Scooters. For the longest time, I've relegated them to the bottom of the fun-on-a-two-wheeler pyramid. Just look at our not so illustrious past and you'll know what I mean. Scooters, were just appliances. A means of transporting people, sometimes with oversized luggage, groceries et al in tow. Not a lot has changed in that respect, but over the last few years, we've seen a modicum of fun being induced to the otherwise staid nature of scooters. At least that's true about scooters in the 125cc segment, that's witnessing a steady rise in sales numbers.
The Suzuki Access 125 was the harbinger of that change, and to date remains a fun scooter that you can't really go wrong with. Suzuki definitely thinks so and that's why it stripped the Access off its common man's clothes and draped it in a set of quirky yet novel designer wear, and christened it the Burgman Street. It's a maxi scooter, its design suggests so and the only other such scooter to go on sale in India was the Kinetic Blaze, but it does not exist anymore. So, as far as novelty goes, the Burgman's got tons of it. At the other end of the spectrum is the brilliant TVS Ntorq 125, a scooter that has sent most of the competition back to the drawing board. And somewhere in the middle lies the new Hero Destini 125, a scooter that's aimed at the guy/girl who wants a blend of frugality, practicality without missing out on some fun.
Which is why we tossed its key to our resident family man, Abhay. Shumi promptly hopped onto the Burgman, curious guy that he is, wondering if the large dimensions and a few additional kilos have or haven't diluted the very essence of one of his favourite scooters. Which left me, the youngest guy among the trio with the youth-oriented, Ntorq 125. Honestly, we wanted to have some fun riding these scooters and in the process see what these three, distinct scooters brought to the table. But before we go any further, for those wondering why we don't have a Honda Activa/Grazia 125 in this comparo, it's because the Destini 125 is almost similar in approach and feel. Plus it's the new scooter in the segment and we were eager to see how it's going to stack up.
Style and build
Before we set off, the three of us took a good look at our scooters and stood amazed by how each differs vastly in their design approach. The shape of the panels, materials used and choice of paint finish is as different as chalk and cheese. The Hero Destini is the good boy here that wants everyone to like him. So, the design is simple and inoffensive, with clean and swooping lines dominating the body work. It'll make it an instant hit with your conservative parents, neighbours or whoever you'd want to please. But you can't really ignore the feeling that Hero benchmarked the Honda Activa, while designing the Destini. After all, the latter is India's best selling scooter, so as far as design goes, it must have universal appeal, is what they must've thought.
That said, the Destini has these interesting honeycomb-shaped motifs at the edge of the turn indicator covers and the seat that lend an identity to the scooter. Besides, there's no missing the fat bar of chrome that actually gels with the design. The only bit that doesn't is the extra large tail lamp cluster that looks like it's from a bygone era.
The Ntorq 125, on the other hand looks like a sharp, lithe athlete. Its design is purposeful, replete with sharp creases and panels that look cohesive. Like the Destini, the Ntorq also has its own design elements, in this case carbon fibre like patterns around the switches, seat and the area surrounding the vents that flank the LED tail lamp.
Speaking of LED lamps, the Suzuki Burgman is the only scooter here to get LED headlamps, in addition to a sleek LED tail lamp, that not only looks good but also enhance the appearance of the scooter.
The Burgman's panels are a mashup of creases and swooping lines that lend it a striking character. Much of that also has to do with its generous proportions that look borderline bulbous, when viewed from the side. Part of why it looks so because of the 12-inch front and 10-inch rear wheels that result in an under-tyred look. But, in all, the Burgman looks unlike any other scooter in India, which is one of the aces up its sleeve. Overall, the Ntorq 125 and Burgman Street carve out a distinct identity of their own, but in case of the Destini you do get a feeling that it plays to the gallery and could have been styled unlike conventional scooters. Also, the Destini's plastic quality as well as fit and finish is a notch below the TVS and the Suzuki.
Features and ergonomics
When it comes to features alone, the Destini and Burgman can't hold a candle to the Ntorq. Take the comprehensive digital instrument console, for instance, that also features Bluetooth connectivity, enabling the rider to view a plethora of information, including navigation assistance.
On the other hand, the keep-it-simple approach is apparent in the Destini's analogue-digital instrument cluster, that frankly looks dated in comparison to the full-digital consoles on the other two scooters. That said, the Destini and the Ntorq are the only scooters to feature a standard USB charging port and courtesy light under the seat. The Burgman can be opted with a 12V charging socket, located inside a thoughtful, cubby, behind the front apron.
But, as far as storage space is concerned, the Ntorq's boot is the most spacious and has the least amount of protrusion from the carburettor cover. On the flipside, the Destini's boot is tiny and good enough to only store a half face helmet or a small bag, at best. The Burgman's boot space is identical to the Access', which is a bummer, considering its extra long body.
