NEVER STIR A hornet’s nest, they say, because you could end up getting more than what you bargained for. Well, getting more than what you bargained for is exactly what the average Indian motorcycle customer wants, so I had no qualms prodding Honda’s new CB Hornet 160R with a stick repeatedly to see how it would react.
On initial assessment, the Hornet is quite tasty indeed. It has a face that’s more CBR650F than Unicorn, though, and has just the right amount of upsweep to make it stand out. Behind that, you have a sculpted 12-litre tank shrouded in strapping body panels that brings all the menace to the Hornet’s stance and this menace is carried out across the length and width of the bike. Crucially, the design flow, while assertive, hasn’t been exaggerated to the point where it’s all a bit much, and this makes it an outstanding looker to my eyes.
Even the sari-guard — a begrudged, much-maligned afterthought for most bike designers — has been carefully sculpted on the Hornet, and in a turn of events I have never witnessed before, actually adds to the bike visually rather than detracting from it. Other highlights include a fuel-cap that doesn’t flap about, that chunky exhaust, elegant five-spoke alloys wrapped in fat tyres, and a wicked tail-lamp, which, together with the rest of the bike, lend the Hornet bags of pose value.
While looks are all well and good, you don’t just want a pretty face. Well, the Hornet seems to have a little bit going on under the surface as well. Power comes from the same near 163-cc single powering the Unicorn, though this engine has been tweaked for performance. The same engine now produces one more horse, 15.88 PS at 8,500 RPM, and a little more torque, 14.76 Nm at 6,500 RPM. This gives the Hornet an edge over the competition, at least on paper. Another segment- standout for the Hornet is that it is BS IV-compliant, and Honda can only be commended for achieving this.
All that glitters isn’t always gold, though, so I slid into the Hornet’s seat to see what the bike was really made of. The seat is characteristically Honda — wide, long and comfortable. The handlebars, unlike on its predecessor, the Trigger, aren’t typically high- positioned commuter-style, instead it sports a set of flat bars akin to proper roadster — of decent width and slightly forward set. The slight forward placement of the foot-pegs, though, has resulted in a riding position which, while not discomforting, isn’t absolutely wonderful over long stretches either.
Fire up the Hornet and it feels quiet and refined at low revs. Speaking of revs, the all-digital dash displays a somewhat unique horizontal rev counter along with the usual fare of a dominant speedometer, surrounded by the fuel indicator, odometer and clock. Well laid out and easy to read, the switches are ergonomically sound, and easily accessible. The lack of an engine kill- switch, while not significant, is still felt.
When I tugged on the clutch to get going, it felt light and progressive, and though the gear-lever placement is a little higher than what you would expect, once you get used to it, you realise that the five-speed gearbox is quite well-sorted and that the shifts are quite proficient. The first two gears, however, are short, and this means you need to shuffle between gears while navigating through slow-moving traffic. Find an open stretch and you can really feel the Hornet go. It feels rapid and buzzes about like a dream. Our performance test indicated that the Hornet does 0-60 km/h in 5.07 seconds, 0-80 in 8.63 seconds and has a top speed of 114 km/h. Impressive figures, and clearly indicative of the power the Hornet packs.
The Hornet is an able handler, too, nipping into corners with ease and holding its shape through bends. The MRF rubber the Hornet sports are grippy and this, in conjunction with a confidence-inspiring chassis and telescopic front suspension setup and an adjustable monoshock at the back, allows you to really ride those corners hard. The ride quality too is pretty solid, and takes undulations and potholes in its stride.
Braking is achieved through a set of 276-mm front and 220-mm rear disc brakes equipped with Honda’s Combi-Braking System on the CBS variant we rode, while a slightly more economical STD or standard model is available with a front-disc/rear-drum configuration as well. The brakes on the CBS intensify steadily with increasing pressure, and yield dependable stopping power overall.
To sum things up, the CB Hornet is a hoot to ride and looks absolutely smashing, and while it has a few, slight niggles, they aren’t anywhere near significant enough to be a deterrent. One of the most important considerations for the average Indian two-wheeler commuter is fuel efficiency, and this is where the Hornet really outpaces the rest of the pack with an overall figure of 55 km/l. That’s 52 km/l in the city and 64 km/l on the highway. That’s class- leading efficiency right there, and so very typical of Honda’s skilled engineers.
With an on-road (Pune) price of about Rs 95,000 for the CBS, and around the Rs 90,000 mark for the STD, the Hornet does come at a premium, but that is offset by the sheer quality and reliability that Honda put into their engine and the overall build of the bike. With so much going for the Hornet, it’s safe to say that the CB Hornet 160R is bringing the sting to the 150-cc naked- street segment.