Not all that long ago, a 150cc motorcycle was considered a performance bike in India; today, a 650cc twin is an hourly sighting in the metros. W...
Not all that long ago, a 150cc motorcycle was considered a performance bike in India; today, a 650cc twin is an hourly sighting in the metros. With scooters, too, the market has evolved from favouring smaller 100cc and 110cc scooters to accepting and embracing larger 125cc scooters. We’ve even seen 150 and 160cc sports scooters from Aprilia, but those were powered by fairly basic, 3-valve, air-cooled engines. Is the Indian market ready to accept a true-blue 155cc liquid-cooled sports scooter? Well, Yamaha is about to find out, with its recently launched Aerox 155 maxi-sports scooter.
The Aerox is breaking new ground in the scooter segment, not just with a liquid-cooled engine, but also with its design. Its step-through format means that it immediately stands out from the ocean of flat floorboards in India, and while it is a unique form-factor, it’s also certain to prove prohibitive for many buyers looking for a more practical machine. But even those not in the market for it will find it hard to deny that the Aerox is a super cool looking thing.
With nicely sculpted bodywork and mean-looking LED headlights, the Aerox has a fittingly villainous fascia to go with its sporty intent. 14-inch wheels at both ends wrapped in very chunky tyres, a meaty exhaust system and twin shock absorbers at the rear all add to the substance, and the Aerox has quite a lot of presence on our roads, which belies its slender 126kg kerb weight.
When that presence draws you in for a closer look, you will find some room for improvement. Certain areas like the switchgear and the bodywork look and feel quite nice, especially the double-layered bodywork on either side of the lower apron. But other areas, like the flimsy fuel filler flap, the pillion footpegs that don’t sit flush against the bodywork, and the uneven floormats, don’t quite feel upto the mark. There are also some inconsistent panel gaps and shut lines across the scooter, and Yamaha would do well to tidy up these blemishes, considering the Aerox’s position in the market.
Despite all its bulk, though, it’s not the most spacious scooter around. Of course, there’s no space for luggage on the floorboard, but even space for your feet is in short supply. The design of the front apron means that it will constantly foul the knees of taller riders, and you can’t slide back too far on the seat because of the prominent step on it. In this situation, you could even injure your knees if you hit a bump hard.
One area where there is an abundance of space, though, is under the seat. With the fuel tank relocated to that prominent spine section, you get a generous 24.5 litres of space under the saddle. But at just 5.5 litres, the fuel tank is certainly on the smaller side for a scooter with these sort of credentials.
The Aerox sits in quite a premium market position, and while it isn’t as loaded to the gills as something like a premium electric scooter, it still packs in its fair share of features. The tail-lamp joins the headlights in being an LED unit (LED flashers are an optional extra at Rs 1,490 a pair), and you also get fully-digital instrumentation. We’re glad to report that LED headlights on mass-market two-wheelers are getting better and better, and the Aerox’s unit also performs quite well, with good brightness and spread. The digital cluster also shows a good deal of information, with the usual trip and fuel consumption related data as well as a VVA indicator and a tachometer.
Bluetooth connectivity is part of the kit, but like most other Yamaha systems in India, functionality is quite limited. You don’t get on-screen navigation instructions or controls for music playback, but you do get call and SMS alerts, and can also check your last parked location as well as use your mobile phone as an auxiliary dashboard for the scooter, among other things.
Thanks to the location of the fuel tank, the filler is, of course, external, and you needn’t get off the vehicle during fuel stops. Opening the flap is also quite seamless, thanks to a slick multi-function keyslot. To help reduce the frequency between those openings, Yamaha has also thrown in an excellent stop-start system. Rounding out the package is a small cubbyhole on the back of the apron that features a DC charging port, single-channel ABS and a side-stand cut-off feature.
It’s worth noting that the India-spec Aerox misses out on keyless operation, which the international version gets. Many international markets also receive preload-adjustable gas-charged shock absorbers as standard fitment, whereas the Indian Aerox has to make do with non-adjustable shocks, with the gas-charged units offered as an optional extra that will cost you Rs 17,024
Right, the heart of the matter. A heart that’s been transplanted, because the liquid-cooled, 4-valve 155cc motor in the Aerox is quite heavily derived from the R15’s engine, and even gets VVA technology just like its sportsbike sibling. It may have lost a few ponies compared to the R15, but this is still one of the quickest accelerating scooters in the country. The Aerox doesn’t quite have that instant kick in the backside that you get from an EV, but once it gets going, it’s properly rapid and very linear, and doesn’t lose momentum until the speedo is showing triple digits. There’s little else in the scooter segment that can keep up.
