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Test riding the Honda Navi

Is it a scooter? Is it a motorcycle? Whatever it is, with the Navi it's always a case of love at first sight

Once in a blue moon, one comes across something that doesn’t fit any preconceived notions. A strange hybrid that has been created to merge a scooter’s soul in the body of a motorcycle, the Honda Navi (pronounced Nu-vee) is a totally out-of-the-box concept. It’s so unique that the average human, which is used to classifying two-wheelers either as a motorcycle or a scooter, has grave difficulties placing the Navi. On the ride back to Pune from Khopoli, we saw throngs of curious folk saunter up to the Navi and then spend the rest of their time looking for the gear lever.

Everything about this little thing is very funky, from the way it looks to the five colour options available to the customer. Not to mention the array of optional accessories on offer (for a price of course). Perhaps the only two things we didn’t like much were the instrumentation and the fuel filler flap. For a bike this cool, the single dial of the speedo housing the lamps for high beam and turn signal indicator is just too plain Jane. The Navi begged a more contemporary instrumentation. The plastic fuel filler flap, below which hides the real tank cap, too feels flimsy and built to a cost. Again, on a machine that redefines cool, a better-finished and fitting fuel filler cap would only add and not subtract from the bike.


Front forks are upside down units

Dimensionally, even though the Navi seems quite small, it is actually a smidge longer at 1,805 mm than the Activa’s 1,761 mm length. At 156 mm, the Navi’s ground clearance is a fraction higher as well. Saddle height however is identical at 765 mm. But why are we suddenly talking about the Activa? Well, you see under the Navi’s motorcycle skin, it is actually a somewhat tweaked Activa.

Headlamp design is contemporary. PICS/Aditya Dhiwar
Headlamp design is contemporary. Pics/Aditya Dhiwar

Apart from the chassis, the Navi also borrows the Activa’s 109.2 cc air cooled single coupled to a V-matic transmission. Peak output is rated at 7.94 PS at 7,000 RPM and 8.96 Nm of max torque at 5,500 RPM. Despite the identical output figures, the Navi feels far peppier than the Activa ever did. The reason for this is that the Navi’s kerb weight of 101 kg is lighter than the Activa's 108 kg kerb weight. With its scooter-like operation, the Navi is also great for pottering around urban fun zones.
And where fun is concerned, the diminutive bike delivers by the loads. It’s nimble and agile and you can flick it left or right through a narrow S, pick it up and then repeat the performance at the next narrow S without ever batting an eyelid. Without the mass of a typical scooter weighing on the front suspension and the entire weight of the engine at the rear, the front does feel a little flighty but that isn't really a problem.

Braking duties on the Navi are handled by a pair of 130-mm drums. Strangely enough, the Navi does not have Honda’s signature Combi-brake system, which ensures greater stability (and therefore safety) when under braking. For the most part, braking is a stress-free affair on the Navi. Although Honda is not providing it even as an option for now, we hope the company recognises the constant need for greater safety. The Navi’s intended customer will be someone youthful and someone who is definitely aspiring to look cool. To ride, it's a bike that can leave you smiling at 50 km/h it is so much fun. But what about the cost of style and fun? In Pune, the Honda Navi carries a sticker of R41,045, ex-showroom, which translates into R45,302, on-road, excluding the optional accessories, extended warranty and annual maintenance contract. So where the price-to-value equation is concerned, the bill fits the Navi too.

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