Rs 50,000 shootout

After countless hours of debate and visits to showrooms, the most eagerly awaited day in your life is here. This is going to be one of the most important purchases of your life and you don’t want to make a mistake. Naturally, because it’s your hard-earned money and post-purchase regrets are expensive.

After countless hours of debate and visits to showrooms, the most eagerly awaited day in your life is here. This is going to be one of the most important purchases of your life and you don’t want to make a mistake. Naturally, because it’s your hard-earned money and post-purchase regrets are expensive.

Do-gooders that we are, we have short-listed the best that the market has to offer within the ` 50,000 bracket and dissembled every nut and bolt to arrive at one conclusion – the best motorcycle in the market. Saeed Akhtar plays judge, jury and executioner

Bajaj Discover 150

Price:    Rs 52,150
Engine Capacity (cc):    144.8
Power (PS):    13@7500rpm
Torque (Nm):    12.75@5500rpm
0-60:    5.79s
Roll-on 30-70kmph (3rd Gear):    6.83s
Top Speed (km/h):    110.2
Fuel Efficiency (kmpl):    63

Hero Honda Passion Pro (KS)

Price:    Rs 49,780 Engine Capacity (cc):    97.20
Power (PS):    7.50@7500rpm
Torque (Nm):    7.50@5000rpm
0-60:    12.30s
Roll-on 30-70kmph (3rd Gear):    12.94s
Top Speed (km/h):    85.3
Fuel Efficiency (kmpl):    71.7

Hero Honda Super Splendor

Price:    Rs 52,717
Engine Capacity (cc):    124.7
Power (PS):    9.13@7000rpm
Torque (Nm):    10.35@4000rpm
0-60:    6.99s
Roll-on 30-70kmph (3rd Gear):    11.18s
Top Speed (km/h):    100.83
Fuel Efficiency (kmpl):  73.25

Honda CB Shine

Price:    Rs 51,218
Engine Capacity (cc): 124.6
Power (PS):  10.4@7500rpm
Torque (Nm): 10.9@5500rpm
0-60:    7.04s
Roll-on 30-70kmph (3rd Gear):    8.37s
Top Speed (km/h):    100.4
Fuel Efficiency (kmpl):  78.75

Honda CB Twister

Price:    Rs 50,100
Engine Capacity (cc):    109
Power (PS):    9.13@8000rpm
Torque (Nm):    9@6500rpm
0-60:    6.99s
Roll-on 30-70kmph (3rd Gear):    9.09s
Top Speed (km/h):    93
Fuel Efficiency (kmpl):    71.25

Suzuki SlingShot

Price:    Rs 49,914
Engine Capacity (cc):    124
Power (PS):    8.60@8500rpm
Torque (Nm):    10@6000rpm
0-60:    7.65s
Roll-on 30-70kmph (3rd Gear):    13.99s
Top Speed (km/h):    96.75
Fuel Efficiency (kmpl):    59

TVS Jive

Price:    Rs 48,955
Engine Capacity (cc):   109.7
Power (PS):    8.5@7500rpm
Torque (Nm):  8.3@5500rpm
0-60:    8.16s
Roll-on 30-70kmph (3rd Gear):    8.81s
Top Speed (km/h):    94
Fuel Efficiency (kmpl):    62

TVS Flame SR 125

Price:    Rs 50,444
Engine Capacity (cc):    124.8
Power (PS):    10.5@7500rpm
Torque (Nm):    10@6000rpm
0-60:    6.77s
Roll-on 30-70kmph (3rd Gear):    8.16s
Top Speed (km/h):    100.8
Fuel Efficiency (kmpl):    69.4

Yamaha YBR 125

Price:    Rs 52,900
Engine Capacity (cc):    123
Power (PS):  10.88@7500rpm
Torque (Nm): 10.4@6500rpm
0-60:    6.41s
Roll-on 30-70kmph (3rd Gear):    9.87s
Top Speed (km/h):    102.7
Fuel Efficiency (kmpl):    57.5

