From the time the Bajaj Discover was launched in 2004, it has been well appreciated by the commuter janata. That it recently dethroned the Hero Honda Splendor (now Hero Splendor), long standing numero uno of the commuter segment on the sales charts, in a relatively short span of eight years, speaks volumes. Bajaj Auto is well set then to take on the 125cc motorcycle segment with the new Discover 125ST that takes the game even further.
Hero MotoCorp on the other hand has started building its new identity after the split with Honda. That said, the two companies are not completely disconnected yet, since Hero continues to source engines from the Japanese two-wheeler manufacturer. With the Ignitor, Hero wants to capitalise on the 125cc segment that has for long been shy of a fresh impetus.
Will the new Discover 125ST attain the standards its predecessors have set, or will Hero MotoCorp’s newest offering, the Ignitor rule the roost in the premium 125cc motorcycle segment, and give it a much needed sparkle? Let’s find out.
Which one's a looker?
While the first two generations of the Discover were pretty much alike, the 125ST speaks a new design language altogether. The headlight and the wide fairing give the bike an aggressive look and the sharp lines on the front mudguard add more character. The chrome plated heat shield and the end can cap finished in silver compliment the matte black exhaust. Moving away from the standard six-spoke alloys, the 125ST’s five-spoke spider web mag wheels endow the motorcycle with a fresh, youthful appeal. Comfort has always been a Discover forte and the 125ST is no exception.
The wide seat pampers the rider as does the pillion seat. The knee recesses on the tank are weirdly shaped, and are difficult to grip especially during spirited riding. The graphics on the tank are similar to those on the older generation bikes but the new paint schemes make up for it somewhat. The Discover 125ST scores a decent 7/10 on the looks front then, on our cards.
Though the Ignitor looks pretty much like the Honda CBF Stunner, it does exude a fresh aura. Amazingly, Hero has managed to endow the Ignitor with a distinctive identity and not merely rebadged or re-stickered it. The quarter fairing’s sharp lines gel with the tank, and the dark, curvy windscreen and imitation air intakes lend the Ignitor a younger and much more aggressive stance. The matte black exhaust and alloys enhance the appeal of the red shock absorbers.
Where the Ignitor scores heavily over the Discover thanks to its funky digital speedometer with a trip meter and a first in class clock. The rather dated rear end is a straight lift from the CBF Stunner; a few tweaks would have worked wonders. The saddle is pretty well sorted for the rider in terms of comfort, but pillion comfort is compromised owing to the split seats. Also, Hero MotoCorp has chosen to continue with a chain guard considering a good chunk of their customers hail from areas which can be harsh on motorcycles. It is this kind of thinking, backed by an apt knowledge of their customer base that has helped them build the Ignitor. The Ignitor scores a handsome 8.5 thanks to its overall appeal.
The 4-valve twin-spark 124.6cc engine of the Discover puts forth an impressive 13PS @ 9000rpm and 10.78Nm of torque @ 7000rpm. The twin-spark plug set-up ensures a more proficient burning of the air-fuel mixture resulting in better efficiency without compromising power. Our test mule sped to 60km/h from standstill in just 5.77 seconds and recorded an impressive top speed of 104.34km/h, equalling the performance of some current 150cc machines even. The 5-speed gearbox is smooth at lower engine speeds, but as the revs climb becomes a bit weighty.
The gear ratios on the Discover seem a bit tall but an even spread of torque across the rev range means you will not feel the need to shift gears too often. Its braking had us impressed. The petal disc - drum combo brought the ST to a halt from 60km/h in just 17.16 metres. However, a little more feedback from the brakes will be surely appreciated. We give this power performer an 8.5.
The Ignitor sports the same 124.7cc mill as the Honda CBF Stunner, producing 11.15PS @ 8000rpm and 11Nm of torque at 5000rpm. In our test, the Ignitor saw the 60km/h figure from standstill in 6.05 seconds and maximum velocity of 96.84km/h. That said, the engine feels energetic and mated to the 5-speed gearbox it is eager to please. It only feels strained beyond the 85km/h mark. In contrast to the Discover, the Ignitor’s brakes offer a lot of feedback but somehow fall short in terms of performance. Dropping the anchors brings the bike to a halt from 60km/h in 19.49 metres, a whole two metres more than the Disco! The Hero Ignitor then scores a 7.5 on a scale of 10.
