If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Honda is ‘the brand’ in Pakistan – without the slightest hint of competition. So when they released the ‘Deluxe’ version of their celebrated standard CG-125, yours truly lined up to get one. On paper, it isn’t an even match – its heavier and taller, so the key attributes, economy and handling, would not get the honors. The ground realities, however, are different. I’m not saying this because I’m an owner – I’ve owned both versions and in spite of gloomy predictions from nearly every biker I know (including myself) this little bike proved me (and the others) wrong in every department.
The first thing that strikes you when you look at it are the looks, styling and the sheer size of it. The older version was a strict utilitarian – no frills and bells and whistles, just the bare basics, if you’re being kind. If you’re being honest, it was butt ugly. Then again, it never was built to be a looker – the intended market was and still is people looking to get from point A to B in the quickest and most economical method, which it performs admirably. Add to that the legendary Honda build quality and its bullet-proof engine, which means its nigh indestructible. None of your temperamental tantrums from this little thing. The Deluxe version though, is a looker. Its sloping and rounded rear end, curvaceous fuel tank and tasteful ABS front fender and large headlamp leave you appreciative every time you have a look at it (In comparison to the competition). Fit and finish is of course, brilliant – no trailing wires anywhere, all is neat and tidy. Colors are a vivid shade of red (not for the shrinking violets out there) or a tasteful, elegant black, both which suit the Deluxe very well. Even when parked next to its clone (the Super-Power SP-125), it looks and feels much more elegant, refined and better built. Yes, it is nearly twice as expensive too, but would you have a shabby looking clone? Not me.
Engine & Performance:
The engine, unfortunately, is more or less the same. Honda has tweaked the gear ratios a bit to compensate for the additional weight of 10 -15 kg so that performance is more or less the same as the standard. It features the same 124 cc, air cooled, push-rod single that has remained more or less unchanged since it was first launched. A four speed gearbox, wet multi-plate clutch and chain drive is all there is to it. Sadly, its still carburetted and Honda apparently doesn’t want to go to the next level and change it to EFI. However, the fueling is still faultless and there are no issues with it throughout the rev. range and besides, since it’s still a basic commuter bike at heart, its not really an issue. A good kick in summer or winter will bring it to life without coughs or splutters and it gets warm fairly quickly, so no real loss there either. The engine is good for 10 thousand revs and power delivery (as felt by the seat-of-the-pants dyno) is good throughout the range with the best torque being generated at the 5-8 k range.
The performance figures aren’t really racer bike material. It will get up to 60 kmph fairly quickly (5-7 seconds, depending on how you choose to shift) but beyond that, it isn’t much – the top speed is 100 kmph and you do really feel the need for an additional gear to take you beyond that, preferably in the 120 kmph region. Of course, a tall 5th gear might even see you get close to 140 kmph but lets face it – that would be asking too much of an engine that has less than 10 bhp and Newton meters of torque. Besides, its meant for city commute and not drag racing – and in a city like Karachi, maintaining 100 kmph (unless its in the dead of the night on an empty road with no obstacles) is a rather tall order for most bikers.
The braking power is supplied by a disc up front and a drum brake at the rear. The disc brake is a single piston Nissin caliper which offers good feedback and reels in the bike with authority. The drum brake however, is more or less useless if not used in conjunction with the front – the feel is wooden at best and the decrease in velocity not very evident – plus it does have a nasty tendency to lock up suddenly if pressed hard. The reason for this is primarily the way the bike’s weight is distributed – unless you’re riding two up, the rear end doesn’t have much to press it down which makes the rest of the story easier to understand. On the plus side, no matter how fast you’re travelling, braking with both brakes will slow you down pretty quickly without any drama, which is a relief in the city, where idiotic drivers, pedestrians and bikers make this a very crucial factor. The front end does dive a bit when you use the front brake, but compared to the Suzuki and the Kawasaki’s of old, its very, very stable and firm. Very confidence inspiring and encourages you to go that wee bit faster and brake a wee bit later, safe in the knowledge that it will deliver when asked to perform.
With a non-adjustable front end and a pre-load only rear end with 4 settings, the suspension isn’t really the best – but its right there with the competition, so unless someone introduces a better set of front and rear shocks, it will remain like this. It’s setup to be carrying two people best, when it becomes comfy. Or if you weigh the equivalent of two people. Otherwise, the ride is rather harsh and it does tend to buck and wobble under hard braking. My only complaint would be the diamond frame – its a bit weak in my opinion to handle the harder braking and added weight. Then again, I may be wrong since my opinion is based on the look of its rather flimsy neck as opposed to anything else.
In the city, it is planted and sure-footed and the lean angles are quite generous – I can not only keep up, but pass cars in the bends. Which I couldn’t do on the classic version, on account of the horrible feeling of either the front or rear end about to slide out from under me. Its also nearly as good as the classic when it comes to quick wiggles – though the effort required is much more as you have to really muscle the handle bars and shift your weight in order to do so, because of its added height and weight.
Rider controls have all been put on the left side – lights, indicators and horn. Fairly straightforward and nothing really out of the ordinary. The instrument panel has been improved from the standard and now features a fuel position indicator. Which is a relief since it helps you plan your route and how much fuel you need to fill up with. What is sorely needed but absent is a gear position indicator – which is a feature present in nearly every other bike these days. You’d think Honda would’ve introduced this but no – instead of a gear position indicator, Honda opted for a shiny Honda logo which while pretty, is rather useless. The front brake lever is non-adjustable, but the clutch lever is adjustable on both ends which makes it very easy to adjust the lever travel and engagement even when riding – though it isn’t really advisable to do so 😀
Its a tidy little thing, no doubt about it. In the hands of an expert, it is much more rewarding and for those who think it can’t beat the classic in a street race – beware. Don’t let the looks fool you at all, this thing is every bit as quick – in some areas even better and will make you look like a fool if you take it easy. It’s a relatively rare bike though, since it is expensive both in the price tag and the maintenance department – the prices for spares are really high and not everyone can fix it if it goes wrong (which it rarely does – but if it does, it does so with a vengeance).
Honda could add another gear, a gear position indicator, bring the price down a bit and rework the compression and gear ratios to give it more power – which it can certainly handle with ease. Only these small things stop me from giving it a full score. Still, a 7 out of 10 is merited, which isn’t bad at all. I’d still recommend it whole-heartedly to both veteran and newbie alike.