Being a commuter 150cc bike in India is like being a mother in a joint family. It needs to cater to the requirements of a wide range of people while maintaining a unique personality which pleases everyone. Honda has been doing so since 2005 with the Unicorn.
The CB Unicorn was quick to become a crowd favourite and when in 2014 Honda replaced it with the Unicorn 160, customers were ready to pay a premium to the dealers to get the remaining models! Due to extensive customer demand, Honda had to relaunch the same CB Unicorn 150 in India at the 2016 Auto Expo and now, it has been given a BS-IV update. So, does the reincarnated bike still has the mettle to remain a crowd favourite? We find out.
Design & Features:
The relaunched CB Unicorn 150 looks exactly the same as the discontinued bike back in 2014, and that is a good thing. It looks smart but not essentially attention-grabbing. You won't notice it passing by but if you see it parked, you will end up admiring the subtle design.The front gets a large headlamp which is separated from the smoked windscreen by a chrome strip. The chunky fuel tank has elegant contours while the seat is a single unit, making it more comfortable for the rider and offering space to the pillion. The tail lamp is sharp and flows well with the rear section of the bike.
From the side, the CB Unicorn looks sleek with the extensive use of black to give it contrast. The entire lower half of the body gets a black paint with a chrome portion of the centre cover breaking the supernumerary. The front tyre is 2.75-18 and the rear is 100/90-18, both getting black 6-spoke alloy wheels. On the bike they look decent and offer good levels of grip too. But, these tyres are tubed, which means if and when you get a puncture, your only option is to push the bike to the nearest tyre repair shop.
The CB Unicorn 150's instrument cluster consist of three round analogue dials. The left one houses the tachometer, centre one is for the speed and odometer and the right one is the fuel gauge with three tell-tale lights (neutral, turn indicators and high beam). The clusters are well lit and the bold text makes it very easy to read even at night.
But, the same cannot be said about the switchgear as the quality is average at best, with the switches feeling rubbery. Also, since the bike is now BS-IV compliant (and, consequently, comes with AHO), there is no switch for the headlamps and they light up when the bike is switched on. Speaking of the missing switches, there is no engine kill switch as well, which is an unnecessary omission.
Engine & Performance:
The CB Unicorn has a 149.2cc air-cooled, four-stroke motor which produces 13PS of power and 12.80Nm of torque. This peak power is produced at 8,000rpm, which is a little on the higher side but the max torque kicks in at the 5,500rpm, which gives it good rideability in city traffic. Power is sent to the wheel via a 5-speed transmission. The motor is very smooth and you will barely notice any vibes while idling in city speeds. The vibrations start to creep only above the 5,000 rpm mark and increases from there. On the highways, the bike feels comfortable till 5,000 rpm then starts to emit vibrations. These can be felt prominently on the fuel tank and, at even higher rpms, on the handlebars as well. But the ride on the highway feels solid and the bike imparts confidence while travelling at high speeds.
The motor feels punchy and picking up speeds from lower rpm is never a problem. In top gear, the bike comfortably comes down to 25-27kmph and accelerates without breaking a sweat. This low-end torque also helps the bike climb inclines easily, but not exactly effortlessly. The acceleration from 0-60kmph took 6.05seconds and the bike managed to reach 100kmph in 18.97seconds with an indicated top speed of 101.95kmph. In gear, the CB Unicorn managed to do 30-70kmph in 3rd gear in 7.31seconds and 40-80kmph in 4th gear in 9.71seconds. In our fuel runs, the CB Unicorn managed to return a mileage of 57.18kmpl on the highways and a close figure in the city as well.
Ride And Handling
Get moving on the CB Unicorn and you will realise that the seat and the rear monoshock setup is a bit on the firmer side. It gets a bit uncomfortable when you hit an undulation at speed, but makes the bike regain composure almost instantaneously. This meant I had to drop speeds every time I saw an undulation or a speed breaker. What helps slightly is that the front fork is set up a little on the softer side to soak up these bumps. Hence, driving over speed bumps or minor broken roads on slow speeds is tackled with ease, with the bike remaining in control at all times.
Seating position on the CB Unicorn 150 is upright with back remaining straight, with raised handlebars and centre-set pegs. The seat cushion is also slightly on the stiffer side and aids in longer journeys.
Handling performance of the CB Unicorn could very well be its USP. With the upright position, you remain in good control of the bike and the rubber gives you enough grip to push it around in corners when you are looking to have some fun. Taking U-turns is also simple with the handlebar having a tight turning radius. One thing which becomes irritating after a while is the aggressive gear lever angle. The CB Unicorn gets a toe shifter and with an aggressive angle, also I would have preferred the lever to be a bit more longer.
The rear brake, although capable of getting the job done, lacks bite and feel. The front has a similar story. The 240mm disc lets you stop quickly but the fork dive ends up in you losing confidence under sudden braking. The bike came to a stop from 80kmph in 3.83seconds in 38.41metres and from 60kmph in 2.93s covering 20.87metres.
"So, does the reincarnated bike still has the meat to remain a crowd favourite?"
With a wide customer base, a good 150cc bike has to do a lot to be called a complete bike. It needs to be comfortable, easy to ride in city, efficient, peppy and have a suspension which can tackle the usual Indian terrains. The CB Unicorn does all of this with ease. And hence, despite its age, it has the mettle to satisfy a wide type of customers. It is comfortable over bumps and on highways; it is powerful while having good low-speed rideability, and most of all, it has build quality that can last for decades.
But, for this kind of personality, you will have to shell out Rs 70,267 ex-showroom, Delhi, which is considerably higher than its rivals - the Bajaj V15 (Rs 62,513, ex-showroom, Delhi) and the Hero Achiever 150 (Rs 65,480 ex-showroom, Delhi). But, the Unicorn has always been positioned as a premium product and what you do get at this extra premium is the ease of mind of owning a Honda. For the past decade, the Unicorn has been one of the most successful models for Honda and this is testament to its quality and reliability. Having said that, Hero now has the updated Achiever which seems to be a tough competition to the Unicorn. We have pitched the two bikes against one another and will soon give you the answer. Stay tuned!
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