Design, build quality & reliability
Design might not be as much important in this category as fuel economy, price, power and reliability. Nevertheless, it does mean a lot to most buyers. All the bikes mentioned in this article have design characteristics to appeal to a wide variety of customers. The most staid looking bikes here are the Splendor Pro, TVS Jive, Passion Pro, Shine and Discover 150, and for obvious reasons. These bikes are not meant to elicit a ‘Wow!’ at first dekko. They are meant for people who put practicality above everything else. To them design is just a part of the package that comes with the bike. The Yamaha YBR 125 treads the safe line by adopting almost all the tried and tested styling cues from is predecessors – the Fazer and Gladiator – which is not a bad thing in itself. On the other hand, the Twister, Flame and SlingShot have contemporary design elements that may entice the youngsters and the young at heart better than the other six bikes mentioned in this article. Strong and bold lines present on the Flame, Twister and SlingShot are solid and give a rich character to them. Owing to this contemporary design factor these bikes stand out on the road, giving a feel of exclusivity among the horde of other two-wheelers.

Build quality plays a big role while buying a bike as it has to withstand the test of time without bothering its owner much. Various components on the bikes have to prove their reliability from time to time. The Hero Honda and Honda bikes score very well on this count. Our long-termers have shown us that these bikes are least likely to trouble their masters in the long run. The fit and finish of Hero Honda and Honda products have always been considered among the best in the country and there is hardly any other bike that matches them. Next in line are the Yamahas and Suzukis. The fit and finish on the Yamaha and Suzuki products is usually good. However, the two bikes (Yamaha YBR 125 and Suzuki SlingShot) mentioned in this article are fresh products and are yet to withstand the test of time. But we believe they will impress the audience with their build quality just as their predecessors did in the past.

The most important factor in a budget bike is reliability, because a person investing money in any of the products mentioned in this article would want a bike that he/she can trust for a long time. Again, Honda and Hero Honda score high when it comes to reliability. Indeed, many people opt for a Hero Honda or a Honda just because their products offer the customer the desired reliability at a reasonable rate. Their products also command a relatively high price in the second-hand motorcycle market.

Next in the list are Yamaha and Suzuki products, which also impress customers with their reliability. As mentioned earlier, the YBR 125 and SlingShot are comparatively new and are yet to prove their reliability in the long run. Nevertheless, Yamaha and Suzuki products are usually quite reliable.

Lastly, products right from our own backyard – the Discover 150, Flame and
Jive. Although Bajaj and TVS have good products backed by fairly good reliability, we believe that they still have some way to go before they catch up with their counterparts. Many people buy these bikes because of their price and fuel economy. However, there are many others who turn to the other four manufacturers mentioned above if their main criterion is reliability.

Comfort & ergonomics/pillion comfort
Swing a leg over the Bajaj Discover after spending some saddle time on the other bikes and the first thing that you notice is the hard seat. The rest of the ergonomics are a solid package, though, with very little to find fault with. The handlebar-seat-footpegs geometry is flawless and so is the control levers reach.

The Super Splendor and Passion Pro live true to the tried and proven ergonomics that have remained virtually unchanged since the widely popular CD 100. In this day and age, Hero Honda still see it fit not to offer adjustable rear shocks, robbing the bikes of brownies on the comfort count. To be fair, though, both the bikes have their suspension calibrated bang-on, lending them a very supple and  comfortable ride. Even with a pillion astride, the riding dynamics remained unruffled and the bikes were able to power their way through a variegated terrain we rode over without transmitting much feedback to the riders.

Initially offered with 18-inch spoked wheels and drum brakes on both ends, the Honda CB Shine has now grown to offer all the bells and whistles like front disc, electric start and alloy wheels. But this fully loaded version puts the CB Shine’s price beyond our budget and, therefore, we have chosen to stick to the base variant for now. Ditto for the CB Twister. On the CB Shine, the near-upright telescopic fork and rear shock-absorbers (again non-adjustable) offer a neutral riding posture and a slightly firm ride. With the inclusion of a pillion, the ride quality improves substantially.

