Scooters: automatic choices?

K Hari Warrier, Hindustan Times
First Published: 11:23 IST(13/12/2013)
Last Updated: 11:48 IST(13/12/2013)
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For months now, India’s automobile market has been slipping as buyers stayed away, refusing to be drawn by freebies and discounts. Swimming against the tide has been the scooter segment, which grew 25% year-onyear in November.

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Chennai-based TVS recently launched the Jupiter, pitched at the male rider. Hero MotoCorp revamped and revitalised its Maestro. And, Yamaha added a dash of macho to its unabashedly ladies’ scooter, the Ray, to launch the RayZ. Will these rock the boat for market leader Honda Activa? We take a look.

APPEARANCE

Apart from the RayZ, there is precious little to distinguish the others. At first glance, one would be hard-pressed to tell which is which. The Maestro’s body-coloured stickers on the mirror-cup stand out, as do the five-spoke 12” wheels on the Jupiter.

The Yamaha, though, is a nobrainer: with two-tone colours, bold graphics, the headlight on the body instead of the handle, and a chubby steel wheel, it does look more attractive for the male buyer, but in the youth bracket rather than the family man.

A closer look reveals a couple of innovations on the Jupiter: the fuel tank cap is at the rear, above the tail-light. You open it by turning the helmet-box key the other way. So one does not have to get off the seat to fuel-up. It also has a switch that locks the brake lever in place, as an additional security feature.

The Maestro’s visage is a little broader, with smoked-finish visor on the headlight that look distinguished — something that you find in the Ray Z as well. Its instrument cluster is easily the best. But what about the ride?

PERFORMANCE, RIDE

All these scooters are in the 110-cc segment, but performance is nothing similar. The Jupiter is really peppy off a standing start, and incites you to weave, dodge and overtake, but it hits top-speed fairly early at about 82 kph. Brakes felt rather inadequate considering the pull.

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The Maestro, on the other hand, is sedate. It gets there, but in its own time, hitting 0-60 kph in all of 10 seconds (compared with just over 7 for the Jupiter). On the flip side, this is the smoothest engine (the same as the Activa, incidentally), and the combination brakes are more than good: pressing the left lever engages both brakes — excellent.

The Yamaha too gets off the mark fast, and does everything well — but braking feels even spongier than the Jupiter. A disc-brake option would have been nice. It has a middling top-speed of 85 kph.

VERDICT

This decision may depend on ‘other’ factors. Mileage is more or less the same, 45-50 kpl with sedate driving. Top speed hardly comes into play. All of them struggle with a pillion rider. So price is crucial. Here, we feel, Yamaha may have overreached by pitching the Ray Z at nearly Rs. 5,000 more than competition.

The Ray Z would be attractive if you are a college-student or a young working male. For an exciting ride, the Jupiter is head and shoulders above the rest, while a family man would find the sedate handling, sure braking and the large footboard of the Maestro attractive, though it costs at an additional Rs. 3,500. All this is assuming you want to break the mould and look away from the Activa i. Do you?


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