Contrary to public opinion, and at the risk of being pelted with stones for being cocky, the fuel price hike does have its upside. Buying decisions have become extremely easy and you no longer have to wonder about whether you want a petrol car or a diesel car, a commuter motorcycle or a track scorching performance machine! It’s a no-brainer really – you get yourself a diesel hatch if you can afford one. Unfortunately for a majority of India’s working class, the choice has always been the same – 100cc bread and butter machines that are not only cheap to buy, but super light on the pocket to run as well and in our ‘over Rs 70 per litre’ times they make a tremendous amount of sense for everyone.
So while Hero MotoCorp always knew this with the Splendor+ and many tried to usurp its throne over the years, we finally have some new blood that actually has the goods to be King of the 100s on paper. But how well can the 110cc Honda Dream Yuga, Suzuki Hayate, and TVS Star City as well as the Bajaj Discover 100 do against the Splendor+ in actual battle where it matters most – out on the streets, against the vagaries of daily commutes in the pursuit of one superior goal – the livelihood of an entire nation?
Design and Practicality
Over the past decade or so there has been one common perception shift in every single aspect of our day-to-day lives – everything around us has to be stylish. That in no way means that practicality has taken a back seat and that is the real challenge that designers face today. The form follows function follows form argument was never as fierce as it is today and even when it comes down to basic point A to point B travel solutions we don’t want to be seen on anything but the most aesthetically pleasing machines we can afford.
The Honda CB Twister is a clear testament to this fact and though that great visual treat of a bike doesn’t feature in this shoot-out, it defines the shift in our times. Of course, the freshness of design also has a lot to do with the age of the product and that simply makes the Hero Splendor+ redundant in this discussion – it might as well just take a back seat and mull over possible design upgrades. All the three older workhorses have one thing in common though – the Splendor+, Discover and Star City are available in any colour as long as it’s black! TVS has done a great job with the graphics though and the bike looks rather attractive.
Honda clearly took a very contemporary approach to the Dream Yuga and it shows in every element of the bike’s design. This is a bike that no one can hate but it won’t be winning any beauty contests either. Universal acceptability is what drives the Dream Yuga’s styling and on the other end of the spectrum is the other newcomer – the Suzuki Hayate. Turned out in bright green, the Hayate mesmerised with its lines. Take a closer look and the details make you really admire this machine even if you’re not really a fan of the machine’s macho brand ambassador! Case in point being the sculpted front mudguard, biking fairing, flowing centre panel, very usable knee recesses, black matte handlebar and of course that mock carbon-fibre finish instrument cluster – all details that are not only visually heart-warming and functional at the same time, but also add that much more crucial pride of ownership to the Hayate’s armoury and clearly giving it top honours as far as styling is concerned. A little way behind were the Discover and the Star City owing to their funky graphics, followed by the Dream Yuga and we’re not even going to mention the Splendor+ – it seriously needs a face-lift!
Of course, there’s no point in just looking pretty – these motorcycles are after all going to be put to work hard and long. While these bikes are instrumental in increasing earning power, they also need to be able to help save up more in terms of fuel costs and that is probably the single most important aspect on which these bikes are judged. Fuel efficiency is one of the biggest deciding factors when it comes to buying a commuter – after all, what can be more satisfying than a motorcycle that takes you to the gas station as few times as possible? But that also means it should have a large enough fuel tank for that true ‘fill it, shut it, forget it’ mantra that Hero Honda defined all those years back.
There are a lot of factors that affect fuel efficiency and engine design is one of the biggest. Combustion chambers that are able to burn every last droplet of petrol entering the cylinder will offer the most efficiency and in that sense Bajaj’s DTS-i technology seems to work as well in the real world as it does in product presentations. Armed with two spark plugs in its cylinder head and five-cog gearbox, the Discover 100 manages to go a whopping 87 kilometres before using up one litre of fuel and that exceeds the second most efficient bike by 14kmpl!
The Dream Yuga’s smart engineering takes it 73km to a litre while the Hero Splendor+ makes it to third place with 70kmpl – a figure that ruled the roost for quite a few years until younger and more advanced engineering finally took the efficiency leadership away from the old workhorse. A special mention here must be made for the Star City though because despite having the lowest efficiency figures in our rigorous tests at 62kmpl, it is also the bike that will take you the longest distance on a full tank of fuel – all thanks to its massive 16-litre tank. That is also where the Splendor+ scores with an 11-litre capacity making its range 770km on a tankful while the other three bikes share an 8-litre capacity. Range, though important and extremely mentally comforting is just an illusion though – after all you’ll be saving a lot more with the Discover 100’s 87kmpl efficiency despite having to stop slightly more often for a tank-up.
