The Honda SP 125 is the latest commuter motorcycle from Honda, and it replaces one of Honda's most popular commuter motorcycles, the Honda CB Shine SP. But the new SP 125 has been given a thorough make-over to make it look stylish and premium. At the same time, it's easy to ride, to make the daily commute hassle-free and it's easy on the pocket. But the new Honda SP 125 has been introduced not because the CB Shine SP needed to be replaced, but because of upcoming government emission regulations, the BS6 regulations, which will come into effect from April 1, 2020.
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The new Honda SP 125 is an all-new motorcycle, with a new fuel-injected engine, an updated chassis, and with new design and features. It's wider and longer, but still manages to be lighter than the Honda CB Shine SP. We spend the better part of a morning trying to understand how different the new SP 125 is, and if it's an improvement in any way over the Honda CB Shine SP it replaces.
Design and Features
The Honda SP 125 does look like a different motorcycle. That's because, the design has been given a complete update. It's sportier, with new colours, new bodywork, with sharp and muscular fuel tank extensions, and sporty graphics. And it now gets a fresh new face with a new LED headlight. The tail section has been redesigned too, although a LED taillight has been given the miss. The alloy wheel design is new, and the 18-inch wheels come with a choice of either MRF tyres or TVS tyres, with low rolling resistance rear tyres, which is said to help the SP 125 become more fuel efficient, apart from the mechanical updates to the engine. But there are other features too, which justifies the "all-new" tag.
The full-digital instrument console is all-new and gives a long list of features, including instantaneous fuel consumption figures. So you can make out how much throttle input you should use, and the way you should ride, to return better fuel consumption. There's average fuel consumption information too, as well as distance to empty, two trip meters, and a gear position indicator, and a digital fuel gauge, apart from the odometer and speedometer. The switchgear is all-new, and on the left handlebar controls is mounted a pass-light switch, which is also the high beam switch. On the right, there's a segment-first engine kill switch, which doubles up as a starter button. And going with Honda's new brushless starter motors in its BS6 two-wheeler range, the SP 125 also gets a silent ACG (alternate current generator) starter, so there's no cranking sound from the starter motor.
Performance and Fuel Economy
The Honda SP 125 gets an all-new 125 cc engine. It's not just a fuel-injected version of the Honda CB Shine SP's motor, but Honda has gone to lengths to give it a lot more than just low emissions. The big change is of course the PGM-FI fuel-injection system, which offers optimum air-fuel mixture to the engine. But there are more significant changes inside the engine as well.
As part of what Honda calls its Enhanced Smart Power (eSP) technology, a jet of oil is used on the piston, inside the cylinder, to reduce friction and keep the engine cool. There's also an offset crank which reduces engine friction further. The new 125 cc engine makes more power than the CB Shine SP, with 10.72 bhp coming in at 7,500 rpm, and 10.9 Nm of peak torque at 6,000 rpm. And what those numbers translate to in the real world is decent pulling power and acceleration, for this segment of motorcycles. We saw a speedo-indicated top speed of 102 kmph, and for those whose daily commute includes a fair bit of highway riding, the SP 125 can comfortably cruise at 80 kmph.
Together with the new fuel-injection system with eight sensors, the SP 125 is said to be 16 per cent more fuel efficient than the CB Shine SP. All these changes do make the performance apparent, out in the real world. The engine feels smoother and more refined, and on the information display, the SP 125 returned fuel economy of over 55 kmpl during our test ride, and even with throttle pinned open during the test ride, it managed to return a worst fuel economy of 48 kmpl. The only improvement on the powertrain could have been the gearbox. Although the shifts are precise, the gears feel rubbery and spongy, and this is one area where there is some scope for improvement.
Ride, Handling and Brakes
The Honda SP 125's suspension system remains the same as the CB Shine SP. So, there's a standard telescopic front fork, and 5-step adjustable twin rear shocks. Ride quality, for the most part, is comfortable for urban usage, and the suspension soaks up road undulations quite satisfactorily. Even with a pillion on board, the new SP 125 felt solid, stable and gave us no reason to complain, considering it will be used primarily in the urban scenario as a commuter. Handling is neutral. Considering most consumers will not be looking for sporty handling, the SP 125 has satisfactory handling; not as sharp as a slightly sporty offering, but doesn't give any reason for the rider to complain.
The SP 125 is available in two variants - one with a 130 mm front drum brake, and the top-spec variant with a front disc brake. Both variants come with combined braking system (CBS), which Honda introduced in its two-wheelers in India a decade ago, but is now mandatory by regulation on two-wheelers above 125 cc engine displacement. The CBS works well, but the rear drum brake lacks the bite of the front disc brake of our test bike. Our recommendation is to opt for the front disc variant, if you're considering the new SP 125, and it will certainly offer better stopping power than the drum brake variant.
The Honda SP 125 is priced at ₹ 72,900 (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the drum brake variant, and at ₹ 77,100 (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the disc brake variant. Kerb weight is 5 kg less than the Honda CB Shine SP, with 117 kg for the drum brake variant, and 118 kg for the disc brake variant. It's roughly over ₹ 7,000 more expensive than the CB Shine SP, but all two-wheelers are expected to become more expensive, when their BS6-compliant models with fuel-injected engines are introduced. Now, the SP 125 will replace the 125 cc Honda CB Shine SP with a 5-speed gearbox, but HMSI is expected to introduce yet another replacement for the 4-speed gearbox Honda CB Shine. That is likely to retain the 'Shine' name in its BS6 avataar.
Where Honda scores with the SP 125 is that not only does it breathe cleaner to meet the new emission regulations, but the SP 125 boasts of a long list of features to justify its all-new tag, and has brought a new sense of premium-ness to the 125 cc commuter motorcycle segment. It has good performance for a 125 cc commuter motorcycle, will be frugal to run, and even in the looks department, it scores high with its updated bodywork, graphics and new colours. The new Honda SP 125 has few negatives to ponder over, and has many positives to possibly make it yet another bestselling Honda motorcycle.