Honda CB Unicorn Dazzler: A Comprehensive Roadtest

Biking enthusiasts went berserk with the news of Honda’s plans to foray into the Indian market with its fully owned subsidiary, HMSI back during the initial part of this decade, expecting a lot bigger bikes. The start was also in line with expectations as they kicked off their proceedings in India by launching a 150cc bike. As time went past not much of those expectations were put to rest but nonetheless, although small, we saw the emergence of some fantastic machines from their stables.

Honda Unicorn was one such machine which was launched in 2004 as a direct competition to the ruler in 150cc segment Bajaj’s Pulsar. Though Unicorn did not experience that huge a success due to plain and staid styling and not so catchy feel attached to it, the bike boasted off country’s most refined engine which came along with bullet proof reliability, complimentary! As time passed by, with the launch of new bikes and competition’s aggressive upgrades, Unicorn needed much deeper upgrades then what it was lended with.

And as a result of half-hearted upgrades, the charm of the bike started vanishing among the masses which became evident with the falling sales of the bike. HMSI boffins sat down to think about a much better attempt this time and hence the CB Unicorn Dazzler was born. With Dazzlers launch came a lot of expectations and as always, we went ahead for a test ride of the bike to unearth the questions which would quench the thirsts of our avid and curious readers. Has Dazzler got enough Dazzle to bedazzle the crowd with its aura? Read on…

Styling, Build & Design:

While Unicorn was known much for its simple and elegant styling, Honda’s recent launches clearly suggest that they have shifted focus on flashy looking concepts. Dazzler draws many designing cues from its youngest sibling, CB Twister and is completely in tune with today’s generations’ likings. Similar to Pulsar 135, the front fairing is housed between two different panels and a Passion-like bulging lens cover. The screenless bikini fairing is loathed with a supposedly aggressive styling but instead it makes the bike look sad. Somehow, we have always felt that most of Hondas (HMSI & Hero Honda) bikes in India could have had better looking meaner fairings.

Dazzler uses clear white pointed indicators which also feel a little flimsy. Front indicators are placed slightly above than normal and bulge out with their bigger necks. The mass of the tank is gone and Dazzler does duty with a smaller and plain looking tank. But probably the catchiest part of the bike is the extended tank shrouds much similar to, again the Twister. With the Honda emblem protruding on it, this is the only part which lends the bike a big-look factor. Knee recess is again typical Honda, top class!

Honda has also provided this bike with two-tone seat cover which comes in black and gray which does add a bit of dash to the bike. The rear is finished with two materials, the body colored fiber part ends a little earlier and a black colored plastic takes the cues to a decent looking plain tail very similar to Hunk. Body colored grab rails are also kept non mushy and provide a proper holding space and feel. In sync with the sporty character of the bike, the full chain cover has been dispensed off and in comes a half chain cover. While the Twister was made to look fiery with fantastic curves running all across and a touch of youthism attached to it, Dazzler is lended with a more of a mature character and a masculine feel!

Ironically, build quality on the bike is not what Honda is famous for. There are few areas like the engine and components which are immaculately built and exude typical Honda quality. But there are many areas which have been overlooked and finishing is not to our liking. Wires run all around and some even without proper housings. The rear footrace assembly seems like borrowed from another incompatible model and amateurishly put on this bike. Plastic quality has always been an area where Honda has lacked and Dazzler is no exception. We were astonished to see plastic turning ‘whitish’ on the bike which we rode. Front indicator housing and back part of rear mudguard near the monoshock could have been better done. Seat fitting had yawning gaps and even casual eyes can catch these misfittings.

The funniest part which we felt was the exclusion of kick starter in the bike. The bikes which come sans a kick starter in today’s world are bikes which have sporty riding postures and to avoid CBZ classic like ‘fold-the-foot-peg-to-kick-start-the-bike’ hassles. Dazzler has Unicorn like commuter seating position with the footrests front set and an ample amount of space to accommodate a kicker. In short, Dazzler could have been made a little more flamboyant but more importantly, Honda has done a half hearted attempt to the construction quality of the bike. Barring the engine bit, the bike has a lot of last-time fill-ups, unwanted gaps, welds, wires and screws.

Styling, Build & Design: 7/10

Engine, Gearbox & Ride Quality:

Honda has always been a master at producing gem of engines and equally good transmissions. And dare we say anything against it here! The new iteration of Unicorn produces a maximum power output of 14 bhp from the same 4 stroke 149.1cc engine which is an increment of 0.7 bhp and also peaks at 500rpm above at 8500 RPM as compared to the older version. Though no improvement on the torque output is made, the bike produces the same 12.8 Nms at 500 rpm above at 6500 rpm. These figures are by no means ground breaking in the current immensely competitive 150cc segment, but definitely takes the hitch of Honda producing low powered bikes away in the minds of the masses.

