If you look around town and you’ll be amazed at how many new scooters have hit our roads in recent times. While the return of the iconic Vespa even with its hefty price tag has proved to be the ultimate showstopper in this partial scooter arena revolution that we have gradually begun to witness, new entrants from the Hero MotoCorp, Suzuki, Honda, Mahindra and more recently the Yamaha stables can most certainly not be overlooked.
That being said, the dynamics of the two-wheeler market have gradually branched out into needs now more specific to niche groups, sexes and the ever present fun factor, all of which are increasingly becoming very influential in boosting sales across the country, and thereby building stronger ties between the modern day scooter and the indispensable urban needs of the common man.
Price, looks, fuel efficiency, comfort and handling are still very much the most crucial ingredients for any of these city slickers looking to make a big impression amongst the masses, but if past lessons are anything to learn from ‘brands and badges’ do count for something even when some of the above mentioned factors are in baffling imbalance like in the case of the Vespa, which despite carrying a 60,000 plus MRP sticker is being picked up like warm woollens in a winter sale. That’s the power of a brand or plain and simple recall value right there and faith in a product that has evolved with the moving times on a global scale.
But, what then could one make of the new Ray from Yamaha? The Japanese bike maker, better known for its performance motorcycles and bike sport ties isn’t your seasoned moped maker, but has had its share of experience with scooters and lower displacement mopeds that are rampant across the south eastern isles.
Bringing the Ray to India has been a surefooted move, and has already sparked off massive interest among the female circles which it is primarily targeting. But gauging by the looks, handling and performance characteristics of this newest scooter on the block, one is honestly left ambivalent.
So in an effort to settle some scores and see which is the better amongst the new found foes, we took the new Yamaha Ray and the refreshed Honda Dio on a quick spin around town and beyond to see which of the two were really worth their money.
Where the similarity ends
It’s true, the Honda Dio and Yamaha Ray may in fact be the only two mass production scooters in the market today which have their large V-shaped headlights with integrated turn signals mounted into the front face of the body. But as pretty a face as it presents in the case of the Ray it’s where its similarity with the Dio begins and ends brusquely.
Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the Ray unlike the Dio wasn’t build to be a nippy MotoScooter. Placed beside one another the underbone type frame of the Dio immediately starts to dominate with proportions that are visibly taller and wider when compared.
The Dio has always been a great looking scooter and in this newer form looks hotter than ever before with lines and curves that seem to have been modelled by skilful slashes of a Japanese samurai sword. There’s a sense of robustness to it and an aerdodynamic wedge like design that is and will continue turning heads on the road for a long time.
The Ray on the other hand is a slimmer and craftier design. There is a definitive purpose and clear focus on every aspect of the Ray’s architecture and in just over a month since it has gone on sale, customers realised just how extraordinary Yamaha’s first ever scooter for the Indian market has turned out to be. Yes, one would grit his teeth over how lanky the scooter looks or how drab its plastics appear to be, but then again in the right light and perhaps a dual-tone blue and grey combination like the one we got, you needn’t judge the book beyond its cover.
Moving beyond outer appearances, there are in fact certain features that could influence purchase decisions in favour of either party. Point in case being the under storage area which in the case of the Ray isn’t merely enough to fit even a half face helmet. The Honda Dio’s on the other hand was large enough to swallow one and some more making it a more convenient prospect in this regard.
There are however some neatly stacked cubby holes on the Ray’s dash just above the footrest area which can take in a bottle of water, some loose change and even your gloves which comes very handy when taking frequent halts over long distances. This is sorely missed on the new Dio, which incidentally can be made up for with an optional luggage box that is sold as an after market fitment by Honda dealers.
The real pin cushion for the road
While the Honda Dio is still visually more appealing compared to the Ray, it isn’t merely as comfortable and relaxed a ride. A lower 128mm ground clearance that makes it easier to flat foot the bike, better contoured seats with wider proportions for the pillion rider, spot-on handlebar positioning and sturdy split design grab handles make the Yamaha Ray hassle free for both rider and co-passenger.
The Dio on the other hand finds its own merit thanks to a relatively larger build. The footrest area is slightly wider compared to the Ray, meaning one could place a regular sized satchel and still find room for both his feet leaned against the dash. The handlebars feel solid and naturally coax you to take a more upright stance while riding.
But even with an almost identical seat height as the Ray, the seats on the Dio are far less contoured and this coupled to its forward sloping floor starts to take a bite at your back over long distances. Even back benchers are not completely at ease on the new Dio with the gawky footrests that offer little grip and rear grabrails moulded as one chunky piece of plastic with no splits to let your fingers through.
