by ravi ved & arun mohan nadar , Photography : kunal khadse |
August 6, 2013 19:08 IST
Honda and Mahindra have brought in two new additions to the highly competitive commuter class segment with the Dream Neo and the Centuro. We pit the two newest offerings in the segment against the already established Bajaj Discover 100T, Hero Passion XPro and the Suzuki Hayate to find out which one of these leads the pack
Commuter motorcycles have seen a lot of growth in the recent years with more being offered at the same affordable price point. Gone are the days when a bike as basic as the Hero Honda Splendor would vindictively dominate the segment. The winds of change have brought along with it a demand for added features, improved styling and a certain inclination towards technology and performance over and above the ‘must haves’ like efficiency and comfort. And as much as we would like to argue that the two-wheeler industry is gradually moving to a higher displacement, this class continues to bring majority sales for all two wheeler manufacturers in India.
In a bid to break into this lucrative market, nearly a year after bringing forth the Dream Yuga, Honda brings in another offering in a more elementary form. In its latest contribution to the segment in the form of the Dream Neo, Honda takes the conventional ‘function before form’ approach challenging the ongoing paradigm shift. And on the other end of the spectrum is Mahindra, which after a not so successful first attempt with their Stallio, is trying to bounce back with their Centuro by bringing a lot more to the table than called for.
So how strong a proposition can these two be against the technologically advanced Bajaj Discover 100T, the dependable Hero Passion XPro and the wallflower Suzuki Hayate? Let’s find out…
FORM BEFORE FUNCTION IS IT?
Although style is a very relative term and hasn’t quite been the priority for this class in the past, there is no denying the fact that in today’s day and age it is the need of the hour. Having said that whether or not it takes preference over practicality is indeed debatable. Simply said, a fair amalgamation of both is the safest way of playing your cards.
And it is in this context that the Discover 100T, with its aggressively crafted tank, the funky 10-spoke alloys and the smartly designed graphics that looks trendy and is yet suggestive of the previous generations of the brand, scores an impressive 8.5 out of 10 on our charts. The Centuro on the other hand is remarkably trendy and has quite a lot to offer. The large trapezoidal headlight that incorporates an array of LED parking lights, the digital instrument cluster with a tachometer and distance to empty indicator and the flush fuel filler cap make it stand out well amongst the rest. But the relatively smaller tank and the ‘gold ribs’ don’t quite mingle well with the rest of the bike due to which it only manages to score a decent 7.5.
Honda takes almost the same approach with its Dream Neo that we have already seen on its Yuga and the CB Shine before that. It has a can’t love it-can’t hate it aura to it, with its basic to the bone styling it just about manages to achieve a 6. The Passion XPro and the Hayate both have certain details that make them look reasonably appealing and for that reason they stand at a convincing 7.
UNDERNEATH THE SKIN
Fuel efficiency is one of the factors which plays a vital role in the buying decision of the consumer. But times are changing and even a commuter biker feels the urge of power so that he can zip his way past traffic and reach his destination quickly. With addition of technology to the commuter segment, average power figures of bikes from this segment has risen quite commendably while compared to the stagnant and almost similar power figures of its predecessors. Also, by cleverly applying technology manufacturers have been successful in breaking the cliché that if it’s powerful then it isn’t efficient enough.
A gleaming example of this is the Bajaj Discover 100T, which has the least displacement (102cc) yet boasts the highest power figure (10.2PS) while also being the most efficient of the group. This was possible due to the clever use of technology by the boffins at Bajaj like 4-valves, twin spark ignition and 5-speed gearbox which combine to improve its performance and efficiency simultaneously and gets an impressive 8.5 rating.
The Dream Neo posted a 0-60km/h acceleration time of 8.44seconds which isn’t very impressive but it isn’t too bad either. Braking is the bike’s forte and though it doesn’t come with a disc brake option like the XPro, the bite, feedback and stability offered by the Neo’s drum brakes is top notch. Being a Honda, apart from the refined engine one gets a gearbox that offers crisp shifts and the ratios has been well laid out to tap the power band aptly.
Powering the Centuro is the in-house developed MCi-5 engine, while it posted an acceleration figure of 8.63seconds in the 0-60km/h dash. Numbers don’t always tell the real story as the manner in which with the revv happy mill delivers power is quite intriguing coupled with a wonderful sounding throaty exhaust note. Top end of the Centuro is slightly better at 89.75km/h compared to Neo’s 88.85km/h but one has to whack the throttle real hard on Centuro to extract its power and both the bikes are tied at 8.
The XPro’s mill is vibe free under low rpms but once above 70km/h vibes start creeping in but on the other hand it has a wonderful gearbox which offers positive shifts enabling it to score 7. The Hayate’s engine feels very neutral in nature and though it does its job satisfactorily there is nothing noticeable or appealing about it and hence it gets a rating of 6.
Aside from efficiency, this is probably one of the most important aspects that is heavily taken into consideration for bikes in this segment. And it isn’t just the width of the seat that determines how comfortable a motorcycle is but overall ergonomics as well as pillion comfort also have an important role to play. And it is thanks to the fact that the Dream Neo is well sorted out in both these aspects that it manages to score a hefty 7.
The newest offering of the lot, the Centuro boasts of a wide seat and a well damped suspension that offers a plush ride quality but on the other hand is a little skewed in terms of the ergonomics mainly due to the fact that the handle bar is closer to the rider than needs be. Taking that into account the Mahindra stands at a 6.5.
Meanwhile, the Hayate too offers an equally comfortable ride but it is due to the upright handle bars and the comfy riding posture that it manages to outdo the Centuro by a whisker. The Passion XPro is at the at the bottom of the field owing to the stiffly sprung suspension setup which does leave your back sore especially after riding it on the pothole stitched road conditions. The Discover 100T once again rules the class with a 7.5 because of its spot-on ergonomics, superior ride quality and aptly padded seat which is more than sufficiently wide even at the back.