The name Activa is nothing short of a revolution in Indian two-wheeler history. While the Hero Honda CBZ ushered in an era of performance motorcycling, the Honda Activa has gone from segment reviver to industry leader. In some months it even beat the Hero Splendor to get the tag of best selling two wheeler in India. Honda launched the next leap for the name in the form of the Activa 125 this April. We take it for a quick spin to see if it makes for a worthy proposition.
The Honda Activa 125 doesn’t look as unique as we’d like, but is still a well crafted machine
Design & Styling
One look at the Activa 125 and you will rub your eyes, look at the brand logo once again to make sure you didn’t see the word Hero on there. The design of the Hero Maestro has been mimicked almost entirely. The black gloss finish on the top visor, similar apron, flat, slimming panels on the side make it look very similar to its all Indian cousin.
The apron gets a big chrome embellishment that adds a certain class and sharpness to the front. The clear lens indicator lights are very large and have a strong role to play in the styling. In essence, the front end has strong similarities to the Aviator and the focus is more on the front panel than the headlamp cluster. At the back the indicator lights and tail light blend in seamlessly and the look is very similar to the Maestro here too, except for the way the tail lamp surrounds the indicators at the top.
The Activa 125 looks far too similar to the Hero Maestro
The pillion grab rail is a large one, but doesn’t quite complement the looks of the scooter. The Activa 125 is supposed to be a step up from the 110 and the grey colour rail seems too pedestrian. The grab rail on the Suzuki Access 125 for example, has a spoiler like ascension to it and gives it a sporty touch, although given the choice between the Access and Activa 125, we’d pick the Honda for its styling.
The instrument cluster is visually appealing and the digital analogue blend has been executed well. Only the speedometer is analogue, while the trip meter, fuel bars and odometer are digital. The indicator warning lights have individually designated sections on either side and they are easily tangible even under harsh day light. At night they’re bright enough to work as runway landing lights. The switchgear quality is decent as well, but there still isn’t a designated dipper switch. We were riding the Activa 125 Deluxe variant, so we got the 190 mm front disk brake along with the 5-spoke alloy wheels. The alloy wheels look a lot better than the steel and give the Activa 125 a more upmarket appeal.
The throttle response and graduation through the speedo have a very familiar feel. Like the 110cc Activa, the 125 takes about 2 seconds to really get pacing from a standstill. There is a momentary lag before the belt paces through and you hit 50 km/h before you know it. 75 km/h is managed respectably before the signs of struggle start to creep in. The test model was still an infant and we expect performance to improve after the first two service intervals.
Initial punch is where the Activa 125 leaves rivals behind
The 125cc four-stroke engine produces a maximum power output of 8.6 hp at 6,500 rpm (0.6 hp more than the 110cc Activa) and 10.12 Nm of peak torque at 5,500 rpm (1.38 Nm more than the 110cc Activa) making it the most powerful Honda automatic scooter sold here. The transmission is the same CVT automatic unit. Honda claims a mileage figure of 60 Km/l . The real world figures we got were around 52 km/l with a balance of economy and throttle stuck riding. Honda has made the use of lighter componentry in the Activa 125’s powertrain to reduce wear and improve engine life along with efficiency. This also gives the scooter a less throaty exhaust note and it sounds more fine tuned.
Overall performance isn’t leaps and bounds ahead of the 110cc Activa. With an increase of around 15cc, Honda has managed to particularly improve the torque quite well and the result is a scooter that skims through traffic in a more eager manner. The Activa 125 is more zippy and the difference between it and its lesser sibling though small, is very noticeable. With 1 out of 4 two wheelers sold in India being a scooter, the only way for the segment’s displacement to go is up. The Activa 125 makes for a good upgrade, but don’t expect the more powerful engine to move mountains in comparison.
Ride quality, Brakes and Handling
The Activa 125 rides and handles rather similarly to the 110. Bad road ability is decent, but the ride is on the stiff side. Moderately uneven roads make the 125 seem rather flimsy after you’ve crossed the 45 km/h mark. Speeding up can result in a very bouncy ride and it is a little too light on its feet. Compared to the Vespa S 125, the Activa is a more eager performer and can zip through traffic better as well, but it lacks composure. At higher speeds though, the Activa 125 is more confident as the Vespa feels a lot more bulky to take sharp turns without second guessing yourself. The excited suspension makes the steering feel rather disconnected, but only if you compare it to the Vespa.
