Here are two bikes that appear to be quite similar on paper, but in fact they’re quite different in character. Here’s the lowdown on the Suzuki Gixxer and Honda CB Unicorn 160.
In the cutthroat world of commuter bikes, the fight for supremacy is now between the two new kids on the block – the Suzuki Gixxer and Honda CB Unicorn 160. Others in the competition, like the Bajaj Pulsar 150 DTS-I and the Apache RTR 160 are now the ageing veterans of the segment.
The Suzuki Gixxer not only looks different and feels better than the competition, but there’s also an element of surprise once you start it. So, it was only fair on our part to pit it against the latest entry in this category – the Honda Unicorn 160. The Unicorn has the typical character of a HMSI (Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India) product – reliable, refined, safe, smooth and non-intimidating. This is the bike that will attract the most no-nonsense buyers out there.
To make it simpler, let’s define these motorcycles according to the psychographic profiles of the people who will (or so we think) buy them. The usual Honda CB Unicorn 160 buyer is likely to be in his 30’s, is quite mature on the road, doesn’t get instigated by others, prefers practicality over bling, and doesn’t like to take risks. A Gixxer buyer will be in his 20’s – someone who cares about how many heads he can turn, looks for gaps in traffic, yet is in control, and expects his motorcycle to let him have a little fun when possible.
Which turns heads?
Both these motorcycles look very modern, and visually appear to be one step ahead of the competition – with the exception of the Yamaha FZ 2.0 perhaps. Between the two though, it’s the Gixxer that has more road presence. The Suzuki’s tank is sculpted with flowing curves, and it’s complemented by a bikini fairing. The LED tail lamp, the rear wheel arch, and the grab rails neatly blend in with the design, and the twin port exhaust is like nothing you’ve seen on an Indian bike – all of which ensures that this bike has an unmistakable identity.
On the other hand, at first glance it’s hard to spot the differences on the CB Unicorn 160. The tank has been newly designed, which gives the bike a fresh look. The new graphics, 3D logo, and the redesigned lamps at both the ends certainly make it look neater than before. The exhaust, however, is a conventional unit that doesn’t add much to the style quotient.
The build quality of both these bikes is right up there, and you won’t find anything that looks or feels cheap. The meter console on the Gixxer is generously equipped with an odometer, rev counter, gear indicator, speed, time, and fuel gauge. The Honda’s console is a little more basic, but it also has a fuel gauge, odometer, twin trip meters, clock, speedometer and tachometer – but it lacks an engine kill switch, which is slightly odd.
Post ignition is where you start feeling the real differences between the two. The Gixxer has a 155cc engine that delivers 14.6bhp of maximum power and 14Nm of torque. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but the sound you hear from the exhaust brings a smile to your face. Immediately, you know that this bike will provide more fun than you thought.
The power delivery is linear, especially in the mid-range, despite having a carburettor. Rev the bike a little harder, and it gives you the sense that it’s capable of doing more. The rev limiter kicks in at 10,000rpm, which means the bike will choke at 89km/h in the third gear, and at 110km/h in fourth. The bike touched a top speed of 118km/h in fifth gear, and it was impossible to push it further.
The Honda has bigger displacement – the engine is 163cc – it’s also carburetted, and produces 14.5bhp of power and 14.6Nm of torque. Once you push the start button, the bike comes alive so silently that you’re almost tempted to press the button once again to confirm that it’s on. The engine is new, and has a longer stroke, which means more torque than before. The exhaust note doesn’t encourage you much, but the bike feels very refined at high revs and doesn’t struggle to deliver what you expect from it. The CB Unicorn 160 topped an impressive 116km/h, but I felt it could go slightly faster.
The Bottom Line
What it boils down to in the end is how they ride on the roads we actually ride on every day, and not necessarily the ones we dream of. The Gixxer has a riding stance that is aggressive, which means that you sit inclined towards the front – legs a little further back than normal. This gives you the confidence to throw it into corners and ride faster than you ordinarily would, but still remain firmly in control. The Bybre caliper at the front works instinctively, and keeps the front tyre firmly planted. The beefy 17-inch MRF tyres provide enough grip to support the suspension and braking. The 41mm forks at the front and the stiff monoshock at the rear make sure that the potholes on the roads disappear as quickly as they arrive.
You sit more upright on the Unicorn 160, which may not instil as much confidence but it’s definitely more comfortable. You certainly won’t be aiming to scrape the tarmac with your knee on this bike. The telescopic forks at the front and the monoshock at the back are slightly stiffer than the Gixxer. The top-of-the-line variant will come equipped with a Combined Braking System (CBS), which automatically engages the front brake when you hit the rear brake a little harder than usual – but for this you’ll have to cough up Rs. 6,000 more.
In the end, it’s hard to pick a clear winner – because these bikes are quite different in character. The Gixxer is more demanding of the rider, but is more rewarding when you’re willing to commit to the ride. The Unicorn gives you everything you expect in a comfortable commuter bike – and it’s no surprise that Honda is scaling new heights in India. For me, though, if I had Rs. 75,000 to spare, I wouldn’t think twice before committing it – and myself – to the Gixxer.
- Honda CB Unicorn 160
- Suzuki Gixxer
Engine: 162cc / Air Cooled / 4-stroke
Transmission: 5-speed Manual
Power: 14.5bhp @ 8,000rpm
Torque: 14.61Nm @ 6,000rpm
Price: STD Rs. 71,924 (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
CBS: Rs. 77,178 (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
Engine: 155cc / Single Cylinder / SOHC / 2 Valves
Transmission: 5-speed Manual
Power: 14.6bhp @ 8,000rpm
Torque: 14Nm @ 6,000rpm
Price: Rs. 72,199 (Ex-showroom, Delhi)