Honda’s CB range of motorcycles has long been a workhorse staple.
But the ones which we notice are usually the bigger variants – such as the CB400, CB500 and CB750, road bikes known for their smooth and dependable engines, no-nonsense styling and gentlemanly (read: mature) stature.
The CB190R is the first small variant that is making waves. Since its launch in July, agent Boon Siew has sold some 500 units, contributing to a 50 percent rise in overall monthly Honda bike sales here.
And it is easy to see why.
Its sports bike stance, with racy Italian styling cues, makes it an instant hit with younger riders – most of whom would have just started riding and have not progressed beyond their 2B (up to 200cc) licence.
The CB190R also looks big for a small displacement machine, extending its appeal to riders who can mount bigger motorcycles but are drawn to the low running cost of a small bike. The Honda offers more-than decent efficiency. A full tank, costing a little over $20, will last 500km.
The heart of its appeal is its engine. Honda’s reputation as an engine maker is, after all, quite unassailable. In the case of the CB190R, the manufacturer places simplicity above all else.
The bike’s power plant is an air-cooled 184cc four-stroke single block. It makes a modest 15.8bhp and 15.3Nm of torque, so those expecting the “R” in the model name to stand for “Race” will be let down. Instead, “Rudimentary” might be a more suitable description.
It is still fairly nippy, thanks to the free-revving nature of its engine and the well-spaced five-speed gearbox it is paired with. While it may not seem apparent on paper, there is actually enough torque on tap to allow for second-gear take-offs and low-speed progress in fourth.
If anything, the bike could do with another gear between its first and second, for those peak-hour crawls which currently require you to clutch in and out way too frequently.
The CB190R is unlikely to win any races, though. A similarly-sized bike like the KTM Duke 200 – lighter and more powerful (and costlier) – will outrun it without much difficulty.
The Honda has a top speed of 107km/h and an estimated century sprint of 12 seconds – modest figures by any measure.
So, riders who yearn to enjoy the long, open roads in Malaysia should take comfort that they will never breach the speed limit even if they went full bore.
The CB190R is best as an urban runabout. It is relatively smooth at up to 60km/h, but gets buzzy thereafter. At 90km/h, it is high-strung.
Despite that, it is a pleasant ride on the whole. It has a comfortable riding position and a rather low centre of gravity and sticky tyres, so cornering is a cinch. Its clutch is relatively light and gears slot in with a nice, precise click. Getting to Neutral is also easy, without much guesswork.
The brakes are very strong (with a biggish wavy front disc), but the rear brake pedal seems angled too high, making you rest your foot gingerly on the riding peg.
The bike has plenty of cool and modern features, including LED head and tail lights, LED winkers, LCD instrument panel, inverted front forks, big-bike muffler and a full fairing integrated perfectly with its fuel tank.
If you want a great-looking, well-equipped bike that is relatively affordable and which promises low running cost, you can do far worse than this China-made bike.
ENGINE 184cc, 2-valves, single-cylinder
MAX POWER 15.8bhp at 8000rpm
MAX TORQUE 15.3Nm at 7000rpm
GEARBOX 5-speed manual
0-100KM/H 12 seconds (estimated)
TOP SPEED 107km/h
CONSUMPTION 41.7km/L (combined)
PRICE INCL. COE From $12,970