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Honda Activa 125 competes with Suzuki’s Swish 125 and the Vespa VX for the 125-cc scooter crown
Story: Piyush Sonsale
Photography: Sanjay Raikar
The Indian automatic scooter market is largely divided into two classes: 110 cc and 125 cc. Honda have the highest market share in the 110-cc class with a line-up of four distinctly packaged scooters, but they were absent from the 125-cc class until this year. The sales figures in respect of 125-cc scooters have seen a steady growth over the past few years and they have captured a small but significant chunk of the market. Therefore, Honda could no longer delay their entry into the higher class since they did not want buyers to opt for a different brand, thus reducing their dominance in the field. In comes the Activa 125.
Unveiled at the Auto Expo 2014, the 125-cc version of the Activa is an all-new scooter that was launched at the end of April this year. We had reviewed it in the June issue of the magazine and were impressed by Honda’s latest offering. However, this new entrant faces stiff competition in the 125-cc class from the Suzuki Swish 125 and Vespa VX. So we decided to compare the three scooters to see where the Activa 125 stands vis-à-vis its competitors.
The Honda Activa i is an Activa with a plastic body. What’s the point? You may ask, since the Activa’s built-to-last feel comes from its metal body. It does indeed, but it also contributes to the higher pricing of the Activa vis-a-vis its plastic-body alternatives in the 110-cc scooter segment. There are buyers who actually prefer the plastic body due to light weight and cheaper body panels.
Of course, Honda have the 110-cc Dio and Aviator scooters with plastic bodies. However, the Dio’s sporty design holds a lesser appeal for mature buyers looking for a utilitarian scooter, while the Aviator is a big scooter with muscular curves and costs more than the Activa. That’s where the Activa i comes in.
The Honda Activa i is leaner, lighter and faster than the Activa and also the least expensive scooter in Honda’s scooter line-up. But the TVS Wego and the recently launched Yamaha Ray Z aren’t going to make its life easy. Therefore, we compared the three scooters to put things in perspective.
The Activa i has a neutral styling with hints of the Aviator’s design and comes in four colours. The Wego has a wider palette of six colours and its design is angular at the front, but gets meatier at the rear. It looks fresh in spite of being the oldest one here while the Ray Z looks sharp and sporty. The Ray Z, unlike its sibling (the Ray), is aimed at male riders and has three dual tone colour schemes and sporty decals with carbon finish on a few surfaces. There is a small plastic screen over its head and it has an all-black theme for the wheels, engine and exhaust. It looks more aggressive than the other two scooters and also has a slightly better finish overall.
In terms of features, the Wego is the strongest. It has a robust all-metal body, telescopic front forks, five twin-spoke alloy wheels, a 220-mm optional disc brake on the front wheel and LEDs in the tail-light cluster. Furthermore, TVS have smartly placed the fuel filler cap on its tail, so the rider can fill the scooter up without having to dismount. It has the broadest seat with a very soft cushioning and a foldable side-step for the pillion rider on its left side. We also found that the Wego can be kick-started without putting it on the centre-stand unlike the other two.
The Wego is followed by the Activa i, which has combi-brakes (front and rear brake are applied simultaneously via the rear brake lever) and tubeless tyres. It also has the best under-seat storage capacity and a brake locking mechanism for the rear brake lever.
The Ray Z’s feature list includes telescopic front forks, carburettor with throttle position sensor for better air-fuel mixture, best looking information panel and a couple of pockets below the handlebar to store small items.
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We compare the TVS Phoenix 125 with the new and the established to see where it stands in the 125-cc segment.
Commuter motorcycles don’t have it easy. They are used every day of the year in all kinds of weather and are expected to do their duty without a complaint. Good looks and styling are always an added benefit and a compromise in fuel efficiency is tantamount to digging your own grave. And there is also the issue of pricing, which defines the segment. On the other hand, the reward for the manufacturers is the possibility of achieving high sales volumes, which has made this segment a very competitive one.
The commuter bike segment is further divided into three sub-segments, defined by engine capacity. It starts with the 100-cc sub-segment, which includes the most basic motorcycles. Then there is the 110-cc one, which has risen in popularity over the past few years, while the 125-cc motorcycles are classified as the executive commuter bikes. To be frank, this distinction is not very pronounced, since a difference of 10-15 cubic centimetres hardly makes a difference, these being very small engines not tuned for high performance. However, there exists a fierce competition in all three sub-segments.
Honda have been selling the CB Shine 125 for more than six years now and it has stood the test of time to emerge as one of the strongest and highest selling executive commuter bikes. Bajaj Auto have also been successful after re-entering the segment with the Discover 125 a couple of years ago. This year Bajaj added another bike in the segment under the Discover brand, with emphasis on touring. The Discover 125 ST (Sports Tourer) co-exists with its modest sibling, but as a slightly premium offering.
The TVS Phoenix 125 is the latest addition to this segment. TVS have paid a lot of attention to developing the Phoenix with the hope of capturing a sizeable share of the 125-cc market, which they have been missing. We were impressed by the bike when we rode it at TVS’ test track at their Hosur plant last month. This month we went ahead and compared it with the CB Shine and the Discover 125 ST in the real battlefield: the city roads.
Design And Styling
The CB Shine is a fine example of a proportionate motorcycle with a design that doesn’t look dated in spite of being the oldest of the lot. It feels solidly built and its fit-and-finish and paint job are impeccable, except for the poor quality of plastic used in the switch-gear. Apart from the body panels, the rest of the bike has an all-black treatment and graphics give it an upmarket look. Six-spoke alloys wheels are standard and it is the only bike among the three with tubeless tyres. However, there are a few areas where the Shine shows its age. The twin pod analogue instrument panel looks dated and contains a speedometer, fuel gauge and odometer while the headlight assembly lacks pilot lamps.
The Discover ST is a stylish motorcycle. The head cowl has a sharp design that gives the bike an aggressive look. The muscular tank makes it look bigger in size and the ribbed tail-light looks sporty. Its five-spoke alloy wheels have a sporty design and the front wheel has a 200-mm petal disc rotor. The Discover ST has minimal decals and an all-black treatment on the engine, chassis, wheels, front shocks and exhaust. The paint job is good, but the same can’t be said of the build quality of this bike. As with the CB Shine, the switch-gear of the Discover too has flimsy plastic. The instrument console has an analogue speedometer, fuel gauge, odometer and trip meter while the indicator section houses a battery level indicator along with the usual ones. The Discover has the best mirrors among the three bikes compared here. The design of the rear tyre-hugger is a subjective matter, but it is very effective in preventing the tyre from spraying mud or water.
The Phoenix has a simple design, similar to its smaller sibling, the Star City. However, that has been disguised by the flashy decals and we like the shine of the Phoenix’s paint. It has six-spoke alloy wheels and a petal disc and, like the other two bikes, the Phoenix has also been painted all black, except for the body panels. Its fit-and-finish is of high quality and the switch-gear has ergonomic buttons. It has a hazard light, which is activated by the red switch near the right handlebar. When switched on, the hazard light activates all the turn indicators simultaneously, which is a unique feature in this segment. The Phoenix has white LED pilot lamps like the new Apache. The lights look stunning in dark, but are hardly visible in daylight. The digital instrument panel contains a speedometer, odometer and a trip meter along with service due and battery level indicators. The mirrors of the Phoenix have a good shape, but the short stem reduces the field of vision.