Closely observing the figures, Dazzlers tune feels more related to the CBZ Extreme/Hunk rather than Unicorn/Achiever. Not only this bike is different from Unicorn lookwise, it has a different character also. Unicorn was made to scorch through city traffic with ease and hence was the reason of concentration of power and torque at lower rpms. Dazzler feels happier when you are on open roads and with a slight wrist of the throttle, the sweet note takes you to a better world! But with an increment in the power output, the smoothness of the Unicorn’s engine has been traded off slightly but it would still come second in the market. Inclusion of weight end bars in Dazzler also helps in reducing vibrations.

Quite similar to Unicorn, Dazzlers gearbox-clutch geometry is world class. Gear feel is smooth and it would take a very mature rider to find false neutrals on this bike. The only-toe shifter might create a few problems for first time switchers initially but with time people will get accustomed to it. Even on quick situations like a hurried up overtake which needs gear change at higher rpms, shifting up just needed a little press of the buttery clutch and a slight push down of the foot. Ride quality was typical Unicorn and we were almost convinced that this has to be one of the most relaxed bikes to travel on in this segment.

Engine, Gearbox and Ride Quality: 9/10

Chasis, Handling & Dynamics:

Unicorn was probably the first bike which redefined how a bike handled and cornered with its immaculate chassis and India’s first monoshock. With Dazzler, the game has just been taken ahead. The only other major bit, apart from the engine which is same on this bike is the same chassis which Honda calls as “Advanced Design Diamond Frame”. The front does duty with regular telescopic shockups, whereas the three step red colored adjustable monoshock has been carried over to this bike as well for the rear. The rear setup can be altered from hard to softer setup depending upon the terrain the bike is being ridden on.

The good part is that its neither too stiff nor too soft which makes it a perfect balance to ride on. The well crafted rectangular swingarm also adds to the stability factor a lot. The important bit about this bike is that contrary to Unicorn’s 18 inch tyres, HMSI has retorted to 17 inchers for Dazzler. The immediate impact is that the ground clearance is down by 17mm to 162mm from 179mm of the Unicorn. As a result, the center of gravity has also shifted downwards which has made this bike even more stable than Unicorn both on triple digit speeds and acute corners also aided by broader 80/100 (front) and 110/80 (rear) tires. Moreover, tuff up tubes on the Unicorn give way to completely tubeless MRF Zappers on Dazzler.

City handling aspects are also slightly different for this bike as the wheelbase has been shortened by 12mm to 1328mm (from 1340mm for Unicorn) along with a drop of 8 kilograms in weight. The major weight reduction has come from the use of more fiber and plastics and reduction in all dimensions of the bike. As a result, Dazzler (2073 * 754 * 1085) is a smaller bike than Unicorn (2095 * 756 * 1100). It is more easily flickable in city traffics but Unicorn still is better when engine characteristics come into picture. However, come longer and broader freeways and this bike comes into its own state of tune. On highways, Dazzler is faster and more enjoyable than Unicorn. After riding this bike we were sure that we were riding an even-improved version of an already-fantastic Unicorn.

Chassis, Handling &Dynamics: 8.5/10

Electricals And Instrumentation:

Honda has always been a laggard in this field and Dazzler becomes first bike from their 150cc arsenal (HMSI & HH) to sport a digital (semi-digital, to be precise) console, after many years of competition bringing it on their bikes. Nonetheless, a welcome change and it has been well executed. Dazzler sports a cute looking blue backlit console which features an analogue tachometer which is calibrated till 11k rpm redlining at 9300 rpm. The digital speedometer window is small but displays speed readings in big and bold black letters. A watch, fuel indicator, a trip meter and the odometer are also integrated in this window.

The console also has regular indicator lights which include side turn, high beam and neutral gear indications. The sad part is that the setup is still not DC which almost every other manufacturer is offering on their bikes. The display however is fresh and takes us away from the typical orange colored clichés. The headlamp is still powered by a 12 Volt 35 watt halogen but the throw of the beam is wide and has a decent coverage. Switchgear is similar to Unicorn and includes a self starter crank and a light button towards the right hand side and a choke lever, upper dipper switch, turn blinkers tab and a horn button towards the left. As you must have figured out by now, Dazzler also doesn’t feature the most basic functions- pass switch, pilot lamps and an engine kill switch with reasons best known to Honda!

