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Text: Sandeep Goswami/ Old Fox
Photos: Sunil Gupta/ Sunilg
That the all-new TVS Scooty Zest 110 is ‘actually’ new and not just a sticker n paint rehash is written all over it. And it is a new product not just physically but also in the way it has been shaped by the market and shall in turn shape it. Read along to know what all goes into making even such a diminutive and ordinary two-wheeler a potential success story in the present era of those never ending demands for more power and performance from anything and everything on wheels.
We were invited for the Chennai launch of the Scooty Zest 110 followed by the first ride experience at TVS’s Hosur plant test track. The Scooty brand-name goes back to 1994 when TVS launched the scooter targeted at both the genders but did a review a couple of years later realizing that more women were buying it than men! And so the Scooty then was repositioned exclusively as a woman’s two-wheeler. And ended up becoming the largest selling women two wheeler brand by notching up 25,000 units sold in a month for a stretch at one time! The Zest 110, a couple of decades later, has also been aggressively positioned as being tailor-made for young women. But a lot of specialized market research and analysis over these 18 years has been the additional spur for this decision. TVS has used what is called the ‘Trigger and Barrier’ study for market research which entails detailed questioning of the target group both for the ‘triggers’ for purchasing the scooter (earning capacity, utility, need for freedom etc) and the ‘barriers’ that hinder the purchase (social restrictions, perception as being unsafe, seen as unnecessary for women in a patriarchal society etc). Of course even the best of surveys and market research eventually depends on its analysis, interpretation and implementation of the findings. For example the ‘triggers’ are the most effective positives to talk about when presenting the product as in advertisements. The barriers are sought to be demolished by the effectivity of the product itself. To further encourage the ‘triggers’ and lessen the power of the ‘barriers’, TVS launched the TVS Scooty Institute way back in 1998 to facilitate rider training for women and girls. The certificate course fee was Rs. 350/- a week and any girl over 16 years of age could take it. The trainers are all TVS certified women riders. Thousands of women have ended up taking the course which still is available in some 80 centers and its details can be accessed at the link here.
Coming back to the Scooty Zest 110, this is a pretty and compact scooter that looks proportionate and welcoming. Neat flowing lines that ostensibly merge the contradictory sharp and curvy elements, it is a statement of practicality with a definite personality. The fit and finish is top notch, the glossy paint, the well fitting plastic embellishments and the all black engine underneath save for that shiny stainless steel exhaust shroud. Solidity in feel is a difficult task to achieve in a scooter especially since it has so much covering the actually ‘solid’ machinery underneath. But the Zest’s plastics do feel robust and should be immune to the age old build quality issues TVS products have been plagued with over the years. In fact this build quality has seen a strong and definite improvement since the Phoenix 125 launch. The Zest has that premium product feel about it though how well it retains it during usage in our dusty, dirty, humid and while running on our ‘violently trafficked’ roads remains to be seen.
Even though the Zest engine comes from the existing Scooty range, it is distinctly tweaked up to be peppy and torquey in its working range and yet return good fuel efficiency to keep the recurring cost of ownership low. The 109cc 8 bhp carbureted single cylinder unit feeds power to the rear wheel through revised ratios in the CVTi automatic transmission, an ‘optimized for flow’ air filter airbox and a stiffened chassis with sharp steering geometry all put together make this 98 kilo light-weight a delight to ride. The acceleration is surprisingly more than you expect from it and has excellent pull till the 60 kph mark (which TVS says is attained in a shade less than 12 seconds). Beyond 60 kph, the speed build up is gradual and peters off at somewhere about the 90 kph indicated mark. Couple the peppiness with an assured 62 kmpl (of course when ridden sanely and not wide-open-throttle), a smooth engine and light weight and you have a definitely likeable urban runabout in your hands.
The rear brake needs to be pulled in for the starter to work. The engine starts and quickly settles to a fast but stable idle. There’s an auto-choke installed to help in cold weather starts. The side-stand has a beeper that sounds if it is deployed while the engine is running. Roll the throttle and the Zest starts rolling, gathering speed quickly, quietly and efficiently. The steering is sharp, thanks to the steep geometry and short wheelbase, but there is no adverse effect of this sharpness on straight line stability. For a motorcyclist, the Zest steers on the mere thought of a steering input but in the world of scooters, this is just the way it is. The front telescopic fork and the rear mono-shock with that single-sided swing arm make for a great combination of secure handling and good comfort for the rider. The rear did not bottom out even when we hit a substantial dip in the test track at around 70 kph riding 2-up. Which probably is as good as it gets. Ground clearance during high speed turns appeared less with the main stand grinding away at times but then that’s not the way the vehicle is meant to be ridden anyways. It’s a daily runabout, a true blue commuter and not a performance machine.