Spending long hours on the road hopping between stops or commuting from home to work is what all five bikes featured here are built for and that equally translates into loads of time not only in the saddle but also frequent mounting and dismounting for their riders. Needless to say then that this segment of bikes requires spot-on ergonomics that are aimed at one thing only – rider comfort. Cornering ability and aerodynamics take a back seat while riding posture and ease of operation defines satisfaction levels. Wide seats with textured fabric that prevents slipping, perfect handlebar-seat-footpeg positioning and placement and quality of switchgear finally go a long way in ensuring the day is spent with as little effort on the road as possible. The bikes also have to be light to make them as easy to maneuver through traffic and as effortless to get off both sides as well as centre stands.
With a 115kg kerb weight and some of the best ergonomics we’ve seen on an Indian motorcycle, the Discover 100 takes the tag of being the most comfortable commuter out there. The seat is nice and supportive with just the right amount of cushioning to keep you in the saddle without torturing your backside and with well placed footpegs that are covered with a nice thick layer of rubber, it even goes easy on the legs, especially the knees and feet. The handlebar is wide too with nice grips that don’t hurt much and all the switches are at a finger’s stretch. Even the pillion seat offers lots of space with a very usable grab rail at the back.
Close on the Discover’s heels as far as overall comfort is concerned was the Dream Yuga with its well set up handlebar and switchgear. The Dream Yuga also has a soft seat with a nice little lip at the rear defining sort of a rearward boundary for the pillion. Both bikes are also easy to ride and park but the Discover just manages to edge the Honda out with the presence of the five-speed gearbox that makes shifting that much less stressful when you’re trying to extract the most efficiency out of its engine.
While fuel efficiency and comfort are factors that define the commuter class, let’s not forget that in the end every motorcyclist likes to reach his destination as fast as possible. Getting away from a traffic light quickly is as important as staying away from endless queues at the gas station. While common perception dictates that ‘if it’s fast, it’s not efficient’, the new crop of commuters are changing the game. The fact that the Honda Dream Yuga was going to be fast wasn’t really surprising when we first rode it considering it does come with a 109cc engine giving it a slight advantage. What was surprising though was that it wasn’t the fastest bike in the group. Neither was the 109.7cc Star City nor the 112.8cc Hayate. That spot went to the bike that in fact has the smallest engine of the lot – the 94.38cc Bajaj Discover 100. The Discover’s twin-spark set-up seems to have struck again and coupled with the best efficiency this goes to prove that being fast doesn’t necessarily mean being less efficient.
The second most fuel efficient bike was also the second quickest – the Dream Yuga losing the top spot by just 0.01 second, but making up with its top speed of 93.67km/h compared to the Discover’s 91.29km/h. Torque pours in at a low rpm and there’s enough grunt in the engine to keep it going no matter what gear you’re in. The Discover on the other hand needed to be revved slightly higher to extract that performance but the five-speed box helped things for the Bajaj. Both bikes were also good with roll-on figures making overtaking a breeze. The Discover also had the best braking performance though, stopping from 60km/h in just 2.38 seconds taking 19.83 metres closely followed by the Suzuki Hayate and the Dream Yuga.
Value for Money
With all five bikes closely priced in the Rs 40,000 to Rs 45,000 (ex-showroom, Delhi) range, how much a bike offers its owner is extremely important, especially in the commuter segment. At Rs 40,212, the cheapest of the lot is the Suzuki Hayate and it will entice many a buyer thanks to its stunning design, attractive colours and a refined motor that is also the biggest in this lot. But it isn’t the fastest and neither the most fuel efficient of the lot. Just two thousand INR more will get you the TVS Star City with its funky graphics and massive fuel tank that gives it the longest range, but it again isn’t extremely efficient.
Next up is Hero MotoCorp’s Splendor+ at Rs 43,950 and despite its age and being bullied by almost every other new kid on the block that has been after its crown for ages now, it still carries one trait that keeps the largest selling bike in the world safe from falling off the sales charts. Having been put through every situation conceivable, the Splendor+ packs unmatched reliability that has been proven time and again and in that sense it makes for a no-nonsense buying decision – ask the millions of owners already out on Indian roads.
Honda’s Dream Yuga may seem expensive on paper at Rs 48,125, but for the price you’re getting a badge that holds a premium. The winged logo has become synonymous with refinement and class which carries over on its 110cc offering. The Bajaj Discover may be cheaper than the Dream Yuga by all of Rs 4000, but being the only bike in this lot with a five-speed gearbox, having the highest fuel efficiency as well as the being the fastest to 60km/h, with perfected ergonomics and overall the better package, this one definitely gives the most bang for your buck!
The Final Word
In the end it was a close battle and the most likely contenders for the throne were definitely shaping up to be the Honda Dream Yuga and the Bajaj Discover 100. The Splendor+, though having fended off attacks from quite a few hopefuls for over a decade has finally succumbed to its age with newer machines coming in that pack in more technology and style than it ever could. It was a close one between the Discover and the Dream Yuga though – it was all about superior quality and brand premium versus delivering in the real world. The Dream Yuga is a great bike and Honda no doubt will make big waves in the market with this motorcycle as they hope to set the sales charts on fire. They will still be held back though by the likes of the Bajaj Discover 100 which comes out as our pick of the commuter class. It’s got style, comfort and performance as well as unmatched fuel efficiency and in the end that’s what the common man really needs. In fact, if it weren’t for the passion of going faster and an itch for multi-cylinder machines and big engine capacities, that’s all that anyone would ever need!