The 190mm front disc brake works best when combined with the rear brake, to give the rider stable stopping power
Overall the ride quality is similar to the 110, but because of the increased initial boost, the Activa 125 seems more delicate when pushed hard. The equation changes massively when there’s a pillion involved as the suspension (front telescopic, rear monoshock) dampening improves for calmer riding and lowers the recoil to a large extent. One thing to watch for at high speeds is the main stand as it whacks against the road rather easily if you’re going fast enough.
Handling the Activa 125 at low speeds is hassle free, but one flaw is its inability to hold a line with conviction. The aforementioned lightness to the ride makes it very easy to wiggle around, but while that makes for a good proposition from a utilitarian perspective, it isn’t as likeable to just lazily cruise around in. Low speeds can’t be managed involuntarily and you’ll find yourself putting in mild, but consistent inputs to make it lock a path.
The Combi brake system though, put a good smile on our face. We had the 190mm disk on the test model and Honda has executed the combined brake system very well. The front brake stand-alone offers good stopping power, but works best when combined with the rear brake. The front 12-inch and rear 10-inch tubeless tyres provide a good amount of traction and even on roads affected by light rains, the Activa 125 inspires more confidence in grip.
The seat offers a good amount of support even for riders on the heavier side. Two passengers of up to 6ft of height can fit onto the Activa 125 decently, but anything above that, even for just the rider is not the best idea. At 6.5ft my knees were is quite a fix. Either I had to sit far back and keep paying attention not to hit my knee against the horn or self-starter switch or sit up ahead and constantly put my feet down because even the lightest turn meant the handle bars hitting my leg and made balancing a hassle.
A hindrance that will be very noticeable for riders above 6ft in height, because this will primarily be a peak hour lane splitter. The saving grace and brick-bat that made the ride manageable was the barren foot board and apron. There isn’t any handy cubby hole integrated into the body to store your phone or small luggage. Either you have to make do with the under seat storage of 18 litres or buy an additional inner case for around Rs 1000/-. This was a saving grace because the barren space gave me some room for my legs and brickbat because it ignores a convenience that could have been integrated very easily.
The handle bars arent too high, so riders with long legs will be in a fix
The seat is long, wide and soft enough for the average user
The seat itself is slightly on the soft side and even after prolonged riding, a sore rear was never an issue. The rear monoshock suspension has a lot to do with this. The pillion grab rail though big and unflattering, does a good job of supporting the passenger and unlike the Vespa, sitting at the back is not a scary experience. For the average Indian buyer, the Activa 125’s seat will be more than adequate. The overall ride sensitivity is something you get used to in time and the Activa 125’s suspension and seat combination will see it supporting you well during in city travel.
A full size helmet will fit in, but anything more will have to dangle from the under seat hook
The amber lighting it a nice touch
The Honda Activa makes for a good upgrade over the Activa 110. The bump up in power isn’t colossal, but enough to make a difference in short circuit riding. Overtakes can be performed with more confidence, the lift off is noticeably better, the front telescopic suspension bodes well for manoeuvrability and the Activa 125 is very light-felt and peppy. If you are more of a slow paced rider, an offering from the Vespa stable will serve you better. However, the Activa 125’s charged up initial punch and ability to manage city riding with a certain ferocity, combined with Honda’s reliability make it a great offering an a legitimate upgrade from the Activa 110.
The Activa is priced around Rs 58,131/- while the Activa 125 STD is priced at Rs 65,023/-. The gap is of just under Rs 7000 and for that you do get a decent upgrade. Opt for the Deluxe variant with alloy wheels and a disk brake and the price comes in at Rs 71,525/-. Honda’s trusted name, familiar quality and service support make the Activa 125 a good choice for a first time buyer or a person looking to upgrade from his trusty old moped, but doesn’t want to waiver from the tried and tested Activa name.
Check out the complete image gallery below:
Honda moved 1,91,879 units of the Activa in July 2014
The new Mahindra scooter seems to borrow generously from the styling of the Honda Activa