Adhish Alawani rides the new Yahama SZ-X from Jaipur to Udaipur to evaluate the Japanese manufacturer’s new commuter. Is it read to take on the vast mass segment?
Photography: Sanjay Raikar
The motorcycle market in India is growing in every sense of the term. This encompasses not just the increasing number of bikes that are being sold, but also the way the consumer is thinking about the product.
Earlier, the customer decided on his budget, the type of motorcycle and then went either to Hero Honda or Bajaj and booked one of the machines that these manufacturers had on offer. Today, however, that is not the case. The market is now driven by requirement. The consumer knows exactly what he expects of his bike and is willing to shell out the money to have those requirements fulfilled. For example, there are some who prefer outright performance. They go and buy bikes such as the R15 or the Pulsar 220. Then there are those who desire nothing but efficiency. They go and pick up the Discover 100 or Hero Honda Splendor. Then there is this new breed of buyers who want a bit of everything – style, efficiency, brand name, a higher cc than their neighbour’s bike and so on.
Yamaha have decided to address the needs of this particular segment. The result is products like the SZ and SZ-X. These bikes also fall in line with the company’s downward pyramid strategy in which they first took care of the niche market of performance and extremely focused motorcycles and are now moving towards utility-based bikes that will help the company achieve higher sales figures. Having launched the SZ and SZ-X last month, the company decided to give us a flavour of their latest offerings on a long tour from Jaipur to Udaipur and around Udaipur.
So what are these bikes exactly? The company claims that these machines are for the masses (unlike the R15 and FZ16, which were focused on the petrolheads). They carry the true genes of Yamaha and yet are affordable and easy on the pocket owing to their high fuel-efficiency. Talking of that, I wondered what the true genes of Yamaha are. When we utter the ‘Y’ name, it’s synonymous with performance, aggression and attitude. We naturally think of the glorious RX100, RD350, R15 and R1. Does the SZ series have these genes? Not really. The motorcycle comes with the same 153-cc powerplant that does duty on the FZ family of bikes. However, this one has been detuned from 14 PS to 12.1 PS. The maximum torque has come down from 13.6 Nm to 12.8 Nm. The result is a much slower acceleration – 0-60 km/h in 6.5 seconds, to be precise – which was 5.5 seconds in the case of the FZ. Also, the top speed that you can achieve on this motorcycle is just over 105 km/h, a bit on the lower side for a 150-cc machine, isn’t it? Well, considering that the bike is not meant for performance and is commute-based and efficiency-driven, we can ignore the fact that it is one whole second slower than its elder sibling and that it doesn’t do impressive top speeds.
However, the problem does not end there. The throttle asks for a little extra effort to wring it, which makes us feel that acceleration is even slower. A true Yamaha fan wouldn’t like that, will he?
Talking of the engine, there is one thing that needs special mention here and that is the smoothness of the motor. There are hardly any vibrations and even if we consider that I was astride a brand-new machine, I cannot ignore the fact that after riding 550 km with the throttle tweaked to the limit almost all the time, I didn’t feel the vibes in the evening. Also, the engine was as smooth at the end of the exploit as it was before the ride. The engine scores some brownie points when it comes to the mid-range as well, making it one of the strengths as regards the motorcycle’s commuter approach.
A true Yamaha carries with it an aggressive attitude and styling. On this count, the SZ-X has some positive points and some negative. Looking at the styling alone, I am convinced that this Yamaha retains its character. The tank looks like a shrunk version of the FZ’s with aggressive graphics and extension scoops. Alloy wheels are standard. The headlamp looks a little small in proportion to the meaty front end created by the tank scoops. The split tail-lamp is simple yet effectively fresh in styling.
If you look at the attitude of the motorcycle, it’s typically commuterish with the absence of features such as a tachometer, pass flash and engine kill switch. Then you get drum brakes, which are a complete disappointment. The company officials say that a disc brake option will be available and that it’s a matter of a few months.
There was some regret initially looking at TVS tyres on the bike (especially considering that Yamaha provide the best rubber in the country on the R15 and FZ), but presumptions about the tyres dissipated after riding through the twisties. There is little to technically complain about the rubber when it comes to this commuter.
Another very good thing, and quite important, is riding comfort. Even after clocking 440 kilometres in a day, there was no sign of fatigue. The bike offers a relaxed posture for daily city commute as well as long rides. Good ergonomics complement the posture, making it an extremely comfortable ride for the ordinary man.
All in all, where does the SZ-X stand? For a commuter, it is perfect with a tag of Rs 52,000 (ex-showroom, Mumbai). You also get the SZ (which sheds tank scoops, an extra visor and electric starter) at Rs 49,000. It’s got good looks and the tuning forks logo on its tank. But it has lost the character that Yamaha want to project with it. Low performance and high efficiency are not something that you expect from Yamaha, do you?