Creativity, when let loose, often ventures into the unknown. It’s a space where the bold are not bound by the shackles of definitions. Recently, it so happened that some adventurous bloke dressed in an immaculate black suit and wielding immense power at Honda Two-Wheelers asked his designers to travel to that creative dimension and promised to infuse life into whatever they came back with. And this is what they brought back with them from the hitherto uncharted part of the creative universe – an alien for the earthly two-wheelers that borrows its name from a tribe that lives on a tree and rides flying dinosaurs.
The Honda Navi isn’t a scooter. It isn’t a motorcycle. Even Honda doesn’t know what it is and are comfortable with the fact that it looks odd. We like this new age spirit, and whatever the Navi is, it made us, and anyone else who looked at it gawk with curiosity. They’re taking a big leap of faith here by putting their trust into a seriously bold product that’s trying to bend our century old perception of what a two-wheeler should look like.
The Navi is akin to some new form of music, unheard of before, but you look at the album cover and your mind has already processed it to be groovy. The Navi as a sketch could be the love child of an adolescent motorcycle and scooter indulging in a casual fling, both high on some contraband during a wild, wild, party.
Until now, we were pronouncing it as Nah-vee, but Honda calls it the Nuh-vee; stands for new in Marathi and also sometimes in Hindi. Talking about Hindi, we were invited to a Bollywood inspired theme park to experience what this likeably unusual thing on two wheels is all about and it sure did excite us more than the thrilling rides all around. Here’s what we came back with.
Design and Style
Ours is a young and rather poor country which heavily depends on two-wheelers to satiate our commuting needs. In contrast with the market’s young age, however, as Honda noticed, majority of those need -fulfilling products are either conventional looking gearless scooters or motorcycles which have continued to look more or less the same for generations.
There has been no cat to pounce among these pigeons and create chaos, tear a few feathers. Which is exactly what the Honda Navi intends to do; offer some colour in a dry, featureless space and lure the youth and the young at heart alike.
The Navi might look like a newborn motorcycle with its petite dimensions, but don’t be fooled, as the seat and handlebar height is similar to the Activa.
Starting from the front, a smart looking vertical headlight is wrapped in a plastic housing finished in a shade of titanium. Like the bike, it is pretty playful in the dark as the low beam lights up the road quite alright, but the high beam insists on lighting up bird nests.
Everything else at the front is blacked out, including the rubberized veil for the front telescopic suspension and the 12″ wheel.
A drab looking, extremely dated speedometer and lamps for high beam and trafficators are the only instruments on board. There isn’t any new age activity happening here, nothing to tell how much fuel in the 3.8l tank is left either – there’s the good old reserve though.
The handlebar that resembles the cross section of a rather deep trough gets a cross-bar section to maintain rigidity and is the only piece of shine on the Navi.
Switchgear is functional and as need-based as it can be
The fuel tank opening is housed under a plastic cover that gets faux carbon fiber finish, and feels a bit more loose than what we’d expect from Honda. It would flex if we’d turn the key to open it with some force, but it fits flush with the tank.
The tank itself along with the side panels is a single unit that succeeds in a creating a visual impression of a motorcycle. An interesting ‘V’ shaped pattern originates from a circular fulcrum on the Navi, where one side gets an anodized finish and resembles a USB stick.
That tank pad you see above that though, is optional.
Which now brings us to the big see-through window underneath, for which Honda will have to answer some curious questions that will come their way. We say that because a lot of people mistook the Navi for an electric scoot, just because they’d think there isn’t an engine where they’re used to see one.
There isn’t any storage box or panels on the options list for now, but we hope it’ll change. That space can hardly accommodate a full sized helmet, even when you feel brave enough to hold it there between your feet. There isn’t an old fashioned hook in there to hang your bag full of bread and eggs either.
The rear of the moto-scoot is swept upwards, however, the seat stays flat and dips on the sides to maintain form. The Navi’s seat sort of narrows down towards the back, and as a result, tall, wide passengers can’t stay there for too long.
The borrowed motor from the Activa sits in its usual place, just that those bulging side panels it used to be covered under have gone missing.
A stubby exhaust to the right and a single spring loaded hydraulic type suspension on the left complete the picture along with a silver finished footboard and a camouflaged saree guard.
