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The TVS Star City Plus Review by xBhp.
Text: Sandeep Goswami/ Old Fox
Photos: Sunil Gupta/ Sunilg
TVS Star City Plus review (Rs. 44,000/- ex-showroom Delhi Self-start and Mag Wheel version)
TVS had a winner on their hands in the Victor more than a decade ago. And the Star City was a study in its kinship when launched way back in 2005. The latter too was what all a small capacity commuter motorcycle is supposed to be in India – frugal and comfortable for everyday use, clockwork reliability, low ownership cost, acceptable aesthetics and a good service network of a known brand. The TVS Star City + is the next evolution of the Star City and the ‘plus’ here, on closer scrutiny, does live up to its name. It was put on static display at the Auto Expo 2014 but it was only now that we had the opportunity of riding this new machine at TVS’s Hosur facility test track and came away quite impressed.
The TVS Star City + oozes sturdiness in its lines, creases and overall finish. The design is not striking in its newness but is one that will age slowly. The bike looks bigger than it actually is and that visual impression adds a feel of solidity. The plastics seem stiff and strong and so will probably be less likely to rattle and squeak once the bike is well used. The proportions of the main elements vis a vis the headlamp, the fuel tank, the seat, the engine bay et al look in sync as does the tyre width and tread pattern though of course there has to be a lot more going into choosing a tyre than just good looks. The handlebar grips are soft yet firm, the dog-leg levers with just the right lever yawn, the switches work with definitive clicks, the white-dial speedo and the rest of the instrument cluster looks nice with the speedo needle doing a full-swing test sweep when the ignition is switched on. The high-gloss paint finish is pretty as is the stickering. The black matt finish over the engine and the single down-tube frame with just a few touches of chrome on the kick-start lever, the shifter lever and the exhaust guard make for good looks. The dual texture seat cover and the sturdy grab rail make for a appealing perch. A neat and functional looking bike.
The heart of the matter lies in the engine of a bike and there’s lots that TVS has in that region. The target has been towards improving the overall efficiency of the machine and as a result there have been some wholesome changes done wrt the Star City. The moly-coated piston, roller type cam followers, lighter crankshaft with improved rigidity and optimized main bearing, optimal flow dynamics through the air-filter, carb, engine ports and exhaust, a projecting spark plug, silent cam chain etc all contribute towards better thermal, volumetric and mechanical efficiency. More about this later. The 109cc single cylinder 4-stroke 2 valve air cooled mill develops 8.3 bhp @ 7000 rpm and a peak torque of 8.7 Nm @ 5000 rpm. The rpm spread between peak power and peak torque makes for good performance through a 4-speed gear box that shifts in the all-up pattern through a heel-toe shifter lever. The clutch is light to operate not just because of lighter springs but also due to improved cable layout and twin bearings at the actuation lever on the engine casing.
The engine starts with a short burst of the starter motor if the clutch lever is pulled in (a good safety measure). Kick staring is also easy with the kick barely going through its full swing before the engine fires up. It quickly settles into a steady and quiet idle. Throttle response to blipping is crisp. The bottom gear engages with a slight ‘thunk’ and a good wide friction zone of the wet multi-plate clutch allows a smooth pick-up. The first 2 gears are quite short, almost a norm in bikes of this category while the top two allow a good spread of road speed across the rpm band. Acceleration is pretty seamless and there was no detectable flat spot anywhere across the entire rpm range. The bike picks up speed well till about 70 kph whereon the acceleration peters off till it hits a maximum speed close to 90 kph or so. The gears engage firmly and there were no missed shifts or any false neutral. It pulls well from crawling speeds in second gear, the engine seamlessly gaining rpm’s in a manner quite unlike what a small engine is expected to. Gradability is good with the TVS test track giving enough range for checking it out with its three radial branches with 4 deg, 7 deg and 10 deg gradients. Only the steepest needed a climb in first gear with a pillion. The others were handled well in second gear.
