Bunny Punia plays judge as Honda’s new Dazzler proves its point in front of the TVS Apache RTR RD and the Yamaha FZ16
Photography Sawan S Hembram
After years of criticizing the Japanese giant for its ignorance towards churning out an upgrade for the 150cc Unicorn, it seems Honda heard us, finally! The Unicorn was always a great product. In fact, it surpassed the expectations of the folks at Honda by doing great numbers on a continuous basis every month. But at the same time, it seemed to lack in a few essential areas, which kept most youngsters away from their showrooms. Better late than never as Honda seems to have taken feedback from prospective buyers as well as the automotive media in a positive manner in the form of the new CB Unicorn Dazzler. It’s sleeker, punchier, loaded with more features and seems all set to snip a major chunk of the market share in the premium 150cc segment. We decided to pit it against the TVS Apache RTR RD (rear disc) and the Yamaha FZ16, two of its direct rivals to see if this new Honda is dazzling enough to challenge and probably beat its competition. Let the sparks fly then…
DESIGN AND LOOKS
I hate to start a segmented review by picking out a winner instantly, but the FZ is so far ahead of its peers here that there is simply no doubt about the Yamaha’s fashionable good looks. Its naked street bike design inspired from its international 1000cc sibling, the FZ1, makes it one of most attractive deals on two wheels in India currently. The minimal front along with a beefy tank spells aggression while the 140mm section rear tyre along with the short and stubby exhaust add heavy doses of sportiness to the FZ’s design. Speak to any owner on the road and eight out of ten will acknowledge its looks as the main factor behind their purchase decision.
The RTR 160, on the other hand, is a pure track inspired tool in the way it looks. Running racing stripes, dual petal discs and rear set footpegs are some of the highlights of the bike’s design angles. We also particularly love the red stripe on the circumference of the alloy wheel, the sharp tank scoops and the small engine fairing. The RTR looks smashing in a quite a few colours including yellow.
The Dazzler doesn’t really set your heart racing when you see it for the first time. However, typical to lot of international Hondas like the Fireblade and the VFR1200, this one too takes time getting used to. Spend a few days with the bike and you will start loving the way it looks. No doubt it is aesthetically better than the Unicorn with changes like wider tyres, a rear disc, a semi digital console, huge floating tank scoops, et al. Worthy of a mention here is the rear half portion of the bike. It looks elevated and adds a touch of sportiness.
COMFORT AND ERGONOMICS
The Unicorn has already won many hearts with its superior monoshock rear suspension. There is simply no denying the fact that even the Dazzler scores supremely high here when it comes to comfort level. Though we would have preferred slightly rear set footpegs, the bike’s riding posture is spot on for the city. This combined with a perfectly well set-up suspension means that the bike soaks up undulations unlike the other two bikes. Honda is known for its smooth engines and this one too goes about performing its duties ably and without any vibrations or harshness. That said, above 5000rpm, there is a pronounced vibration from the knee recesses of the tank. While coming back from our shoot location, a good 65km from Pune, Ramnath and I also felt the Dazzler to be slightly uncomfortable for long stints.
We found ourselves fighting to get hold of the FZ’s keys. The Yamaha might have an upright seating posture, but the soft seat and a wide almost flat handlebar give you a comfortable riding stance even during long stints. The FZ also feels at home in city traffic, being super nimble and easy to manoeuvre through traffic. In fact, the riding posture pesters you into riding the bike in a spirited manner. However, the FZ’s monoshock rear cannot match up to the Dazzler’s, especially when the roads are anything less than smooth. The engine surprisingly remains quite smooth even at high revs while the vibrations are well damped and are hardly noticeable through the bars or the pegs.
This gets us to the third bike, the RTR. Sadly, its racetrack genes mean it is the least comfortable of the lot. In the city, the sporty riding posture puts a lot of weight onto your arms which can be a bother on a daily basis. Further, with a pillion, the RTR becomes quite a handful in congested start-stop traffic conditions. The suspension too is a huge departure from the monos of the other two bikes. Take the bike for a highway ride and the moment you cross 8000 revs, the presence of vibrations from the pegs is alarming.
SUSPENSION AND HANDLING
Pune is blessed with some amazing set of roads with enough curves and short straights to push a new bike to its limits. While we knew the Dazzler would fare very well due to its suspension set-up and a shortened wheelbase as compared to the Unicorn, the FZ wasn’t far behind. Its flat handlebar, upright posture with an amazing grip from the MRFs meant it easily kept up with the Dazzler and even surpassed it on a few occasions. However, as soon as we encountered a few mid-corner bumps, the Dazzler showed its prowess – this is the still the bike to have if you want to scrape the pegs around bends no matter how smooth or undulated they are. The monoshock suspension easily swallows small bumps and potholes even with the bike leaned into a corner at extreme angles.
