May 21, 2007

Unicorn vs CBZ X-Treme: Sibling rivalry

I rode the new Unicorn today after having ridden the CBZ-Xtreme, so I thought I would post up a sort of quick comparison.

I was immediately amazed at how different the two siblings feel. Think about it, they're basically the same motorcycle wearing a different set of body panels, but they couldn't be further apart in feel terms.

Engine:
The CBZX rocks. It feels like it is in a hurry, loves the open throttle, braps forwards at the slightest provocation and is generally a bit of a hooligan with extra hormones. The Unicorn, is the diametric opposite. It feels calm, unhurried, frowns at full throttle work, surges forward when needed and is generally the sorted, laid-back chap who usually gets his work done without drama. In more tangible terms, the Unicorn (which does not have bar-end dampers and all) feels way, way, way more refined, has noticeably less vibration, a bit more torque at really low revs and a gruff, low voice. The CBZX vibrates a bit despite the dampers (fifteen minutes at full throttle will have you pinkie tingling), is not refined, has a proper, audible voice when on it and has much more thrust than the Unicorn once the revs cross about 4500 rpm. At the upper end of the revs, the Unicorn will totally lose the game to the almost savage CBZX.

Gearbox:
Again, Honda has the refinement edge. I think the reason why the CBZX gearshift feels a bit notchier is because the Unicorn's shift lever is mounted direct, while the CBZX uses a linkage because the pegs are rearset.

Performance:
The CBZX all the way. The Unicorn feels too soft engine wise to actually even participate in this comparison. Before I bring in the stopwatch, the Unicorn feels 'wrong' on this front. You don't want to rev the needle to the horsepower peak and all of that. The CBZX, on the other hand, feels quite happy to rev as hard for as long as you like.

Handling:
The CBZX feels more agile and planted, but the Honda feels lighter. Despite the addition of the alloy wheels and all, I consistently felt that the Unicorn requires less physical effort to change direction, lean all the way over. However, if it came to a situation where I had to pick one and take it to a race track or closed off mountain road, I'd pick the CBZX in an instant.

Ride Quality:
I still think the Unicorn's monoshock is way too stiff for most situations. It becomes sublime with a pillion or a heavy rider alone, but in most other situations, I think it makes my back work hard. Which is not to say that the CBZX is the epitome, but I know which one I would rather take on a potholed road with.

Braking:
There isn't much difference, but on the two bikes I rode, the CBZX's brakes were better bled (both bikes fresh from their first services...)

Build Quality:
Compared to the Unicorn, the CBZX is crap. The Unicorn still sports exemplary build quality, great finish levels and all. But the CBZX is like a wart on Hero Honda's otherwise superhigh build and finish reputation. I don't know why, and I don't know how, but the CBZX deserves no compliments on this front.

Styling:
I think they're even. I don't like either. The CBZX has goitre in front and too many lines on the rest of it. The Unicorn doesn't have any distinguishing features whatsoever. I think the Unicorn looks quite handsome in black though, and the CBZX, similarly in silver. Black alloys are a terrible idea, though. They never stay black, always dirty brown...

Ergos:
I don't really like the width of the Unicorn tank, and that remains a sort point. It makes the motorcycle feel bulky, spread my legs out too much and in general, makes me fidgety. On the other hand, the wide tank mounts tank bags more securely. Pegs are normally set on the Unicorn, and that too, in my opinion takes away from the experience. In comparison, the CBZX is far, far better. The riding position is sportier, the tank feels good to grip with the thighs and the seat, which looks decidedly odd, feels good as well.

Pillions:
They all invariably prefer the Unicorn. Although truth be told, the CBZX isn't half bad (buzzy pegs and hard seat ruin it a bit for the second rider).

Price:
Anyone who thinks a couple thousand (that's about 3 percent) should sway a buying decision at this level is a freaking miser. Pick the one you like, mister.

Overall:
The Unicorn is just right for the older rider, I think. By older rider, I don't necessarily mean 65-year old dodder-abouts. I mean anyone who is happy to thrum along at steady, medium-fast speeds. People who like low-effort, mid-rev riding. It can be a very fast way of getting about town, mind you, just not frenetic. The CBZX is a hooligan. It's for the chap who will slip through traffic with a vengeance, like revs, likes speed and thinks the odd, big-ass wheelie is a celebration. Therefore, I pick the CBZX for myself.

Stuff I hate about the CBZX (apart from above)

  • Heatshield on exhaust feels cheap
  • Allen bolts on exhaust end cap keep falling off
  • Sidepanels rattle
  • Goitre
  • Pilot light is too large!
  • Cheap looking instrument cluster
  • The TVS Apache RTR 160 is probably going to kill it...
Stuff I hate about the new Unicorn (apart from above)
  • No pilot light!
  • New fairing details (chrome strip, coloured stip at the top...)
  • 13.3 bhp only... why not 14?
  • The TVS Apache RTR 160 is probably going to kill it...

Related posts:
Photos: Honda and Hero Honda

9 comments:

theslayer said...

So... HH does have an R&D capable of converting a Honda sweet soul engine to a HH rough rider thingum?

rearset said...

Nope. Both bikes came out of the same R&D... Honda R&D

first_synn said...

Pray, then how come Honda let little brother get away with a higher power output? :-P

Anonymous said...

sooo....u did like my goitre comment on the earlier post eh??

rearset said...

@first_synn
Maybe Honda decided that it wanted two 150cc bikes in the market. One that would be rude, crude and fast and the other would be smooth, refined and steady... And decided to keep the qualitatively superior one with themselves...

@anon
I was thinking mumps, but the idea of the CBZX lacking iodised salt in its diet was too good to pass up...

Anonymous said...

hi rearset... awesome man... awesome... too gud is wht i ll say to u for all the stuff on bikes... for guys like me (waiting to buy a bike) u r THE guy... dunno how to ask u a question so here am posting my comment.. sorry if this is not the place... just 1 question. Unicorn 150 cc or the digital pulsar 150 cc. very very confused boss... pls help me out..

thinKinBLaQ said...

I know this is coming a bit late since both bikes are squarely a little older in the market while i write this. But I just couldn't resist writing in. I own a unicorn, the first batch that made it to bombay. She's black (no stickers or extra makeup that makes her look like a 2 dollar hooker)& she steals my heart everytime i see her. i'll vouch for her smoothness, i'll bet every muscle in my body on it. The CBZX is gritty, something that must neve be sued to calm tempers or simply cruise through with the wind in your face. This truly did make for a nice read, was quite disappointed to find out that the Honda did not bother to develop their engine but rather focused on jazzing it up. I'm all of 23, not an old rider by age but quite mature (hopefully) when it comes to riding. once again, made an awesome read, thanks.

unniskrishna said...

its totally a wrong concept.unicorn rockz in any aspect drivablity,controll,comfort,mileage.those who use the two bikes for long periods will surely vote 4 unicorn.its durablity is something which hav to be noted..any extend of rash use will never make an unicorn feel old.its always new...my unicorn jhav run 60000kms..even nw if i start its smooth nd silent.thats wat an engine need where as the cbz will have to stay more dayz in the workshops for repair works ..those cbz which were bought newer than my unicorn feels old nd noisy........itZ JUST AN EXPERINCE..DRIVE HONDA U WIIL UNDERSTAND IF U HAVE SENSE...

Anonymous said...

CBz xtreme for racy youths...
unicorn for oldies...
xtreme rockzzz in power and pick up dept....
unicorn gud in smoothness and comfort.....