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Review: Honda CBR 150R

Driven July 2012

Review: Honda CBR 150R

I don’t know what to say, really. I mean, I was really looking forward to Honda’s new CBR150R despite it being 100cc down on its bigger-hearted clone. The idea of an R15-beater is tantalising, after all. Then again, if I were to be swayed by first impressions, I’d have never ridden the CBR150R after the first 50-km ride. What does that mean? Hopefully, by the end of this, we’ll have figured that out.

It’s the two-wheeled definition of déjà vu, this motorcycle. While we were shooting, a college kid on a CBR250R slowed to a halt and looked alternately at his bike and ours, trying to figure out what we were fussing over. He realised something was different, but couldn’t pinpoint it until he saw the ‘150R’ decal. And with an expression that said ‘I’ve been cheated’, he rolled away.

All he ever wanted was the cheapest fairing that said ‘CBR’. And that’s exactly what the newest Honda is – in more ways than one.

I’m not one for nitpicking, but the switchgear is straight off the Stunner. Hmm. What’s more, there’s no pass-beam switch – even 100cc commuters have that. I won’t even mention the looks, except the Repsol-wannabe paint job that is probably present to cash in on their MotoGP world title last year. And it doesn’t really manage to pull off the intended effect all that well in the flesh – just adding orange to white doesn't make you a factory rider. The other colours (green, in particular) look pretty good, though.

Swing a leg over the saddle and you immediately realise this is a bike even Dani Pedrosa would fit on. It’s a compact motorcycle, smaller indeed than its bigger sibling, but that doesn’t mean I find it wanting in the space department with my six feet worth of beer belly. What’s more, the CBR150R redeems itself somewhat when you twist the throttle in anger – and I mean, really twist it all the way back.

The 149cc motor utilises liquid cooling and a four-valve head to develop 17.6bhp and 12.7Nm, all transferred to the road via a six-speed gearbox; no loin-stirring numbers, these, but not too sloppy either. What’s more, it’s all packed into a twin-spar frame with a monoshock at the rear, an equation that’s difficult to go wrong with. As a result, the CBR150R is a taut handler with good ride quality.

However, the focus, as is apparent from the riding position, is on sporty comfort rather than unflinching precision – more for the highway than the racetrack, just like the CBR250R.

But much unlike the 250R, every time you want to get going, the motor takes its own sweet time waking up to the fact that your right hand is wringing its neck. In traffic, performance is nothing to write home about, and the first time I redlined it, I immediately wanted to double-check whether this was indeed a four-valve motor, one that Honda made, no less.

Nevertheless, leaving refinement aside, it’s got satisfying levels of performance and always wants to go – just that you’ve to rev the hell out of it, and that’s not something you’re likely to be up for all the time. What’s more, I’d expected great big one-wheeled salutes, but it refused to wheelie beyond a few inches off the tarmac. Then again, I’ve always had a problem getting it up for the camera... er, that didn’t come out right, did it? The front brake is pretty good, though, and stoppies are easy-peasy. Those MRF tyres are decent too, though they aren’t quite in the league of the R15’s. And that’s pretty much this Honda’s universal predicament.

The CBR150R is a buzzy little thing, but it means well and that’s something that grows on you. I suspect it won’t quite ruffle the R15 anytime soon, especially on the track. Then again, as we’ve seen, fairings with ‘Honda’ on them clearly have a following. And when the punters see that they're getting the CBR250R's panels for much  cheaper, they're likely to line up to become 'Wing Riders'.

Anyway, after the KTM Duke 200’s thunder and lightning show, this Honda seems like too little too late (especially at Rs 1.36 lakh), just like its tuning-forked nemesis. But the Yammie’s never stopped selling well, so there’s no reason why the baby CBR won’t take off either. And if you've always wanted to wing it, but couldn't afford the 250, this is all the chance you'll get.

Kartik Ware

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