The crowded premium-commuter segment gets a new entrant from Honda – the X-Blade. But is there really space for it?
A few months ago, Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI) unveiled, quite unexpectedly, a new product in the premium-commuter segment – the X-Blade. With the Unicorn 160 and the CB Hornet 160R already in their stable, the recent unveiling was indeed a bolt from the blue. Perhaps, HMSI is aiming to increase their market share by offering a wider portfolio in the segment. On paper, it seems like a smart move, especially given the fact that the CB Unicorn 160 barely made a dent on the sales charts and the CB Hornet 160R’s numbers are just about acceptable. But considering the fact that the X-Blade shares its engine and platform with its siblings, two questions need answering. One – how different is the X-Blade from its siblings? And – two – can it really bring in the numbers that Honda expects?
The most discernible difference lies in the design. You see, the X-Blade doesn’t share any body parts with its siblings. Speaking of the design, it has a lot of cuts and edges – yet it doesn’t look busy – perhaps because of the matte paint scheme. The ‘Megatron’ looking headlight and the sharply sculpted fuel tank give the X-blade a much larger appearance than its proportions suggest. The exhaust, however, is too voluminous for our liking – it doesn’t seem to fit well with the overall design. There’s also a new instrument cluster with a gear position indicator. Much of the switchgear, however, has been borrowed from its siblings, but it does get hazard lights – which are new. The quality of the parts is acceptable at best.
Beneath the skin
Although the X-blade borrows its 162.7cc engine from the Unicorn 160, it produces marginally more power at 13.93bhp, and an identical torque figure of 13.9Nm. On paper, these figures may appear indistinctive, but ride it and you’ll to be pleasantly surprised. The engine delivers enough punch in the mid-range and the motor goes up the revs with ease, even when ridden aggressively. In fact, the bike feels quite lively for a premium commuter. The engine remains smooth until you cross the 6,000rpm mark. But for a bike that has an engine as capable as this, the gearbox is an utter disappointment. Gear shifts are clunky, and on more than a few occasions I found myself stuck in false neutral. On the flipside, however, the well-spaced ratios make it easy to hold higher gears at low speeds – making it stay true to its commuter-centric DNA.
In comparison to some other motorcycles in its class, the X-blade offers a rather stiff ride. It feels bumpy over big potholes, but manages to subdue some unevenness on the road surface with ease. The stiff suspension does make the bike quite flickable though. Despite weighing 6kgs more than the Unicorn, it’s rather eager around corners or while negotiating heavy city traffic. This, along with its engine, makes the X-blade a fun city commuter.
The price of the X-blade puts it exactly between the Unicorn 160 and the Hornet. Although the company’s pricing strategy is spot on, we’re not convinced about the effectiveness of their decision to launch three products in the same segment. While the X-blade manages to leave an impression, thanks to its design, refined motor and agility, it doesn’t offer quite offer enough to make it stand apart from it siblings. That being said, perhaps it’s handling and the Megatron headlight will click and make this the hot new commodity in the commuter segment.
Engine: 162.71cc / single-cylinder / air-cooled
Power: 13.93bhp @ 8,500rpm
Torque: 13.9Nm @ 6,000rpm
Price: Rs 79,059 (ex-showroom Delhi)
X-factor: With a free-revving motor and impressive handling, the X-blade can add that fun factor to your daily commute.
• Good mid-range
• Sharp design