Honda are all set to take on the mighty Yamaha YZF-R15 with their latest offering, the CBR 150R
Photography: Sanjay Raikar
Motorcycling in India witnessed a change in perception when Yamaha launched the YZF-R15 back in mid-2008. This 150-cc offering from Yamaha changed everything that a 150-cc bike meant for the Indian customer. It had all the elements that made bike enthusiasts put it on a high pedestal where no one else dared to challenge it.
After almost four years of being on the top, there is some competition now for this supersport machine. Honda have quietly (I say quietly because I haven’t come across much media hype for this product) fielded their CBR 150R in the market and started selling it bang on against the R15. That naturally gives rise to the big question: which of these two is the better bike? Both are Japanese, both are 150-cc supersport machines, both have names with a legacy and both are priced competitively. Then what is it that sets them apart? What differentiates the two machines? Let us find out.
Design And Styling
The YZF-R15, which has been in the market since 2008, got a cosmetic enhancement a few months ago. The upgraded R15, version 2.0 as they call it, is an outright aggressively styled machine. Its sharp edges and straight lines make it a stunning looker. The R15 has enjoyed a lot of love and craze among the youth owing to its fast bike looks derived from the elder sibling, R6.
If that is the story of the Yamaha, the Honda gets its styling cues for the CBR 150R from the CBR 250R, launched last year, and the big VFR1200F. It is a little on the subtle side that would suit a sports tourer more than a supersport rider. The black treatment to the headlight cluster, the stubby exhaust and eye-catching white and orange graphics (our test bike in specific) are the elements that appealed to us the most. The glossy paint on the frame is the only let down, though. It would thus be very difficult to decide which of these two bikes looks better, for each speaks its own design language and each is impressively styled.
So far as the quality of material and fit-and-finish go, the R15 scores over the CBR. The switches and the clip-ons on the Honda have a little less exquisite feel to them. In fact, the switches seem to have come straight from one of Honda’s commuter bikes.
Posture And Ergonomics
The YZF-R15 looks aggressive and feels aggressive too. Its sitting posture is such that it demands a lot of lean-forward style. The seat is tall and the clip-ons and tank are low. Because of this geometry, it feels as if you are sitting too high and away and give a feel of stretched out posture. Besides, the knee recesses along the tank are quite deep, giving the bike a skinny feel.
On the other hand, the CBR 150R offers a more relaxed seating. The handlebar, seat and foot-pegs geometry is perfect for a comfortable ride – whether in the city or on the highway. Also, the wide tank offers a good feel to clamp on with the knees and its tall position gives it a bigger bike feel.
Engine And Features
This is what matters the most when the two bikes under consideration are high-performance machines. Both have four-stroke, four-valve, 150-cc engines, liquid cooling, fuel injection and are mated with six-speed transmissions. However, the R15 uses the SOHC mechanism while the CBR makes use of DOHC. So far as power and torque figures are concerned, the R15 makes 17 PS and 15 Nm while the CBR makes 17.8 PS and 12.66 Nm. It shows that there is a small difference in the power output of the two bikes and there is a considerable difference between the torque figures.
The differences don’t end here. The biggest variation between the two engines comes in the way they produce the power and at what RPM they do so. Whereas the R15 makes maximum power at 8,500 revolutions per minute, the short stroke engine of the CBR does it at 10,500 RPM. In case of the torque too, the R15 puts out the maximum torque at 7,500 RPM while the CBR does so at 8,500 RPM. These differences show up when it comes to outright performance testing. The slightly more powerful CBR 150R accelerates quicker from standstill to 100 km/h in 13.62 seconds while the R15 does the same in 14.13 seconds. Though the outright acceleration varies so much, things look a little different when it comes to in gear roll-on acceleration where the R15 goes much quicker from 30 km/h to 70 km/h in the third, fourth as well as the fifth gear and that too with a good margin over the CBR 150R. This is basically because the Yamaha puts out higher torque at lower RPM than its competitor.
What is worth mentioning about the engine of the CBR 150R, though, is its ultimate refinement. Even at high RPM, the silken smooth engine barely has any high-frequency vibrations.
Chassis, Suspension And Handling
The best part about both the bikes is the chassis and suspension settings. The YZF-R15 was the first Indian made bike to introduce the twin-spar or deltabox frame, as they call it in India. The CBR 150R follows the Yamaha now and brings in a similar frame. Both the bikes have a monoshock suspension at the rear and neither allows pre-load adjustment. However, there is hardly any need for it unless you are taking the bikes out to race professionally at the track.
It is really a very tricky proposition to decide which one handles better. Both are rock-steady in the corners and commit themselves to what is demanded. The only small difference that we found between the two machines was how briskly they turned in while attacking a corner flat-out. The CBR 150R, thanks to its shorter wheelbase, feels a mite sharper here.
Living With The Machines
Being slightly on the sporty side, one would expect neither of these machines to be comfortable for everyday use. Well, that isn’t really the case with the Honda. Because the R15 has an extremely committed stance, it automatically lends itself better to sport riding purpose. It is a great machine to challenge the corners. However, it suffers a little when it comes to everyday riding comfort (for the pillion as well) and while touring. On the other hand, the CBR can serve very well in almost every aspect. It has a comfortable seating for commuting everyday from home to college/work and back, can make for a good machine over the weekend and can be a wonderful machine on the highways.
So which one to buy then? Well, for those who are looking at hardcore weekend rides towards the twisties and don’t care much about their or their pillions’ comfort, the R15 makes for a good machine. It’s engine also offers good rideability in the city. But for those who want an overall package with a good top-end performance, comfortable ride and a comparatively fresh styling, the CBR is the obvious option. However, be prepared for a slightly sluggish performance while riding around town and also be ready to shell out an extra Rs 4,000.