For the first time, Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India (HMSI)’s new Honda Eco Technology (HET) has addressed one of the key shortcomings of scooters – fuel efficiency. The need for increased efficiency is more than ever due to the rapidly increasing fuel prices. HET is aimed at reinforcing the company’s leadership in the Indian scooter market. We put all three HET-equipped HMSI scooters – the Dio, Activa and Aviator – through an extensive test to find out the real world worthiness of HET.
Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India (HMSI), the Japanese automaker’s 100 % two-wheeler subsidiary in India, has followed an aggressive product strategy in the recent past. The company is making every effort to differentiate its products from those sold by its competitors, including its erstwhile partner Hero, which shares the same engines. Honda Eco Technology (HET) is one such development and has first been launched in the company’s range of scooters.
Originally a scooter-dominated market, the advent of 100 cc fuel-efficient motorcycles had pushed them to near oblivion in the Indian market. HMSI though, was largely responsible to revive the scooter market in the country, primarily through the success of its Activa model. Consumers appreciated the smooth running and high efficiency of the scooters. Different body styles ensured that the scooters found favour with consumers from various age brackets.
The recently inaugurated technical centre at the company’s Manesar plant is playing a critical role in the company’s pursuit of market leadership. HET is one such contribution, which sets the benchmark for the industry through products that are already top sellers. Scooters have traditionally trailed motorcycles in terms of fuel consumption. With the introduction of HET though, this gap has been bridged significantly as the claimed fuel efficiency is 60 km/l. How well this technology works and the kind of difference HET makes to the character of these scooters is what we find out.
Honda’s range of scooters comprises of Activa, Dio and the top of the line Aviator, all of which share a 110 cc four stroke engine. The engine develops 8 hp and torque of 8.74 Nm @ 5,500 rpm and is mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Refinement levels are of top order and the scooter is a breeze to ride in congested traffic. In order to make the engines more efficient without making any major structural changes Honda engineers fine tuned multiple areas, the combination of which is known as HET.
HET primarily aims at reducing the friction in the engine and features lightweight components, which enables an 11 % increase in fuel efficiency over the older variants. In order to lower friction, Honda engineers included an offset crank. Crankshaft is usually placed in the lower centre of the engine and offsetting its angle reduces the friction from the side walls of the cylinder. The considerable reduction in friction directly translates into lower loss of power.
Lowering the friction further are low-tension piston rings and an improved oil-bearing seal. Usage of lighter components and optimisation of existing parts has resulted in a weight reduction of 8.8 % from the earlier unit. The effects of these changes are evident on the road as the engine feels smoother than the earlier unit. Although the company doesn’t claim any change in performance, the lighter powertrain could help the zippy nature of the scooters slightly.
The second area to have undergone a change under HET was the combustion process. This has primarily been achieved through changing the air intake pipe’s design. The earlier design had a cavity inside the pipe for placing a clamp to join the part to the chassis. Now the cavity has been moved to the exterior of the pipe and has significantly improved the air flow due to a smoother surface. A new inclusion is the high ignitability nickel spark plugs, which are claimed to improve the combustion process and offer better reliability than conventional spark plugs. The overall improvement in combustion plays an important role in lowering fuel consumption, owing to lesser wastage of unburnt fuel.
The final piece in the puzzle is the transmission, which has been optimised to not just offer higher efficiency but maintain the same power level. Adjustments have been carried out in the pulley con ratios, wherein the limit for the smaller and larger pulley has been increased by 0.8 %. This allows for the increased efficiency without sacrificing power.
The engine cooling efficiency too has been improved by increasing the gap between the engine fins. The air routing has been changed to channel more air to the spark plug, which lowers its temperature considerably from the earlier engine. Again due to the offset crankshaft and a revised engine structure, more air reaches the cylinder head and spark plug, resulting in better combustion.
The result of HET’s inclusion was evident during our test cycle, wherein we recorded an average fuel efficiency of 53.4 km/l in a mixed cycle. Since our test scooters were new, we expect a slight improvement in these figures once the run-in period is completed.
The changes to the powertrain are small yet effective and are a direct result of the technical centre’s work. HMSI has recently launched the 110 cc Dream Neo motorcycle, which will directly compete with the likes of Hero Splendor. This is the first motorcycle to feature the HET technology after the trio of the scooters. The trend clearly indicates that HMSI plans to take on its main competitor by offering higher fuel efficiency despite similar product prices. Going forward, we expect more HET equipped models to be launched; reflecting the important role it will play in the short term to boost sales.
