Honda Hornet 2.0 Road Test Review
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Can this larger Hornet make up for its power disadvantage with lightness and a fancy USD fork to challenge 200cc nakeds?
In India, the current crop of 200cc motorcycles are the real gateways into the world of sport riding. While 160cc nakeds have sporty credentials, they still have to be good commuters. Honda India has finally shown interest in expanding its horizon beyond the 160s. And as you all know it, the Hornet 2.0 was born, Honda’s first crack at the 200cc space, sort of!
After waiting for what seems like an eternity, the Hornet 2.0 has finally arrived for us to have a proper go on it. Can it cause some serious trouble in the sub-200cc space for bikes such as the TVS Apache RTR 200 4V and the Bajaj Pulsar NS200 or is it more of a grown up CB Hornet 160R?
- Very light on its feet.
- Quite a frugal engine.
- Gold USD fork is a premium touch.
- Motor lacks refinement.
- Console fails to provide fuel-consumption related data.
- Quite pricey for the package.
- Misses out on important features (dual-channel ABS, side-stand cut-off)
- Gold USD fork is a neat feature to brag about.
- All lighting is LED, adding a modern touch.
It might bear a larger engine than its predecessor but the Hornet 2.0 is definitely a more compact motorcycle than the Hornet 160R. It seems that in the lockdown period, the Hornet couldn’t go to the gym and had to work out only in the confines of its house. Hence, it is leaner and not as flared up as the 160R.
The 12-litre tank, for instance, isn’t too tall, rather quite flat at the top and tapering towards the rider. Those sharp tank extensions are separate entities from the tank panels, unlike earlier when they were a single panel. The central tank panel continues to have the faux carbon-fibre texture, which looks kind of tacky.
The tail section of the Hornet 2.0 also has a lot of additional panels, not getting that seamless look of the older 160R. The air ducts under the pillion seat are purely aesthetic and aren’t even hollow, to begin with.
Honda is the only bikemaker in the 200cc naked segment to offer all-LED lighting, TVS, Bajaj and even KTM failing to do so. The LED face looks a bit Transformer-esque, with sleek LED turn indicators at both ends. No tweaks to the signature X-shaped LED tail light though.
The short stubby end can and the body-coloured belly panel are nice touches. But the standout design feature remains the gold USD fork, which makes it look like a mini Suzuki GSX-S750/GSX-S1000F.
Build quality is par for the course, nothing too exceptional to report here. The handlebar comes with a nice powder-coated finish, and even the seat texture has a nice feel to it. Switchgear is decent but lacks the quality of the Apache 200 and even the fanciness of the backlit switches found on the Pulsar NS200.
There is an air of familiarity once you get astride the Hornet 2.0. It is quite light, to begin with, gaining only two kilos over the Hornet 160R. Like always, Honda has shied away from providing the saddle height of the bike, but fret not, the seat is quite accessible for all riders. Shorter riders will not find it too difficult to flat foot the bike. The slim midsection also helps in this regard and is a boon for those with larger thighs as well. For larger riders, there is not a lot of space to move around in the saddle but you aren’t locked in a tight spot either.
The handlebar is wide and flat, not requiring much of a forward lean to get to it. The pegs are fairly mid-set and not too high, and don’t put your legs in a cramped position. Overall, the riding posture hints of sportiness but is still great for city runabouts.
Pillion riders will find that even though the rear seat looks a bit on the smaller side, it is comfy for city jaunts. The foam, though, was a bit too hard. Softer cushioning will definitely be appreciated more. It is not too tall as well, quite easy to hop on and off from as well. The grab handles are easily accessible but they could be a bit slimmer.
TECHNOLOGY & FEATURES
The LED headlight does a decent job of providing adequate illumination. The low beam has good spread and intensity. The high beam is kind of like a spot light, powerful, and quite focused on a small section of the road ahead.
Full-digital LCD console is again nothing too exceptional for the class. Hornet’s instrumentation displays limited info: speedometer, bar-type tachometer, gear position indicator, fuel gauge, clock, odometer, a couple of trip meters, and a battery voltage indicator. What is sorely missed is fuel consumption-related data such as average fuel efficiency or distance to empty. Don’t even expect any connectivity-related features here.