At first glance, the CB Twister might look very compact, especially considering its superbike-inspired body panels, but that feeling dissipates once you swing a leg over it and revel in its spaciousness. As with its elder sibling, the Unicorn, the handlebar invitingly presents itself to your palms, precluding the need to reach out and make yourself uncomfortable. Pillions, on the other hand, will notice the unique design of the grab rails that are integrated into the rear body panels that offer great grip despite their appearance to the contrary.

The newest kid on the block here, Suzuki’s SlingShot, has an ace up its sleeve when it comes to comfort and ergonomics. Or rather, two aces. The first is its incredibly well-padded seat, which is the most comfortable here by a wide margin, and the second is its wide handlebar. Initially, it might feel as if you are perched higher on the bike than normal, but once a few miles are put behind by the wheels, you come to realise the bike’s lack of fatigue. The ace of the cards here.

More than the other bikes in this bunch, the TVS Jive is a motorcycle built with comfort and convenience in mind. The absence of the clutch lever and T-matic transmission do away with the need to think about co-ordinating the clutch-throttle inputs every time you shift the gears. You can simply plonk the bike in any gear, regardless of the rpm and speed, and zip forward. The Flame, on the other hand, has a slightly crouched riding posture, courtesy its slightly lowered handlebar, but is also a pleasure to be on because of its soft seat. The grab rail for the pillion is not only an eye-catcher, it is also highly ergonomic. The bike features a glove box in its fuel tank, which is a convenient place to stow away your small belongings such as the wallet and even the mobile phone, should you so desire.

The YBR 125 carries forward Yamaha’s reputation of solidly built bikes into the commuter segment and, befitting its commuting purposes, it is not as focused as its big brothers. With its higher handlebar and forward set pegs, the bike has a relaxed riding posture that is a pleasure to ride within the city.

Fuel efficiency
The small bike segment has nothing small about it except engine capacity. These are the bikes sold in a large number. This segment is where the manufacturers make money. Money which is then used to develop bigger engines and sporty bikes. Naturally, it is the most intensely competed segment too and the fight for supremacy has compelled manufacturers to be innovative. A larger choice of colours, sporty styling or plastic panels are just shrewd marketing gimmicks. The fact remains that these are budget bikes. The aforesaid frills are a bait, but not the real treat for a buyer with Rs 50,000 in his pocket. The buyer wants a reliable conveyance and one with low maintenance cost and, most important of all, a frugal thirst for fuel. Fuel efficiency is one of the scales the buyer uses to weigh his options while buying a small bike.

The bikes in this segment are best suited for city transport. Though capable of long-distance runs every day, their ergonomics decrease the comfort level with time. So fuel efficiency in city conditions is the paramount consideration.

Among the nine contestants in the field, Honda’s CB Shine boasts of the highest figure of 77 km per litre even with a four-year-old engine while the least fuel-efficient is Suzuki’s latest offering, the SlingShot. Suzuki could have benchmarked the CB Shine while developing their engine, but have failed to do so. The second spot is a tie between Hero Honda’s Passion Pro and Honda’s CB Twister at 70 km per litre. Third again is a Hero Honda with their new 125-cc Super Splendor returning 68 kpl. The fourth place is shared by Bajaj Discover 150 and TVS Jive at 60 kpl. The Discover, in spite of being a 150-cc bike, has an amazing fuel efficiency within city, for which the Bajaj R&D department must be praised. In the sixth spot stands TVS’ second offering, the Flame SR125, with a city fuel efficiency of 59.3 kpl.

Highway figures shuffle the entire group to make the comparison interesting. The Super Splendor earns the highest points here with a fuel efficiency of  89 kpl. Next comes the CB Shine at 84 kpl and its younger sibling, the CB Twister, is third at 78 kpl. The Passion Pro is just off the podium in highway runs with a fuel efficiency of 77 kpl. The Flame SR125 has shot up in the highway comparo to earn the fifth spot at 73.9 kpl. The tail-enders are Discover 150 at 72 kpl followed by the SlingShot and Jive in the seventh spot with 68 kpl. The SlingShot has turned out to be a disappointment even in the highway run.

