The world of sports often witnesses great players who earn a name for themselves for their extraordinary talent. Sachin Tendulkar, Pele, Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali are a few great names who changed the history of the games they played with their genius and gained unprecedented honour. Exceptional talents, all of them, and their dedication to their respective vocations meant they were destined for glory. Then there are those like a Rahul Dravid or the Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who may not be the most naturally gifted athletes, but worked relentlessly on their technique and achieved greatness in their own way. These sportspersons may not have the sheer magnetism of the personalities mentioned before them, but they have the much needed character and will to pull their respective teams out from the most dire situations. The motoring world is no different. So while there are swanky looking machines which would smoke their rivals, there also are balanced, rugged, reliable products which do almost everything right. The Honda Unicorn is one such trusted workhorse that has become a benchmark in the 150cc segment of motorcycles for a decade now.
It was back in 2005, when I first swung my leg over the Honda Unicorn for a short spin. Back in the day, I rode a Hero Honda Splendor and the refinement of the Honda engine swept me off my feet. That refinement, along with a sweet handling package, decent punch and unmatched reliability has made Unicorn one of Honda’s highest selling products in the country today. The older version of the Unicorn, before it got replaced by the motorcycle here, still required prospective buyers to wait three months before delivery! Such is the success of the brand among the Indian masses. Honda did try to squeeze out more juice out of the Unicorn brand name with the introduction of the CB Unicorn Dazzler – a more premium variant with new design, digital instrument cluster and rear disc brake – but the new product could not steal the limelight away from the original Unicorn.
So the new Honda CB Unicorn 160 has some really big shoes to fill. And after riding the motorcycle, we realised that the CB Unicorn 160 might have ticked most of the right boxes. So sit tight for an exhaustive review of the new Honda CB Unicorn 160.
Design and Styling
Honda has added a lot of design elements to the new CB Unicorn 160 to keep up with the changing times. The two-wheeler major targets the youth of the country as its prime audience and has designed the CB Unicorn 160 accordingly. You can can see hints of understated sportiness in places. The headlight now gets a larger shape compared to the 150cc variant, in a bit to enhance both form and function. However, Honda could have designed the headlight a tad better as the current unit does not gel properly with the rest of the design, especially in profile. The tank now dons a more muscular shape and receives angular side cowls. The shape of the tank recess flows with the lines of the side cowls which also feature a chrome drenched 3D Honda emblem. The side panel is formed by two piece plastic unit in dual colour tone. The lighter shade features a satin finish and is shaped like an angular, elongate anvil. The black part of the panel features three fins in the upper section and a cavity down low to add some more detail. Those details, however, somewhat get lost owing to the black colour of the surface.
The rear panel of the motorcycle, with its fluidic, wavy interplay looks good in isolation. The deep, rich paint on the motorcycle reflects really well off the panel highlighting its curvy lines. The organically styled panel, however, doesn’t mingle very well with angular styling of the front end though. A sharper, edgier shape for the rear panel would have worked well to lend the new Unicorn a more complete design. The grab rail is painted in the same satin finish shade as the plastic side panels. A good addition to the CB Unicorn 160 is the modern, stylish looking saree guard that’s been picked from the Honda CB Trigger.
The tail section, when viewed directly from the rear looks impressive. Honda has introduced the Unicorn with a LED tail light that has been designed to look like an “H”. Conventional clear blinker turn indicators are placed below the tail light. The new Honda CB Unicorn 160 also receives a rear number plate illuminator whereas the previous Unicorn used the illumination from the tail light to shed light on the number plate.
We love the more mature look of the previous generation Unicorn. The new CB Unicorn 160, on the other hand, in terms of overall design, felt a tad out of proportion, especially because of the rear panel. Moreover, as much as we liked the tail light design, the headlamp, although with better utility value, could have been nicely designed. As we said earlier, Honda targets younger crowd with the new CB Unicorn 160, and we sincerely hope they succeed.
Instrument cluster and switchgear
We believe that the instrument cluster and switchgear deserve a special mention here. The instrument cluster on the new CB Unicorn is an all digital unit and comprises of a speedometer, odometer, two trip meters, tachometer, fuel gauge, clock and tell-tale indicators. The new display is impressive and easily visible even during daytime. The Select and Set buttons too are quite good. As much as we were impressed by the new instrument cluster, the switchgear doesn’t come cross as too impressive a unit with its minimalistic set-up. It also looks quite old and basic in design, though its been built very well. We would have liked to see an engine kill switch here. The slim handlebar grips have a grippy, quality rubber coating over them and feel very nice to hold.
Engine and Performance
The engine is one of the biggest changes on the Unicorn. Nearly a decade after donning a 150cc motor, Honda CB Unicorn has received an performance upgrade, a relatively mild one though. The previous Honda Unicorn was powered by a 149cc carbureted single-cylinder motor that delivered about 13 bhp of power and 12.84 Nm of torque. The new Honda CB Unicorn 160 receives a slightly more powerful 162.7cc carbureted (still no fuel-injection) single-cylinder engine that delivers a relatively healthier 14.5 bhp of power at 8,000 rpm and 14.61 Nm of torque at 6,000. The CB Unicorn 160 is also 11 kilograms lighter than the 150cc variant which gives the motorcycle a better power-to-weight ratio. The instrument console witnesses a tacho redline marked at 9250 rpm with reading going well above 11,000 rpm
But don’t be mistaken to believe that this is a bored out version of the previous 150cc motor. Honda insists that it has developed the engine from ground up and the motor has been tuned to deliver a sporty, rev friendly character. There is a characteristic grunty sound to the engine, which is poles apart from the buttery smooth nature of the previous engine. But that effect of aural gruffness has been engineered into the power plant to give the bike a throaty, sporty feel, and not something that the lovers of Honda smoothness should bother about. The engine is still smooth as ever and none of the sound gets translated to the handlebars or the foot-pegs as vibes, even at the top of the rev-counter. Most of the power is concentrated in the mid-range but that does not mean that the pulling power at the lower end has suffered. The new Unicorn has enough torque at the bottom of the barrel to ensure the bumper to bumper city traffic conditions can be dealt with, without having to shift into too low a gear.
