Rohit Paradkar zips around city streets to evaluate the newest avatar of Honda’s trusty urban tool
Photography: Sanjay Raikar and Eshan Shetty


Riding an ungeared scooter can be a pleasant surprise especially after tackling the chaotic traffic on a geared motorcycle and chocking all life out of the poor clutch plates. Having reviewed such geared commuters in the past few BI issues, I was excitedly looking forward to test the latest avatar of the undisputed ruler of the scooter segment, the Honda Activa!

The Activa has always been on my list of Indian wonder vehicles for the sheer way in which it resurrected the dead scooter market in India. However, with the competition having churned out some funky looking products to counter it, I was afraid that the new Activa would end up being an alien-ish looking sibling of the Aviator. Thankfully, the latest Activa comes across, once again, as a subtly designed city slicker and marks its own individuality not only amongst the entire Honda lineup, but the Indian scooter segment as well. While speaking about the Activa’s new design, the people at Honda told me that front fascia is designed with the philosophy of a man’s V shaped torso in mind. Frankly, I fail to see a significant resemblance, nevertheless, the new face is fresh. The small air vents add a hint of sportiness to the overall frontal appearance. Even with all the newly incorporated elements, something appears to be missing – the design doesn’t exude a feeling of completeness especially at the front. The headlight and turn blinkers have maintained their arrangement on the handlebar cowl. The blinkers, now larger, sport a rakish shape and are sure to be more visible to the oncoming traffic than the older model. The position of the tail elements too hasn’t been altered too much, although the shape of the lamp glasses is slightly different than the ones on the previous model. The side panels aren’t a big departure from the ones on the earlier Activa. Honda, however, has taken a lot of metal off the new scoot’s body in a bid to shave off some kilos. The company has used ABS plastics for the front faceplate, headlight cowl and rear panels. The belly pan remains metallic though to provide the strength required to protect the underbody from pebbles shooting from the front tyre on gravely, broken roads. Overall, the design is fresh but still has clues of the old Activa to highlight the lineage.

Apart from the new body, the big news on the new Activa is the new engine for the ’09 model. The mill is now bored out to displace 109cc as opposed to 102cc of the earlier engine. The engine now puts out 8PS at 7500rpm – 1PS up over its predecessor. But that doesn’t translate into a significantly higher acceleration as suggested by our test figures. But the power figure is not the only stat that has gone up. The magic figure for me was the 9Nm of torque, which is the trump card for the new Activa and puts it ahead of even some 100cc motorcycles in the market. Mate this figure to the seamless variomatic transmission and what you get is a scooter that can zip through the unnerving city traffic with utter ease.

The scooter’s strength lies between the 40-50km/h mark. Within this range, the vehicle will not only return decent fuel efficiency, but will also deliver enough torque to make quick overtaking manoeuver. However, once you cross this mark and proceed to the 70km/h zone, the Honda mill changes its silent tone into an echoing hum. This hum amplifies as you accelerate further and also brings in a slight hint of vibes as you max out close to 89km/h. Though the Activa zips around comfortably, the brakes aren’t really a big improvement over the scoot’s earlier avatar. The 130mm drums front/rear lack the stopping power that you would get from the Aviator’s disc. Yes, I know I’ll sound stupid if I compared the drums to a disc, but then why not have disc brakes on the new Activa in the first place, as an option at least? If Honda could integrate the mechanism on the Aviator and still manage to price the scooter under Rs 50,000 on road, they could have done the same for the new Activa too. There is a mopdel with combined braking coming soon, but I still doubt whether it’ll outperform a full fledged disc brake system.

The new instrumentation console is easy to read. It’s simple and functional, without any flashy graphics

The new headlight sports a halogen bulb which provides better illumination in the dark than its previous version

The new grabrail from the Aviator is very ergonomic

Brakes apart, the Activa continues to impress in the city with improved fuel efficiency figures. Even on a crowded day, Aspi managed to extract 52kmpl in the city and 58kmpl on the highway (though the latter is not of much significance with regards to a scooter). While these figures inspire you to make a buying decision in favour of the new Activa, what may dishearten a few fairer souls is the increase in saddle height by 5mm. However, the front sides of the seat have been slightly scooped off halfway through the length thereby reducing its width at the front. This will help a shorter rider easily reach the ground in spite of the increase in ride height. Under the new seat is some increased luggage space and is achieved by trading in a litre worth of fuel tank capacity. Though Honda claims that the storage space can accommodate a full face helmet, I could hardly fit in my Studds open face in the cavity. Whatever the storage space can hold though, rest assured that it will be safer in the new Activa than the older one. Thugs and victims alike will recall that the wire actuated seat locking mechanism located above the swingarm was easy to access and break into for the trained hand. The new mechanism has a metal covering which restricts access and would in turn prevent thefts – a boon for people who have the habit of leaving valuables in the underseat storage. Another security aspect is the key shutter, but that is not available on the standard model and will be available only on the Deluxe variant.

Coming to ride quality, the Activa has always offered a comfortable ride and the new version is no exception. The front suspension in the new Activa still employs a bottom link, spring loaded hydraulic damper setup, which has been trashed by the competition for telescopic forks long back. After having ridden the Aviator, the front suspension of the Activa leaves a lot to be desired. The handling isn’t as crisp as the Aviator’s. But since I’m stating that the new Activa is no exception to the old one’s comfortable characteristics, I would rather compare the new model with its predecessor than its elder sibling. The rear suspension too is carried over from the old Activa and is made up of a single-sided swingarm with a spring loaded hydraulic damper. The entire suspension setup coupled with the wide and comfortable seats makes for good ride comfort for the rider and the pillion. The pillion comfort is augmented further by virtue of the newly designed footpegs. On the earlier model, the footpegs wouldn’t open easily especially with the panel guards in place. On the new Activa though, there are small notches on the pegs for easy access to open them outward or tuck them back in. Overall the riding position for both the rider as well as the pillion turns out to be more comfortable on the new scooter.

So, are the improvements worth the extra money? The answer is a simple yes. The new Activa is dearer over the ex-showroom price of the outgoing model by only Rs 1,500. In exchange, the scooter returns better fuel efficiency, has a bigger capacity engine, more storage space, offers good ride comfort and comes with Honda reliability. Though a side stand, panel guards and glove box remain optional accessories, the base price is still good value for money. We wish there wasn’t any price increase over the earlier model, but the extra amount quoted isn’t too exorbitant for you to alter your buying decision. Be it the tight city conditions or broken roads on the countryside, the scooter can carry two riders with great comfort. It’s got a new face to match up to the times, but still carries the subtle lineage forward. If an understated, reliable, no-nonsense scooter is what you’re looking for, your search ends here.

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