Both bikes feel pretty much on par in terms of handling and ride quality. Although the front end of the Discover feels light it does not take away any points from its manoeuvrability in intense city traffic. Flicking it is extremely easy and the icing on the cake is that it feels planted even when it is leaned over. The suspension is well damped and is tuned for a plush ride without compromising on the thrills. A large part of its sorted dynamics and balance between ride and handling can be attributed to the gas-charged Nitrox mono shock rear suspension, a first in this class. It ensures a much better ride quality than the conventional two-spring suspension set-up as there is just one spring taking care of road undulations.
My only grouse is the rather bleak feel and feedback from the TVS tyres although they do provide sufficient traction even on wet roads. That said, the Ignitor also wears the same rubber and suffers from the same ailment. As far as handling is concerned, the Ignitor’s suspension is slightly on the stiff side, and while we at ZigWheels revelled in its corner carving virtues, it might be a cause for discomfort to an average Joe on rough city streets. While both bikes are evenly matched on this front, the Ignitor’s stiffly sprung suspension gets it a rating of 7 for handling, while the Discover earns 8 for its fine mix of comfort and sporty dynamics.
Which brings us to the perennial 'Kitna deti hai' quandary. Although the 125ST produces considerably more horsepower than its rivals, it proved to be extremely frugal during our efficiency tests returning 62kmpl the city and a brilliant 77kmpl on the highway, for an overall 66kmpl. However, that doesn’t really come as a surprise when one factors in the excellence of Bajaj Auto’s patented DTS-i technology that has proved its worth time and again since its debut in 2002 on the Pulsar.
Meanwhile, the engine of the Ignitor does not score high in terms of mileage. Although Hero MotoCorp has introduced the Advanced Tumble Flow Induction Technology (ATFT) on the new Ignitor for an efficient burning of fuel, it fails to reflect impressive results on the mileage front.The rather short-geared Ignitor saw 59kmpl in the city, while on the highway it stretched to 70kmpl. The Ignitor clearly falls behind in terms of mileage which is a major factor that influences buying decisions in this segment, it definitely gives the 125ST a considerable edge on this parameter. The Discover scores a hefty 9, while the Ignitor gets a decent 8.
Bang for the Buck
Since both bikes are pretty much neck and neck in the fight so far, it now narrows down to the value-for-money aspect. The Bajaj Discover features a 4-valve twin-spark engine that is extremely frugal yet powerful, a mono shock suspension that looks oh so beautiful under the seat, petal disc at the front, and those funky new alloys, all at a spot-on price of Rs 54,200, ex-showroom Delhi. The Hero Ignitor might appear equally enticing with its refined Honda powerplant, upmarket design and appeal, a digital console and the body coloured rear-view mirrors. But a price tag of Rs 57,900, ex-showroom Delhi means there is a significant difference of about Rs 3500 between the two motorcycles, enabling the Discover to comfortably clinch the top spot in the bang-for-your-buck fight with 9 out of 10 as opposed to the Ignitor’s 8.
The Last Word
While the previous generation Discover 125 had its piece of the pie in the 125cc segment, as did the Honda CBF Stunner, it has been dominated by the Honda Shine for long. That said, there are still a lot of unexplored waters in the class of 125s. Conscious of its potential, two-wheeler manufacturers like Bajaj Auto and Hero MotoCorp intend to capitalise on the constantly booming market of premium commuters. With respect to Bajaj's success with the Pulsar 200NS, we hoped that Bajaj would do the same with the new Discover 125ST. And after putting it through rigorous tests, the newest Discover has proved its mettle. The 125ST is a good amalgamation of a commuter with sporty appeal. With features like a petal disc, Nitrox mono shock suspension, and then some, it sure has a lot to offer. Considering the overall package the new Disco scores an average of 8.3.
Meanwhile, what Hero has done with the Ignitor is commendable too. It has made all the correct amendments to the already good looking CBF Stunner, to not just make it look better but also ensure that it continues to suit the needs of their customers. We give the bike a score of 7.9.
Although the Ignitor is on par with the Discover in most parameters, it costs Rs 3.5k more, which in this money conscious segment makes a considerable difference in the buying decision of the customer. On this count, our verdict is firmly in favour of the Discover 125ST.