Words & Photography: Syed Shiraz

Ideally, this article should not even exist. Just like the new Honda CB Hornet 160R’s media test-ride then, which was supposed to happen post its flashy launch in Goa. Okay, the ride did happen, but when the time taken in its registration formalities (those five minutes where the manufacturer requires you to pen down stuff like your driving license number, emergency contact number, hair colour, five references from Linked In, etc.) exceeds the duration of the test-ride, one would feel that the otherwise excellent show put up by the company and its PR agency was all in vain.

Well, not entirely so, as the good folks at Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India Pvt. Ltd. (HMSI) did allow around eight journos/bloggers, from Mumbai and Pune, to ride the MH-registered Hornets all the way back to these cities. You may look forward to loads of exhaustive reviews of the Hornet 160R from them sometime soon (if not already available) and, no, bikes with DL/HR/UP plates were not available (for obvious reasons). So, a detailed review will be published as and when we get the test bike in Delhi for a few days, and I am writing this only for those majority of readers who still wanted it.

Honda Hornet 160

Well, for those not clued in, I am referring to my post on our Facebook page where I asked our readers if they would want a mini-review (because the ride in Goa was restricted to just five kilometers as, supposedly, Honda couldn’t get the right permission from the powers that be…) right away or would only a detailed one suffice. More than half responded that the former would certainly do, while the latter can follow. Okay dear readers, you win.

How does it look and feel?

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Hornet design

Design wise, Honda’s latest does justice to the Hornet name. It looks quite a bit like a scaled down version of the Hornet CB600F, save for the tank’s front-end design that, from some angles, makes the headlamp look like it’s digging inwards — Gladstone Small came to my mind… That being said, there’s no taking away from the fact that the motorcycle is indeed both sharp and muscular.

Honda Hornet

But, the problem is, neither is it striking enough to evoke the kind of excitement the Suzuki Gixxer did upon breaking cover, nor does it break any new ground in design, like the first Yamaha FZ did back in 2008! Right now, the Hornet’s most interesting design element happens to be the X-shaped LED tailight.

Honda Hornet taillamp

Now I know why Honda officials wore those t-shirts, with ‘X’ (and ‘Hide Nothing’) written on them, at the event. Anyway, the Hornet is a substantial looking motorcycle, and you won’t get a complex standing next to the FZ or the Gixxer at the traffic signal…

Honda Hornet instrument console

Like its competition, the Honda also gets a digital instrument cluster, and though I just love the fantastically neat arrangement of all readouts in it, it’s the Gixxer’s unit that provides more information while the FZ’s is a tad more legible (than the Honda’s) in the sun. Of course, we could not check it at night. That’s still okay, but what is not is the switchgear quality and feel — it’s pathetic.

Hornet 160R controls

Honda has also missed out on the engine kill switch, but, thankfully, has given a pass light flasher.

Hornet 160R switchgear

How does it go and make you feel?

Hornet 160R engine

This is where the newest Honda redeems its lost points, and this is where it will matter the most for the prospective buyer. The Hornet gets the CB Unicorn’s carburetted 163 cc mill, but the techies at Honda have extracted a little more power from it. The same motor now makes 15.8 PS, which is significantly higher than the FZ’s 13.1 PS and also a full PS more than the Gixxer’s peak power output. Torque, 14.76 Nm, of the Honda is also better than the other two Japs’, but it’s heavier than them too!

Hornet

Still,the Hornet feels a wee bit quicker than both the FZ and the Gixxer, though only a comprehensive test may ascertain that. But this Honda definitely makes you feel that you have more grunt at your disposal everywhere in the rev range when compared to the FZ and the Gixxer.

Hornet 160R profile

Also, I had mentioned above that the Hornet is a substantial looking motorcycle, which also means that you would feel that you’re riding a bigger bike, again, as compared to two of its main competitors. I have come across many people who test ride the Gixxer and say that it feels too small for their large frames — this section of population will instantly like the Hornet! I checked the specifications too and found out that the Hornet does, in fact, carry a longer wheelbase of 1,345 mm. The Gixxer and the FZ have an identical 1,330 mm distance between their axles.

Sheer common sense would also tell you that a bike with a longer wheelbase would have more straightline stability while compromising on the flickability factor. Which holds true here as well, as the Hornet feels more stable in a straight line than the Gixxer while being a shade less willing than the latter in changing directions. From the looks of it, it’s the FZ and the Gixxer that will continue to rule the city streets, whereas it’s the Hornet that people would prefer for the long hauls.

Hornet 160R

The seating posture is quite comfortable too with the rider sitting fairly upright, while the footpegs are a little rear-set to dial in some sportiness to your posture. It does help towards putting weight on the front without being uncomfortable on your wrists. Though the seat-height figure is not shared by Honda yet, the Hornet’s perch felt higher than the FZ’s 790 mm. The Gixxer’s is further down by 10 mm. The Hornet is also blessed with better ground clearance (164 mm vs 160 mm for the other two) and shouldn’t kiss speedbreakers while riding two-up like the Gixxer does (unless you set the monoshock at its hardest).

Honda Hornet rear tyre

Though it’s impossible to give a verdict on the Hornet’s suspension in such short a ride, and that too on near-perfect tarmac, I somehow feel that with the Hornet, Honda might just have found the best suspension tune in the segment. The bike felt taut on the winding stretch of road, while tackling a few undulations made me feel that it might just be a better companion than the FZ and Gixxer on bad roads, especially while riding with a pillion.

Do I pick it over the FZ or the Gixxer?

Frankly, no. Not as yet, at least. Moreover, the biggest problem for Honda is going to be the Hornet’s price. Because even the cheapest variant, available at INR 79,900 (ex-Delhi), is a whole lot expensive than the superb Suzuki Gixxer while costing almost just as much as the fuel-injected Yamaha FZ (INR 80,096, ex-Delhi). So, at the moment, forget the Gixxer, even the FZ has nothing to worry about.

Hornet 160 rear

I just hope that the new Honda miraculously shows a side in our comprehensive road test (as and when a test bike is made available to us) that can allow us to recommend this motorcycle over the Gixxer or the FZ. But, from the looks of it, I don’t see that happening anytime soon…

Also read -> Shootout: Gixxer vs FZ-S…


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