The tail lamp isn’t a stunner, but has been borrowed from the now discontinued product, and since the rear 10″ wheel is closely hugged by a blacked out mudguard, the registration plate sits high and helps the tail look tidy.
As a product, the Navi looks unusual, but in an interesting and endearing manner. A majority of people, and when we say majority, almost everyone who had this thing in their field of vision, gave a big thumbs up to the design. People would stop in their tracks and give this thing a good look. Build quality if not exceptional, is great considering the price and there isn’t much to complain about, unless one nitpicks.
How does it ride?
So you sit on the Navi rather than in it, and it feels pretty comfortable, as a near motorcycle like stance and a tank between your thighs do fool you into believing that you’re riding one. Just that you have to remind yourself that there isn’t a foot operated rear brake.
It takes off in a sprightly manner from standstill and there is a decent amount of punch in the mid range which extends right till the Navi hits its speedometer indicated 85 kph top speed. Since it is 7 kilos lighter than the Activa, there is a perceived amount of additional fizz one experiences when compared to the ever so popular scoot.
Two up though, a little more grunt in the lower band would’ve made things more crisp, which becomes more pronounced when you hit a patch that goes uphill. But since peak power of 7.8 bhp comes in at a rather revvy 7000 clicks, you can keep the throttle pinned and the Navi will happily stay around the 80 kph mark for extended durations.
Tipping the scales at 101 kilos, the Navi wafts around like a happily wandering feather. It is joyously flickable and changes directions like a bee. The lack of bodywork or a motor up front makes the steering super light, but since the front wheel has a smaller diameter when compared to conventional motorcycles, and sits low, things don’t really get as flighty as one would experience on some commuter motorbikes.
On the move, it doesn’t feel all locked down, but that effervescence which comes from the lack of weight is such a laugh, you can dodge potholes like God. Ride quality is slightly firm in a good way, the Navi positively riding over undulations even at higher speeds. There isn’t any scooter-like judder that gets transported back to the handlebar thanks to the motorcycle like front setup.
While riding, we noticed if you have big feet, your left heel fouls with the side stand’s protrusion. Also, you can place your feet on the rear pegs and add a little zing to your ride, but then the center stand will start kissing the ground if you get too enthusiastic.
Pass a truck or let one pass you, and the Navi sways a little, which is understandable, but what would’ve been an irritant otherwise, is such a giggle on this thing because everything stays so manageable and under your control at all times. This thing is a riot in traffic and is a really sharp commuting tool. It’ll be completely at home in the chaotic alleys of Chandni Chowk in Delhi, or any such claustrophobic environs that dot our cities. For the one’s who’re curious, the Navi returned a figure of 42 kpl, as we scurried through rush hour Bombay traffic.
Drum brakes at both ends do their job fairly well, but the Navi doesn’t get any Combi braking tech to keep costs low. The front feels extremely wooden and it’ll be nice if Honda throws in a little disc in the options list.
So is it a bike or a scoot?
Do you care? Because you shouldn’t and it doesn’t really matter. You see some things break monotony and convention. There are things which seem absurd while doing that, while some other bring novelty and a fresh new perspective. The Honda Navi is the latter.
For now, it isn’t really sure about its identity and it doesn’t really care, but for that carelessness and being different and outlandish in its approach, it sure is an adorable, gutsy little thing that commands applause.
Conceived, designed and made in India, the Honda Navi is so much like us. A new generation that doesn’t subscribe to stale ideas, or nod heads to what’s been told. These minds question the status quo, they question existence and their purpose of being. But while doing all that, they still have fun and that is perhaps what inspired this idea called Nuh-vee. It is refreshingly youthful, vibrant and adds that missing fizz to a segment which in its current state looks like an aerated drink gone flat.
Price as tested: Rs 39,500 (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
Some observations, tech specs and loads of images:
The Navi gets tubeless tyres. Our test bike came wrapped in Ceat rubber, which provided decent levels of grip. We’d pick one with those Zappers though
You need to remind yourself that there aren’t any foot operated levers. Hence those stickers
The brake lock looks pretty crude and rudimentary
Because you can if you’re a fan
Because someone’s still hungover on heroic graphics