The small capacity commuter motorcycle formula has pretty much remained unchanged since the last three decades, but off late the bikes that occupy this space have started evolving. We take three of the best examples of these 'evolutionary' 100cc commuters, the Bajaj Discover 100T, the Hero Passion X-Pro and the Honda Dream Yuga and see what's what
Mention the words “100cc commuter bike” to most of the moto-mentalists that we ZigWheels boys hang out with and you’ll be bombarded with queer to dirty looks at best and at worst you are guaranteed to learn a couple of new words you wouldn’t be caught dead uttering in the company of decent folk. What crime these built-to-a-price no-nonsense machines have done to deserve such ill-sentiment you ask, especially considering these bikes form more than a massive majority of the two-wheels puttering up and down Indian roads? The answer to that probably lies in the fact that none of these machines evoke any kind of emotion when ridden. They’re terrific tools – like a brilliant washing machine or a microwave oven – great for doing a particular job, the one of getting you from point A to point B in the most efficient manner possible in this case. But it would be a far cry to associate words like ‘fun’ or ‘exciting’ to any of these motorcycles. Or at least so I thought before I got astride the three motorcycles we have under consideration here – the Honda Dream Yuga, the Bajaj Discover 100T and the Hero Passion X-Pro. I really hadn’t spent much time on these type of motorcycles since back in my college days when I had a Hero Honda Splendor and boy, where the last few days ever so enlightening.
Now the three bikes we have here are among the newest kids on the block and stylistically speaking, not the most radical small capacity motorcycles available in the market right now. None of them sport exuberant lines like those of the Honda CB Twister or the Suzuki Hayate and maintain at least a modicum of conventionality in the way they have been penned. The broader appeal they bring to the table means that these are not going to be sold to a niche crowd and in fact are going to spell big numbers on the sales front for their respective manufacturers.
Be that as it may, one of these bikes, the Dream Yuga in particular is far more conventional than the others. Not that this is a bad thing in any way. As we’ve said before in other reviews and comparisons, the approach definitely is contemporary and while it is a bike which no one can really hate, it won’t be winning any beauty contests either. The design is universally acceptable and should help it win a lot of fans who come from the more conservative schools of thought about how a functional motorcycle should look.
On the other hand, the Discover 100T really stands apart in this crowd. With its somewhat aggressively styled headlight cowl, large fuel tank, funky 10-spoke alloy wheels and a sporty looking exhaust, it really does feel like a (very slightly) scaled down version of its elder sibling the Discover 125T. What waters down the whole design though is the choice of colours. While Bajaj’s patented blue and red do a far better job than the most commonly seen black, we can’t help but think a couple of wilder colour options would have really brought out the Disco’s modern design. But then again, this is a segment where conventionality sells and that’s exactly why you’ll see the black schemes selling far more than the others.
The Passion X-Pro really took us by surprise. At first glance, there’s nothing out of the ordinary about it – it just looks like a regular Hero Passion with another sticker job. Do a double take however and you’ll start to see some brilliant design touches. The tank extensions for one – they really do add some much needed character to the otherwise orthodox fuel tank and that flush fitting fuel cap really is like a cherry on the top. Then, seen from the side, you have that slash cut exhaust which seems to line up neatly with the similarly cut taillight, which by itself is gorgeously detailed, as are the turn indicators. When we were expecting more of the same (old) from a company which has made a name for itself for doing just that, the X-Pro really is like a whiff of fresh air – maintaining the family genes, but dressed in an exceptional handsome designer suit. If we had to choose between these three, we’d really be hard pressed between the Discover and the Passion, but the Passion does earn a few extra brownie points in our books thanks to its slightly more youthful exuberance.
Next Page: Handling, Ride and Comfort >>
Handling, Ride and Comfort
While ‘handling’ is not defined by ‘cornering ability’ in this class, the ability to change direction quickly, but inspiring confidence at all times is paramount. This one factor of these little commuter machines has come a long way since the long-past ‘fill it, shut it, forget it’ days and even the buyers for these sort of bikes expect a little more than just upright, purely straight line running. But at the same time, since most of these bikes will either spend their days taking their owners through tight, congested city roads or bumpy or broken town/village roads, overall ride quality and comfort are a serious consideration equal if not more important than the dynamic ability of such a motorcycle.
The Dream Yuga does a very nifty job at this. Weighing in at just a scooch over the quintal mark (108kg to be exact), the Yuga is the lightest machine here, but by no means does it feel flimsy on the road. If anything, the bike we tested rode a little on the stiffer side, even with the rear suspension preload setting smack dab in the middle. The Yuga really is quite nippy through traffic and the 18-inch MRF rubber at both ends reacts wonderfully to quick inputs at slow to medium speeds, especially through city traffic, and makes it very easy to keep the shiny side up at all times. The little Honda’s overall comfort levels certainly had impressed us the last time we had pitched it against its competitors, but that being said, after having sampled what the Passion X-Pro and the Discover 100T had in store for us, the Yuga suddenly starts to feel like it is a generation older in this department. The near-wooden seat coupled with the tad-too-stiff suspension won’t see it winning too many fans any more.
