Ravi Chandnani pits the Suzuki SlingShot, the latest entrant, against its potential rivals to find out which of them has the edge Photography: Sanjay Raikar
The ordinary Indian, who leads his daily life with strict reference to a budget, prefers to own a bike that is inexpensive, easy to maintain and one that has adequate power and good fuel-efficiency as well as decent looks. His search for his first or next bike is guided by these factors. Given these, a 100-cc commuter bike would be the obvious choice. However, the trend is changing rapidly. Today such people want a motorcycle with the power and torque of a 125-cc bike coupled with the fuel-efficiency of a 100-cc one. And to fulfil this yearning to break away from the crowd, a new segment is increasingly becoming popular – the 125-cc segment.
The 125-cc market has witnessed considerable excitement in the recent past and, realising the potential of this segment, Suzuki decided to re-enter it with a bike called the ‘SlingShot’. The previous 125-cc bikes from Suzuki were good, but were lacking in one important factor – styling. With the SlingShot Suzuki have proved that small can be beautiful. Therefore, to satisfy my everlasting thirst for knowledge, I decided to pit it against three other bikes – the Honda Shine, Hero Honda Super Splendor and TVS Flame. Please read on.
The Honda Shine
The Humble Man’s Steed
The Shine might not appeal to the youngster on account of its subtle design. However, this very subtlety may attract customers like the average Indian family man running his life on a budget as also people who believe in practicality. The Shine clearly states that it is a no-nonsense bike. Almost every aspect of this motorcycle is enough to satisfy the needs of the aforesaid class of customers. Take power, fuel-efficiency, inexpensive pricing or decent styling, the Shine has them all.
Heavy city traffic is where the Shine would spend its life and so the engine had to be efficient and smooth enough to take one in and out of the hugger-mugger with ease. Appreciating this fact, Honda equipped the Shine with a 124.7-cc engine that has proved its reliability and efficiency over the past four years. Its handling is also class-leading, making the bike one of the best 125-cc commuters. It does not feel nervous on any surface, be it uneven roads, pothole-ridden roads, manhole covers, speed-breakers or any other obstacle that a city can throw at it. The Shine tackles them all with commendable ease.
Fuel-efficiency is one factor that plays a crucial role while buying a commuter and I have to agree that the Shine really outshines others by being the most fuel-efficient of this bunch. It delivers an overall fuel-efficiency of 79 kilometres to a litre of petrol and the tank capacity of 10.5 litres ensures that visits to the petrol pump will far and few between, depending, of course, upon the distances covered every day.
The Shine’s price starts at Rs 51,000 (OTR, Pune) for the base version and goes up to Rs 59,000 (OTR, Pune) for the high-end one with disc brakes. Its price range and the availability of three variants gives the buyers a reasonable variety to choose from. It certainly makes for an attractive purchase.
The TVS Flame
The TVS Flame made its début in 2009 after TVS took care of all the controversies surrounding the motorcycle. The Flame was a decent product right from inception. Its bold fighter jet-inspired bodywork and sporty stance were enough to attract youngsters as well as those still young at heart. The first thing about the Flame to catch one’s attention has to be the radical design that shows TVS’ ambition to deliver a sporty commuter. At the same time, there are a few factors that have proved negative for the Flame. To start with, the inclusion of a storage box right at the centre of the fuel tank resulted in a smaller tank, which ultimately meant that the bike had a poor range. The engine might have three valves and swirl and tumble tech packed in it. However, it is the least refined unit here. The 124.8-cc motor is powered decently with 10.5 PS and 10 Nm of torque, which is enough to tackle city traffic, but the bike’s vibrations can drive one crazy, especially if one is a stickler for refinement. The Flame’s handling is quite all right, nothing to elaborate upon. It allows you to throttle out of city traffic and bad road conditions without much effort, that is, if you don’t mind the vibrations. Its gearbox and suspension are also quite satisfactory.
Performance-wise, the Flame does not disappoint at all as it accelerates from 0-60 km/h in just 6.77 seconds, making it the quickest sprinter among the bunch. The 30-70 km/h roll-on figures also make the Flame a winner performance-wise. All of this with an impressive fuel-efficiency figure of 69 km per litre overall and a price tag beginning at Rs 50,500 (OTR, Pune, for the base version) make the Flame a strong contender, keeping aside the refinement part.
The Hero Honda Super Splendor
The Trusted Workhorse!
The Hero Honda Splendor was the one that started it all and today its bigger brother, the Super Splendor, is marching on the highway of success. The reason for this lies in the same genes that made the Splendor such a great favourite. Praiseworthy practicality combined with a trustworthy and refined engine make the Super Splendor worth every paisa spent on it.
