing up the mid-range performance. It’s the range where the bike will be used by most for day-to-day commuting.Switchgear has been left old-school and shouldve been upgraded. (Photo: Ashish Chavan) I might be a little harsh here but sadly, the Hornet isn’t as strong in delivering that mid-range grunt as effectively as one of its competition, the Suzuki Gixxer.What it lacks ever so slightly there is made up with smooth and linear power delivery in the higher revs. Surprisingly, all the while the Hornet was supremely comfortable and delightfully agile. Chunky rubber provided ample grip and the chassis and suspension setup offered effortless manoeuvrability and confidence.Switchgear has been left old-school and shouldve been upgraded. (Photo: Ashish Chavan) VerdictWe like the styling, brakes (CBS version), handling, comfortable seat. (Photo: Ashish Chavan) Honda promised us 15 products in the year 2015 and the CB Hornet completed the list with a glitzy launch event in Goa. The CB Hornet 160R is surely the answer to the ever-evolving sporty 150-160cc segment, a feat that wasn’t achieved with previous attempts by the manufacturer.The Hornet is a superbly styled motorcycle that aims right at offerings from Suzuki and Yamaha. It also packs enough punch to stand its own amongst them with a powerful engine and very capable handling. The icing on the cake is the sporty riding position that previous Hondas in this category missed out on. Combi-brakes offer enhanced safety and is another strong point for the 160R.So, the first ride definitely has me convinced that the bike deserves enough to carry the Hornet nametag in its smallest capacity. Kudos!last_img