The Passion X-Pro, as we mentioned before, is really the surprise of the lot. This new Passion bears no relation to its sloper-engined forerunner save its nomenclature and instead seems to have made the best of the last days of the company’s relations with its Japanese partner and borrowed all the underpinnings from the Yuga instead. But even though the X-Pro might appear to be just a reskinned Yuga at first glance, the boffins at Hero MotoCorp certainly seemed to have earned their pay this time around by tweaking about just the right amount of factors in the right way. The X-Pro’s on-road demeanour feels impeccable and even though the ride is a bit on the firmer side, it never feels too stiff and the bike’s dynamic abilities are just what you would expect from this class of motorcycle.
If the X-Pro surprised us by completely shattering our preconceived notions about what to expect from bikes with Hero badge, the Discover 100T completely bowled us over with its incredible buttery smooth, almost magic carpet ride. After having spent a few days riding around what are generally considered terrible tarmac surfaces in Pune city, it felt like the word ‘plush’ really was invented for the Discover 100T’s ride quality. Armed with gas filled shock absorbers at the back and one of the widest and cosiest seats on any bike in the market, you’ll find it fairly easy to shrug off even a day long commute astride it. The only let-down here is the choice of tyres, especially at the front. The 2.75 x 18-inch front is the only one among these three bikes which uses an archaic ribbed design and while this does not really hamper the ability of the Disco to change direction on a whim, the overall stability and feel from the front really feels restricted. In fact, riding over crack-riddled concrete roads, the Disco’s front feels like it has a mind of its own as it tries to track along the crags and crevices of the road surface. Still, for outright comfort and its ability to rub baby oil into the rider’s backside, the Disco takes top marks here.
Next Page: Performance >>
Of course, in this segment outright performance figures hold as much water as outright cornering abilities, but the need to be quick off the line at a traffic light or to have adequate in-gear thrust to make short work of overtaking extra-long trucks and buses is just as important as the perennial “Kitna deti hai?” question.
In terms of output figures, the new Bajaj 4-valve mill really is top trumps. Even though it is about 7cc shy of the 109cc units from the Passion and the Yuga, it manages to make a whopping 10.2PS of power compared almost pedestrian 8.7 PS and 8.6PS outputs from the Passion and the Yuga respectively. The difference in output figures is all down to the twin-spark ignition setup and the two extra valves the Disco’s head sports. But the zero to 60km/h times tell a somewhat different story. From a standstill, the quickest one to hit the sixty mark is the Passion X-Pro, completing the dash in just 7.03 seconds while the Disco does the same in 7.12 seconds. Granted that’s not much, but thanks to the extra torque on tap (9.36Nm vs 9.2Nm), the 5kg weight advantage and the shorter gearing afforded by the 4-speed gear box (vs the 5-speeder in the Discover),the Passion is really able to haul rear when it needs to.
However when doing in-gear bursts of speed the situation is completely reversed. The Discover takes the cake here thanks to its better gearing and quicker revving engine. The Passion, with its really short gearing and its habit of running out of breath as the revs climb is always a couple of seconds behind the Disco in the run from 30km/h to 70km/h in each gear. But again, under braking the Passion is able to turn the tables on the Disco thanks to its disc brake setup up front. The Yuga’s performance figures, though at one point in time rather impressive (7.83 seconds to 60km/h), are just paled when compared to this new crop of commuters.
Next Page: Fuel Economy, The Bottom Line >>
Now we come to the question that matters the most, the question that pretty has much defined the Indian motorcycling scenario ever since the arrival of the first Hero Honda 100cc bikes. Now these modern iterations of the classic small capacity commuter bike formula certainly don’t churn out mileage figures which have become the stuff of legends thanks to tall claims by manufacturers or your pesky neighbour whose bike always seems to outdo your bike in this one department. But ridden reasonably, these do return some respectable kilometres to the litre of petrol, with the top honours going once again to the Bajaj Discover 100T. At an overall figure of 76.3 kmpl, the Disco certainly makes the most of its 5-speed gearbox and 4-valve engine setup. The Yuga certainly steps up to the plate finally with a respectable mileage of 72.9 kmpl, besting the Passion X-Pro which manages 70.8 kmpl. To be very honest, there’s not much between them but if every single kilometre you squeeze out of your motorcycle is important to you, then of course the uncontested winner here is the Bajaj Discover 100T.
The Bottom Line
In this spectrum of the market, the bottom line (read: price) is always the final deciding factor, with buyers even willing to compromise on their choice of motorcycle to avoid their budgets getting stretched. In that case, the Dream Yuga is the most affordable one here, priced at Rs 48, 141 (ex-showroom Delhi) for the one with alloy wheels and electric starter and even though it is cheaper by over 2,000 Rupees than the Discover 100T (Rs 50,500), the Bajaj still feels like it is offering more for that price premium. The Disco IS the most technologically advanced bike here and feels the most modern in every way. You get DC electricals, the most well damped ride, the most comfortable seat and an overall up-market feel. The Discover would’ve been the runaway winner here, but the Passion X-Pro does make a very strong case for itself. For Rs 51,800, just over a thousand bucks more than the Discover, you get a front disc brake setup and a very youthful, exuberant motorcycle. In all honesty, it feels like it’s very difficult to choose between these two and it ends up being a case of ‘different strokes for different folks’. So let’s put it this way, for the average working Joe, who needs a sensible bike for his daily commute to work, it doesn’t get better than the Bajaj Discover 100T. But that college student who can’t convince his parents to get him a bigger 150cc (or larger) motorcycle and wants something that looks good and is fun to ride, won’t be entirely unhappy with Hero Passion X-Pro.