The rear view mirrors have now acquired a heptagonal shape and do a good job of providing a fine view of the demonic vehicles as well as cute looking “scooties” coming from behind. Honda has also chosen a lesser powerful battery for this bike. Dazzler comes with 12V 4Ah maintenance free battery (Unicorn had a 12v 7Ah battery). Considering this as a first time attempt from HMSI towards providing digital gadgetries we are impressed but with the exclusion of few very basic features we are disappointed at the same time.

Electricals & Instrumentation: 7.5/10

Performance, Mileage And Braking:

As we already said, Dazzler doesn’t boast off nerve wrecking bhp figures, it’s just a few added grannies to the existing engine so we did not expect anything out of the block. And quite similar to what we had in mind, Dazzler is a sweet performer which doesn’t zip past its competitors but definitely can keep pace with them. As compared to Unicorn, Dazzler is a higher revving machine and is definitely both quicker and faster and performance figures speak a lot about the same.

Dazzler is around half a second quicker till 60kmph and almost 2 seconds earlier in reaching 100kmph on the speedo with the bike taking around 5.5 seconds for the 0-60 dash and approx 18 seconds for the 0-100 sprint. The top speed which we could achieve on this bike was an impressive 116 kmph on the speedometer which would translate to something in the range of 105-108 kmph true. Nothing ground breaking, but these figures are still better than Unicorn and in line with all the sporty commuter bikes in India.

Added to the glory are the fantastic fuel efficiency figures this bike is claimed to achieve. We could not test the actual mileage figures but according to feedbacks and our own analogy, Dazzler will run for around 50 kilometers for every liter of fuel in the tank in our type of city riding conditions. And with a tank capacity of 12 liters, this bike will run for around 600 kms before calling it quits. Though slightly lesser than Unicorn, these figures are commendable for a 14bhp bike in Indian conditions.

Another feature Honda has loaded this bike with is the inclusion of rear disc brakes. The bike comes equipped with 240mm front discs and 220mm rear discs as standard (compared to 130mm rear drums for Unicorn), both Nissins. As expected, braking has improved significantly and with a lesser weight and more braking power the stopping distance would be decreased considerably on this bike. Incidentally, Dazzler becomes the first bike in this segment to sport a rear disc brake (excluding R15). With an optimum combination of power and fuel efficiency, this bike does take away extra brownie points for better braking.

Performance, Mileage & Braking: 9/10

Bikeadvice Verdict:

Dazzler comes only as a single variant with rear discs and self start as standard. Honda is offering four color options for this bike viz Pearl Nightstar Black (our pick), Sword Silver Metallic, Pearl Siena Red and Armour Gold Metallic. With all the added gadgets and features, HMSI is charging a premium of Rs.4000 over Unicorn for Dazzler. This bike will be yours for an on road Pune price of Rs.71,790 (Unicorn costs Rs 67,708 OTR Pune).

For the very first serious upgrade for Unicorn from HMSI, Dazzler does look a pretty good prospect. It does everything in right proportions, rides well, performs decently, returns fantastic mileage, handles brilliantly which, in short makes us call this bike a ‘Jack of all trades BUT Master of none’ bike. And this is where we become apprehensive! The on road price of this bike takes a prospective customer in the range of Apache RTR 180 and Yamaha FZ-16 and this is where Dazzler feels segregated.

Apache has the insane performance going in its favor and FZ has redefined how a 150cc bike can look in India. Forget Apache as it’s a bigger engine, a guy confused between FZ and Dazzler will 70 percent of the times find himself landing in a Yamaha showroom, eventually and he has a good reason for the same! Dazzler is a very good product and there are no two ways about it but where it loses out is the ‘lack of identity’ factor. This is precisely the reason you would see us tightfisted while awarding the final points to this bike later in this section. Two thousand rupees lesser, this bike would have been a fantastic bargain but never has Honda compromised on pricing its products at a premium.

Nonetheless, Dazzler is a very apt bike for those who are bored of seeing Pulsars on Indian roads, don’t like GS150R for one reason or the other, can’t go for FZ because of its lower FE figures and the very plain looks of Unicorn do not excite them. Dazzler is for those who want to own a hasslefree Unicorn-like smooth engine but fear that their girlfriends might not like to sit with them on it. Summing it up, go for Dazzler if a Unicorn is what you are looking at which now comes with exciting goodies and the initial few glares come complimentary!

Bikeadvice Final Rating: 7.5/10

– Saad Khan