TVS has been the underdog in the commuter class of motorcycles for far too long. With the Phoenix, the company is aiming to make its presence felt in the miscellany of the 125cc segment albeit trying to do quite lot. Ravi Ved and Varad More get aboard to see if all this makes sense to the buyer out there
With rapid development in technology coupled with an increased awareness and enhanced buying power of the consumer, we are seeing the transitional shift in the lower end of the Indian motorcycle space, especially, the switch from the bare bone 100cc commuters to the more powerful and stylish 125cc motorcycles, making this a significant segment commercially for all two-wheeler manufacturers operating in the country. Having said this, the battle lines have been formally written with the likes of Hero MotoCorp, its erstwhile partner Honda via HMSI and Bajaj Auto being in the thick of things in this vital segment.
Others like Yamaha and Suzuki have flattered only to not keep the pace of development and intensity of promotion going relegating them to followers behind the above mentioned trio. But then what about the missing brand which was so very much in the thick of all commuter-oriented thought – TVS? So many times it came close but never really dominated the senses as it was capable of and here again for the umpteenth time it has thrown its hat into the proverbial ring where it intends its Phoenix to rise as the fabled bird and soar to success.
Will it or can it are questions to which the answers would be forthcoming some time later in 2013 but right now one has to understand the time lost to market for the firm which had so many early successes in the field starting with the 100cc AX100 then with the Samurai, the Victor and to a certain extent with the Fiero. I am not saying that its other offerings were not good but in this class of bike where you need to be consistently better than good and deliver strongly given the fact that money is made on volumes and not just on per unit sold (unless of course if you are Bajaj Auto and the back end is there to deliver any which way), TVS has loads of work to do to get within striking distance of its combined competition.
It managed to get going in the 125cc segment with the Victor 125 GLX but this didn’t help volumes. However its next model to grab sales here was the Flame in 2008 but the burnout caused by the techno-legal issue with Bajaj Auto doused its chances. Well, to give the Hosur bike maker its due, it is back to try and give its 125cc ambitions another go with the Phoenix and without any preconceived notions or any focus on its predecessors, we get to grips with what is, at first sight, a pretty strikingly turned out motorcycle.
Styling is quite a crucial factor for motorcycles in the 125cc segment being mid-way between the commuter class and the relatively sporty 150cc segment. And in the premium 125cc niche segment, product placement is a vital aspect. Tagged as a premium class entrant, the styling of the Phoenix is conservative yet attractive. The smart design features a typically TVS wide front fairing that contains the headlight, with the all-day LED powered pilot lamps adding some glamour. The spread out side panels and the wide slash-cut tail light looks similar to the one adorning the Star City and the TVS family resemblance is evident.
However the manner in which the nose fairing, the tank, the side panels and the tail have been crafted and integrated is pleasing with a good blend of surfacing along with snazzy graphics to make the whole ensemble a striking one. The funky new graphics on the tank, digital console, petal disc brake up front and hazard lights imbue the Phoenix with a fresh, youthful aura. However, despite a rather extended features list, the Phoenix does not come across as being more premium or different from the Star City, something which rival manufacturers have succeeded in differentiation with ease in their own portfolios...
The wide tank (good to take in 12 litres of petrol) that boasts the bike’s displacement fairly loudly is well crafted and easy to grip with the inside of the thighs. The orange backlit digital console houses a bar graph speedometer which is snazzy to look at but is quite difficult to read and decipher in real world conditions, especially when on the move. Apart from the usual telltale lights, there are low battery and service due indicator lamps along with a digital fuel meter. However this premium offering from TVS misses out on a tachometer, which is a norm for premium 125cc motorcycles in India.
The tall and wide handlebars enable the rider an upright seating position ideal for city commuting.The chrome-laden bars sport newly designed switchgear with large chunky buttons and switches that make for good ergonomics. The bike is also fitted with a first-in-class hazard warning switch, sadly where the engine kill switch should be. The black six-spoke alloys with a 240mm dia petal disc up front, the black-finish engine and the exhaust are well built and turned out. All in all the Phoenix design sports a load of TVS signature flair, but while some of the stuff works best when seen from afar, overall it is a bit of this and a bit of that machine.