Halfway into 2012 and the fast emerging scooter segment has already witnessed four new entrants. But which one of them will manage to rattle the cages of the long-standing king of the hill, the Honda Activa?
Scooters are boring. Period. Even if their exterior make up is funky and snazzy, under the skin they all are slouchy and well, essentially dull. Not to mention, the constant variable transmission (automatic gearbox) as found on most of them consumes half of the power produced by the engine and then goes onto guzzle more gas than necessary resulting in low fuel efficiency. So why do they even make them? And why does anyone even consider buying them? Both questions have one clear cut answer – functionality. The practicality and functionality that a scooter brings to the table does not have an equal, atleast on this planet. Right from the era of the Vespas and Lambrettas, scooters have shown incredible expediency for low-cost mobility across genders and age groups.
And especially in the present day and age where roads are getting congested every hour, saving time is critical and convenience comes at a high price, scooters manage it all at a bargain price. Today there are rather impressive models in the market and all of them carry peculiar USPs to cater to the burgeoning demand for scooters. Barring the old hat in the game, the Honda Activa, there are four new scooters that have entered the space this year with the Suzuki Swish 125, the Hero Maestro, the Vespa and newest entrant, the new Mahindra Rodeo RZ.
So the perennial question, ‘which scooter to buy?’ has just gotten a whole lot more difficult to answer than ever before. Is the Honda Activa’s reign going to remain or is the long waiting period going to be the chink in its armour? Or is it going to be the Suzuki Swish 125 that will rattle its Japanese rival? It could also be the desi duo of the Hero Maestro and the Mahindra Rodeo RZ that may slowly yet steadily crawl past the leaders. And what about the Vespa you ask? The Italian wasp’s price-tag of Rs. 66,660 (Ex-Showroom Mumbai) puts it in a different league altogether where numbers are not in focus but the brand is, but, it is still in contention and opens doors to a new class which could see more entries from other manufacturers.
Who’s got the look?
When this question cropped up on location at the shoot, the index fingers belonging to Muntaser, Ravi, Abhishek, Rahul and yours truly collectively pointed towards the Vespa, almost like there was nothing else in competition – which to some extent is the truth, sadly. The wasp-like silhouette that gave it the name Vespa (Italian for wasp) stands out from the rest of the pack with its retro-modern styling matched with fine attention to detail while maintaining its elegant and sophisticated form to suit the modern era. The only other serious contender for design to the Vespa amongst our line-up was the Suzuki Swish 125, thanks to its sharp and edgy lines flowing smoothly and helped largely by the dual-tone paint scheme adorning it with a sporty demeanor.
The Honda Activa even in its ‘refreshed avataar’ looks bland to appeal to any of the testers. Blame it on the age or the excessive testosterone levels generally found in the ZigWheels squad, the Honda Activa just doesn’t cut it for someone who is looking for flash and funk in a scooter. While the Honda Activa’s twin, the Hero Maestro does shed off more than just the Honda tag, while employing the same skeleton as the Activa. But the Maestro gets more muscle on the exterior with buffed up body panels, sleek design and body-coloured mirrors giving the Maestro the bearing of a much larger scooter than it really is. That is a brilliant job by Hero MotoCorp handing the Maestro with superb street presence that is further helped by the jazzy colour options on offer.
Least ominous with regards to size and street presence is the Mahindra Rodeo RZ. It carries a slim and trim physique of an athlete and the neatly done cuts and curves tend to go unnoticed due to its slender frame when compared to its company. Looking at it individualistically though the Rodeo RZ’s design is quite sporty and funky to appeal to a youngster and its lack of over-hangs and no extra bulk means it’s easier to park in tight spots as well as a boon when snaking through bumper-to-bumper traffic. Barring the Vespa, none of the other four scooters really break new ground in design and carry forward conventional design fundamentals that have been around since two decades.