The drum brakes at both are good despite an unusual quirk associated with them. The front drum at 110mm is smaller in diameter to the rear at 130mm! It is usually the other way round with most 2-wheelers. And the same reversed logic gets applied to the tyres (tubeless which is another big plus) too with the front being wider at 100mm than the rear at 90mm! Topsy turvy huh? The reason for this cited by the technical development team being that scooters by virtue of their design (engine at the rear etc) are rear weight biased which only gets worse when a pillion joins in. And hence the rear brake is a lot more effective in retardation than the front (remember friction or traction, if you please, increases in direct proportion to the load on the tyre). That explains the bigger rear drum but what about the wider front tyre? Again the same rear weight bias requiring a wider front to compensate for the low weight transfer under maneuvers and braking. The wide front should make the steering heavier but this does not happen mainly because of the steep rake, short trail and good leverage from the wide handlebars. Braking even with the drums is good and we did not detect any tendency to fade from repeated use. The scooty felt stable and composed even during attempted panic stops.
Talking of ‘width’, the Zest’s seat is probably the widest amongst all small scooters and definitely so among motorcycles. The foam is density tailored to avoid pressure points and even-out the load across the entire seat surface. The seat cover is a breathable synthetic non-slip type materiel and double stitched not just to look good but to stay good longer. I wish I could have something even close to this on my Duke 200. And at 760 mm high, the seat height is just right for any rider between 5ft and 6ft. The wide gap between the seat and the handlebar aiding this accommodation of varying rider physique. The textured non-slip foot board does away with the need for rubber floor mats and similar pattern finds its place on the funky looking front glove compartment. There’s ample storage with the 19 ltr under-seat one being the best of the lot what with that squarish shape and clean insides except for a small bump. There’s also a retractable bag hook under the handlebar and another fixed one under the seat. And a helmet lock is provided too. There are also plans to give a 12v socket under the seat. The one negative here is the angle at which the seat opens up. Near vertical, it has to be held up with one hand or it drops shut. Ensuring it opens to an angle a little beyond the vertical is needed. The foot-rests fold backwards into their recesses, their backward folding helping the rider avoid chaffed calves as she walks the scooter around, say while parking it. Upward folding ones hit the calves or ankles.
Switchgear clusters are painted and have an up-market feel about them. Lights are good, the 35w headlamp with the multi-plane reflector seems bright enough. The tail lamp/brake light combo is a long life low load LED cluster while the flashers have bulbs in them. The fuel tank can swallow 5 ltrs of the amber liquid and take you around for a little more than 300 kms. Nothing exceptional but then much the norm in the class. The body coloured leaf-shaped mirrors are vibration free and offer a good view of the rear. The low effort ‘EaZy’ centre-stand is another plus and that light throttle should find appeal with the ladies. The back-lit instrument cluster has a speedo and a fuel gauge. Alongwith the tell tale lights come the ‘power’ and ‘economy’ mode lights. The ‘power’ indicator starts blinking if the engine idles for a little more than a minute urging the rider to switch it off and start when ready to move. The provision of a kick start in addition to the electric start is a good thing as all back-ups usually are. The small ‘clip type’ parking brake that holds the rear brake pressed is a well-tried piece (I remember using it on the Kinetic Honda 20 years ago) that should find a place on every scooter.
So how good is it? Pretty good and does the job very well. Only for the girls? Not necessarily – the boys too can have as much fun on it and also revel in its undiluted practicality. Will it sell? Why not and going by what the competition offers, the Scooty Zest 110 is either mostly at par with them or better and so it should. Would I buy it/ if I needed an auto-geared scooter, I would.
Price: 42,300 INR ex-showroom Delhi
Type: Single cylinder 4 stroke, CVTi air cooled engine
Displacement: 109.7 cc
Power in KW @ rpm: 5.9 @ 7500
Torque in Nm @ rpm: 8.8 @ 5500
Wheelbase: 1250 mm
(L x W x H) (mm x mm x mm): 1770 x 660 x 1139
Kerb Weight: 98.5 kg
Seat Height: 760 mm
Tyre Size FR: 90 / 100 – 10, Tubeless
Tyre Size RR: 90 / 90 – 10, Tubeless
Brake: Drum Front 110 mm
Brake: Drum Rear 130 mm
Rear: Double rated Hydraulic Mono Shock
Ignition Systems: Digital IDI Ignition
Battery: 12 V, 5 Ah
Headlamp: 12 V, 35 / 35 W
Tail Lamp / Brake Lamp: 12 V, 3W (LED)
Turn Signal Lamp: 12 V, 10 W
Fuel Tank Capacity: 5 Litres