Settling Scooter Scores
For starters both their engines aren’t displaced so far apart, and yet when one tabulates the power and performance data the numbers start speaking volumes about which really has more might in this figures fight.
While Yamaha’s 113cc single-cylinder is the first of its displacement in the Indian scooter arena, the Honda Dio’s 109cc SI engine like we have seen on the Activa and the Aviator is certainly more refined of the two. Producing 8PS @ 7500rpm compared to the Ray’s 7.1PS and 8.66Nm of torque @ 5,500rpm which is a tad higher than the 8.1Nm on the Ray, the Honda Dio certainly carries more muscle than its Japanese competitor, but what about speed and stamina?
For starters the engine on the new Ray is a rather peppy one that brings out very satisfactory acceleration from the word go. Taking 10.89 seconds to hit the 60km/h mark it's only after you stay completely pinned to the throttle a while longer that you will hit a top whack of 88km/h before the Ray starts to wobble a little suggesting you’d be better off at lower speeds if you’d like to continue astride.
The Honda Dio has and is undoubtedly the real and possibly the only MotoScooter in this class of competition. With a top speed of 91km/h and a 0-60km/h run that comes up in just 9.95 seconds the Dio is the better athlete hands down.
While the Dio is quicker on level ground when ascending it would proudly leave the Ray behind until it turned into a small speck in its rear-view mirrors. Although initial acceleration up until the 40km/h mark is impressive on both bikes, the Ray falls short of adequate grunt when on a climb struggling to consistently maintain even a 45-50km/h average speed.
Faster on the move and yet not to afraid to slow down the Combi brake system on the Dio’s tubeless tyres works quite effectively to bring the scooter to a complete stop from 60km/h in 3.25 seconds. The Ray however is just a little quicker in this regard coming to a halt in 3.09 seconds making it only that much more reliable in the advent of an emergency braking situation.
But where power and speed sees the Honda ahead in the race, the Yamaha caters to those who’d like to perhaps run the race a while longer, 258km to be precise, on a full tank of five litres. Even with an almost identical tank capacity the Dio falls short by close to 20km in comparison to the Ray whose overall efficiency is above the 51kmpl mark. The Honda Dio dries out at 48kmpl.
Flick as you see fit
Now the Honda Dio since inception has undoubtedly been the most agile scooter to hit the Indian streets and in its newer and more aerodynamic skin it has only gotten better at the art. With adequate power behind its throttle and an overall balance that inspires confidence in any rider young or old, the Dio well poised on its 10-inch tubeless tyres always gives you that special rush.
But along came a Ray and suddenly the Dio doesn’t seem to be the most flickable of the lot. We experienced this scooter’s prodigal front suspension set-up first hand at the time of its pan India launch, and now once again witnessed its uncanny slow speed nimbleness in real world conditions.
The telescopic front suspension set-up on the Ray makes a world of a difference easily soaking in all the nasty bumps one is compelled to encounter on the road. The spring-loaded hydraulic suspension on the Dio isn’t too bad either but counters bigger undulations with an unnerving rebound which over consistently bad roads may just have the rider standing on the footboard rather than agree to being repeatedly dislodged from his seat.
While the Dio is unshakeable even on an intense sprint, the Ray supported by its 10-inch MRF Zappers comes into its real element at lower speeds with a front end that is just as manoeuvrable as a featherweight toy scooter without any real mechanical parts adding to its kerb weight.
Riding the Ray even in the most congested road conditions requires such minimal effort, it’s as though it was actually made to tail traffic or cut into tight corners without ever expecting the rider to get his feet off the nicely carved in footboard.
Titles not easily taken
Even taking into consideration the fact that the Yamaha is being marketed as an all out feminine product, it’s only a matter of time before its demand expands to a wider customer base. There is an overwhelming sense of practicality in purchasing a scooter of this sort especially for the perilous road conditions and a traffic situation that is getting from bad to worse in larger Tier I and Tier II cities.
That being said, the Honda Dio remains the more complete package of the two. A second generation product here in India the Honda Dio has now grown stronger, wiser and sharper on the road. The Dio like the Ray shares ambitions of pulling in a younger audience which is in absolute abundance, but unlike the Ray it sees far less compromise across parameters and more importantly will continue to find appeal amongst a majority of younger scooter buyers who would rather whiz past you looking good than smile their way through traffic jams each day.
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