(Photography: Pawan Dagia)
Much like that nerdy classmate of yours back in school, automatic scooters weren't the most popular lot when they first arrived in the market a little over two decades ago. Yes, they were convenient and practical, but did not exactly look cool or were pleasurable to ride as motorcycles. However, two decades later, times have changed. The supposed "nerds" call the shots now in the real world and things are similar in the scooter segment, which has witnessed exponential growth over the years.
Today, scooters are quite neck-to-neck in terms of sales with motorcycles and a larger part of that volume comes from the highly popular 110cc segment models. Hence, it is not surprising that three of the most selling scooters in the country - Honda Activa 3G, TVS Jupiter and the Hero Maestro Edge belong to this segment. Despite being part of the same ensemble, do the three scooters individually have something special to offer? That is the answer we find out in today's shootout.
Design and Style
At first glance, it is hard to differentiate one scooter from the other. All three scooters have similar dimensions and the design on either isn't as radical as you would've hoped. However, this is where the Hero Maestro Edge shines and stands out easily over its rivals without trying too hard. The character lines are sharp and add depth to the scooter's bodywork. Then there are the black finished alloy wheels as well as gunmetal finished exhaust muffler, complimented by some exclusive bits like the body-coloured rear grab handle and two-tone rearview mirrors. It is also the only scooter in this comparison to get an LED tail lamp, and identifying one from a distance is hardly an issue, given the V-shaped design. Our test scooter is finished in a matte blue finished shade, which further adds to its good looks turning more heads than usual.
In comparison, the Honda Activa 3G and TVS Jupiter follow a more neutral design language. The Activa, being the oldest here, has set the benchmark design for scooters and that does rub off on the Jupiter as well. The latter though gets some interesting elements of its own with the wider body, neatly styled side panel and black finished alloy wheels. In this comparison, the Activa is the only scooter to still run on conventional steel wheels.
Both scooters try hard to please a larger set of customers and while there is nothing wrong with that, it does little to help the create a unique identity of the model. That said, our Activa 3G is finished in a splendid shade of metallic red, which is certainly a colour we'd like to see more often on roads. The matte grey finished Jupiter isn't really a head turner, but the light blue and beige shades offered by TVS are unique to the scooter.
Features and Ergonomics
The story remains similar on the features front. Hero MotoCorp has done a good job with the Maestro Edge and you tend to notice that a lot of thought went into the making of the Indian automaker's first self-developed scooter. It is the only scooter in this comparison, and by far also in the segment, to get a semi-digital instrument console loaded with a trip meter and side stand indicator.
The Jupiter, on the other hand, gets thoughtful bits too like the low fuel indicator and dual side handle lock provision. A lot of features tend to remain common on these scooters with the Maestro Edge and Jupiter getting a pass light switch, external fuel filler cap and mobile charger. Although the mobile charging socket isn't offered as standard by TVS. While the Honda Activa 3G misses out on all of these, it does get the Combi-Braking system along with the Maestro.
That said, the plastic quality on the Hero Maestro Edge does leave a lot to be desired. The switchgear does not feel up to the mark and finishing remains a concern. This however, isn't the case on the Jupiter or even the Activa 3G for that matter. Even though the switchgear is basic, it feels well put together. All three scooters are comfortable to ride with an upright seating position and a flat floor board. Ergonomics on the Jupiter are spot-on and the scooter feels the most accommodating, appealing to riders of all sizes. The Honda Activa and Hero Maestro Edge follow closely, ranking on almost similar levels. That said, tall riders will appreciate the Maestro Edge in particular.
With the exception of the Jupiter, neither models can fit a full size helmet in its under seat storage, but you do get other provisions like the bag hooks near the floor board to saddle your average laptop bag/bag pack.
Engine, Gearbox and Performance
The three scooters boast of similar capacity engines with the Maestro Edge producing 8.31hp and 8.3Nm of torque, the Activa 3G churning out 8hp and 8.83Nm of torque, whereas the Jupiter belts out 8hp and 8Nm of torque. But, there is a lot that differentiates each of the scooters in the real world.
The Honda Activa for the longest time has been the go to scooter for the masses, and you know the reason as soon as you hit the start button. The motor is extremely refined and revs freely with little to complain about. With a kerb weight of 108 kg, it is reasonably quick off the line too. The other motor to have really impressed us is the Jupiter's. TVS deserves a pat on the back for the refinement levels on this engine, which is further complemented by the 107 kg kerb weight. Not only does it possess the ideal low end power making it the quickest out of all three, the Jupiter is equally refined near redline with the least amount of vibes translating to the rider.
