When it comes to the automatic scooters segment, the Honda Activa needs no introduction. It has been enjoying the lion’s share in the Indian scooter market for more than a decade now. Similar to the TVS ‘Scooty’, the term ‘Activa’ has become synonymous with the automatic scoot resulting in great brand recognition and resale value – the waiting period is another shocker. The competition tried hard and even with a flurry of launches didn’t ruffle the little Honda’s position.
Off-late the competition has been getting extremely fierce with influx of newer products. The Honda Activa received its last update in 2009 with a bumped up 109cc engine from the existing 102 and 1 bhp increment to the power tally. Features such as combi-brakes and a key shutter being further inclusions to the revised version. With the recently launched automatics from TVS, Hero, Mahindra,Yamaha and Suzuki faring well in sales and slowly nibbling away small parts from Honda’s share of the pie, it was time for the Japanese giant to retaliate. In a country where “kitna deti hai” is rather a feature of an automobile than a question, it was apparent that Honda played it as a trump card for the new variant.
Meet the new 2013 Honda Activa HET Scooter, and before you start scanning the scooter for any visual changes- let us tell you that there are none except for the ‘HET’ badging on the left hand side panel. With manufacturers in India so good at creating fancy technical terms which usually end up as more hype than substance, we really wanted to know whether the Honda Activa HET offered any real world advantages over its predecessor, and were curious if it really stood up to the 60 kmpl claim.
STYLING, FEATURES & PERFORMANCE
The Activa has always been a good looking scooter though not as trendy as the Dio, but just right to qualify as a Unisex trotter. As iterated, the styling remains untouched retaining the same well finished metallic outer shell now available in 5 different shades viz. Metallic Wild Purple, Metallic Geny Grey, Pearl Sunbeam White, Black and Candy Lucid Red.
The switchgear and instrumentation is ergonomic to operate and typical Honda in terms of fit and finish, giving a feel of durability. The inner box comes optional at a premium of INR 1800/-. 18 litres of underseat space can swallow reasonable amount of grocery shopping and store a medium sized helmet.
The Activa is a comfortable scoot with the broad seat accommodating cozy two up riding with ease. The rear suspension has decent damping for a comfortable ride, but the front is stiffly set. It fares well as long as the roads are good with the usual undulations, but starts getting jittery when the bumps overpower the small wheels of the scoot. The combi-brakes work well and complement the performance the Activa offers with enough power to rein in the speed.
On the handling part, the Activa is zippy and more than an able tool to deal with the routine traffic chores. The light weight aids maneuvering the scoot through small gaps, but renders a nervous feeling as regards handling at higher speeds. It flicks and changes direction with minimal effort, but tends to feel as if you are sitting on a cardboard box with the only mass being your own weight. In the end it’s just a little scoot and not meant to be something with which you could blast into the corners. The tubeless tyres are good and offer reasonable dig into the tarmac. But in case you happen to hit a twisty section and wish to indulge in for some fun- you’d find the Activa appealing to take it easy.
Coming to the most important part and the biggest change in the new scoot- hidden away under the hood is the new optimized HET Engine (Honda Eco Technology). Internal changes include an offset crank for reduced sliding resistance of the piston, a low tension piston ring, lighter reciprocating parts and improved bearing oil seals. The conventional spark plug has been replaced by a highly ignitable nickel spark plug and optimized induction port.Also the operation of the pulley converter has been optimized resulting in a more efficient power delivery- all for the claimed 60 kpl mark.
Despite the internal changes, a mere HET badge might not be able to create an impression to a layman’s eye, but once you’re on it and moving- the change is evident. The HET engine feels much smoother and peppier with improved low end performance compared to the earlier generation Activa. The refinement is retained throughout the rev range all the way up to the 90 kph mark. The top speed recorded on the speedometer during the test was 94 kph- but the Activa feels best moving between 50 to 65 kph. We put it to a stress test of keeping it pinned close to the 90 kph mark for extended durations, and even in afternoon heat – the engine didn’t show any signs of overheating or power loss. The incorporated changes seem to have worked and bettered the already refined powerplant of the earlier generation Activa. But the biggest question is whether the new Activa gets anywhere close to the magical 60 kpl mark as advertised by Honda? The answer is a resounding YES! During a 300 kms test run that involved less of economical riding and more of pushing it to its top end, the Activa delivered a mileage of 55 kpl- very impressive! Adopting a more sedate style of riding, we feel 60 kpl is an easy deal for the scoot.