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Honda Navi review, road test

13th May 2016 10:30 am

Honda has taken a bold step forward with the Navi. Does this little tyke live up to all the hype?

  • Make : Honda
  • Model : Navi

Honda's newest fledgling comes in the form of a motorcycle-scooter crossover that derives inspiration from the Grom – the larger, 125cc sibling of the Navi. Now, never mind all the swanky sports bikes dawdling awkwardly around the city. This little motorcycle-scooter crossover attracts a serious amount of attention wherever it goes. People seem to be drawn instantly by its outlandish appearance. It is a polarising design, and people either profess the desire to own one or to dismiss it as an abomination entirely. It’s quite fascinating to watch the expressions on people’s faces as they try to decipher why there’s a gaping hole where the engine should be. Most speculations lean toward the Navi being an electric motorcycle. The Navi, however, has all the underpinnings of a scooter. It’s easy to ride; offers excellent manoeuvrability and its sense of smallness will have you squeezing through the tightest of gaps. Nonetheless, should you pick one, especially over its more established sibling?

Keep in mind that this crossover won’t have the range of a proper motorcycle. Its 3.8litre fuel tank is small even by scooter standards. We managed to get a mileage figure of 57.8kpl while maintaining an average speed of 60kph. So, on the whole, you can expect a range of 140-200km, depending on your riding style.

At first glance, you are more likely to think of it as a motorcycle, not a scooter. The beauty of the Navi is that Honda has taken a rather humdrum concept and mashed it into a sparkling new experience that slots into the most basic of price categories. The Navi displays all the tell-tale signs of being a motorcycle. There are telescopic forks, chromed upright handlebars, a nice sculpted tank, a long and narrow saddle and side panels swooping to the tail. The tail-light has been borrowed from Honda’s CBF Stunner. But as you approach the Navi, you’ll soon notice its diminutive proportions and awkward stance give it a rather comical appeal. This sort of motorcycle was first envisioned by Honda in the 1960s and was called the "Monkey" back then. The Navi though, uses the Activa as its base for design. The seat height is the same as the Activa and Honda claims the handlebars are actually a bit higher. The new underbone chassis also gives the Navi just a bit more ground clearance and a slightly longer wheelbase. Now couple this with a kerb weight that’s 7kg lighter than the Activa and it seems like the perfect recipe for fun.

Honda has ensured that most of the design elements on the Navi retain a youthful appeal. The headlight looks solid and borrows its outer contours from that of the Grom. The fuel tank manages to hold a measly 3.8 litres but has been given rather muscular contours. The tank continues to flow into the side panels, which stretch all the way to the tail. But from the saddle, it looks like Honda has borrowed the concept of the central plastic tank pad from the Hornet; which is no bad thing as an idea. Except that the plastic quality, especially the lockable flap for the fuel tank, feels rather flimsy and non-durable. The paint on the plastic panels doesn’t seem as lustrous either. The speedometer console looks dated and lacklustre; the absence of a fuel gauge is unfathomable. And while the switches work well, they lack a premium feel. Surprisingly, the Navi doesn’t offer a combi-lock, with the handle lock mechanism tucked away at the bottom of the steering head. And don’t expect the same levels of storage as on a scooter; you won’t be able to hang bags in the front. Under-seat storage is on par with a motorcycle, which is almost non-existent.

The Navi shares the same powerhouse as the Activa; a 109.2cc engine but in a slightly different state of tune. Honda says that it has increased torque marginally from the Activa to add usability in traffic. The Navi produces 8hp at 7,000rpm and 9Nm of torque at 5,500rpm. This is then fed to the rear wheel by the smooth and hassle-free Continuously Variable Transmission. Its 7kg weight advantage makes power delivery feel crisper than on the Activa; which in turn results in better acceleration. This allows the Navi to make the 0-60kph dash in 9.50 seconds, that’s half a second faster than the Activa! This acceleration certainly won’t be winning you any drag races but will be handy in the urban environment. The smooth engine feels particularly more responsive from the get-go and makes small work of city traffic. Out on the highway, the Navi easily maintains around 60-70kph, with the speedo-needle hovering under an indicated 90kph mark at the top-end. During testing, a true top speed of 82kph was achieved.

Throw a leg over the saddle and you'll realise that the riding-position geometry also remains the same as the Activa. But the sensation in the saddle is incredibly different; having a tank to hug with your legs just changes the whole experience. The confusing part is having foot-pegs under your feet instead of a footboard; so, a conscious effort may be required to avoid the fumbling involved while searching for a gear and brake foot lever. Brake levers remain on the handle much like conventional non-geared scooters. Squeeze those levers and the 130mm drum brakes at the front and rear do feel responsive but stopping power is mediocre. Hopefully, Honda decides to offer a disc brake option soon. What’s also rather surprising is the fact that the Navi does not even come with Honda’s Combi-Brake technology; that’s even available on the Activa. However, the grip levels on offer are confidence inspiring. So, braking with the motorcycle leaned over will not create any drama. Yes, you are likely to do that as the Navi infuses you with an air of playfulness. After a while, you’ll figure out how much fun it is locking up the rear tyre and sliding around a bit; unless you aren’t too keen on changing the rear tyre very often.

Once on the move, the Navi slowly discards its scooter-ish characteristics and starts to behave much more like a motorcycle. The 12 and 10-inch rims give the Navi a nimble and manoeuvrable feel straight off the line, but at the same time, the 1286mm wheelbase gives it a more planted feel even when cranked over. The suspension of the Navi feels rather stiff; you can expect to get a bit unsettled at lower speeds over bumpy sections. The seat also felt a bit firm, however, its long and slim design helped keep things comfortable. So, even though it feels quite flickable and fun to ride, this could result in a sore bottom after longer periods in the saddle. Out on the highway though, the stiffer setup imparts a more confident feel when buzzing along highway speeds. Just keep in mind, even though the Navi looks and feels somewhat like a motorcycle, it isn’t.

The Navi is a fun motorcycle. You want to embrace that little bit of hooliganism that comes from riding flat-out; because in all honesty, it's just that easy to ride. The peppy but practical performance of the motor fits our urban environment perfectly. The ride quality could have been a bit better for greater comfort over our poor roads and also, the Navi isn't as practical a city runabout as an Activa. However, its lower price tag of Rs 39,500 (ex-showroom Delhi) softens the blow somewhat. To pick one, just understand this, the Navi isn't a tool, it's an indulgence. So, do you have the means and the reason to reward yourself with one?

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