While testing a product that combines the best parts of a scooter and a motorcycle, where do we begin?
Story: Joshua Varghese
Photography: Sanjay Raikar
Motorcyclists and scooterists have more in common than just a couple of wheels. I would even say that they share a dream. A fantasy of a two-wheeler that has the performance of a motorcycle and the convenience of a scooter. I certainly wished for one and it is worth celebrating that the first of these offerings is finally here, courtesy Yamaha Motor India. On paper, the Aerox 155 has what it takes to dominate the performance scooter market, so we put it to the test.
If it had to be named after its styling, one of the first things that comes to mind is “moto-scooter”, because the Aerox has design elements that are unique to both motorcycles and scooters. Head-on, it is unmistakably the latter, defined by the large front apron across which are spread the LED headlamp and DRL, further flanked by sharp and aggressive cowls which have indicators integrated into the bodywork. There is no step-through floorboard here. Instead, the underbone chassis accommodates the 5.5-litre fuel-tank in the space where many a child has been forced to stand on regular scooters. An X-shaped side-panel adorned with cool graphics visually connects the front and rear halves of the Aerox, fusing well into the minimal yet tastefully done bodywork of the rear. The lower half of the scooter is where you get to see its motorcycle elements. The chassis sits on 14-inch blue alloy wheels with a telescopic fork at one end and twin shock-absorbers at the other, even flaunting a small radiator on the right-hand side. That’s about as motorcycle as it gets.
The saddle is 790 millimetres off the ground and that is slightly high for a scooter. However, having settled into the large and comfortable seat, I immediately liked it because not only does it have a comfortable and relaxed position, the fuel-tank panels between the legs allow one to lock in the ankles and that was rather reassuring while riding quickly. In comparison, the rear seat is not as wide and spacious but, after a short ride around town, the pillion had no complaints either. The instrument console is a fully digital, reverse-LCD unit that features all the regular fare and, interestingly, a tachometer. That’s not something you see every day on a scooter. It supports basic Bluetooth connectivity as well but, regrettably, there is no navigation assist. There are, however, a couple of trip-meters that display the mileage since the last oil change and V-belt change. None of these was particularly useful while in motion because the console was situated right under my chin and it was not possible for me to sneak a glance at it without completely taking my eyes off the road.
The multi-function key switch has proved to be a convenient way to open the seat and the fuel-filler cap without having to remove the key from its slot and Yamaha have included it in the Aerox. With the fuel-tank in the front, one would expect a lot of room under the seat and there is — 24.5 litres of it — but it is not exactly usable. Allow me to explain. Although Yamaha claim that “the under-seat storage allows one XL-size full-faced helmet to fit along with rain gear”, it is not the case. While a half-face helmet fits comfortably, the only way to fit an L-size ECE-rated full-face helmet in it is to place it upside down because when placed upright, the contour of the helmet and the lack of a corresponding shape under the seat prevents it from closing properly. I wouldn’t do that to my lid, would you?
Such niggles take a back seat when you start the Aerox, though. The YZF-R15 power unit comes to life with a whisper thanks to the integrated starter generator and settles into a refined idle. This prompted many passers-by to walk up to me and confirm that it was not an electric scooter. That is a compliment of sorts, I presume. The 155-cc, liquid-cooled, four-valve, single-cylinder engine has been tuned to develop 15 hp at 8,000 rpm and a peak torque of 13.9 Nm at 6,500 rpm while being mated to the automatic transmission, but, don’t worry, that is enough to make the Aerox India’s most powerful production scooter on sale today. A twist of the wrist sent me headfirst into an unexplored territory of scooter testing and into some exciting days with the Aerox.
The fuelling is spot-on and this scooter pulls off the line with an ease and confidence that deserve admiration. Zero to 60 km/h is dismissed without fuss and it will go on to touch respectable triple-digit figures (indicated) easier than anything in this segment today because, above 6,000 rpm, the variable valve actuation (VVA) comes into play and gives the Aerox a little bit of a performance advantage. In a straight line on an open road, this scooter can comfortably cruise at 90 km/h without breaking a sweat. In traffic also, it is right at home; its agility allows one to manoeuvre it easily through the gaps and the quick throttle response makes overtaking quite effortless. When both of these things are available without those irksome vibrations, what is not to like?
The Aerox’s rear suspension set-up is on the stiffer side and it does not have a ride that is as plush as that on a conventional scooter, even when riding two-up. But I would not grumble about it because that makes it extremely fun around corners. Turn-in is effortless. Grip is easy to find, thanks to iRC tyres, and one may look forward to powering out of the curve, making for an extremely enjoyable formula. Braking is handled by a disc at the front with ABS and a drum unit at the rear and, together, they do a good job of shedding speed in a hurry. But what if they had used a two-piston caliper instead of a single-pot unit… hmm?
At the end of my time with the Aerox 155, there is almost nothing that I do not like about the scooter. It is powerful, exciting to ride, and convenient to live with too. The seating position is comfortable, the ride is refined, and all of this for a reasonable price of Rs 1.29 lakh (ex-showroom). It really means the best of both worlds. In fact, it has muscled itself into the top spot in my list of scooters to have in India. I just wish the under-seat storage were shaped better to fit a good full-face helmet.