The only visual change in the HET equipped scooters is a small badge that reads the presence of the new technology. Despite having largely the same underpinnings the three scooters look completely different from each other from every angle.
The design language of the Activa is subtle and finds good favour among buyers from all demographics. The front and rear feature a mix of gentle curves and the plastic panels match the lines well too. The Activa comes across as a simple and practical scooter and the mass acceptance of its design ensures its top spot among the three scooters, when talking about sales. The instrument panel of the Activa is in line with the rest of the body design and is clutter free and easy to read.
Dio’s design language clearly reflects the aim of appealing to the young consumers. The availability of some bright colours along with the sharply edged panels all around, lends it a sporty appeal. Of the three scooters, only the Dio features a headlamp on the front body panel instead of the steering handle. Functionally, this placement doesn’t make any difference but it does offer the scooter with a styling similar to that of a larger capacity scooter. The dual colour combination further adds to the sporty feel. The instrument panel carries forward the sporty design and has a chequered background along with a sharper design overall.
The Aviator has been positioned as the most premium scooter in HMSI’s portfolio and certainly looks the part. The scooter with its larger wheels and longer wheelbase has a strong presence on the road. The chrome surrounding panels on the front panel breaks the monotony of plastic and helps exude an upmarket feel. The Aviator is also available with an optional disc brake, which gives the scooter a dynamic look along with adding the obvious safety benefits.
RIDE & HANDLING
It’s almost impossible to find a fault with the way the three Honda scooters behave on the road. Navigating through traffic is easy and handling is predictable, making it easy to use the scooters for longer durations. The seat too is supportive and comfortable and finding the right riding position is easy.
Nonetheless, the Aviator’s handling is a bit different from the other two scooters, owing to the larger wheels and a longer wheelbase. One can instantly feel the better handling of Aviator as it offers more stability at high speeds and through corners. In our opinion, the Aviator is presently one of the best handling scooters in its segment in the country.
A highlight in the dynamic package is the combi-brake system (CBS), which applies the front and rear brakes simultaneously on using the left lever alone. The mechanical system has been specially designed for small scooters and the brakes work through an equaliser. The system also reduces nosedive significantly, which makes it easier to control the scooter during hard braking. The company claims a lower stopping distance with this technology’s inclusion, which was evident during our test.
Another small yet useful inclusion is a small lever on the left brake lever, which acts as a handbrake. This comes in handy when stationary on inclines as one can use the lever to engage the brakes and pressing the lever further disengages the brake.
All three scooters offer the ideal ride and handling combination for their targeted consumers. Good weight distribution all around, including the sides, coupled with adequately sized tyres and a neutral chassis make the three scooters one of the most convenient and easy vehicles to ride in their segment.
HMSI’s Activa, Dio and Aviator have been doing extremely well in the market owing to the numerous features mentioned above. Each scooter, despite the same engine, is capable of offering a different ownership experience. The introduction of HET technology has further upped the appeal of these vehicles. All three scooters now set the benchmark in terms of fuel efficiency, safety features and ride quality. The ex-showroom Delhi prices of the scooters are mentioned in (1).
HMSI’s success story is driven by focus on local technology development and competitive pricing. In the past, the company has introduced technology firsts through some of its products and HET is another such important development. HET to our understanding is just one of the multiple technologies, which will be developed specifically for the Indian market.
With plans to launch newer models through this year and beyond, one can expect a significant increase in volumes for HMSI. The strong focus on R&D and local sourcing will go a long way in developing a wide product portfolio across various segments. Given the fact that the plan is to proactively improve, HMSI could achieve its target well before the planned timeline of 2020.
The company has already been successful in reviving the once dying segment of scooters in the country. HET’s introduction will further strengthen the company’s leadership spot as fuel prices continue to rise. The technology also reflects that at times simple yet thoughtful engineering touches can offer a significant improvement. This not only offers benefits to the consumers but also keeps the development cost in check, thereby increasing competitiveness in an extremely price sensitive segment.
Price (in Rs)
Text: Arpit Mahendra
Photo: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay