Styling has always been a chink in the Unicorn’s armour. In its efforts to look inoffensive and appeal to everyone the Unicorn always lost out to a huge market that was dying for something flashy, something they could show off, something they wanted to be seen on, a market that the Pulsar, later the FZ, and now the Gixxer have made their own. Honda’s attempt to correct that is the CB Hornet. And we won’t lie, it looks pretty damn good. Honda also promises a lot on paper as far as peak power and torque figures go. So have they really managed to crack the code this time around?

Killer looks, uncharacteristic engine If there’s one thing that really stands out about the Hornet, it has to be the way it looks. Every panel has been sculpted to give it an edge and they will surely make it look cool for some time. The head lamp, the chiselled tank, the ‘X’-form in the tail lamp all do their part to add a degree of ‘oomph’. Honda has, chosen to borrow the digital instrument panel as is from the CB Unicorn, . As in the case of most Honda motorcycles, an engine kill switch is absent. For the Japanese manufacturer to leave this out on a motorcycle that costs close to a lakh isn’t really acceptable.

In case you thought the 160 next to the Hornet’s name automatically meant it was the Unicorn’s engine, you should be aware that there are differences. It makes 15.7bhp from its 162cc single-cylinder motor with a peak torque output of 14.76Nm, which is second only to the Pulsar AS 150. However, there is something amiss about the Hornet. Unlike other Hondas this particular offering doesn’t feel as smooth and neither does it manage to deliver performance that can justify the numbers it claims.

Top-end power delivery is particularly lacklustre with the engine getting pretty gruff and noisy. Even the five-speed gearbox put in use feels rather notchy. Honda has also chosen to stiffen the ride on the Hornet. This works fine on smooth surfaces with slight undulations, but bad stretches of tarmac takes its toll especially if there are mid-corner bumps.

Still some distance to go The Hornet tends to feel unsettled with the front hopping around when you are negotiating corners on rough surfaces. It is surprising given usual Honda standards in these departments that the Hornet doesn’t quite deliver on these fronts. Moreover, the seat isn’t particularly comfortable either for long stints in the saddle.

Honda may have invested too much time and effort in making the Hornet look good. While they have achieved that goal without a shadow of a doubt, the other bits about their premium 160 seem to have taken the back seat. The engine, despite boasting of great numbers, doesn’t deliver the goods. The tweaks to the engine has also taken its toll on efficiency, something else that Honda takes pride in delivering in spades. It has a comfortable riding posture, although the seat isn’t the most comfortable, and it has the Combined Braking System, but that also makes the Hornet more expensive than its rivals. With the Gixxer setting incredibly high standards and the AS 150 managing to present a well-sorted package, the CB Hornet has its work cut out and Honda needs to make a few changes in key areas to make it truly competitive in this cut-throat segment of motorcycles. So, for now, Honda still has some code cracking to do.