Honda shook the auto world earlier this year when it unveiled the Navi first time at the Auto Expo. It was unlike anything the two—wheeler industry had seen in a long time. It got many a lot excited while a few others just didn’t know how to react. What was this? It didn’t look like a scooter but we were told it would use the Activa’s engine. It looked like a mini—bike but was gearless. When asked the Japanese two—wheeler maker just said, call it whatever you like. In fact in their marketing campaign they went a step further and called its looks odd. But the biggest catch was its price. A promised staring price of under Rs. 40,000 for a two—wheeler that promised to resolve most urban commuting woes was too good to be true. So when I finally got a chance to lay my hands on the Navi in the maddening city that is called Mumbai, it made me more eager than many bigger more powerful bikes I’ve ridden.
The Navi’s biggest asset is the way it looks. Its attractive, it’s approachable and it’s unique. Though it is just a redesigned Activa, the designers at Honda have done a great job in making it look as distinct from India’s largest selling scooter as possible. The dimensions aren’t big but the Navi is well proportioned. The hexagonal headlamp looks old school yet does the job pretty well. The design and integration of the fuel tank is very impressive as it comes in a dual color theme along with a silver plastic cladding. On the side of the tank you can also spot a fuel knob as there is no fuel indicator on the instrument cluster. The cluster itself is basic and could’ve had a more premium feel. Things like the tail lamp and instrument switches have been borrowed from a few other Honda commuter bikes. The tank pads and the crash guards are good safety bits added to the Navi.
The engine is the same that is used in the Honda Activa. It’s a 110 cc air cooled motor that churns out a maximum power of 8 bhp. The good thing is that when compared to the Activa the Navi is lighter by 7 kgs which makes for a better power to weight ratio. That means the ride on the Navi a bit more fun than what it is on the Activa. The reliable Honda Eco technology or HET ensures a good fuel efficiency as it does on many other bikes and scooters from the brand. One of my biggest concerns on the Navi was the saddle height, but once I got on it the raised handlebar and the perfect foot peg position made things simpler. A slightly larger wheelbase when compared to the Activa also doesn’t hamper the way it rides in the city traffic. A 12—inch wheel size is just right but alloys could’ve made it aesthically better. There’s a kick start too akin the Activa but its position sometimes interferes with the main stand.
A slightly larger wheelbase when compared to the Activa also doesn’t hamper the way it rides in the city traffic. A 12-inch wheel size is just right but alloys could’ve made it aesthically better. There’s a kick start too akin the Activa but its position sometimes interferes with the main stand.
Ride & Handling
Though the heart is the Activa, the Navi behaves like a motorcycle from the word go. The handling characteristics are definitely superior and that means maneuvering through the urban chaos is a little easier. What is not superior when compared to the Activa is the ride quality as the Navi uses the same suspension setup. The ride is smooth as long as the road is good, but taking on the potholes and going over the speed breakers cannot be termed as fun on the Navi. There are drum brakes on both the wheels and the efficient combined braking system from Honda is not even offered as an option. But the good thing is that a brake lock is present on the Navi. The pillion foot peg position may interfere with the rider many a times. And finally the small turning radius is a joy in the city.
Without a doubt Honda has taken a drastically different path with the Navi. I still don’t know if I should call it a scooter or a motorcycle as for me it combines the best bits of both and makes for a compelling ride. An automatic scooter’s convenience along with riding dynamics of a bike is what many urban commuters would desire. There are also some nice customization options on offer and Honda is encouraging Navi buyers to try them out. At around Rs. 6,000 more over the price of the bike there are interchangeable panels, crash guards, visor and an under body guard. In any case at starting price of Rs. 39,500 ex—showroom, the Navi more than works for the most city dwellers.
Shams Naqvi is an anchor/producer for the News X motor show Living Cars.