Honda’s base 125cc offering is now BS6 compliant and it gains a number of new features, along with a big price hike.
Anything that wears the Activa badge is serious business for Honda. The Activa 125’s sales numbers, however, are far lower than what the 110cc model sells every month, so this was a good model for Honda to break the ice with. The frostiness in question is the chilling prospect of the hefty price hike that the shift to BS6 brings with it. Honda announced months ago that the entire range would move to fuel injection, which meant we were braced for a cool 10-15% estimated price hike. Okay that’s the last of the temperature-related puns, but here’s the deal – every small-capacity machine that moves to BS6 is going to get a lot more expensive. Honda has taken it upon themselves to launch India’s first BS6 scooter in the form of the Activa 125 BS6 that you see here. Kudos to them for taking that first step, but now let’s find out what you get for all that extra money you’re going to have to spend.
Let’s start with the big question – what does it feel like riding a BS6-compliant scooter? Honda has put a lot of work into it and the engine’s 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 of course, it is now fuel-injected. Beyond this, Honda has also worked towards reducing frictional losses and the weight of some parts within the engine. 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 3kg heavier.
What has taken a positive step forward is a perceptible improvement in engine refinement, both in terms of sound and feel. Honda’s new silent start system replaces the conventional starter motor with an ‘AC generator’ starter, and what this means is that there is no more gear meshing sound to deal with. It’s strange at first, but you’ll quickly grow to like the process of thumbing the starter button and having the engine fire up smoothly and quietly – more scooters should get this.
On the move, aside from the additional smoothness, everything feels very familiar. The power delivery is very smooth too, and devoid of any jerkiness. 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 when sitting upright. 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 very 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 real wheel, the Activa is very agile at city riding pace, but skittish when ridden fast in a straight line or through a corner. Ride quality and braking performance are both decent, but neither are outstanding. The riding position hasn’t changed either and while the seat is nice and comfy, the handlebar is still too low for tall riders.
The Activa 125 then continues to be the sensible choice in the segment for someone looking for a practical, no nonsense solution, but it doesn’t do much in terms of the fun factor. What has changed is that there are a number of new features that aim to increase the sense of a premium experience. Aside from the smooth engine starter it also gets a side-stand-down engine cutoff feature, and the fuel filler cap has been moved to a more convenient external location. The top model we’ve ridden even gets an idle start-stop system that works quite seamlessly. If you come to halt for more than 3 seconds, the engine automatically cuts off and, when it’s time to set off, all you have to do is twist the throttle and it quickly fires right back up. The top two models get a new LED headlamp, which is pretty mediocre, but they also get a new instrument cluster with a digital display for the time, a trip meter, fuel efficiency and a distance-to-empty gauge.
The Activa 125 also gets a few visual tweaks, with a redesigned headlamp area, a small new front glovebox (which feels rather flimsy) and some chrome splashes on the front and side Quality levels are decent, and while there are a few uneven panel gaps visible under close inspection, things are more or less what you would expect for the price. Speaking of, the base model, with its drum brakes and steel wheels, now costs Rs 67,490, which is a Rs 6,300 price hike. However, if you want a disc brake, you have no choice but to go for the top model, which now costs Rs 74,490, a full Rs 9,000 price hike from before.
These price hikes were to be expected, but I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect a disc brake as standard across the range. An Activa customer typically wants a fuss-free riding experience and may not care for the added features as much as they do about secure braking performance. For now, they don’t have much say in the matter.
To sum up, the Activa 125 has received a fairly substantial update for BS6 and it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the range follows suit. If you value the added smoothness and features, you will like what this update brings, but if that (and lower emissions!) is not what you’re interested in, there’s not much time left to snap up a much more affordable BS4-spec scooter.