Mahindra 2-Wheelers is once again bravely on the offensive in the 110cc commuter bike segment, this time with the feature rich Centuro, a bike that aims to please buyers aspiring for that little bit more from their daily ride to work. Mahindra is betting big on the Centuro, a model the company is confident buyers will take to. Their foray into the motorcycle arena hasn’t been smooth this far, having withdrawn their first bike, the Stallio a few months into production back in 2010, then receiving a lukewarm response to its sequel, the Pantero. The Centuro has its work cut out, to stand at eye level with its many stiff rivals.
Honda has launched the 109cc Dream Neo this July, targeting the same segment, and priced about at par with the Centuro. The Mahindra bike certainly provides more than its fair share of bells-and-whistles at a competitive price point, but this apart, is all else in place to rope in market share and fight down its rivals?
Design and engineering >>
Design and engineering
Mahindra’s Centuro and Honda’s Dream Neo are safely styled commuter bikes. Both bikes come with ‘V’ shaped headlights, these laying down bright and well spread beams.
The Centuro gets smart, white LED pilot lamps and there’s a stark difference in both feature lists. The Centuro provides digital instruments, with a bold, analogue tachometer. There’s a speedometer, fuel-gauge, odometer and trip-meter. Apart from which the Centuro instruments show a distance-to-empty indicator, activated as fuel-level drops below two litres. Plus there’s an economy mode indicator that flashes when riding between 30-50kph. The Dream Neo is plain Jane in comparison, with twin pod instruments that house an analogue speedometer, odometer, and fuel-gauge.
The Centuro gets a flip-to-open, 96-bit encrypted key, which prevents starting the bike with a duplicate key. Using his key in order to spot the bike in dark, crowded parking lots, the rider can flash the bike’s headlight and sound a short alarm. There’s also a lighting feature to give riders relief in dark areas for a few moments after the key leaves the ignition. However, on the flip side, this key is of lacklustre quality, as its flip action failed to open smoothly and needed to be pried open from day one. Both bikes provide switchgear that includes a pass-light flasher, however the Centuro switches once again feel a notch behind the Neo, on which switches are crisp to operate, and built to last. Palm grips and rear view mirrors on both bikes work well. The levers on the Centuro aren’t as comfortable as on the Dream Neo.
The Centuro’s shapely fuel-tank is equipped with a hinged fuel-filler lid, while the simple looking eight-litre tank on the Dream Neo misses this convenience. At rear, again in its favour, the Centuro uses a smarter alloy grab bar and sharp looking LED tail-light. Deploying the Centuro main stand is tedious, as the pillion footrests tend to get in the way. And Mahindra has tried harder than Honda to spice up its bike, a touch too hard in fact, as its graphics seem rather loud, and bulbous golden tubes peep out from below the fuel-tank, apart from a poorly finished belly pan.
Both commuter bikes come with enclosed chains and smart alloy wheels. Paint quality on the Centuro is decent, but there’s room for improvement with overall fit-finish and build quality. The Dream Neo meanwhile comes with Honda typical quality all round, top notch and with a built to last feel.
The Centuro has its work cut-out in the engine department. The Centuro and Dream Neo both use four-stroke engines that fire to life via starter buttons. Both use single-cylinder, carburettor equipped, air-cooled and twin-valve engines. The Centuro engine is Mahindra’s MCI-5 unit, displacing 106.7cc. It’s closely related to the Pantero powerplant, while the Neo meanwhile gets Honda’s latest friction cutting tech, or HET (Honda Eco Technology) 109cc engine. The Centuro generates 8.4bhp of maximum power, while the Dream Neo outputs a fraction less at 8.25bhp, both bikes making this at 7500rpm. Peak torque is 0.87kgm on the Mahindra, and 0.88kgm for the Honda, both arrived at 5500rpm. Although close on paper in terms of hardware and power and torque, both motorcycles feel very different when ridden.
