I was at a recent Honda launch event and at first it seemed that it would turn out to be the usual affair, with the Honda bigwigs talking about sales figures and speculations on how many motorcycles they will sell in the forthcoming years. And then, when I least expected, it happened. The lights suddenly dimmed and smoke billowed onto the stage. From behind the haze emerged a stunning motorcycle, complete with leggy lasses and dudes with gelled air and helmets clasped in their hands standing around it.
Ladies and gentlemen, lo and behold, the CBF Stunner PGM-FI, Honda's first small-capacity fuel-injected motorcycle in the country.
On stage, the CBF was flanked by the big Honda daddies themselves - the CBR1000RR Fireblade and the CB1000R that were launched in Mumbai at the same shindig. Now, if you were thinking that the Stunner must have looked like a misfit with the other two, think again. The 125cc Honda managed to hold its own and that was inevitable, with the CBF sharing the same kind of colours and stage presence as the behemoths standing beside it.
The PGM-FI is virtually the same old Stunner looks-wise, and yet it looks nothing like it. Although the lines and the sharp edges are the same, the brilliant use of colour makes it seem like something different altogether. The deep hues of the CBR red and metallic silver look resplendent on the Stunner, with the matte gold finish on the engine covers making the bike seem more like a smaller sibling of the 'Blade than just another hotted up commuter.
But the new Stunner isn't just about colour or the look. It's the engine that is this Stunner's claim to fame. The motor is fed with a fuel injection unit and although the displacement of 124.7cc has remained the same, the power and torque have improved a wee bit - an increase of 0.6 bhp and 0.02 kgm over the carbed Stunner add up to 11.6 bhp and 11.2 kgm respectively. This might seem too meagre to actually notice, but the new PGM-FI rolls to 60 kph from standstill in 6.2 seconds (0.2 seconds quicker) and top whack comes at 102 kph, with 101 kph for the carbed Honda. The throttle response has improved as well, with the engine building revs smoother on the whole. When it comes to riding the bike itself, not much has changed and that is a good thing, really. The Stunner always has been a very neutral handler and it's hard to push it out of its envelope for the want of more grunt. Filtering through traffic - a situation that will be faced by most of the Stunners that ultimately will be sold - is an easy affair. But on the twisties, the Stunner might disappoint. That niggle can be zeroed on the TVS tyres but that's nothing a better set of rubber can't fix.
The carbed Stunner gets quite buzzy above 70 kph but with the PGM-FI, that vibey feeling on the grips is sorted out to a large extent by the handlebar weights. In the unfortunate event of a spill (yes, everybody kisses tarmac sometime in their lives) the bank angle sensor steps in to shut off fuel supply and ignition to the engine. This is done so the petrol-burner doesn't continue running when the bike is on its side, safeguarding from severe internal mechanical damage.
Great ride quality is one of the older Honda's merits and that has been carried over to the PGM-FI Stunner as well. The suspension is pliant and yet doesn't come across as wallowy, something which is best appreciated when you attack a series of undulations at speed - like the expansion joints on flyovers, for example. The forks and shocks soak up bumps without any sign of protest and it makes for a great motorcycle to ride on city roads.
Switchgear is largely the same but the odd-looking choke knob has been done away with. Honda has chosen to leave out an engine kill switch as well(the carbed Stunner didn't have one either), although I wonder why. It's not like it would cost much to get one fitted anyway. The Stunner's instrumentation is pretty straightforward and easy to read, and the new CBF gets a malfunction indicator light that's nestled right beside the neutral gear lamp. Sadly, there's no tacho on this Stunner as well. Sigh.
On the whole, the PGM-FI isn't light years ahead of the older Stunner but at Rs 69,000 ex-showroom in Mumbai, it's more expensive than the carbie CBF by just Rs XXXX. The performance gains aren't high enough to sing odes about and with that in mind, all in all, I think the PGM-FI is a good variant of the Stunner but not necessarily a substantial step ahead. A Unicorn-engined Stunner would certainly be it, though. Now when would that motorcycle creep out of the smoke, I wonder.