The new Unicorn delivers dependable, punchy performance, if not the top-of-the-pile, dopamine releasing rush. The top speed claimed by Honda stands at 106kph while we were able to clock 120kph mark (speedometer indicated). The top gear is relatively tall which is ideal for highway cruising while the motor revs up easily in lower gears for quick sprints in between traffic.
The CB Unicorn 160 receives Honda Eco Technology and the ARAI fuel efficiency figure stands at 62 kmpl. Not bad considering the fact that the motorcycle delivers more power than the previous Unicorn. The efficiency, along with the 12-litre fuel tank, can eat up more miles than many of the motorcycles in the segment.
Braking too has improved, especially after the addition of Honda Combined Braking System (CBS) technology. The braking duties are performed by 240mm disc at the front and 130mm drum with CBS at the rear. The initial bite is followed by a responsive and well executed braking which is decent by the commuter standards. The motorcycle is connected to the road through MRF Nylogrip Zappers tubeless tyres (80/100×17 up front and 110/80×17 at the rear) which perform the duty rather well in normal circumstances. Under sharp braking, however, we heard the tyres wailing for mercy before we expected them to. The tyres are acceptable for everyday use and for the odd weekend trip out of town. If you are, however, a more serious, properly trained biker, you would be left somewhat wanting in terms of grip levels from those tyres.
Ergonomics and Handling
Even with its 160cc engine and all of its muffled sportiness, the Unicorn has been designed to please a wide audience base, which merits usability and comfort over outright performance. Ergonomics remain as rider friendly and relatively commuter oriented as on the 150cc model. The handlebar has been borrowed from the CB Trigger and has been positioned at a decent height, unlike some other motorcycles in the segment. The footpegs are forward set which form a comfortable rider’s triangle. The new Unicorn, just like its predecessor lends itself for hassle free, comfortable riding right from the word go. Comfortable, friendly ergonomics make this new Honda an ideal city tool that can also be easily used for long highway hauls. The weight of the motorcycle tips the scale at 135 kilograms which is 11 kilograms lighter than the 150cc Unicorn, and comes as a pleasant surprise. The lighter weight makes it even more flickable in traffic and cutting through between mile long jams is as easy as a walk in the park.
The suspension, as we figured is set slightly on the stiffer side, though the mono-unit is damped extremely well. While there is a wee bit of stiffness to be experiences while riding solo, the suspension gets a new level of composure with a pillion rider. The Unicorn, thanks to its extremely well sorted chassis and suspension feels rock solid in a straight line, even while doing triple digit speeds. The balanced chassis also allows for effortless, natural corner carving on the motorcycle – making it an extremely enjoyable and forgiving around bends. The slightly stiff suspension, which may be a little bothersome on broken roads, comes across as a blessing as one explores the motorcycle’s dynamic ability around a set of corners. We could have asked for a bit more grip from the MRF Nylogrip rubber though. The seat is wide, long and sufficiently comfortable for two-up riding. A bit more padding would have made our behinds a bit happier though.
CB Unicorn as a brand has come a long way and the addition of the 160cc unit was a much awaited upgrade to keep up with the increasing competition. The bike maintains its understated demeanour and doesn’t present itself to the racer boys. It’s meant for the more sensible buyer who wants a bit of everything from his machine. The new Unicorn is in many ways better than the 150cc model it replaces. The engine feels more responsive and is willing to rev throughout the rpm range. We miss an FI unit on this one, but in all honesty, the responsiveness of the motor doesn’t leave much to complain about.
Finally, at Rs 74,414 for the CBS variant (Ex-showroom, Delhi), the Unicorn 160 does not come cheap but what Honda offers is quality mechanicals, unmatched reliability, good fuel efficiency and minimal expenditures on maintenance. The brand is known to retain its value well in the used bike market, and will pay you handsomely if you decided to upgrade a few years down the line. It’s not an out and out sporty machine, but it if you can live with understated looks, and need an all-rounder – look no further than the machine in the pictures here.
|Specifications||Honda CB Unicorn 160|
|Engine Type||Single-Cylinder Air-Cooled four-stroke Engine|
|Cubic Capacity (cc)||162.71|
|Power (PS) @ RPM||14.7 @ 8,000|
|Torque (Nm) @ RPM||14.6 @ 6,000|
|Transmission||Five-speed manual transmission|
|Length x Width x Height (mm)||2,045 x 757 x 1,060|
|Ground Clearance (mm)||150|
|Seat Height (mm)||NA|
|Brake (Front/Rear)||Disc/Drum (Optional CBS)|
|Fuel Tank Capacity (Litre)||12|
|Kerb Weight (kg)||135|
|Price (ex-showroom)||Rs 69,350 (Standard)/Rs 74,414 (CBS)|
Do you like the new Unicorn, or do you not? Do share with us your views and opinions in the comments section below.