Sunday, October 15, 2006

Extreme caution

By: Shubhabrata Marmar

Does the new Hero Honda CBZ X-Treme lighten up our lives?
From the time the tricolour bike was shown at the Auto Expo to the time when it finally breathed its last, the Hero Honda CBZ was an icon. Not only did it polarise opinion, it (re-)introduced us to what a bigger capacity commuter with sporty intent could be like. And now, the CBZ name is back, in X-Treme guise.
The talking point, undoubtedly, is going to be the looks. Hero Honda (and by extension Honda) have finally got alloys on a 150, which could mean the beginning of the end of spoked wheels on their line-ups (hey, one can hope, right?).
The CBZX gets 18-inch Karizma alloys in black as well as identical tyres. But while the blacked out bottom looks contemporary, the styling package is a formal tux, in pink.
The CBZX, unlike its predecessor, looks a bit awkward, especially front-on. It is substantial, mind you and feels it, but you do have to get past the bulging front indicators and the disproportionate pilot lamp. The seat is a cross between a motocrosser�s up to the filler cap type and a sportsbike�s stepped unit, but looks aside, it felt firm and comfortable.
Leading from the rear are the LED tail lamps, which Hero Honda claims are an India first. Not. The Pulsar 180 was on sale first, fair and square. However, it has successfully beaten Bajaj to the split grab rail.
Congratulations to all appropriate parties, I think. And finally, we have non-metallic bright colours on our bikes, hallelujah! The CBZX looks shattering in the flat, almost molten orange. Wonder how good it would have been had it been pretty.
The instrument console is a step forward too. The brushed metal finish looks classy. The large speedo, smaller tacho, fuel gauge and lights are a complete set, it�s clear, easy to read and complete. Among the other details, I love the dinky new brake pedal. It has a little toe guard for my big toe and a smart, all-chrome tab to press down on.
But fortunately, I discovered that my apprehension on the styling front is evened out by the rest of the package. The blacked-out motor (black is the new purple?) looks very much like the Unicorn�s and externally only a couple of the covers have different detailing.
Like the Unicorn, the 149.2cc engine�s bottom and middle bulge like a gravity-afflicted gourmet�s belly. Which, for the CBZX at least, is a great thing.
But once revs rise, I thought the top-end rush was good, but not on par with the CBZX�s brimming over low/mid grunt. And while the Unicorn shares these traits, the CBZX felt significantly more powerful.
While Hero Honda have not tweaked the Achiever-spec motor in basic configuration (bore, stroke, compression are identical), power rises to 14.2 bhp (first 150 to make more than 14 bhp, then), in the process moving the power and torque peaks up the rev range by a bit.
But, while all this was going on, the CBZX has also gained about six kg over the competition. Not that you�d notice it � open the throttle from idle, in as high as third gear, and the CBZX leaps forward like someone poked it in the hind with a fairly pointed stick. This also means easy wheelies, easy overtakes and low-rev, high-economy commuting.
Surprisingly, some of the preview bikes had spongy discs. I�m sure it won�t be the case with the on-sale models, the discs are the usual 240 mm jobs that all our bikes seem to have, so there isn�t any model-specific reason for the sponginess.
The Hero Honda CBZX is quite likeable once you get past the styling. It�s just that the visuals aren�t come-hither, something all of us were expecting thanks to the CBZ badge.
That apart, you have a very competent, torquey motorcycle, built well, with a good brand name on the cover. At Rs 56,500 ex-Delhi, the CBZX is one grand more expensive than the Bajaj Pulsar 150. Can the CBZX directly challenge the market leader? Styling apart, it seems to have the goods.

Source:- BusinessStandard