Will Bajaj Auto recapture its lost ground in the scooter market with the all-new Kristal? RISHAD COOPER finds outKeeping the fuel tank under a rider's feet is an ace - the Kristal is a lot more stable than others while cornering While Bajaj Auto built its reputation selling scooters for the last few decades, it changed tracks to develop best-selling motorcycles later. Around that time, somewhere it lost its edge as a scooter-maker. Today Honda's Activa and TVS' Scooty Pep are among the best-selling scooters and though Bajaj tried hitting back with its Wave, it met with little success. Now, keen to regain its lost scooter market share, Bajaj has rolled out the all-new Kristal, the first model of a new range of scooters soon to arrive from the company.
Design & engineeringA petite-looking, lady-friendly scooter with neat and friendly two-tone styling, the Kristal will also appeal to a wider audience. It has a modern front apron that leads into the scooter's angular and hawkish headlight nacelle. The speedometer cluster reads well and has a `smart-light' sensor that automatically illuminates dials when light conditions drop. A fuel gauge and low fuel warning light are standard and in a brilliant design effort, you can access the Kristal's fuel filler located below the handlebars without getting off the scooter. The scooter front contains a cubbyhole for knick-knacks. Both brake levers are well turned out and it also has a rear brake lock clamp, invaluable, on any gearless vehicle. Switches work like a treat to offer the regular and push-to-cancel indicators and a parking light. The Kristal's mirrors are a shade too dinky on their outside. Also, another gremlin is sharp edges on the headlight cowling around the palm grip area, which may chaff rider's knuckles on bumpy roads.The Kristal talks to its riders emits alarms when the side-stand is down and the engine running, when indicators are operated, and also when the underseat bay is opened or closed. In a smart move, this scooter's ignition key operates a variety of options other than ignition and handlebar locking. The same keyhole also doubles up to open the fuel filler and underseat bay. The Kristal's key-operated throttle lock should keep thieves at bay. A voluminous storage bin is hidden below the scooter seat, which illuminates refrigerator-style when opened. The floorboard is flat, comfy and wide with an integrated mat texture. The Kristal's main-stand is light and easy to operate because of sound engineering. The rear of the scooter is neatly contoured with an integrated and beak-shape taillight cluster, capped with a broad alloy grab bar. Surprisingly, Bajaj has scrimped and not provided alloy rims. Despite this, we must say, the Kristal is well finished.
Powertrain & performanceThe four-stroke cycle 94.8cc Kristal slots in shrewdly between the 87.8cc Scooty Pep Plus and 102cc Pleasure, Activa and Dio family line-up. It's a force air-cooled single-cylinder motor that uses a cast-iron block and aluminium-alloy head. Bore and stroke dimensions are 53mm x 43mm, making this a short-stroke motor typical of Bajaj today. It's interesting to note the Bajaj engine makes more power than the larger Hondas, to output 7.3bhp at 7,500 rpm, while the peak torque figure is 0.78kgm made at 5,500 rpm. The Kristal uses an intelligent self-starter that takes over starting operations once the button is depressed with either brake activated. It knows how long to engage the starter, as well as how much choke resources to automatically tender the carburettor for various conditions during cold starts. Among the smartest moves on the Kristal is its fuel tank location within the floorboard which necessitates a fuel pump that one can hear whirring each time the ignition is switched on.The Kristal does well to employ Bajaj's trademark DTS-i technology short for Digital Twin Spark-ignition. It's a technology that makes the engine sound unique and helps performance, fuel economy and snappy throttle response. The Kristal has a butter-smooth engine with an adequate turn of performance available to its user. This scooter went from 0-60kph in 12.25 seconds en route to a top speed of 81kph. Both figures put it well in the league of scooters such as the Pleasure, Activa and Dio.'Ride Control' is Bajaj's way to provide a tactile bump in the throttle arc and tell riders that opening throttle above that point will spoil fuel economy. Ride Control on some Bajaj products comes with aswitch off button, sadly, the Kristal always leaves this on; hampering throttle feel and is a nuisance to those who don't need it. This smart scoot provides an oil-window in its alloy engine case for convenient engine oil level inspection.
Handling & brakingTall or large riders may feel out of place here but the Kristal can accommodate average-sized men and women are bound to love its low and plush saddle. This seat is broader than most bikes as is representative to scooters. We wish Bajaj had provided telescopic forks on the Kristal instead of linked twin shock absorbers. Ride is certainly affected by this omission - where irregularities are transmitted through the handlebars. The scooter's tubular frame is perfectly engineered and coupled with a nice riding position. At the rear it uses a spring-within- spring-enabled single shock absorber with the engine as its stressed mate. The rear end feels right with a good blend of plush, as well as nifty handling even when riding with a pillion. The Kristal succeeds at keeping handling easy and light at all times. There are top-class MRF tyres, and steering feel is nimble and accurate at city riding speeds. Turning into corners is feather-like. Keeping the Kristal's fuel tank low and under a rider's feet is this scooter's ace in the pack. This results in the Kristal feeling a lot more stable while cornering. The Kristal uses drum brakes front and rear and these work well with good feel and adequate bite. Our quickest stop had the gear-free Bajaj halt from 60kph to rest in 20.95 metres and 2.76 seconds.
Fuel economyThe DTS-i-tech-enabled Kristal delivered really good mileage figures with 48.9kpl in the city and 50.2kpl on the highway.
What we thinkThe Kristal offers good value for money and is a smart-looking Bajaj product. Its DTS-i engine is a frugal delight and also shows a quick turn of performance when called for.Lack of alloy rims and telescopic forks disappoint, yet it's a scooter with a bagful of features and a truly brilliant low fuel tank, which helps handling.The all-new Kristal may not be groundbreaking but is a good package that should get Bajaj Auto's scooter graph rising again .