2016 Hero Splendor iSmart 110 review, test ride
16th Jul 2016 12:32 pm
We get astride Hero MotoCorp’s first-ever completely in-house developed motorcycle, the Splendor iSmart and take it for a quick spin.
The Splendor iSmart 110 wasn’t a wholly unexpected motorcycle, as we had already seen it at the 2016 Auto Expo. What was unexpected, however, was how quickly Hero MotoCorp would take it from motor show to showroom – in just a little over five months. And while it might carry a very familiar name and suffix, what makes this new iSmart special is that it is the first all-new motorcycle to roll out of the Hero’s Centre for Innovation and Technology (CIT) in Jaipur. So, is this the same definition of words “all-new” that the company has been throwing around for years, or do those words carry more gravitas this time around? A brief ride on some isolated Gurgaon roads let us answer that question.
At first glance, especially if you're looking at the bike in its red-silver, two-tone colour scheme, you're immediately reminded of the 100cc iSmart. But give it a second look and you quickly realise that there are a lot more details here. It's a distinctly larger bike with a more mature design. That being said, the two-tone paint job still is one of the most striking visual features of this bike. It really gives this new iSmart a much more premium look and it looks especially handsome in the blue-black combination. This two-tone theme even carries over on the backs of the mirror, which really is a nice touch and the overall paint finish is top notch. The subtle graphics, which include a large, faint tracing of the letters 'i3S' on the tank along with name and company badges done in a not so in-your-face size, are a classy touch. The taller, more sculpted tank fits well even within the proportions of a frills-free commuter motorcycle, and when you actually get into the saddle, you immediately realise just how comfortable it is to grip with your thighs. There are a lot more really well thought-out design details such as the new, pointier bikini fairing, sharper trapezoidal headlight, new clear lens indicators and even a redesigned split grab rail at the back that doesn't look like a chopped up single piece unit any more. Even the angular tail-lamp unit integrates extremely well into this new design. The new instrument cluster requires special mention. It features two analogue dials for the speedometer and fuel gauge, along with an LCD panel for odo and trip information. The blue accents inside the cluster look quite spiffy and even though it’s not breaking the mould in terms of amount of information available, it manages to look like one of the most premium units in this class of bike. Looking at this new styling as a whole, suddenly, you feel a little let down by the skinny forks and skinny tyres, as they are a strong reminder about which class this new bike plays in as well. But play as it might in this people mover class, the overall fit and finish of the bike is quite remarkable.
The Splendor iSmart 110 features a fairly standard upright commuter stance. But as mentioned before, the tank is extremely comfortable to grip with your thighs and it really helps the rider feel one with the bike. Not only that, the seat itself is also quite comfortable and has been made longer to better accommodate pillions. When you get on the bike, it feels fairly substantial for its class, without feeling intimidating in any way.
At the heart of this bike is the brand new 110cc air-cooled engine designed and built in-house at Hero MotoCorp. As compared to the company’s bread-and-butter 100cc sloper motor that has plied Indian roads for over three decades, this one’s cylinder has been lifted to a higher angle, though it’s not as upright as the one from Hero’s 125cc bikes. Speaking to Markus Feichtner, head of engine design and development at Hero MotoCorp’s CIT, we were told that the choice to lift the cylinder angle was made to better aid cooling in the monsoon, as the sloper has a tendency get covered with the mud spray from the front wheel. Thanks to friction-busting technologies, as well as optimised flow and combustion, this motor manages to put out 9.5hp at 7500rpm and a healthy 9Nm of torque coming in at 5500rpm. And staying with current regulations, the motor is BS-IV compliant, making it the second bike launched this year in this segment that meets these more stringent emissions norms.
The four-speed gearbox itself is a pretty slick shifter with adequately spaced out ratios which work well with the motor’s torque spread. And while it does stick to the Splendor’s classic, all-up shift pattern, the lever now gets a nub at the front (instead of the flat pedal like on the standard Splendor), making it easy to shift using just your toe.