For overall fuel efficiency, we add 25 per cent of the highway figure to 75 per cent of the city figure, which, in the case of these bikes, is the most apt calculation since they are more city-oriented. Honda have stood the test of time with the CB Shine as, even after four years, it still has the most frugal engine with a overall fuel efficiency of 78.75 kpl. The first overall runner-up is the Super Splendor at 73.25 kpl, while the Passion Pro is the second runner-up with 71.7 kpl. The CB Twister misses the podium by just 0.45 kpl with 71.25 kpl. The Flame SR125 stands a decent fifth thanks to its highway figure. Sixth overall is the Discover 150 at 63 kpl, followed by the Jive in the seventh place at 62 kpl while the SlingShot fills the bottom end with 59 kpl.

Performance & handling
Performance may not be the most important factor in respect of these bikes, but, none the less, it becomes necessary on those occasions when you want to leave the pesky traffic behind or simply sprint down to the city centre for a quick bite.

When it comes to performance, there’s no substitute to cubic capacity and it shows here. The Bajaj Discover 150  manages a 0-60 km/h timing of 5.79 seconds, making it the quickest bike in this comparo. With 13 PS of max power (at 7,500 rpm) and 12.75 Nm of torque (at 5,500 rpm) it is also the most powerful, matched only by the Yamaha YBR 125 as regards torque. It is also the fastest at a heady 114 km/h while the YBR 125 follows a distant second with a top speed of 105 km/h. So, if you are only looking for the most powerful motorcycle within the Rs 50,000 bracket, look no further and get the Discover 150 or the Yamaha YBR 125.

Now that we have established the front-runners in the performance game, let’s move on to the rest. The Passion Pro stays true to its commuting genes with a peak power of 7.5 PS and a peak torque of 7.2 Nm. It is the least powerful of the lot being considered here and it shows in the bike’s acceleration figures. Naught to 60 comes up in a leisurely 12.3 seconds and the bike tops out at 85.3 km/h, making it the proverbial snail in this race from the performance enthusiast’s viewpoint. The Super Splendor does the same in 7.5 seconds. The Flame SR 125 and the CB Twister follow the top runners with a 0-60 timing of 6.77 seconds and 6.99 seconds respectively.

Where in the powerband a bike makes its maximum torque and power also matters. For typical city commuting, the bottom and mid-range torque are more important than a brimming top-end. A case in point: the roll-on figures, which are of particular significance here. We took a gander at the 30-70 km/h roll-on figures for all the bikes here and the results were interesting, to say the least. The bikes with the greatest power and torque were not always the winner here, it was the way their power was spread that decided the final figures. The SlingShot, despite its 124-cc engine, clocked the slowest timing of 13.99 seconds, while the clutchless Jive took 8.81 seconds to accomplish the same. Its 125-cc sibling from the TVS stable, the Flame, did the same in a marginally faster 8.16 seconds. The Discover 150 still rules the roost here with a 30-70 km/h timing of 6.83 seconds, followed closely by, you guessed it, the YBR 125. From the Honda stables the Shine with its bigger engine managed the run in 8.37 seconds while the CB Twister did it in 9.09 seconds.

When it comes to handling, there is not much of a margin to separate the bikes under consideration here with the exception of the Discover 150, Flame and Yamaha YBR 125, the simple reason being that these bikes are equipped with fatter tyres that enhance their handling and give them an edge over others. The TVS Flame is the only bike here to sport a 90/90 tyre at the front.