Speaking of footboards, the Burgman's clever design allows you to stretch your legs and place it at an angle, a la a cruiser. This plus the extra long seat makes the Burgman's riding posture, the most dynamic and comfortable of the lot. The Ntorq has a narrow floorboard but enough space, even for plus 10 shoes, but that does not leave enough room to carry a bag on the floorboard. The Destini has a surprisingly large floorboard, makes you wonder if it was probably designed for Yeti! (the Abominable Snowman). Jokes apart, there is a lot of room to carry a large bag, again hinting at the family orientation of the scooter.
Engine and performance
On paper, these scooters are quite closely matched in terms of engine displacement, power and torque figures. But, bear in mind, the Ntorq is the heaviest of the lot, which'll fool spec sheet analysts into declaring it the slowest scooter. In the real world though, it's quite the opposite. In the sprint from 0-60kmph, the TVS is quicker, almost half a second faster than the Destini and over a second over the Burgman. We still wonder what kind of magic potion has TVS poured in along with the engine oil! But it's just not about outright acceleration. It's the way the power comes in, that makes the Ntorq such a delight to ride. There's this seemingly endless wave of torque at any given time that propels the scooter ahead of the other two. For example, in situations where we had to overtake slow-moving traffic, the Ntorq was quicker to respond and surge ahead, followed by the Destini and the Burgman. And accompanying that surge is a raspy exhaust note that urges the rider to push harder. Everyone who rode the Ntorq had nothing but praise for it. Notably also because of its relative lack of vibrations, even at max speed. The Burgman's motor is nearly as refined as well, with only a few vibrations creeping in through the floorboard and handlebars, towards its top speed. In comparison, the Destini's motor doesn't feel as peppy and there's a noticeable drop in power post 80kmph, leaving the rider lagging behind.
Ride and handling
As is the case with their designs, these scooters differ in suspension set-up as well as tyre profiles, which plays a significant role in the way they ride and handle. While the commonalities include telescopic forks at the front and a single shock at the rear, a ride over bumpy roads and around a set of corners reveal how different they really are.
The Destini's setup is skewed towards ride quality and it's made apparent by the setup. While the front is stiff, the rear is a little too soft causing a slight, pogo effect over a series of bumps, while riding solo. Also, the tiny, 10-inch wheels at both ends fall short of instilling enough confidence at high speeds or while going around corners. The Burgman is an Access 125 underneath, and we very well know how good the Access manages the balance between ride and handling. Okay, the Burgman weighs about 7kg more than the Access, but that's to its advantage.
At high speeds, the Suzuki feels planted, though the stiff setup does require you to back off a bit while riding over bad roads or undulations. Around corners, the Burgman remains poised, despite the odd, 12-inch front, 10-inch rear wheel setup.
TVS' Ntorq 125 is sporty for sure but it's in no way lacking in the ride quality department. The 12-inch wheels (front and rear), stiff yet supple suspension and to some extent its weight, which at 116kg is the highest, do wonders in the way the Ntorq manages the fine balance between ride and handling. Whether it's large potholes, undulations or the worst of civic apathy, the Ntorq remains unperturbed. The suspension also does not thud through the rough stuff, making you believe that the Ntorq would probably survive a nuclear attack. Yes, it feels that solid. And then, when you chuck this TVS into a corner, it delights you with its supreme dynamics. It feels the most corner happy here, though the Burgman is not too far away. But when you subject the two to a series of chicanes, the TVS is on the ball when it comes to quick direction changes, despite its long wheelbase.
Both the Burgman and Ntorq come with disc brakes at front while the Destini makes do with a drum brake setup. So while the former two are much quicker to stop, the Destini's brakes, though adequate, aren't as reassuring.
The Hero Destini 125 is the safe bet in this test. It's in offensive styling, decent set of features and Hero's vast service network is a big plus for those who want to own a fuss-free, 125cc scooter. The fact that it is about Rs 10,000 cheaper than the Ntorq 125, and Burgman Street makes it the bridge between 110cc and 125cc scooters. That said, you have to consider the fact that you don't get disc brakes, even as an option and purely in terms of feel, the Destini is not as exciting as a 125cc should be. The Suzuki Burgman is the most expensive 125cc scooter, but its unique design and proven Access 125 underpinnings make it worth the extra dough. If you desire something unique, the Burgman makes a strong case for itself.
But there can only be one winner and that's the TVS Ntorq. It stands head and shoulders above every 125cc scooter in the segment. Heck, it's better than any other Indian scooter, period. Whether in looks, quality, performance or practicality, the Ntorq delivers on all counts. But more than anything, it's an extremely enjoyable scooter to ride, which explains its growing popularity. Kudos TVS. This one is surely hard to beat.
Images by Ishaan Bhataiya
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