The motor’s forte is a flat torque curve from about 3000rpm onwards which really does wonders for the bike’s tractability. In fourth gear, the motor pulls cleanly, if unhurriedly, away from as low as 20kph without stuttering and if you use the throttle gingerly, you can get away with this from even 15kph! And in second gear, the bike picks up from nearly standstill without any clutch use whatsoever. This should make it ideal in city traffic conditions and the motor really lives up to its “Torque On Demand” name. On the short stretch of road where we got to ride the bike, we could easily get it up to 90kph. With a little longer road, and a lighter rider, an indicated 100kph should be easily possible, albeit there is a distinct buzz going through the footpegs at those speeds. It can also dispense off the dash from zero to 60kph in a company-claimed 7.45 seconds, which is not bad at all. The bike also gets a new exhaust which the company says has been tuned for an “enthusiastic note” which honestly might require a little stretching of the imagination. Still at mid-range revs, it sounds bass-ier than other commuter motorcycles and certainly has what you might refer to as 'character'.
Chassis and suspension
Hero MotoCorp didn’t just develop a new engine for the Splendor iSmart 110, but an entirely new chassis as well. The setup is still a fairly traditional tubular dual-cradle frame, but Hero says that it has far better torsional rigidity and strength to improve handling as well as provide better ride quality. And in that regard, the suspension rates have been revised as well. While the ride felt perfectly acceptable for the most part, we really didn’t encounter any roads that would’ve tested that out during our brief time with the bike. And nor did we get any corners to test the bike’s handling prowess. So, we’ll refrain from making those judgements at this point. But what we can say is that the bike feels nimble while slaloming it around without feeling nervous. That being said, when I was ferrying our cameraman around the shoot location on the pillion seat, the Splendor did weave around a bit at lower speeds. In all fairness though, we had loaded nearly 200kg worth of rider, pillion, camera equipment and breakfast on a bike that’s designed for a payload of 130kg. However, the bike’s rear suspension is adjustable, so dialling up the preload took care of this to a large extent, though not totally. Braking is handled by a 130mm drum at the front and a 110mm drum at the rear and can be described as just about adequate.
Of course, this Splendor’s i3S (Idle Start Stop System) is its highlight feature. The system remains similar in the way it works to the original Splendor iSmart. When you put the bike in neutral and the revs drop to idle, the engine automatically switches off after five seconds. To restart, all you need to do is pull in the clutch and the motor immediately kicks into life. And if you don’t want the system, it can be disabled by flipping a switch on the handlebars. Now, you think this system is more of a gimmick, but it really is more convenient than switching off and restarting the bike manually at a traffic light and every moment you spend with the engine off, fuel is saved. The same system was responsible for making the Splendor iSmart 100 one of the more fuel efficient bikes in the country and there’s no doubt it’ll do the same for this one as well. The other interesting feature is the automatic headlights, which are switched on as soon as the bike starts and have no off switch. This is really in keeping with international standards followed by motorcycle manufacturers and we’re glad that Hero is doing this even on its small bikes. However, be prepared to face a lot of oncoming people gesturing to you that your headlight is running in the day time.
Now it’s really difficult as an enthusiast to really say what makes commuters tick and what they look for in their motorcycles. But from whatever we can gather, Hero certainly seems to have checked all the right boxes – style, refinement, tractability, efficiency and features. At a price of Rs 53,300 (ex-showroom Delhi), it demands a premium of less than Rs 2,000 over the alloy wheel-clad version of the 100cc iSmart, and a fraction more over a similarly kitted Passion Pro. So, it delivers quite a lot on value as well. And apart from a few very minor complaints like the tyres not feeling too great under braking, rear view mirrors that feel a bit small and the lack of a disc brake variant, there are no real negatives about the bike either. If nothing else, the Splendor iSmart 110 is a shining example of how Hero’s CIT is getting things right, right off the bat. Now, time to get things right with some properly exciting motorcycles for the enthusiasts!