India’s Best Econo-commuters
Who are the contemporary title holders of the famed "fill it, shut it, forget it" mantra for the masses? None else than the Bajaj Discover 100 and the spanking new Honda Dream Yuga, says Adil Jal Darukhanawala of the duo who not only stretch a litre of fuel to new heights but are also the ones who redefine the econo-commuter art in the present day
Earlier it was always thought best to be miserly to succeed. It is very much an Indian thing, one to use less to do more, to avoid profligacy across the board and also sometimes go beyond adversity to come out on top. In the halcyon days of the 1980s, of a period in time when per capita income was low, the price of petrol and the power of the Honda brand name made many new heroes. This is not meant to be disparaging for the entity known as Hero Honda but in an emerging new India there suddenly appeared a bike which tugged at the very core of the nation’s conscience. The reason was simple and delivered very succinctly: fill it, shut it, forget it!
The Honda CD100 was at the basis of it all and the marketing savvy team at the firm continued to milk this for all it was worth. That they do so even to this day by harking back to the halcyon days is evident even in its new found advertising on the idiot box but that’s beside the point. For years many bike makers, from TVS to Bajaj tried to be the new age heroes but even with better fuel efficiency they couldn’t deliver the complete package to the punters who thrived on the CD formula. Until now that is when we have not one but two true genuine challengers to the original misers and spearheading the change on the econo-miser bike front are the Bajaj Discover 100 and the spanking new Honda Dream Yuga.
Both bikes were part of our mega commuter shoot-out and I wanted to check out the best of the lot myself to understand how this class of machine has progressed in design, engineering and other terms over the past 25 years. The Discover 100 and the Dream Yuga may be contemporaries in class and build but they have completely different characters and the methods they employ to deliver are different as well.
Let’s take the Honda first and one can quite clearly understand who they are up against – their very own creation! The engineering of the Dream Yuga sees a longer wheelbase for better stability but with a leaner build to keep weight pegged low. Adoption of the right sized wheels and tyres to traverse indifferent Indian terrain along with a simple engine, with enough power and torque, to deliver driveability in ample measure results in not just a good overall riding experience but also that magic high end fuel efficiency, 67.4kmpl in-town and 89.7kmpl on the highway. Comparative figures turned in by the Hero Splendor being 65.3kmpl and 85.1kmpl respectively which shows how good the CD100 design continues to be to this day.
The Bajaj Discover takes a completely different approach with the smallest engine of the bunch (just 94cc) but with very clever thought to make optimum use of this displacement via its five-speed gearbox. The torque spread is perfectly harnessed across the rev range via the five cogs and results in the best driveability of the entire crop of the econo-commuter class. No prizes then for it to deliver such handsome fuel efficiency figures - 82kmpl in-town and 102kmpl on the highway - but even Varad and our test team were floored with the test figures.
I joined the team and we did two more runs and the results were just the same. The Discover bested everyone on so many fronts – performance, driveability, pricing, and what have you but the quantum by which it trumps everyone else was clear in the mileage she returns. It is not mere percentage which makes it look good on the fuel efficiency but the absolute values with which this Bajaj bike stamps its authority. If there is a downside to this bike it is the all-black money saver paint job with different coloured graphics to give punters a choice. Bajaj Auto needs to learn from the fashionistas who have decked up the Splendor / Passion via various lipstick and paint jobs to keep the ageing designs appealing.
It is always said that many motorcycle enthusiasts think it is a time for celebration when a new superbike or a large capacity motorcycle is introduced. They think it is the pinnacle of engineering and go gaga over it. I think the engineering thought and process to do a small capacity econo-commuter is the hardest of them all because the bike and its performance touches so many millions who use it in everyday life as against a few thousands who seek pleasure from their big bruisers. The Splendor remains a very worthwhile machine to this day in the econo-commuter class in India but if I had to suggest the state of the econo-miser heart and its future, look first at the Dream Yuga and then the Bajaj to truly Discover how far one can stretch that petrol rupee!
Points to Ponder
• Technology and evolving emission regs helped define the pecking order but there was no way the two could counter the laws of physics. In 1985-86 the emission standards were completely different and the CD100 could deliver, in exact Hero Honda speak “over 80km per litre” on a litre of fuel. When the CD100 Splendor came on the scene a couple of years down the line, Hero Honda was again absolutely upfront and said it delivered “80km per litre” and when the CD100SS appeared the mileage line was tweaked but again correct in stating it delivered “up to 80km per litre.”
• A triumph of mind over matter this but the ultimate perception of 80km per litre remained ingrained all throughout. So maybe what one needs if they are Bajaj Auto or Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India is to have a forceful new catch line which goes beyond Hero Honda’s original 80kmpl mantra sans prefixes and suffixes!