SUV to two wheels?

K Hari Warrier, Hindustan Times
First Published: 21:20 IST(25/10/2012)
Last Updated: 22:13 IST(25/10/2012)
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After the success of its Duro scooterette, Mahindra two-wheelers upgraded its 125-cc Rodeo this summer, and rechristened it Rodeo RZ.

The company promises that it has all the ingredients to make the heart beat faster for the commuter and the youth alike — but at Rs. 48,000 ex-showroom (Delhi) it does raise some questions as well. Does the Rodeo RZ deliver on its promise? Let’s take a look.

Exterior:
In the looks department, the Rodeo is nothing particularly outstanding, though the company has sought to offset that with some nifty paint options (green, purple, orange…) and features such as a colour-palette for the all-digital instrument cluster.  http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/10/26_10_12-buss25.jpg

The latter is quite up to date, with quite a lot of programmable options and information. We found it pleasantly eerie when, having set the light colour of the instrument cluster to green, the whole assembly lit up in red while we buzzed along merrily — it was a warning for over-speeding that comes into play at 60 kph.

One of the major complaints about the Rodeo used to be its poor ground clearance, which Mahindra seems to have addressed.

There is no problem negotiating potholes or speed-breakers, and in our prolonged testing we never had any incidents of bottom-scraping. It has telescopic forks up front and a single rear shock; the engine is an integrated member of the frame --- all of which combine to give a nimble, hassle-free ride.

The one gripe we do have is the headlight: conventionally positioned, it has the equally conventional problem of lighting up the overhead scenery when in high-beam mode, and not lighting up enough of the road when in low-beam. Mahindra, please look into this.

Performance:
Pick-up is great. The Rodeo RZ is powered by a 124.6cc four-stroke Z-series engine, which delivers a maximum of 8.05BHP at 7,000RPM with a peak torque of 9Nm at 5,500rpm — both more than sufficient for city driving conditions.

The scooter takes off from a standing start ahead of most traffic, without any problem. The stated top speed is 80 kph, though we hit 90 kph several times, and users have claimed 100 kph. Over 80, one does become conscious of the lack of disc-brakes, and the fact that this is a scooter, not a bike.

Of course, the flipside is that this sort of racing eats into mileage, so if you are a budget-conscious rider, you would be advised to drive sedately (which the vehicle does not object to… it handles very well at low speeds as well).

Overall braking is quite decent, with 130-mm drums doing good service both front and rear. True to the latest fashion, the spare wheel has been dispensed with — which may or may not be a good thing. It keeps the breakdown-assistance services in business, anyway.

Sidelights:
The Rodeo RZ has a bevy of extra features. Just listing them out would be exhausting enough, so we will focus on highlights. The boot is a cavernous 22-litres.

Enough to accommodate my full-faced, old-fashioned Studds helmet, with room left over for minor shopping — and illuminated, to boot! The instrument cluster we already mentioned - one of its little features is the side-stand alarm, which is a persistent hoot if the engine is started with the stand engaged. Irritating, but serves its purpose well.

Another useful feature is the petrol tank, which has been moved to the front (freeing up space for the boot) and can be filled without the rider needing to dismount. A move in the right direction. The sacrifice is fuel capacity, which is a mere 4.5 litres.

There is additional storage space up front to accommodate small thingummies, and a hook to hang the ubiquitous polybags. A cigarette-lighter/mobile charging point is an unexpected addition — the cellphone can nestle in the storage space while getting charged even as you are riding to work.

Last but not the least, is the “4-in-1 anti-theft key” which the company proudly points to: basically the keyhole can be locked by using a feature key given at the back of the ignition key, a magnet-engaged device that closes the key-slot.

It looks like a square hole with a small dent in it, but Mahindra says these are unique, and the key of one scooter cannot open the keyhole of another scooter.


The Verdict:
Purely as a vehicle goes, without looking at peers and budgets, the Rodeo RZ is an excellent scooterette.

Great pulling power, nimble through traffic, secure around corners and roundabouts, and stopping promptly when the brake levers are thrown, there are no issues here.

There may be minor gripes on the mileage count – the company claims 53kpl ARAI, users moan about mileage as low as 27 kpl.

In our driving (we were driving a vehicle from scratch, and really throwing it around the roads at consistently high speeds) we returned dismal averages on the lower end of that range.

What really gets to us is the price — Rs. 48,000 ex-showroom and about 55,000 on-road is princely for a scooterette. Bikes with similar engines cost Rs. 10,000 less — the Honda Dream Yuga, for instance.

Even the tried and tested Honda Activa costs less.

Mahindra may have to revisit this aspect of the Rodeo RZ if it wants sales volumes.


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