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?

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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  • glenn jimson

    Unless Honda slashes the price by 3-4k, Yamaha and Suzuki have absolutely nothing to worry about.

    • shenoy

      Why? All these 3 bikes price are in the same bracket. Unless, Hornet with rear disc.

  • Bharath Kumar

    The absence of DC electricals and engine killer is a big concern.

    • Sathish Narayan

      Not at all a big concern.. Its just a slight inconvenience n adds on to the feel good factor.. Nothing that you can’t enjoy without..

      • shenoy

        Yes. 100% true. All these are added features. Always we can manage without these. On the other hand it’s wonderful to have those features. I am not with the ppl who crib on this. At the same time even am little disappointed.

      • Bharath Kumar

        during rainy seasons and especially on bad roads at night its very difficult as ac electrical doesnt provide constant lighting. Its no more a convenience bro it is about safety.

      • Sathish Narayan

        Does all of the competition come with DC lighting?

        I had a 2005 Karizma with DC lighting.. I now have a 2013 Pulsar 200NS without DC lighting..

        Very frankly I have never had a situation to want one so far.. Have never missed it.. Do you find a review anywhere of NS where they’ve told NS has no DC headlamp!? I’ve not seen a mention anywhere..

        Alternatively an Engine Kill Switch is something that I use everyday n I wud miss it big if its absent..

      • Bharath Kumar

        Hey Sathish, i didnt expect this from you, Pulsar 200NS has Full DC electrical, you can check it on Bajaj website buddy. I have ridden discover, unicorn, fazer and currently own Pulsar 135, expect unicorn all the other bikes are connected with DC electrical. bikes like discover had dc electrical 10 years back. Honda should provide DC electrical but they are arrogant. You can check their portfolio in other countries.

  • Sathish Narayan

    What are you saying!? Does FZ stand any chance with this bike!! Really!? With 3Ps power difference nearly.. No ways..

    Gixxer still has some say to compete head on with the Hornet..

    • Vinay Kumar

      Of course the honda would beat the other two when it comes to outright acceleration. But “overall performance” which includes the riding dynamics,build, etc the gixxer and Fz would beat any honda anyday. At the end of the day the other two are a better overall package.

      • tonymatthews

        Yea, Hornet seems to be a better bet than those two if you don’t mind the engine kill switch.

        Yamaha fanboys trying to make Yamaha seem good in the competition when it clearly isn’t.

      • retipser jay

        Fanatics or not,views are about that…, they all are good bikes in their own right. Rather than comparing and trying to get an upper hand over the other,let the buyers decide what they think. There won’t be demolition or annihilation of any sort. . It will be negligible, at best. Hyperbolics don’t serve anyone well(well?). Sometimes the nonchalant wins it all,maybe Honda stuck to subtlety and that might work well for them. I don’t see any engine related substantial gains at all. I can definitely bet on the quality of this bike as HOnda never disappoints nor do the other two in the line up. I think “leaves a lot to be desired” switches and plastics are not a big concern,maybe it will live shorter and come cheaper.

      • Sathish Narayan

        15.9Ps vs 13.1Ps, 163cc vs 149cc, 14.8Nm vs 12.8Nm is indeed a clear 1 sided affair on paper easily.. Irrespective of the 8kg disadvantage..

      • retipser jay

        Thanks for the info.,appreciate it. it ain’t a like comparison then.. if figures are to be laid bare and winner drawn out of the chest of drawers then it is safe to say that the stable doors are not yet closed and the horse is yet to bolt …the chalice is filled with more wine for everyone to rejoice. Thank you

      • Syed Shiraz Shah

        Tony, please don’t accuse us (or any road tester for that matter) of fanboy-ism. You may be suffering from it, and it’s okay. But please refrain from including us in that category.Thank you.

      • shenoy

        Suzuki Yamaha n Honda, all these co thinks in different ways so you can’t expect Gixxer to be like FZ or Hornet to become other 2. Honda is always for comfort n ease of handling when compared to Yamaha’s n Suzuki’s racing n dynamics. So no comparison. All these 3 are Japs but they are different.

      • shenoy

        Hi satish did you chance for a test ride? I did see the bike in Dhruvdesh Honda. But need to check in old airport Road Bangalore by tomorrow or next week.

      • Sathish Narayan

        Yet to test ride mate.. Will be doing it very soon..

      • Syed Shiraz Shah

        //Hornet isnt just better in outright acceleration, it is easily better in top speed and in gear acceleration too.. A complete performance demolition..//

        Aah, could you please post the figures you achieved in your test ride? Btw, did you even ride the bike?

      • Sathish Narayan

        I haven’t ridden the bike but I have ridden the FZ V2 for over a 1000kms.. By the way have you ridden both bikes!?

      • Syed Shiraz Shah

        You have not ridden the bike and say that it is a “complete performance demolition”? That strips you the credibility to even ask a question to someone about what he has or hasn’t ridden. Still, you may check our reviews section to get your answer.

      • Sathish Narayan

        Well I agree with you that I can’t comment much without riding the bike.. However I fully stand by my side words as the specs tell the whole story themselves..

  • imran

    one more failure after dazzler and trigger

    • shenoy

      Hornet has Everything that is needed to shine in Indian market. Honda name, power torque style fat tyres bla bla bla… What else you are expecting?

      • Drunk

        He was expecting a bike with reduced power, fi and a tuning fork logo:-)

  • Sathish Narayan

    Prices of the bikes as follows.. All on road Bangalore:-
    Gixxer Dual color – 94K
    Hornet – 95K
    AS 150 – 96K
    FZ-S – 99K!!

