Honda Activa 125 BS-VI review: Zooming into the future

As the BS-VI deadline of April 1, 2020, looms ever closer, manufacturers are gearing up to make the transition. The bitter memories of the switch to BS-IV will guarantee that everyone has their products ready well in advance to make sure there’s enough time to sell out existing stock without having to resort to huge discounts. Still, the switch from BS-IV to BS-VI was always going to be an expensive one, especially for small-capacity machines that have to move from affordable carburettors to expensive fuel injection systems.

With the burden of an expected 10-15% hike in price in an already turbulent time for the industry, Honda has taken it upon itself to launch India’s first BS-VI scooter in the form of the Activa 125 BS-VI. Kudos to them for taking that first step, but let’s take a look at what you get for all that extra money you’re going to have to spend.

Honda pretty much redesigned the engine and the bore x stroke numbers have changed from 52.4 x 57.9mm to 50 x 63.1mm. The overall capacity is not very different, at 124cc, but the motor now has a much longer stroke, and it is now fuel-injected, as all BS-VI Honda two-wheelers will eventually be.

On the spec sheet though, the figure you will notice first is the drop in power, from 8.63hp to 8.29hp. Torque is down too, from 10.54Nm to 10.3Nm. The Activa was never one of the faster 125cc scooters, and that hasn’t changed with this one, especially when you consider that it is now three kilograms heavier. What has improved is engine refinement, both in terms of sound and feel. Much of this is down to Honda’s new silent start system that replaces the conventional starter motor with an ‘AC generator’ starter. There’s no more gear meshing sound and the engine quickly and quietly fires up — more scooters should get this.

On the move, everything feels very familiar and the fuelling is very smooth. Performance is decent at best, and just like before, the engine starts to feel a little strained upwards of 70kph, with an indicated 90 being the maximum you will see without crouching down to improve aerodynamics. Our Vbox tests reveal a 0-60kph time of 11.2sec, which is about 3sec slower than the quickest scooter in the segment — the TVS Ntorq 125.

The rest of the riding experience is similar as well, because the chassis is pretty much unchanged. With relatively thin tyres at both ends and the combination of a 12-inch front and 10-inch rear wheel, the Activa is very agile at city riding pace, but skittish at higher speeds. Ride quality and braking performance are both decent, but neither is outstanding.

What has changed is that there are a number of new features that aim to increase the sense of a premium experience. Honda has finally moved the fuel-filler cap to a convenient external location and this is standard on all three variants. The silent start system is standard as well, but the top Deluxe model also gets an idling start-stop system that works quite seamlessly, thanks to the smart new starter system.

Beyond this, the top two models get a side-stand engine cut-off feature and a new instrument console with a digital readout that displays time, average fuel efficiency, real time fuel efficiency and distance to empty. You’ll also get an LED headlamp on the top two models, but this is average at best.

Wrapping all this up is the typical Honda visual nip and tuck, with a redesigned headlamp area and some chrome splashes on the front and side, as well as a small new front glovebox; although, this feels quite flimsy.

Price-wise, the base model, with its drum brakes and steel wheels, now costs ₹67,490, which is a ₹6,300 increase. However, if you want the secure braking performance of a front disc, you have no choice but to go for the ₹74,490 top model, a full ₹9,000 price hike from before.

For now, it will be interesting to see if the rest of the competition takes a similar approach to their BS-VI updates or simply aim to keep it as simple and cost-effective as possible.

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Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 3:25:57 PM |

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