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Honda SP 125 First Ride Review


Is this the best 125cc premium commuter on sale?

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2019 has been a rather difficult year for two-wheeler brands in India. Sales have fallen massively, random government policies have been introduced, and there’s been the tedious task of meeting the upcoming BS6 emission norms. BS6, in particular, was a rather difficult one for manufacturers as it came with the added baggage of price hike.

All the brands played cat and mouse with each other to see which one bites the bullet and just like it did with the BS4 norms, it was Honda that rode in India’s first BS6-compliant two-wheeler, the new Honda Activa 125 a few months back. Soon it also launched its first BS6 motorcycle, the Honda SP 125. The new bike is basically the replacement of the Honda CB Shine SP, but the Japanese brand has dropped the ‘Shine’ moniker. We got the opportunity to take the new 125cc bike from Honda for a short ride and here’s what we think:

Gets a dash of youth

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Honda hasn’t just plonked a new BS6 motor, it has also given the SP 125 a cosmetic update. The changes aren’t very dramatic with styling cues borrowed from the old bike, but the new motorcycle manages to look quite different. Up front, it features a sharp LED headlight, which seems inspired by the Honda CB Hornet 160R and above it sits a racked smoked-out windscreen. Moving forward, the fuel tank is edgier and the large fuel tank extensions give the new SP 125 a slimmer, but aggressive styling.

The vibrant graphics and the dual-tone finish help the new bike strike a visual chord. The rear section is more commuterish and doesn’t feature an LED tail light. One element I wish Honda hadn’t changed on the new bike are the alloy wheels -- the new ones look rather chunky. The slim, split units on the older bike looked much better.

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As expected from Honda, quality levels are of the first order with tight panel gaps and a lustrous paint finish. But what really surprised us was the quality of the switches, which is a league ahead of any other Honda motorcycle built in India. Even the high-beam switch has been integrated into the passlight switch, which means the switchgear unit feels minimalistic and clean.

While the styling isn’t going to attract the attention of fellow motorists, Honda designers have given the bike a more youthful appeal without making drastic changes and that might be perfect for buyers in this segment.

Bump in power, drop in emissions

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The common trend with BS6 vehicles has been a drop in power as compared to their predecessors (ask Yamaha and TVS). Gladly though, Honda has managed to buck that trend as the new bike is more powerful than its predecessor. Honda engineers have reduced the bore and increased the stroke of the new engine, resulting in a power bump of 0.6PS while torque is up by 0.5Nm. The numbers might not really look impressive on paper, but the new bike feels peppy and offers brisk acceleration. But what really impresses above everything else is the refinement. The new offering does proper justice to the Honda badge and is among the most refined 125cc bikes that I have ridden.

The addition of fuel-injection has made throttle response precise and better than the older bike. Most of our riding was in the city and the SP 125 felt happy puttering around in 3rd gear. The 5-speed gearbox is slick and clutch action is also light. Out on the highway, it managed to hold speeds up to 90kmph with a minor buzz on the handlebar.

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While we didn’t get to do a performance test, I am pretty confident, the SP 125 will post much quicker roll-on figures than its predecessor. This can be credited to its quicker throttle response, bump in power and, more importantly, loss of weight (the SP 125 is 5kg lighter compared to the older bike). And while managing the above, Honda claims that it’s 16 per cent more fuel-efficient as well! So, the bike offers more power and more fuel efficiency. Kudos to Honda engineers for pulling this off!

Feature-proof

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High-ranking Honda officials had informed us earlier this year that most BS6 vehicles from their stable would be introduced with a new list of features and they have stuck to their promise. The Honda SP 125 is the only bike in the segment to feature an all-digital instrument console with a gear position indicator. In fact, the instrument console displays more details than on the CB Hornet 160R and the CBR250R. Other details on the console include real-time fuel efficiency and distance to empty, along with regular info such as fuel gauge speedometer, two tripmeter, odometer and a clock.

The layout of the console is neat and easy to read on the go. There’s also an eco-mode indicator above the console that helps the rider in getting better fuel efficiency. As mentioned before, it’s also the only bike in the segment to feature an LED headlight, however, we will have to wait till a proper road test to comment on its performance. Something that Honda CBR150R owners or even CB Hornet 160R owners won’t appreciate is that the new bike features an engine kill switch!

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And just like the new Honda Activa 125, the SP 125 also features an ACG (Alternating Current Generator) starting system. Unlike a traditional unit, the starter motor is combined with the alternator unit and this results in a noiseless engine start -- it’s a system that needs to be experienced. However, it misses out on a start-stop system, which we feel should have been included.

Sticking to basics

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The underpinnings of the new motorcycle are similar to its predecessor, however, the new SP 125 has grown in size. The new bike is taller, wider and longer, and this difference can be felt the moment you sit on the bike. The larger fuel tank (11 litres in comparison to 10.5 litres) gives the rider the impression of sitting on a much larger bike. Riding ergonomics is like any other commuter offering, which is upright and comfy.

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The 5kg drop in weight makes the bike feel very agile to ride in urban conditions and you can change directions swiftly. However, it does require some effort to tip into fast corner, but then again this could have been done to make the targeted buyers feel comfortable and confident. It’s the same story with braking as well, as the initial bite might feel a bit lacking and one has to go hard on the lever. The suspension setup has been carried forward and I feel the rear is on the firmer side by commuter standards.

Honda is back!

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Let’s cut the chase and get to the verdict - the SP 125 is the most Honda-like product from the Japanese brand in recent years. It’s refined and frugal, packs a punch, and offers a good list of features, making it a well-rounded product. Yes, at Rs 77,100 (ex-showroom), it’s a lot of money for a 125cc motorcycle. But with the advent of BS6, other bikes in the segment will also witness a steep price hike. The main question should be is it worth the Rs 7,100 premium over its predecessor? And the answer is a resounding yes. For the extra money, you are getting a more fuel-efficient, powerful and feature-rich product. So, if you’re planning to buy a premium 125cc commuter, you definitely can't give the SP 125 a miss.

Honda SP 125 Video Review

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Honda SP 125

Honda SP 125

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Ex-showroom, Delhi
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