Meanwhile the FZ’s suspension feels great on smooth roads, but on anything other than that, its feels a little harsh and stiff. The RTR, with its suspension on the stiffer side, is a fantastic bike around the hills too but the competition is simply miles ahead. The RTR’s forward seating stance also means that within a few kilometres, your forearms start aching. However, with its extra punch and a fantastic midrange, you can outdo the Dazzler and the FZ around the bends easily – more on this later.
PERFORMANCE AND EFFICIENCY
If the Yamaha FZ16 is all about looks and the Honda CB Unicorn Dazzler is about engine refinement and a superior suspension, it’s the TVS Apache RTR that redefines performance in this segment. The way TVS boffins have managed to extract that extra power and punch from the 159.7cc engine is impressive. At 15.4PS of power, the RTR manages to smoke the other two bikes in all areas: a 5.04 second 0-60km/h dash, a 118.69km/h top speed and class beating roll-on figures.
It isn’t the torquiest of the lot but at 136kg, it has the best power-to-weight ratio. Ride this bike back-to-back with the other two and you can’t help but get a grin on your face each time. The RTR’s shortcoming in terms of handling is easily made up for by its extra performance. The icing on the cake comes in the form of its incredible fuel economy. What more can you expect from a bike that boasts of smoking performance?
Next up is the Dazzler. With more power and less weight than the Unicorn, we did expect an increase in performance. It manages to shed the 0-60km/h acceleration timing by over half a second, but most importantly registers an impressive top whack of 118km/h. The Dazzler’s engine is also tuned for a better top end as compared to the Unicorn. This is apparent by an extended redline and power and torque figures that are now generated at higher revs. While the Dazzler takes 5.45 seconds to 60km/h, just 0.06 seconds less than the FZ, the gap builds up as speeds increase. For instance, the Dazzler dismisses the quarter mile mark in 19.72 seconds, 0.68 seconds quicker than the FZ. What impresses further is the efficient nature of the engine. Even with this kind of incredible performance on tap, the Dazzler still manages to outdo the RTR by a huge margin when it comes to fuel economy.
The FZ sadly has to be content with the third spot here but just about. Even with a wide 140mm section rear tyre, it still manages to churn out some impressive numbers. However, at highway speeds, you easily feel the lack of power. Cruising at a 100 kays, the other two bikes have enough in reserve for overtaking fast moving vehicles, but the FZ struggles. A gush of opposite wind and a slight incline is all it takes to bog down the bike. That said, its roll-on figures are just a second or two off the RTR’s mark. However, the engine is not particularly efficient with an overall fuel economy of just 43.5kmpl.
So far, it seems that both the FZ and the Dazzler are neck and neck with the RTR following close behind. However, these bikes are mostly targeted towards the youth and enthusiasts in the 22-30 age bracket. Hence it goes without saying that pricing plays an important role. The RTR RD at Rs 69,782 is the least expensive of the lot. If you are looking for cheap thrills and performance is what you seek, read no further and head to the nearest TVS showroom. But it has its own little flaws. For instance, it isn’t very comfortable for long rides and with the engine spinning hard, vibrations can be bothersome. It is also overshadowed by the other two contenders when it comes to ease of riding in city traffic.
The FZ has secured itself a soft corner in our hearts for the way it looks and the way it rides. How we wish it had some extra punch (Yamaha, are you going to make us happy soon?) and a more efficient engine. What also goes in favour of the FZ are the additional variants on avail, the FZ-S and the Fazer, but of course for some extra dough. The FZ would have been as recommended a bike as the Dazzler if it had an equally appealing sticker price. At Rs 72,649, it is almost three grand more than the RTR RD and Rs 1500 more than the Dazzler. Add to it, the extra running cost over the years due to its lower fuel efficiency and suddenly our focus shifts to the new kid in town, the Dazzler.
For an additional Rs 4000 over the Unicorn, the extra goodies, features and performance you get in the Dazzler are simply put, worthwhile. It looks snazzier, comes with wider tyres, a rear disc and a semi-digital speedometer console. All this without losing out on the essential fuel economy part. It might not be the best looking or the one with the best performance, but like its sibling, the Unicorn, the Dazzler proves to be a perfect all-rounder, capable of playing various roles depending on a customer’s preference. Not really dazzling, but versatile and appealing enough to win this shootout by a whisker.