Honda Navi review, test ride
12th Apr 2016 12:20 pm
Honda has decided to rebel against its stereotypical commuter image with its latest offering, the exuberant Navi.
Before images of the fictional moon Pandora begin to float through your mind, let me just tell you that Honda has no intention of creating big blue humanoids anytime soon. There sure is that shared rebellious streak, but this Navi is of the mechanical kind. Honda's newest fledgling comes in the form of a motorcycle-scooter crossover that derives inspiration from the Grom – the 125cc larger sibling of the Navi. And even though the Navi has been toned down in more ways than one, it has managed to create a sensational amount of hype in the Indian motorcycling scene in recent times.
More often than not, it's the brave that are rewarded for venturing into avenues that have remained unexplored. Honda has taken a bold step forward and presented us with a generous serving of fresh perspective. The Navi could bring about a pleasant and welcome change in the current commuter scene. With its quirky design formula and potential for customisation, the Navi could definitely appeal to customers beyond the commuter realm; a gateway motorcycle for those inclined to the two-wheeled rush, perhaps.
At first glance, the Navi seems to display all the tell-tale signs of a full-blown motorcycle. The upright stance, the handlebars, a nice sculpted tank, exposed telescopic forks, a cavernous hole where the engine should be. Wait, what? Strange as it may appear, the Navi is equipped with Honda's Activa engine, which in essence is a scooter engine that sits towards the bottom rear end of the motorcycle. This is why there's a gaping hole where the engine should have been. However, this space can be used to store a luggage bin. As you approach the Navi, you'll soon start to soak in its deceptively diminutive proportions. Technically, it holds almost the same dimensions as the Activa, with a slightly longer wheelbase, but still manages to shave off about 7kg.
Honda has ensured most of the design elements around the Navi retain a youthful appeal. The crash guards, sticker graphics, tank pads and grab rail come in a range of colours that could further add to the individuality of the motorcycle. It does look like Honda has borrowed the concept of the central plastic tank pad from the Hornet; better plastic quality would have really helped here. The handlebars may be functional as they are, but give the Navi a rather comical, monkey bike-like appearance. The headlight on the other hand appears solid and borrows its outer contours from that on the Grom. However, what seems to be a bit out of place is the speedometer console; it appears dated and doesn't seem to conform to the Navi's general theme. The switches have been adopted from some of Honda's other motorcycles and certainly lack a premium feel.
The 110cc mill you see here is Honda's tried-and-tested formula seen on the Activa. Power figures too, are identical and stand at 8hp at 7,000rpm, while torque output is 9Nm at 5,500rpm. The Navi also runs a variomatic clutch that keeps things simple and allows for the absence of shifting through gears. So in all its entirety, the Navi's engine feels and sounds identical to the Activa's. Smooth and puttery is what this unit is all about.
Throw a leg over the saddle and you'll realise that the riding-position geometry also remains the same as the Activa. But that's where the similarities end. Honda has done a great job with the chassis. Once you get moving, the Navi slowly discards it's scooter-ish characteristics and starts to behave like a proper motorcycle. It feels nimble and manoeuvrable straight off the line. And despite having 12- and 10-inch rims, the Navi feels eager to bend down and ride that corner out. We haven't gotten a chance to ride the motorcycle out in the real world, so behaviour at higher speeds is still left to be discovered.
The suspension is probably the only part of the Navi that retains a scooter feel, sans all the typical niggling characteristics. There's one little chink in its armour – carried forward from the Activa – and that's the awkward position of the kick-starter which is too far rear-set. So when you try to get the motorcycle on the main stand, you're going to brush your toes against the kick; a bit annoying when the engine is on.
The rebels are always fun to be around and this one is no different. It is impracticable to slot the Navi in a specific motorcycle genre; it is what it is and we're glad Honda has taken a step in this direction. This latest two-wheeler could put the motorcycling scene in India on to a whole new direction. The Navi is fresh and fun and does not seem eager to conform to the traditional definition of motorcycles that occupy our streets today. At Rs 39,500 (ex-showroom Delhi), the Navi certainly seems to defy the laws that govern the other motorcycles in this price bracket. Well, we're not complaining, but hopefully Honda will throw in a few more horses next time. You know, because it's all about the fun.