Straight line stability is great, very reassuring and any attempt to induce a sudden deviation gets damped within half an oscillation. Quite commendable and reveals the rigidity of the chassis, good choice of geometry (rake, trail etc) and tyre choice. The longer wheelbase (longer by 18mm compared to the Star City) and the rigid square section swing arm do their job well. The handlebars provide enough leverage to make the physical handling of the bike, both while riding and while walking it, easy. The main stand is easily accessed but the side-stand access needs some contortion of the left foot to engage and deploy. You mostly need to glance down to get the toe in the right place to drop it. A slightly longer tang would have been better. The footpeg-seat-handle bar relationship is spot on for a commuter. Comfortable while also allowing the rider a positive stance for controlling the bike. The controls and switchgear fall naturally to hand and do the under-foot controls. Braking is adequate, the 130 mm front and 110 mm rear drums doing their best at hauling down the 109 kg (the electric start version – the kick start one is 4 kilos lighter at 105 kg) bike from speed. But discs were sorely missed– yes, even in this very price sensitive category of bikes. A machine capable of 90 kph needs powerful brakes for safety’s sake and there preferably should not be a compromise on that front. Drums this size also inevitably suffer from brake fade in the face of repeated braking. Though one must admit here that the kind of riding done on the test track stressed the bike way beyond what it would go through in its usual commuting ride.
The tyres, with their block pattern tread are quite good and provide excellent grip across the speed and maneuver range. Panic stops were without drama and the test track curve taken at wide-open-throttle in top gear had the bike reassuringly planted even over a few rough patches of tarmac. Low speed maneuverability is great. The twisty special low speed concrete track at the TVS facility was oh! so easy and fun to negotiate on this bike. As for the suspension, it could not have been better – period! Damping is spot-on and the bike handles pretty well anything the road and the rider throw at it as far as bumps, undulations and potholes go. Even when loaded to the gills with a two-rider payload of around 170 kg. The rear shock, with pre-load set at the middle (third) step, did not bottom even once while being deliberately ridden over the special ‘phugoid’ inducing part of the test track (can be described as a series of speed bumps places right next to each other). The series of crests and troughs taken even at 20 kph can bottom out the best of shocks.
The TVS Star City Plus is a definite plus over and above the Star City in every aspect and then some more. With a claimed mileage of around 65 kmpl during a typical customer driving cycle, it reiterates that power and drivability are not mutually exclusive with fuel economy. The Star City Plus offers both and consistently so. The price, yet to be declared, will of course strongly influence how successful the bike eventually turns out to be commercially for TVS.
There has been an interesting backdrop to the unveiling of this motorcycle and it goes on to show how open TVS are about the details of the work their technical development team is doing, both for the present and future models. In a few of the photos that follow, I shall share the things that have been revealed to us over the past few weeks.
The two diagrams above are representative of the fuel consumption pattern of a typical commuter bike like the TVS Star City Plus according to the conditions described at the top of each figure. Such studies help determine what majority usual throttle opening and so the rpm range that will mostly be used in those riding conditions. Each graph above actually represents a certain city in our country. A series of such studies done across numerous cities across the country help define the required engine performance and efficiency characteristics for the developers.
Air flow analysis of the Star City Plus that also shows areas from where engine heat gets dissipated. Air slowing down drastically shows areas producing high drag. Note the high speed air flow between the telescopic forks.
Flow analysis across a section of the bike (the section axis shown in the inset on the right hand bottom corner of the photo).
The noise part of the NVH characteristics. Designers look not just at mechanical noise but also that produced by the combustion of fuel, the flow of air through and around the bike, the tyre noise etc and avoid resonant frequencies such that they sync up at a beat frequency and add to each other in producing more noise than a sum total of the individual reasons would.
Structural analysis of the crankcase with the deep blue showing areas of low stress that can allow the designers to make the component lighter in those areas as less materiel can easily hold up the stress there. This is about optimizing design.