As much as we were impressed with the Honda and TVS offerings, the Hero Maestro Edge left a lot to be desired. The scooter gets Hero's first self-developed engine, but the mill lacks refinement when compared to its rivals and is also the most audible engine. You also lose out on low-end power in the process. Unlike the Jupiter and Activa, power kicks in at 8000rpm (500rpm later) on the new Maestro, while the higher kerb weight of 110 kg does not help either. What you do get though is an appreciable mid-range and the Hero scooter also tends to hold on to the top-end of the power band a little longer than its rivals.
Being the quintessential automatics, gear shifts feel seamless on all three scooters. The higher power band on the Maestro does mean that you hit the top speed a little over 85 kmph, while the other two scooters feel out of breath at a little over 80 kmph. Primarily aimed at city riding, all three scooters feel home between the 45-70 kmph mark, while also a returning a higher fuel efficiency figure.
Ride, Handling and Braking
Ride quality takes priority on scooters, when compared to performance. All three models offer comfortable seats that can hold the rider and pillion with ease, while the suspension too is tuned to tackle bad roads in a bid to offer a pliant ride. All models excel in this regard, but the Jupiter does stand out more effectively of all. It is the most balanced of all three and also feels home when around a bend. While you won't hit the apex on a scooter, it is confidence inspiring knowing that your scooter will take it in with stride.
The Honda Activa and Hero Maestro Edge offer similar levels of comfort, the seats are long and wide, whereas handling isn't the strongest suit of either scooters. The heavier Maestro though, does feel more stable at high speeds, giving it an edge over rivals.
The Maestro Edge and Activa are equipped with the combined braking system, which ensure hard braking is controlled in a much efficient manner. Both scooters also ride on the same MRF-sourced tyres, which offer appreciative grip on tarmac. The Jupiter misses out on the combined braking system, but has decent stopping power from the 130mm drum brakes. The scooter also rides on TVS sourced tyres that provide decent grip.
Contrary to their motorcycle counterparts sporting similar engine capacities, scooters aren't the most fuel efficient in nature, courtesy of the automatic transmission, which, of course, makes for the hassle free city riding. As a result, all three scooters are at best capable of returning an average of 45-50 km/l. The fuel tank capacity also remains similar with the Maestro Edge getting the largest unit holding up to 5.5-litres, whereas the Activa 3G and Jupiter hold 5.3-litres and 5-litres respectively.
As we said earlier, the "nerds" are having the last laugh in the real world, and scooters too enjoy a similar position in today's two-wheeler market. At the end of the day, you won't go wrong even if you choose any one of these scooters.
The most expensive scooter in this shootout is also the newest. The range-topping Hero Maestro Edge is priced at ₹ 50,700 (ex-showroom Delhi) and offers a lot of features. Loaded to the brink, coupled with Hero's low cost servicing, the Maestro Edge may seem to be a logical choice, let down by the feeling of 'lack of power' lower down in the rev range.
Sure, it feels new, has a long list of handy features and gets a sound backing from Hero's reputed sales and service network. Still, compared to the rivals, the Maestro Edge feels a tad slow and the engine also doesn't feel as refined. So, despite being the new kid on the block, the Maestro Edge takes last place in this shootout, but only just about.
The TVS Jupiter, priced at Rs 50,512 (ex-showroom Delhi) for the top-end ZX trim, is the second most expensive scooter in this shootout. And it excels on several fronts, while losing out on some. A refined engine and decent storage space certainly makes the Jupiter tick all the right boxes for prospective buyers. But it loses out on the extensive sales and service network provided by Hero or Honda.
Honda's workhorse - the Activa 3G - turns out to be the cheapest, priced at Rs 49,500. If it's pure value for money one is looking for, there's nothing quite like the Activa 3G, supported by Honda's strong sales and service network. However, the more affordable price tag also means you miss out on several features that the competition provides.
Given its popularity, the Honda Activa 3G seems almost impossible to dethrone. Logically, there's nothing wrong with the Activa 3G - it's well built, has a great engine and still feels and performs upto expectations. The competition however, is getting better and better and given the utilitarian nature of the automatic scooter segment, it's difficult to ignore features and design elements which certainly will appeal to the average buyer. Here is a complete lowdown on all three models of the Activa.
As things stand, in this shootout, it's the TVS Jupiter which stands out as the winner, nudging out the Activa 3G. But it also needs a more comprehensive update to stick around at the top.