The Honda Navi ushers in an entirely new class of two-wheeler in the country. But will its radically different positioning prove to be its undoing too, or will it stand up tall against the wildly popular Honda Activa 3G, the scooter it shares its heart with? Team BikeDekho finds out.
Sad as it is, growing up in life is all about making compromises here and there. Where we all would like to jump on the latest 200cc-plus bike as soon as we lay our hands on our first driving license, reality has a habit of bringing us down to earth. More often than not, we are still dependant on our parents’ graces not just for buying our first pair of wheels, but for their fuel and daily running costs. Then there’s the fact that parents view motorcycles as inherently dangerous -- the more powerful it is, the more dangerous it is too.
Which is why, more often than not, we are left with scooters as our first pair of motorised transport in the country. But there’s a new kid on the block, and it is something we have never seen before in the country. Meet the Honda Navi.
Sure, it shares its engine with the tried and tested and wildly popular Honda Activa 3G, but does that -- and the reassuring Honda badge -- guarantee it success in our infuriatingly conservative market? That’s what we find out in this comparison.
You may deride the Navi’s cute and unintimidating stance at first glance but there’s no denying that it is a striking machine through and through. The all-new hexagonal lamp, the dash of colour on single-piece tank and side panels and the gaping hole in place of the engine under the tank, all play their part in the Navi’s uniqueness. The wheels, forks, engine and exhaust are coloured in contrasting black hues while the tail lamp, borrowed from the Stunner 125, blends in seamlessly, to one’s surprise.
Against this inexplicably gorgeous machine, the Activa sort of disappears in the crowd. Nonetheless, it’s something that is aimed at a larger audience and most moms and sisters would prefer it over the Navi any day for its dynamic design, conventional scooter-like sitting position, premium headlights integrated into the handle bar unit, 3D chrome badging and informative instrument cluster; all of this on a sturdy metallic body.
Apart from the motorcycle features that are obviously missing from the Navi, it combines the best of both worlds. The fuel tank is positioned conventionally between your legs, just like a bike, and the accompanying fuel inlet does not even require you to get off it while refuelling. A fuel gauge though is missed on the rather simple console, but an old-school reserve fuel knob on the Navi comes in as a breather.
For some riders, Navi's two key-holes -- one for locking the saddle and one for ignition might be confusing initially.
The bummers include no pass light button on an average switch gear, the absence of a kill switch and alloys, all of which would definitely have made the Navi cooler. Myriad customisation options (to be offered soon) though will give you the chance to experiment further with the looks of the mini bike.
The Activa, on the other hand comes with a comparable, if not higher, set of features, including the monoshock rear suspension and tubeless tyres. Where the Activa just edges out its rival cousin is a relatively cavernous storage space with an under-seat compartment that’s good for a half-face helmet, adjacent hooks and (like the Navi) an optional storage box. The combi-brake system also is a major plus for the Activa when it comes to safety.
On the roads
At 101 kg, the Navi weighs a full seven kilos lesser than the Activa. Combine this with the sleeker design of the Navi and that would explain why it takes off from dead halt quicker than the latter (despite the same 109.2cc 4-cylinder air-cooled engine that is good for 8.1PS and 8.8Nm on both bikes). Beyond speeds of 60-65kmph though, the Navi’s engine starts sounding gruff and the vibrations can be felt through the seat.
Thanks to 12-inch front wheels, the Navi lets you twist and turn at ease in Mumbai-like traffic conditions. With telescopic forks on the front, the ride quality feels extremely supple. The drum brakes are good enough to decelerate from flying speeds, though a combi-brake system could have been employed.
As for the Activa, the ride feels a little stiffer once you’ve been on the Navi; largely due to its old-school trailing link front suspension setup. Braking performance on the Activa is much better as the scooter sheds speed effortlessly while the combi-braking system watches your back if you do get into sticky situations. Overall, it remains to be one of the best scooters around.
Living with it
It would only be fair to judge the two Hondas on everyday practicality after putting them through a string of tasks that we face in our day-to-day lives. So when in possession of the two-wheelers, we did just that -- identified certain ‘daily challenges’, and executed them on Mumbai’s busy streets.
The Navi features a longer seat than the Activa, which has a wider cushion under your backside. So, we picked up the ‘biggest’ members of our team, and rode pillion with them to find out what is more comfortable among the two. While the position of your buttocks is similar in both instances, the rear footpegs on the Navi are rather closely positioned to the front ones. As a result, the pillion’s shoes are constantly kicking the rider. However, on a first date, the closer the better. No?
Next, it was time to refuel and it gave us the opportunity to find out how easily the Navi can be fed and fled on. You can remain seated on it, simply twist the key of the fuel tank lid, fill it up and take off. On the other hand, the Activa takes at least half a minute more by demanding you to get off it, lift the seat, open the under-seat fuel tank lid and then go about your business. Too less scope on this one if you’re running late for a college lecture.
With tanks full, we then took both the Hondas out for long-ish rides to find out whether the Navi undercuts the Activa on fuel efficiency. On both highway and city riding conditions, the Navi actually emerged victorious by returning 62km for a litre while the Activa burned a litre of petrol for 56km. The disadvantage with the Navi however is its tinier 3.8-litre fuel tank, which would run for far less than the Activa’s 5.3-litre reservoir. It means more visits to the bunk with the Navi.
Finally, it was time for shopping. Grocery shopping, I mean. At the end of ticking off items from a lengthy list that moms toss, you are usually overflowing with items from the shopping bag. The Activa has a hook adjacent to the footboard that allows you to station at least a couple of small bags. The bigger ones can be put away under the seat. However, with the Navi, there is a hardly any room for tidying away, even with the optional storage box. Don't tell your mom about this shortcoming if you're planning to buy a Navi.
Both the two-wheelers are meant for city commutes and efficiently covering people's daily riding requirements. The Navi however will be more suited for a youngster looking to buy her/his first two-wheeler along with keeping the style quotient up. Either if you're getting late for that early morning college lecture or a date with your first crush in college, the Navi will have you covered.
The Navi is also an agile navigator through tough traffic and would also be a handy ride for even young-at-heart middle-aged men. For instance, there was a Navi parked outside a Honda dealership. Upon enquiring, the manager informed me that the 40-something owner of the dealership was himself the owner of that mule. How's that?
But someone like my mom would definitely not prefer riding a Navi for her daily trips and that's where it's restricted. The Activa comes into the picture here as a complete family two-wheeler. Everyone, from the grandparents to the adolescent grandchildren, can jump on its saddle. Just that it won't set a youngster apart from the rest of the crowd on the first day of college.
Both the Navi and Activa 3G come from the stables of the second largest two-wheeler manufacturer in India, so the widespread dealership network and prompt after-sales service should be at par.
Talking money, the Activa is priced at Rs 53,716 while the Navi carries a sticker price of Rs 42,824 (both prices ex-showroom, Mumbai). The heart would rate the Navi higher, on the back of better acceleration, agile characteristics in traffic and the funky styling. What makes its case even stronger is the fact that it is cheaper by almost Rs 11,000; a sum for which a student can get hold of something like a decent smartphone.
But what the Navi lacks is the practicality of the Activa in terms of storage space. The Activa is also among the best reselling two-wheelers in the country, something that remains unanswered with the Navi, as it will have a restricted audience.
As a young college goer, many would be tempted to buy the Navi instead of the Activa. But will it equally impress the gentleman who is going to sign the cheque for it? No harm trying to find that out, is there?