The bike’s appearance might not be something to please the most demanding, but its subtle design is more than adequate to attract the ordinary man. However, design is not the main feature that makes the Super Splendor one of the hottest selling products. The beauty of this bike lies in its engine, which might look like a throwback on the 1960s, but does the job without a hitch. This 124.7-cc motor is highly fuel-efficient and one of the most refined of the bunch. It delivers an overall fuel-efficiency of 73 km to a litre. The refinement is typically Hero Honda, thanks to the Honda technology.
However, there are places where the Super Splendor sees red compared to its rivals. For instance, the 30-70 km/h roll-on figures in the third gear indicate that the Super Splendor takes 11.18 seconds to reach 70 km/h, whereas the Flame and the Shine do this in lesser time. There are other factors like the 0-60 km/h sprint and top speed where the Super Splendor scores well. It takes only 6.99 seconds to reach 60 km/h from standstill and does a top speed of 100.83 km/h, which makes it the fastest amongst the four bikes compared here. The Super Splendor impresses the crowd with its handling, which, I must admit, is in the same league as the Honda Shine. It is one of the easiest bikes to ride in the country and one of the most reliable too. With a price tag of Rs 52,900 (OTR, Pune) the Super Splendor makes a lot of sense for an a-to-b commute.
BLURB THE BEAUTY OF THIS BIKE LIES IN ITS ENGINE, WHICH MIGHT LOOK LIKE A THROWBACK ON THE 1960S, BUT DOES THE JOB WITHOUT A HITCH
The Suzuki SlingShot
The New Kid on the Block!
Suzuki’s maiden innings in the 125-cc segment were not impressive with two of their offerings not doing well, but the Japanese giant did not lose hope and recently re-entered the segment with a snazzy machine bearing a remarkable name, the SlingShot. The design of this motorcycle is somewhat indicative of its bigger sibling, the GS150R. The funky stance of the SlingShot looks more like an entry-level 150-cc bike rather than what it actually is. However, somehow the bike appears a bit loud to me (no offence to Suzuki).
The SlingShot’s 12-litre fuel tank looks like a scaled down version of the GS150R’s and the headlight looks like a stripped down version of the GSX series bikes. The side panels with SlingShot graphics appear dominating and the rear panel again reminds you of the GSX series.
One feature that I loved most was the comfort that the seat offered. The saddle on the SlingShot is the most comfortable of the bunch under consideration here and one does not feel tired at all zipping through heavy traffic and its snarls.
At first the wide handlebar might create the illusion of a bigger bike, but the tiny console brings one back to the reality of a 125-cc commuter. Overall, the design is good and impressive, but it also has the love-me-or-hate-me strand woven into it.
Once astride the bike, one forgets about the design part as one is soon taken up with the smoothness of the engine. This new Suzuki is equipped with a 124-cc engine that made its first appearance on the Zeus and the Heat. Suzuki engineers have re-worked that engine in order to make it suitable for the SlingShot and apparently it is eight kilograms heavier than that on the aforementioned two bikes. It develops about 8.62 PS and 10 Nm of torque, which is transferred to the rear wheel via a five-speed gearbox. You are right, the rest of the bunch have four-speed gearboxes! The gearshift is also as smooth as the engine and doesn’t let any unwanted feedback come through. The SlingShot’s acceleration within the city is quite good, though it takes a longer time to reach 60 km/h from standstill, because this Suzuki is the least powerful of the bunch.
However, the handling of the SlingShot is quite impressive as the bike is utterly easy to ride and is capable of tackling city traffic with utmost ease. Bad roads, uneven surfaces, potholes or protruding manhole covers, the bike’s suspension takes them in stride without bothering the rider much. As of now, the SlingShot is equipped with drum brakes at both the ends, but it may come with a disc brake option in the near future. The SlingShot disappoints when it comes to fuel-efficiency. It returned 68 kilometres to a litre on the highway and 56 km within the city, which, compared to the rivals, does not warm the cockles of one’s heart. We are sure Suzuki will look into it and try to improve it in the future. Its price, though, is spot-on with the competition. The base spoke wheel SlingShot carries a tag of Rs 49,443 (OTR, Pune) and the alloy wheel version that of Rs 51,434 (OTR, Pune), which make it an interesting proposition.
In my opinion, the Shine scores very well when it comes to refinement and handling, but it does vibrate after crossing 60 km/h. But then one seldom sees that reading on the speedo in the city. The Super Splendor has not many vibrations at high speed and is equally good in handling and refinement, but the ride becomes boring after a while, lacking in the crucial fun factor. The SlingShot, on the other hand, is one machine that is much more fun to ride as compared with the Shine and the Super Splendor. It also has the potential to attract youngsters more than the other three. The Flame is equally sporty looking and has better performance figures than the rest. But this performance comes at the price of refinement, for the Flame is nowhere near the other bikes in respect of refinement.
Each of these four has its pros and cons and it depends entirely on the individual preferences of a person, on what one is looking for in particular. Once clear about that, the final decision is not difficult to arrive at.