The automatic scooter market has seen some strong and steady growth in India recently, capturing an ever increasing market share despite the two-wheeler industry as a whole struggling to achieve good numbers. Honda has ruled the urban streets for a decade now with its flagship scooter, the Activa. Yamaha too has been trying to get a share of this rapidly growing segment by launching not one but three scooters in the last year and a half, the latest addition being the Alpha, a family-oriented scooter.
It’s been a while now that the Honda Aviator has been the go-to scooter for running your daily errands. Meanwhile, Yamaha has placed the Alpha as a rival, targeting the same clientele with its bold dimensions, handling characteristics and similar pricing. Let’s find out which one of these rivals carries the baton of ‘the family scooter’ with greater finesse.
DESIGN & ENGINEERING
The Yamaha Alpha and Honda Aviator reflect mature character targeted at a more evolved audience. Firmly built on the Ray platform, the Alpha feels perceptibly larger and roomier, with subtle and soft curves, compared to the Ray’s sharp design lines. The Aviator looks classy with a rounded-off apron, smooth body lines, a dash of chrome and five spoke alloys. Yamaha engineers have taken the conventional path, positioning the Alpha’s headlight on the handlebar instead of the front apron like the Ray. Similarly, the Aviator’s headlight is placed within its handlebar shroud. The Alpha gets uniquely styled front indicators pressed flush into the puffed front apron, while the Aviator’s front uses vertical indicators set flush around the chrome grille. Both scooters showcase a neatly placed instrument cluster with essential information including a speedometer, odometer and fuel gauge, along with the standard set of warning indicators.
The palm grips, levers, mirrors and switchgear on the Honda impart good feel and are built to last, but the Alpha feels slightly better on this front. Moreover, both Yamaha and Honda have failed to provide a brake clamp, an important safety feature.
Storage space plays a vital role and the Alpha gets 21 litres of under-seat storage, while the Aviator offers 20 litres, both scooters’ bays opening and shutting with a nice click. For added convenience, a basic solitary bag hook finds its way under the saddle on both scooters.
The Alpha gets sober-looking side panels with a uniquely designed tail and a silver-coloured alloy grab bar. On the other hand, the Aviator’s masculine yet sleek side panels merge smartly into the distinctive looking tail, with a body-coloured alloy grab rail sitting on top.
The Alpha runs on pressed-steel rims, while Honda has provided the Aviator with the option of both pressed steel rims (drum brake version) and alloy rims (disc brake version). Fit and finish and build quality on both scooters is as expected from Honda and Yamaha – on par with the best in the market.
ENGINE, GEARBOX & PERFORMANCE
Both scooters come with four-stroke, single-cylinder, air-cooled and carburetted engines. The button-started scooters receive a choke knob under the handlebar for cold starts, along with a kick starter for emergencies.
The Alpha uses the same 113cc engine as the Ray, with a throttle-position sensor working astride its carburettor. The Alpha generates slightly lower figures, with a maximum power output of 7bhp at 7,500rpm, while peak torque of 0.82kgm is made at 5,000rpm. Meanwhile, the Aviator gets the same 109cc engine as the Activa and Dio, with Honda Eco Technology (HET). HET primarily aims at reducing the friction in the engine by lowering the weight of key engine components, which enables an increase in fuel efficiency over the older variants. The Aviator churns out a maximum power output of 8bhp at 7,000rpm with a peak torque figure of 0.9kgm at 5,500rpm. Both scooters get CVT automatics that work seamlessly. During our tests, the Alpha was comparatively slower to 60kph at 11.45sec, while the Aviator managed 0-60kph in 10.98sec. Both scooters accelerate in a vibe-free manner throughout their powerbands without any technical hitch. The Alpha puffs out at a true 85kph when stretched to the limit, while the Honda races on to a top speed of 88kph. Both scooters produce a strong low and mid-range grunt essential for city riding conditions, with quick enough throttle response as you’d expect from small displacement scooters. However, expecting blistering performance would be pointless.
RIDE, HANDLING & BRAKING
The Alpha and Aviator are specifically designed for hassle-free city commutes. The Alpha weighs 104kg, whereas the Aviator tips the scales at 109kg. Both Yamaha and Honda offer telescopic front forks that provide far better feedback than the old-fashioned linked suspension, and a monoshock at the rear with the engines doubling up as stressed members of the frame. However, the suspension setup on the Alpha is stiffer than the softer suspension settings on the Aviator.
Both Japanese scooters provide an upright riding position, and the Alpha seats its rider at 775mm, a full 15mm lower than the Aviator. The Honda is a lot roomier than the Alpha as well. The handlebars on both scooters are positioned appropriately and don’t interfere with the knees of a taller rider. The floorboards on the Alpha and Aviator are both broad and sufficient enough to accommodate large feet and baggage effortlessly.
The saddle on the Alpha feels rather firm and flat, whereas the Aviator gets a soft padded seat, although both can accommodate two adults with ease. Both the Alpha and Aviator feel effortless to manoeuvre in heavy traffic, with a light and neutral steering feel, and handling characteristics as good as any other scooter on Indian roads.
The ride quality varies to some extent, with the Alpha feeling somewhat firm over potholes and undulations and the Aviator feels much forgiving on the back.
Braking on both the scooters is managed by 130mm drum brakes on the front and rear, with the option of a 190mm front disc available on the Aviator. The Alpha managed to stop from 60kph in 21.37 metres. The disc-brake variant of the Aviator we tested managed to do the same in 17.73 metres, Honda’s Combined Braking System (CBS) working efficiently.
Among the most important aspects of owning a scooter is fuel economy, and to keep sales figures ticking, it is very crucial that two-wheeler manufacturers get this right. The two scooters performed well on this front during our tests, the Alpha returning 44.4kpl in the city and 46.5kpl on the highway. The Aviator, on the other hand, claimed 43.7kpl in the city and 44.1kpl when stretched open on the highway.
The Alpha offers top-drawer fit, finish and quality with contemporary styling. The engine doesn’t feel as zippy as the Honda’s, but refinement and efficiency are on par with most scooters available in the market. The Alpha offers good handling characteristics, but the ride quality feels firm.
Front storage space is missing on the Alpha, but it makes up for this by providing that extra litre of under-seat storage. Meanwhile, the Aviator offers good build quality and fit and finish, making it a reliable scooter. The suspension setting offers good ride quality with neutral handling and the clever CBS brakes work in Honda’s favour. The engine feels smooth and responsive, with good fuel efficiency figures. On the downside, the front storage space and a brake lock clamp are missing on the top-end Aviator.
Overall, Yamaha offers a good package at Rs 47,735 (ex-showroom, Delhi), placing the Alpha competitively in the scooter segment of India. However, it’s the Honda that offers better value for your money, allowing it to clinch this session by a slender margin, priced at Rs 52,598 (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the top of the line variant.