Availability of spares & resale value
The bike might be a treat for the heart and the mind, but in the absence of spares it’d be like moving about with a broken limb. The after market is blooming with spares, micro and macro, most of which are spurious, which may fail you any time. Quick and hassle-free access without having to visit a service station makes them popular. However, the manufacturers are now making an extra effort to make sure that cheap spares are easily available, an asset which would add to the recall value of the brand in a consumer’s mind. In the segment we’re considering here, the more the number of service stations, the popular the bike. Hero Honda and Bajaj top the charts when it comes to their network and cost of spares. Owing to the uniform popularity of all the Hero Honda models and the fact that most of the spares can be juggled among the models, the owners are least bothered in this regard.

Bajaj and TVS, just like Hero Honda, have been in the Indian two-wheeler industry for quite some time. Whereas finding Probiking stores for the high-end Bajaj bikes might be a little difficult in some parts of the country, spares for the bottom-line commuters have very well been taken care of by the widespread service network. Moreover, like Hero Honda, Bajaj have also adopted the formula of sharing many essential spares among their commuters.

TVS also have a good service network and cheap spares. Honda, on the other hand, is a different story. A common problem which occurs with Honda is sudden panic throughout the distributor network at the first sign of shortage of spares. This Japanese manufacturer expects you to pay for the quality and, therefore, their spares might be a little more expensive than those from the rest. The after-sales service network may not be as wide as the other three camps, but it isn’t very poor either. Models like the CB Shine have been around for quite some time now and though the CB Twister isn’t really very old in the market, the basic spares are available at the snap of a finger. Some others might require a little wait. However, we are well aware that the frequency of spares requirement in a Honda bike is much less and infrequent than that in their competitors.

Likewise, Suzuki have been around with the Heat, Zeus and GS 150R, but the SlingShot is still new and, therefore, yet to prove itself on the spares front.

As for Yamaha, their spares are easily available and are reasonably priced too. The YBR 125, launched recently, is yet to prove its mettle in respect of spares.
The second-hand two-wheeler market has a big bag full of surprises. With options aplenty and fickle tastes, consumers are now increasingly paying attention to a bike’s re-sale value while buying a new bike.

So there we have it – the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of the most popular bikes currently on sale in the country. Suzuki seem to have shot themselves in the foot by giving the SlingShot an undistinguished and unassuming character that does nothing to differentiate itself from the rest of the bunch. The bike slides down the rating scale when it comes to performance, owing to its sluggish roll-on figures and top speed. It is, however, one of the most comfortable bikes of this lot.

TVS’ clutchless Jive breaks new ground in terms of convenience and rideability, but is let down badly by its sub-par design language and performance. Hero Honda’s latest iteration of the Passion, the Passion Pro, might be selling as well as ever, but scores badly on performance here and thus misses the mark. The TVS Flame, despite its good looks and a decent, frugal 125-cc mill, does not set a new benchmark here. In terms of sheer performance, the Bajaj Discover 150 outclasses all its peers, but is again let down in other important parameters such as build quality, quality of spare parts and resale value. The Super Splendor, the bigger-engined sibling of the immensely successful Splendor, packs a few nifty aces up its sleeve, like fuel economy, build quality and reliability, not to mention the resale value that comes with the Hero Honda marque. Yamaha’s YBR 125 – essentially the Gladiator in a new garb – improves upon its already impressive predecessor’s hallmark of good design, build quality, resale value coupled with above-average fuel economy, but, sadly, fails to rise head and shoulders above its peers.

That leaves us with the two Hondas – the 125-cc CB Shine and the 100-cc CB Twister. Both these bikes are something of an oxymoron, wherein the bigger sibling is more subdued and subtle whereas the smaller one is brawnier and flashier. What is evident, though, is the way these twins outclass all other bikes in this test on almost every parameter, be it fuel economy or handling, build quality or reliability, spare parts and resale value. In the final tally, both the Hondas tied together with a total of 50 points, making them the outright winners in this test.
We fully appreciate the fact that everyone who enters a motorcycle showroom is different and has different needs and expectations of his steed, but if you are looking for absolutely the best value-for-money bike that can be had for Rs 50,000, you can’t go wrong with either of these two.'

Bike India Team – who has written posts on Bike India.

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