After parting ways with Hero Motors, Honda seems to be trying real hard to capture its share of the Indian motorcycle market and seems to have some serious plans under its belt. After capturing a large pie of the premium motorcycle market with the CBR250R, they have set their eyes on the next big thing, the 150 cc performance segment which is exactly where the volumes are. They had unveiled the CBR150R during the Auto Expo 2012 and it was clear on that day itself that if Honda could price it really well, they would give some serious competition to the current segment leader, the Yamaha R15.
And while the xBhp GIR team was circumnavigating the country, they finally launched the CBR150 in the market. During our stay in Bhubaneshwar, we got our hands on this baby CBR, thanks to PGL Honda there. They gave us the machine for a full day to ride around on and it was good as we had a G2G ride to Konark and some 30 kms further towards Puri planned for the same morning. So we got a nice respectable distance to do on the bike and get to know it well enough to put up a reasonable first-ride review here for you all.
The bike looks more compact and proportionate than its 250cc elder and so appears more lithe and athletic. It is of course lighter than the 250 and almost the same weight as the R15 V2, its contemporary and a direct competitor. Comparisons with its elder sibling are inevitable and so seen externally the exhaust is a tad smaller and a closer inspection reveals a steel tube constructed twin spar frame in place of the Trellis type diamond frame on the 250. The plastic panels are again almost identical except for being slightly smaller and somewhat skinnier. The switchgear apparently comes off the Stunner sans the ‘engine kill switch’ and the ‘pass switch’ is a disappointment. The sitting posture is sporty and quite like the 250 with the pegs a trifle more rearset in the 150. Overall fit and finish is not absolute Honda but it is not that bad either. Paint quality is good and the overall touch and feel factor is appreciable. The 150 in fact looks a lot better aesthetically than the 250. But then ‘looks’ are very subjective and so not much stress can be laid on such individual opinions.
The engine has a now common layout of 4-valves, a double overhead cam and an under-square bore to stroke relation, makes for a quick revving and free breathing engine. And so it is with this little Honda motor. The 149cc engine produces almost 18 BHP but a very high 10500 rpm. The same story repeats itself for peak torque which at 12.66 Nm is again met at a high 8500 rpm. The 6-speed box, though slick and smooth, further adds to the pilot work levels here. This makes for a bike that needs to be revved hard and high to get to its promised performance levels. Not that the engine does not like to rev but then doing it say for an hour during a longish cross-city commute is stressful for the rider at least if not for the bike. The R15 peaks a couple of thousand rpm’s below this 150 from Honda and so apparently this 150 is a handful when used within city. The engine showed no signs of fatigue though and neither did it appear to heat up more than normal during the short stint we had the bike for. We cannot give any specific mileage figures after just a few hours of usage but somewhere between 30-35 kmpl seems relevant.
Handling is appreciable on all counts. Though not as flickable as the Duke or as razor sharp as the R15, this CBR manages pretty quick turn-ins and with good sense of security for the rider. On smooth tarmac the bike feels planted and requires just a nudge to change direction seamlessly. The suspension is just the right mix between plush and hard, a combination that one sorely misses on the 250 CBR. The stock tyres were MRF Zappers and yet the bike felt very poised during hard cornering. Cross wind stability is good, something we appreciated when riding next to the sea on the way to Puri from Bhubaneshwar. The seat felt good during the short 60 km run and we feel a little more firmness in the padding would make for more comfort during day long runs on the open road. Pillion comfort is a lot better than it is on both the R 15 and the KTM Duke 200. There’s a lot more of the ‘spaciousness’ element associated with the butt-perches on this 150.
We did not use the bike after dark and so cannot comment on the headlight performance but seeing the size and shape of the reflector and inferring from the on-paper specs, this should be similar to its elder sister the 250. Instrument console looks a trifle down-market compared to the 250 as it comes without the silver edges and such frills. But it is functional and quite legible even in bright sunlight. Switchgear as told elsewhere comes from the Stunner and is functional but feels out of place on a premium product like this one. The brakes are sharp, give great feedback and did not fade despite repeated usage in hot weather.
Pricing is one Achilles’ heel that this new entrant from the Honda stables has been burdened with. More expensive than both the Yamaha R 15 V2 and the KTM Duke 200 and with not any spectacular gains either in terms of performance or additional value for money, Honda will have a hard time convincing prospective buyers as to the additional premium in the price. The CBR150r does have that Honda racing DNA carousing through its insides and it shows in bright flashes when you push the bike through the paces. What remains to be seen is how the motorcyclist in India takes to this bike that comes forth as a mix of the commuter, tourer and a track machine.