    All are front disc equipped comparable variants..

    • Are you just a blind fanboy Sathish? I say that because it seems you have not really read or understood what I have written. Anyway, I shall address your (mis)understanding of the prices here:
      1) Cheapest Gixxer = 84,642 on-road, Delhi. CHEAPEST Hornet = 88,248 on-road, Delhi.
      2) I wrote “FZ”, NOT “FZ-S” — please pay attention next time around.
      3) Yamaha FZ (cheapest FI variant) = 80,096 ex-Delhi. CHEAPEST HORNET = 79,900 ex-Delhi. Price difference? Less than 200 bucks! AND this is the FUEL_INJECTED FZ I am talking about. The carburetted FZ sells for 73,891 (ex-Delhi)!
      4) Fyi, ALL these bikes come with a front disc as standard. There’s no model/variant that comes with a front drum, lolz!

    • Syed Shiraz Shah

      Are you just a blind fanboy Sathish? I say that because it seems you have not really read or understood what I have written. Anyway, I shall address your (mis)understanding of the prices here:
      1) Cheapest Gixxer = 84,642 on-road, Delhi. CHEAPEST Hornet = 88,248 on-road, Delhi.
      2) I wrote “FZ”, NOT “FZ-S” — please pay attention next time around.
      3) Yamaha FZ (cheapest FI variant) = 80,096 ex-Delhi. CHEAPEST HORNET = 79,900 ex-Delhi. Price difference? Less than 200 bucks! AND this is the FUEL_INJECTED FZ I am talking about. The carburetted FZ sells for 73,891 (ex-Delhi)!
      4) Fyi, ALL these bikes come with a front disc as standard. There’s no model/variant that comes with a front drum, lolz!

      • rk

        why are u comparing fi version fz with hornet?…. fz v1 is much cheaper than hornet all over India….
        ‘FZ’s FI can’t guarantee as clean a fuelling as Gixxer’s carb!’… dude I laughed my lungs out… was amazed at how confident noobs can sound!
        Ride any carb bike in hills, and then ride fi bike… u will know what fi is for…

      • rk

        then don’t write such irresponsible comments…. who told u Gixxer’s fuelling is better than fi fz?

      • rk

        experience it again in different terrains… and this time please keep all your five senses alive

      • rk

        I ride them both 2 days ago in Lansdowne…. gixxer won’t even start after we came out from the only movie theater @10pm in 2 degrees bone freezing dewey night

      • rk

        I am not saying that carb bikes never start in cold places… what I am saying is u will know fi bike’s fuelling abilities in a better way at cold low air pressure places

      • retipser jay

        @ everyone — these comments on FI vs Carburettor is really funny,laughable,naive and utter gibberish…

  • Krishnan Ravichandran

    Naming relatively small bikes after substantially larger-engined ones was a trend started by Honda with the CBR 150 and 250. The strategy seemed to work for them initially, so it was also implemented by other manufacturers like Suzuki with the Gixxer. However, it looks like Honda is going fail miserably with the Hornet. Not only do they have a weak product-no fuel injection, engine kill switch-the pricing of the bike too only indicates its impending failure. With the fit, finish and build quality being only par with Bajaj and much lower than Yamaha or Suzuki, this bike does not even have a selling proposition.

    • Syed Shiraz Shah

      Please avoid spamming with your stupid comments Sathish, or we’ll be forced to block you from commenting. In one post you are talking about front disc, and when I tell you that it’s standard in these bikes, you just try to cover it up by mentioning the Hornet’s rear disc. PLEASE STOP!

      • Syed Shiraz Shah

        Thanks.

      • Ayan

        hey,syed nice review. But, im still confused between fz and hornet, one thing i hate the most is – engine killer.also , im not quite sure but the pillion looks higher than fz too -.-

      • Thanks Ayan 🙂 I would suggest you test ride both and decide for yourself. You can’t go wrong with either. But yes, the seat height felt higher than the FZ to me. The pillion sits more comfortably on the FZ as compared to the Gixxer. Can’t say about the Hornet as yet; I suggest you take your pillion along on the test ride as well, and let us know 🙂

    • Priyadarsi Padhy

      I really think you have no idea about the market and its acceptance for Honda due to its performance and quality. what you are expecting the buyers will not choose Hornet just bcoz of it doesnt have engine kill switch or FI . give me a break…..
      I agree Engine kill switch is a standard now a days, but the kind of market share and mind share in India, Honda has created with Hornet the sell will go up only.

  • Reeto

    Honda should have included the much needed Engine Kill switch on the Hornet. The Gixxer has a serious contender, however I still feel the Suzuki will be of better built quality than the Honda.

  • Bharath Kumar

    Yes, but bajaj gave dc electricals to its pulsar range in 2007 itself, but today 8 years later except CBR none of Honda’s bike has it. More over Honda charges its customers separately for number plates, orvms, guards etc. apart from on-road cost which is bad, but still fans of honda doesnt care about these. End of day they say its Honda, thats all.

    • Vinny

      Nice point!! Honda should listen and change.

    • Venkatesh N.G (NG)

      One question. Which company does not charge separately for number plates, orvms, guards etc?

      • Bharath Kumar

        Bajaj and TVS. I bought a P135 for 68K 3years before and the only additional thing that i was charged was for buzzer and for wego I was charged for seat cover and again buzzer not for orvms, numberplates etc.

  • Kp

    Bit late to comment,but this review looks genuine… Honda fans may not like it which obvious…even design part I have feel same nothing great recycled parts from other Honda bikes…

    • Syed Shiraz Shah

      Thanks KP. Just saw your comment. 🙂