Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India had a huge hit on its hands when it launched the CBR 250R in India last year. The CBR 250R was as much about performance and Honda’s racing heritage as about cashing in on anticipated volumes from a more mass-sports offering than the more expensive imports like the CBR 1100R. Now, with the CBR 150R, Honda’s emerging markets strategy only broadens. Honda always planned that Thailand and India would both get these bikes. Thailand got the 150 recently. After showing it to us at the Auto Expo in New Delhi in January, the 150R is now ready for launch in India too.
Honda wants to attract a younger buyer with this bike, one who finds tremendous appeal in the bigger sibling—the 250R—but can’t stomach those prices—Rs 1.46-1.73 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi). So the CBR 150R is priced lower at Rs 1.18-1.19 lakh, but it still looks like a CBR—that is to say that it retains almost 90% of all the styling elements from the CBR 250R. And that, I think, is where Honda is playing smart. Sure it’s a 150cc bike, and so no real fire-cracker in the performance department. But given our congested roads, and with styling playing such a crucial role in buying decisions, Honda seems to have a trump card on its hands. The differentiator is a signature lime-green or orange/white paint job that will remain specific to the CBR 150R. The green and orange options, though are only on the deluxe version; the standard version comes in black and white or red and white.
Quality ride: Power and efficiency are the big USPs.
Styling is crucial because it’s got to take on the primary rival—Yamaha’s YZF R15, which received a major upgrade just last year.
The CBR 150R shares its architecture and gear box with the larger 250R. Power and efficiency will be the big USPs here, though I have to point out that the Yamaha R15 is higher on torque (the Honda CBR 150R has 17.58 bhp power and 12.66 Nm torque, while the Yamaha YZF R15 has 16.66 bhp power and 15 Nm torque).
The CBR 150R is responsive and quick. The 6-speed gear box is a real gem, swift to respond and never complaining. The bike is quick off the mark, but felt happier to stay at speeds under 100 kmph—after which response becomes a touch laboured. The CBR 150R corners well and is very easy to handle and manoeuvre—mainly because it’s not too heavy. Overall, I found the ride to be quite a pleasure really.
This was enhanced by the ride position and seat design. The seat has been given more dip to allow you to reach the ground with your feet easily. The ground clearance, at 190mm, and the 17-inch wheels help that ride quality too, as does the mono-shock suspension which makes for a smooth ride feel.
But the CBR 150R suffers from the same problem as its big brother. The bike’s engine sounds a bit tinny and flat. When you buy a sporty bike, you want it to sound the part too, and here there was a touch of disappointment for me. It’s a minor criticism in what’s otherwise a strong package from Honda. Of course, what could also go against the bike in small part is that it’s priced almost Rs 10,000 higher than the Yamaha YZF R15, which even Honda sees as the biggest rival. Consumers are showing a preference for such bikes though, and others like Hero, Bajaj, TVS and Suzuki are also working on similar models to ensure they stay in the game too.
As the market for two-wheelers once again begins to tilt towards the pricier, sportier offerings, it’s bikes like the CBR 150R and Yamaha R15 which will set the benchmarks —meaning rivals will also have to up their game. And that’s always great for the consumer! As far as Honda is concerned though, it seems like yet another hit after the CBR 250R last year—only bigger.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar is Editor (Auto), NDTV.
Write to Siddharth at firstname.lastname@example.org