Its TVS Jupiter versus seasoned rivals like the Honda Activa and Hero Maestro. Together these make up the best there is in our scooter orbit. But, can there be a clear winner?
Gearless scooter as a segment has been witnessing fantastic growth. It grew 17 per cent in the first half of this fiscal year compared to just one per cent registered by motorcycles. Not surprisingly then, every major two-wheeler manufacturer in the country (excluding Bajaj, of course) is giving this category their full attention. TVS, is no different, and it would be hoping riding the scooter sales wave might actually help it grow overall. And its latest in this class is the Jupiter. So, let's find out how the new Jupiter fares against well establish competition - the Honda’s Activa and the Hero Maestro.
With so many options flooding the scooter segment, design has started playing an important role in the decision making process and the Piaggio Vespa is indeed an endorsement of the same. Keeping the aforementioned in mind, the Maestro with the sharp lines on the front fascia as well as on the side panels is, without doubt, the best looking scooter here. The digital console, body coloured grabrail and the 3-D logo on the side panel further adds to its visual appeal.
The TVS Jupiter looks fresh as well and has sharp edges in all the right places to give it a chiseled and lean look. We also like its five spoke 12 inch alloy wheels and the fact that it comes with an Econometer to help the rider achieve better fuel efficiency. The reserve fuel light, pass-switch, and LED tail lamps are handy additions too. The TVS Jupiter has its fuel filler cap on the outside but having to use the key on the side panel to open it takes away from the convenience bit somewhat.
The Honda Activa is as traditional a scooter as you can get today. It has simple but easy to read analog clocks, no real rider aids and a design that is safe and palatable across all age groups. So, even though you can't go wrong with the Activa, it lacks the flair of the other two scooters here. Overall, if we had to pick a scooter based on style and modernity, it would have to be the Maestro, though the Jupiter runs it close.
When it comes to engines, Hero and Honda share exactly the same 110cc mill, while the Jupiter shares its heart with its sibling the Wego but it still displaces similar cubic capacity. There is hardly any difference between the trio in terms of specifications as the air-cooled, 4-stroke, single cylinder powerplant of the Activa and Maestro push out 8.2PS compared to the 8PS of the Jupiter. In terms of torque rating, again, there's hardly any difference. CVT is common to all as well and finally on the road, one will be hard pressed to tell the difference in the real world.
What we can tell you is all three scooters feel reasonably peppy up to about 60kmph and then top out before hitting 90kmph. The engines are smooth, the CVT operation on all three is almost unobtrusive and even the fuel economy figures in the real world aren't far apart. Drivetrain is one aspect where it is impossible to choose a winner in this test; all three do quite well.
One of the major criteria for a scooter is its flickability as it will have to weave its way through traffic almost all of its working life. The Maestro on this front comes a bit short. It is the least flickable and feels threat heaviest when on the move. The Activa and the Jupiter, on the other hand, are not just at par with each other, but are a joy to ride in traffic. Both feel alert, confident and willing to change directions in a hurry. The Jupiter a little more so.
The Jupiter also sports the best cycle parts out of the lot, and the difference can be felt straightaway. The Jupiter employs 12-inch wheels compared to 10-inch wheels on the Activa and the Maestro. It also has telescopic forks at the front and gas charged dampers at the rear, while the competition makes do with trailing link setup at the front and regular hydraulic dampers at the rear. These two factors contribute significantly towards the Jupiter's better ride and handling balance compared to its competitors. The Jupiter handles bumps and potholes with more composure and without unnecessary vibrations coming in via the handlebar; something neither the Hero nor the Honda can boast about.
As far a tyres go, both the Jupiter and Activa offer tubeless tyres while the Maestro sports a tube type set as a function of cost. Braking hardware for the three scooters is similar - all three use 130mm dia drum brakes at front and rear, but the Hero and the a Honda go a step further courtesy CBS or Combined Braking System. CBS which applies both front and rear brakes even if only the rear brake is applied is particularly great for newbie riders as it helps give the scooter higher stability under braking. In terms of feel at the lever, the Jupiter still leads the trio.
The low saddle height and the flat floor board with ample space makes for a comfortable seating position on the Maestro. The comfort factor is further enhanced by the thickly padded seats. But, it is the Jupiter that comes out on top here. Its saddle is long and wide; it has the largest footboard space; and it has the best ride quality. The Activa's seats are a tad narrower and its footboard, the least spacious. Add to it the harsh ride and the Honda never stood a chance of winning on the comfort end of things.
The Hero Maestro is a well-rounded scooter with bold design and ample features to make it a pleasing offering for the male buyers. But what works in its favour also goes against it. The Maestro’s appeal is restricted to only one kind of buyer and it probably wouldn’t appeal wholeheartedly to a customer looking for a family scooter.
The Honda Activa though would. No wonder it has been the undisputed king in the scooter segment for close to a decade now. The major factors that have contributed to its success are class-leading fuel efficiency, reliability and of course, the Honda brand value, and all of these hold true even in this test. The Activa was and remains the safest bet when it comes to buying a scooter.
The TVS Jupiter is our rebel here. It ditches convention and embarrasses modernity more than the other two. It is clear by its cycle parts, its new rider aids and the location of the fuel filler cap. It isn't perfect of course, but it is a worthy alternative to the Activa, no doubt.