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Honda’s single horn is back

With power on tap and a comfortable ride, commuting turns pleasant

autos Updated: Mar 09, 2015 10:52 IST
K Hari Warrier
K Hari Warrier
Hindustan Times

The 150 -cc, mono -shock Unicorn was one of the mainstays of the Honda stable in India for a long time. Having milked it for all it was worth, the company found itself faced with a plethora of 150-cc bikes, most of them sporting the muscular visage popularised by the Yamaha FZ and its siblings. Clearly, the youth is swayed by the sporty looks and performance of the new generation. Honda scrapped the Unicorn, and got down to filling that gap.

The result is the new Unicorn 160 – built more or less in the old mould – with a ladleful of extra power and some features getting updated. The grey variant that we got to ride is not the most exciting bike on the road, but that said, it has more than its share of surprises.

Looks wise, it is the typical Honda commuter – conservative. There are some nice twists in the plastics that mostly go unnoticed as they merge into the bodywork. The quality of plastic could have been better, though.

The clear glass headlight is new, so is the H-shaped tail light — easily one of better looking ones in the market today.

The fuel-tank gets some beef in the looks department, with angular plastic shrouds and the Honda badge standing out proudly. The instrumentation is all digital, and looks quite nifty. Single petal front disc-brake, bikini fairing (more like thongs, actually), exhaust pipe muffler, tubeless tyres and six-spoke wheels round off the bodywork.

Oh hold on, lest we forget -- Honda has given a neat twist to that horrible mandatory grille that the government insists bikes should be equipped with —the saree guard. The Unicorn may well end up making this appendage a fashion accessory. Competitors, take a cue.

The engine-kill switch is missed, but it does have a pass-flasher. So much for looks. Let’s move on to the ride.

The Unicorn has a new 163cc, 14.5 BHP engine that also generates 14.6 Nm of torque, which relays the power to the wheel via a five-speed gearbox. It is a nice, refined engine and vibrations become noticeable only in prolonged rides at high speeds.

Equipped with Honda’s HET (Honda eco technology), the company claims 62 kmpl mileage for the Unicorn. Even taken with a pinch of salt, that is quite a serious claim, for on the other end, it can hit 118 kph (the company claims 106), and is quite comfortable holding that speed. The dual-brake technology adds a sense of assurance, and for the more safety-minded there is an ABS variant as well.

The rear single shocker makes the ride smooth and enjoyable, and the upright stance, the centrally mounted footpegs and the handle position give the bike miles and miles of commuting pleasure. Of course, it is not meant to be treated as a highway vehicle, but it can keep 100kph going without struggling, so that is a matter of choice.

The main competitor for the Unicorn is the TVS Apache RTR 160, which in fact has a smaller engine, develops more power and is also quite sharp in the looks department.

As if that were not enough, Suzuki last year launched the 155-cc ‘premium’ commuter bike Gixxer, which holds its own against the Unicorn on power and torque. And it is, in fact, a better looking bike too.

The deciding factor may be Honda itself — the second-largest bike maker in the country has vast reach in terms of dealerships and service stations.

First Published: Mar 09, 2015 10:45 IST