The Centuro is strongest ridden in the mid to top end of its powerband. This calls for riders to wind up the engine and raise revs a little higher than ideal, before you reach optimal performance, which isn’t best suited to city riding. The engine feels a tad bit underpowered when ridden without pushing the bike, and refinement and rideability are not in the same league as the Honda.
Meanwhile, the Neo proved a delight to ride around in city, tuned to pull cleanly from the word go, with grunt tapering away quicker. Power is put down with a vibe free delivery, and the Honda engine is so much smoother and refined. The clutch on the Centuro imparted adequate feel, but the Dream Neo clutch works with better, lighter action. Coming to their gearboxes, both motorcycles come with four-speed, all-up shifted transmission systems, which work seamlessly.
Performance testing proved both motorcycles are closely matched. The Centuro breezed past 60kph from standstill in 7.85 seconds, as the Dream Neo reached this in a virtually identical 7.83sec. The Mahindra bike achieved a top speed of 93kph while the Honda was again only very little faster here, nudging 95kph.
Ride, handling and braking >>
Ride handling and braking
The Centuro tips the scales at 120kg, while the Dream Neo is lighter at 105kg. The Centuro is held together by a twin downtube, steel frame while the Dream Neo gets a single downtube frame, its engine used as a stressed member.
Both motorcycles deploy telescopic fork suspension in front and a set of hydraulic rear shock absorbers. Mahindra has compromised with the use of a tubular steel swingarm on their new motorcycle, while the Dream Neo gets an industry standard, rectangular section swingarm.
Riding positions on both motorcycles are upright, although the Neo holds an edge. The Centuro footrests are set a little behind, which makes its rider bend his knees a little more than ideal, a major reason why the Dream Neo feels so much more comfortable to ride. The Mahindra likewise, doesn’t feel at par with the Honda in the handling and cornering departments. The more neutral steering Honda’s lighter weight and better chassis makes this a clear winner in these spheres. We spent a lot of time in the saddle, riding both bikes back to back, and the Honda is always the bike you want to be astride. The Centuro seat feels narrow, with inadequate support that makes it uncomfortable over long distances. The Dream Neo seat is on the contrary long and wide, more comfortable even when riding fair distances.
Furthermore, the Centuro’s ride quality is a tad too soft, even bouncy when pushed. The Dream Neo offers better sorted ride quality, if only a touch on the firmer side. Both bikes ride on grippy MRF tyres, these always working to offer sufficient grip. The Dream Neo gets tubeless tyres if you opt for the alloy wheel variant. Both motorcycles could do with better brakes. 130mm drum brakes are standard all round, these failing to offer adequate bite, especially on the Centuro where the front brake feels inadequate.
On the bright side, Mahindra do intend to roll out a disc brake equipped Centuro soon. During brake testing, we stopped the Centuro from 60kph in a lengthy 26.48 metres, its front fork region making a protesting clacking sound when soaking up bumps. The Dream Neo came to rest from the same speed in 22.76m.
Fuel economy and Verdict >>
This is easily the most important criteria for Indian commuter bike buyers, where our tests reveal the Mahindra bike trails the Honda by a fair margin. The Centuro returned 52.5kpl in city riding conditions, where the Dream Neo returned 57.2kpl. While out on the highway, the Centuro posted 54kpl to the Dream Neo’s 59.8kpl.
The well priced Centuro has something going for itself, in handy features never before experienced in this segment, apart from which, the Mahindra falls behind in several key areas. Overall quality could be better, the Centuro feeling in essence an improved Pantero with enhanced style and better features. The Mahindra engine isn’t as refined as the Honda and comfort, handling and brakes could also improve.
The high quality Dream Neo has its Achilles heel, dated styling, apart from which, it steps up to offer so much the Centuro misses. The frugal Honda engine is delightfully smooth and responsive, with adequate performance. The Neo is also more comfortable and manoeuvrable, with a better chassis and suspension. The Dream Neo is undoubtedly the more sensible and reliable commuter bike here, the better rounded package of this duo that has cruised to victory in this test.
Detailed techical specifications >>