With a healthy (by scooter standards) 15hp on tap, of course it feels zippy in the city, effortlessly seizing gaps in traffic and shrinking the distances between stop lights. But it’s equally comfortable out on the highway, smoothly holding speeds of 90 to 100kph. You even have a little left in reserve for overtaking, though you are reaching the end of its performance by that point. The highest we saw was an indicated 117kph, and even at this speed, the motor felt absolutely smooth and refined, just like it does through the entirety of the rev range. Throttle response is also nice and crisp, which helps you feel connected to the scooter, but without going as far as being lurchy or over-eager in city traffic.
But performance and refinement are both things that you expect from this motor. What you might not expect, is the excellent fuel efficiency that it can offer when you’re careful. Sure, when you’re riding hard, the efficiency drops well below the 40kpl mark. But when you dial it down a notch, things improve considerably. The sheer grunt of it means that you don’t need to use very large throttle openings to get around, and when ridden with a careful right hand, the Aerox can even deliver as high as 50kpl in the city. Out on the highway, at a steady 65 to 70kph cruise, you should get even more!
Part of the Aerox’s stellar fuel efficiency in the city is down to its excellent stop-start system. Barely has the front fork finished rebounding from coming to a stop, and the engine has already been killed. And even when you’re caught napping when the signal turns green, the Aerox has your back, bringing the motor to life in an instant when you twist the throttle, thanks to an integrated starter generator unit..
If there’s one shortcoming with this engine, it’s the sound. The exhaust note is quite ordinary, and a sportier soundtrack to go with the rest of its sporty nature would’ve gone a long way in elevating the experience.
RIDE & HANDLING
Handling is yet another area where the Aerox is a massive departure from most of the scooters we get in India. In comparison to the featherlight, quick-turning scooters that we’re used to riding, the Aerox feels distinctly more heavy-steering, and requires some effort to tip into bends. The upside of this, though, is unflappable stability and composure. Whatever speed or lean angle you’re at, this scooter feels sure-footed and unshakable, feeding your confidence generously. It holds a line excellently, and the stability and heavy-steering are both functions of the large 14-inch wheels and wide tyres. In fact, the Aerox feels almost motorcycle-like through the corners.
Pleasantly, the heaviness of the handling isn’t felt as much at low speeds, and the Aerox is quite manageable in the city. It feels more like its 126kg kerb weight at low speeds, there’s loads of steering lock available, and even though its 790mm seat height is slightly taller than most scooters, it’s still quite accessible.
All this handling performance comes at the cost of ride quality, though. Unlike most petrol scooters in India that use a monoshock, the Aerox gets twin shock absorbers at the rear, and they are set up on the firmer side. The front fork feels nice enough, but the shocks have a definite firm edge to them, so the ride is definitely not what you’d call plush or comfortable. But at the same time, it’s not harsh or jarring either. At high speeds or on smooth pavement, there’s little to complain about, but going over bumps at city speeds isn’t the most pleasant affair. If you do want a little more comfort, Yamaha does offer accessory gas-charged shock absorbers from KYB with preload adjustability.
But one area where there are no accessories to fix the shortcomings, is braking. The 230mm front disc brake offers just about adequate stopping performance, but could do with some more feel and modulation at the lever. The real problem, though, is at the rear, where the 130mm drum brake feels positively feeble. A rear disc brake would go a long way on this scooter, and is something that we feel should be offered, at least as an option.
Yamaha has taken quite a brave decision by launching the Aerox 155 in India, because this is not the sort of scooter that's going to set sales charts on fire. And Yamaha probably knows this, too. But that's not to say that it doesn't have the potential to be a success in its own right. It provide quick and convenient city transportation, thanks to a strong engine and the effortlessness of a CVT. It's also more convenient than a motorcycle, thanks to generous underseat storage space. It's comfortable on the highway, too, and of course it's an enjoyable scooter in the twisties. If these are things that appeal to you, then the Aerox should definitely be on your shopping list. At Rs 1.29 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), it's quite reasonable, too.