Also, there isn’t a side-stand cut-off ignition switch or ACG silent starting option on the Hornet. The latter’s absence was expected, as it would have been too much of a load for just an alternator to bear. The former bit though should have been provided and could have easily been lifted off its other smaller capacity bikes such as the Unicorn and the Shine 125.
ENGINE & PERFORMANCE
No, this new Hornet doesn’t sport a bored-out or a longer-stroke version of the old 160R’s engine. It is a brand new engine that traces its roots back to the China-spec Honda CBF190R. On paper, this new engine sits bang in the middle of a sporty 160cc and a 200cc motorcycle. Mind you, the above figures are of the pre-2020 updated version of the Apache RTR 200 4V. The output figures of the new RTR 200 have gone up, slightly closer to what they were in the BS4 times.
The Hornet 2.0 feels lively for the most part, with a strong surge of torque in the low- to mid-range. It is fractionally off the Apache 200’s pace to 60kmph and only once you start pushing it beyond 90kmph does the Hornet start to lose ground. The top-end performance isn’t all too thrilling, with the engine gathering pace quite slowly beyond 105-110kmph.
If you are skinny enough like our hot shot test rider, you could even manage to hit the rev limiter in the fifth cog at 130kmph, which is pretty fast. But then, the engine is desperately crying for some restraint from your end. There’s a lot of unwanted drama at pretty speeds above 85kmph, as the engine gets shouty and quite vibey then.
So, it isn’t a great highway motor but it does perform commuting duties rather well. You can run the bike in higher gears in the city effortlessly. Even zipping past traffic doesn’t require much effort although you might have to downshift sometimes to get the move done.
The engine is pretty frugal, even outscoring the smaller-capacity Hero Xtreme 160R in both fuel efficiency tests.
RIDE & HANDLING
The lightness of the Hornet 2.0 works brilliantly in its favour as you are hunting down apexes. The front-end requires minimal effort in tipping the bike into corners. The wide-section rubber aids in cornering stability as the Hornet remains fairly composed throughout the corner. Even flicking the bike from one side to the other is an easy affair, and there’s no nerviness from the front-end here like there is on the Apache RTR 200 4V. The TVS, on occasion, can be a bit too sharp and intimidating for newer riders. The Hornet, on the other hand, is far more welcoming and understanding. Shame then that the motor isn’t able to match up to the good handling setup.
This light and swift yet friendly handling makes for a great bike to zip through the tightest of spots. Last minute directional changes to avoid a pothole or any other road hazard are quite easy to do. On top of that, most road imperfections are dealt with easily. However, the tune of the monoshock could have been slightly improved. At the moment, for a heavier rider, the suspension is a bit too softly sprung. Couple that with a quick rebound and you could be tossed up on sharper bumps or large undulations if you’re carrying some decent speed. Adding a bit of extra preload on the rear shock will iron out these issues to an extent. No complaints as such from the front USD fork, which while also being softly sprung, doesn’t kick back harshly. It is fairly neutral with good progression.
The braking system is rather impressive, providing great bite and feedback at the levers. Having dual-channel ABS would have made riders feel a lot safer though. Still, intervention from the single-channel ABS system is fairly predictable and not too sudden. There’s no squirminess from the MRF rubber when braking hard. No radial tyres here, not even at the rear like on the Apache. There’s enough grip on offer, and you won’t be left wanting for more given the overall performance of the motorcycle.
The Hornet 2.0 comes in a single variant priced at Rs 1,26,927 (ex-showroom Delhi). For an additional Rs 2,000 though, you can get the Repsol Edition paint scheme for the bike, based on Marc Marquez’ RC213V, which he rode this year, albeit briefly.
The Honda Hornet 2.0 is a very likeable motorcycle with great handling dynamics and a frugal engine. Presence of bits such as the USD fork and LED lighting give it that premium feel but the lack of engine excitement does put a damper on spirits. Had Honda gone the whole distance and built an engine worthy of rivalling the Apache RTR 200 4V, it would have been something phenomenal. But currently, at just around Rs 4,000 less than the TVS naked, the Hornet 2.0 does not make much for a great value purchase. The problems get worse for the Honda naked as the Apache has received its own set of performance and tech updates, making it an even more enticing package. But just how does the Hornet 2.0 compare to the new RTR? Well, that’s something we’ll find out soon with a proper comparo.