2018 Honda X-Blade: Four things you'll love and three things you won't
The Honda X-Blade is the bike that sits bang in the middle of Honda's 160cc motorcycle range. It's roughly Rs 5,000 from both the Unicorn and the Hornet, which is Honda's top 160. As we say in the first ride, the X-Blade is very, very similar to the Unicorn in terms of the powertrain and chassis. In effect, Honda wanted to keep the utility, comfort, feel and ergonomics of the Unicorn. But Honda also wanted to up the ante in terms of styling - more like the Hornet. For more on the Honda X-Blade, read our first ride review here.
The Honda X-Blade's exhaust is perhaps the least complex part of its design. And we like that. The chrome thingamabob, though, has two exhaust outlets in it
What is under the skin?
The engine is the same 162.71cc single-cylinder from the Unicorn with the same 5-speed gearbox. Some careburettor tuning and ignition timing changes to accommodate the slightly different weight brings a smidge more power and torque
Let's take a quick trip under the X-Blade's skin. The engine is the same 162.71cc single-cylinder that powers the Unicorn in hardware terms - same bore, stroke, compression and valvetrain. But a marginal change in the carburettor setup and ignition timing gives the X-Blade a hint more power. Why? Honda officials told OVERDRIVE that the extra grunt was needed to keep the motorcycle feeling like the Unicorn despite the addition of small elements that raise the weight, most notably the 130-section rear tyre (up from 110 on the Unicorn). The rest is the new skin that wraps around the frame while keeping the pegs, bars and seat in the same place for nearly upright, comfortable ergos.
Like: headlight design
The headlight design is the real highlight of the Honda X-Blade. It looks a little odd from the side because it sticks out so far but from the front, it's aces
The Honda designers really nailed the head light. Honda calls it Robo Face LED Headlight but that failed from distract me - and everyone who saw the X-Blade on the street. The unit sticks out forward quite a bit and looks interesting. But the front-on view is classy and distinctive and I really liked it. At the other end, is the tail light which also has an interesting design. It looks like a wing as a running lamp and like a T with a bright stem when you hit the brakes.
Likes: civil, sober behaviour
The Honda X-Blade looks very aggressive but it isn't anywhere close to that in its riding feel or nature. And that's its appeal
If you want a premium feeling (and looking) commuter, you couldn't do much better than this. The X-Blade is made well, the numerous body panels fit together neatly and it looks good too.
Like: Riding position
Note the riding position. It's almost exactly the same as the Unicorn except for a slightly narrower handlebar.
For commuting you don't want a very committed or sporty riding position. Taking inspiration from the Unicorn and changing only to a short handle bar. It makes the bike feel just a little sportier than the Unicorn. But the bike is as sweet and upright-comfy in terms of ergos.
Like all the motorcycles on this platform, the X-Blade handles corners with a straight-faces competence that's very easy to get used to and trust. No surprises and neutral manners make the bike very easy to ride indeed.
Dislike: not very involving
When we first tested the CB Unicorn 160, we noted that it was the best Unicorn yet but that the motorcycle lacked a sense of enthusiasm. That unfortunately is where the X-Blade is also at. It's quiet, sober and competent but unfortunately, it isn't very involving to ride. That's not a problem for the idea of a smart-looking commuter but for a younger customer, this could be a little too mild.
Dislike: weak headlamp
The "Robo Face LED headlamp" looks very nice from most angles. Unfortunately, this isn't a very bright LED producing adequate illumination only
The LED headlamp is great to look at but the actual light output isn't. This is actually true for the Grazia as well. The X-Blade produces an unremarkable beam for an LED headlight - roughly the same power as a good regular halogen headlight. The beam is controlled well - spread and throw are both excellent. But you keep thinking that the Honda should have gotten a more powerful head light.
Dislike: no ABS!
The front wheel is the same size as the Unicorn and the disc brake is standard. No combined braking system for the Honda X-Blade though, and no ABS either
I know that Honda technically launched the bike before April 1, 2018 and doesn't have to offer ABS on the X-Blade. I also know that by law, the bike post April 1, 2019 will also have ABS, at the very minimum on the front wheel. I do wish Honda had offered us at least the choice of an ABS-equipped X-Blade from the launch itself.
The gloss black panel is a nice contrast element that sets off the matte black panel above.
The X-Blade is a sweet little commuter motorcycle. It looks great and draws attention so easily that I do think people will like it a lot. It's underpinned by the Unicorn which is a stable, smooth-ish, happy commuter that people trust implicitly. That's a good balance for the product I think. The pricing, halfway between the Unicorn and the Hornet is a reasonably good one too.
The X-Blade's challenge is clearly the fact that there are fast, involving 160s in the segment. But is everyone really looking for an exciting commuter? Tell us in the comments!