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A filmy war for commuters

For motorcycle major Honda, the separation from Hero has meant a virtual fresh start in India, though the benefit from the long association with the Indian company is on tap.

autos Updated: Jul 06, 2012 00:21 IST
Hari Warrier
Hari Warrier
Hindustan Times

For motorcycle major Honda, the separation from Hero has meant a virtual fresh start in India, though the benefit from the long association with the Indian company is on tap.

Suzuki, which globally is known for its two-wheelers, has the Maruti aura in its nameplate. When the two announced new entry-level models, targeting India’s humongous commuter segment dominated by Honda’s erstwhile partner Hero MotoCorp, they raised market expectations.

Suzuki was first off the block with its Hayate, launched by Salman Khan, who is on a high in Bollywood. The promos feature Khan in his Dabangg cop avataar — Hayate, yun hi nahi chalate...

True to the smalltown image, Suzuki has kept the pricing extremely competitive. The base model, sans electric start, is priced at just over R38,000, while the electric start model costs an additional R4,000. The price point is so modest that one may wonder at the company’s self-belief, but in that range, a 110-cc bike that looks good and feels better may run away on such a head-start.

Sure enough, when Honda roped in Akshay Kumar to unveil its rather peculiarly named Dream Yuga, it did not even come close to Suzuki’s pricing. The DY has three variants, the lowest with spoke-wheels, and its starting price tops R44,000 — above the costlier model of Hayate. So Honda believes in its brand-value. But does the bike live up to scratch?

First up, there is precious little to choose between the two in looks. They have eschewed chrome altogether, going in for matt-black on the exhaust pipe and the wheels. Side by side, they look like siblings, rather than competitors.

The DY is a bit more upright than the Hayate. It also has a bit of nifty paintwork in some areas that Suzuki has left a dull matt black. The speedometer and fuel-gauge look MUCH better in the DY which, overall, looks a bit more “finished”, if you know what we mean.

The seats seems inch for inch the same height, the riding posture is ditto, ditto for the mirrors and the footpegs. So how on earth are we going to do some decision-making on these two?

Both bikes have 110 cc engines (ok, there is a 3-cc and 0.4 BHP advantage to the Hayate), four gears, all same direction, heel-toe... Slip into gear, rev slightly and take off, and wow, even the ride is similar.

The test-machines we have got, both self-start variants, have not logged any miles. The Hayate has 25 km on the (analog) dial, and the DY even less, so the performances we get are more or less indicative. As things stand, the Hayate returned a mileage of about 45, which is likely to top 60. We could not gauge the DY’s mileage. The companies claim about 70 kpl in ideal conditions.

Having said that, the performance is not bad at all. The take off is more than decent, and if you like to drive on the fast side, there is enough juice in the engine to stay ahead of most of the, bar speed junkies on fast bikes: both bikes topped off at about 85 kph, which may nudge up to about 100 post servicing — more than satisfactory for small vehicles. And if you are the kind that prefers to chug along at a quiet 50 kph, you would have nothing to complain about.

The manouvrability quotient, too, is very satisfying, with the upright stance, the near-vertical front end and the gear-to-engine mating providing just enough to get ahead — and stay ahead — of city traffic. The shock-absorbers are decent and pass nothing on to the rider, and cornering is a breeze.

The only downside that one felt were the brakes. For such frisky engines, they could have put in bigger drums, surely. But both bikes have very meagre braking, so any showing off will have to be judiciously coupled with the rider's ability to stop the bike. And yeah, no disc-brake options on offer.

Honda scores on a couple of points: it has a headlight flasher switch. And the indicator has a push-button cancel, which is so much more convenient than ‘feeling’ for the mid-point on Hayate. Last but not the least, the DY comes with tubeless tyres, a welcome progression. Wish Suzuki could have gone for this as well.

First Published: Jul 05, 2012 22:36 IST