5 Commuter Bikes Shootout
- by Ravi Ved Arun Mohan Nadar
- Aug 6, 2013
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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.
No matter how beautifully the bike has been designed or the comfort and performance it has on offer, for a commuter bike customer all these entities are secondary, while fuel efficiency is his primary concern. And that is obvious, since he expects his machine to extract maximum from every drop of fuel in the tank while restricting his visits to the fuel bunk to minimum. The new age commuters though technically advanced don’t possess the same efficiency figures of its legendary predecessors but when ridden sensibly they do return decent figures.
The Mahindra Centuro with its Mci-5 engine gave us an overall efficiency of 64.3kmpl, which makes it the least fuel efficient among its competitors but just by a whisker, as the Hayate delivered a figure of 64.6kmpl; hence both of them are tied at 7 points. The main reason for this figure delivered by the Centuro is the high revving nature of its engine which affects the city efficiency but on highway, it’s almost on par with the Dream Neo and Passion XPro. Honda has endowed the Dream Neo with HET technology and this helps it in achieving an overall efficiency of 68.2kmpl.
On the highway, there is hardly any difference in terms of the efficiency figures between the Neo and the Centuro but owing to the Neo’s well sorted gear ratios it is able to outperform the Centuro in city conditions.
The Discover 100T still leads the pack owing to its 4-valves and 5-speed gearbox combination which enables it to return an impressive overall figure of 76.3kmpl and gets a well deserved 9. Hero who had set the benchmark in this segment with its outrageously efficient motorcycles comes second in the list with the Passion XPro managing 70.8kmpl overall and scores a commendable 8.
MATTER OF MANOEUVRABILITY
Handling is one aspect which many buyers in this segment give a miss because they feel one doesn’t go corner craving on these motorcycles. But since these bikes are mostly used for commuting, manoeuvrability is of vital importance while making your way through peak traffic circumstances. The Discover 100T triumphs in this segment too owing to its beautifully balanced chassis coupled with a perfect ergonomics and it’s a breeze to tackle the city traffic and the twisties with aplomb and gets a noteworthy 9.
With its compact dimensions and low kerb weight, the Neo is a joy to flick around traffic and scores an impressive 8. Both the Centuro and the XPro feel well planted on the highway but aren't quite nimble in traffic and hence both of them get an equal 7.5. The Hayate performs decently in the traffic but due to its soft suspension setting, one doesn’t feel confident while riding it enthusiastically on the highways and features at the bottom of the pack.
THE LAST STAND
The score sheet pretty much sums up the entire story and despite the fact that there are two new entries in this segment, the Discover 100T still dominates the class hook, line, and sinker with an overall score of 42.5. But the toughest bit was to judge the remaining contenders which are pretty much evenly matched or in the case of the Centuro and the Neo, quite literally.
Then again, buyers looking to purchase a motorcycle in this segment are extremely sensitive to price which automatically gives the upper hand to the Centuro bearing in mind that it has a lot more to offer than the Neo at a brilliant price of Rs 45,000 which is more than Rs 2000 cheaper than the Honda offering. That said, Honda claims superiority in terms of dealer network and brand reliability which is something that Mahindra hasn’t quite been able to sort.
The Passion XPro too is almost up there with both these econocommuters with a 35.5 on the board, but loses out on comfort which is one very essential ground of evaluating commuters. Although the Hayate doesn’t make any wrong moves in terms of a standalone package when pitched against the likes of the 100T, it surely feels like an under achiever. To round up the discussion, if you are in the market looking for a well rounded commuter then Bajaj Discover 100T is our pick!