Three of the leading 125cc bikes come our way. We ride in the pouring rain to find out which one deserves the title of ‘King of the commuter segment’.
It’s remarkably undeniable that the smaller bikes are essential for the livelihood of big bike manufacturers in the Indian two-wheeler market. These small displacement two-wheeled machines ferry around more than half of the Indian population and are the backbone for efficient mobility in the country. The 125cc motorcycle segment is probably the most competitive, and today the customer is nearly spoiled for choice. We decided to take the three best 125cc motorcycles and pit them against each other to help you decide which one to get.
The three bikes we got were the Honda CBF Stunner, the Suzuki Slingshot and the TVS Phoenix. The oldest of these bikes is the Honda, but the Stunner has just gone under the knife for some refreshing changes and has been re-launched in a new avatar. The TVS Phoenix is the newest product to the 125cc segment and it is also the latest launch from the Chennai based bike maker. With all three bikes standing together you can clearly make out which bike is more appealing – visually, that is. The Honda CBF Stunner is certainly the boldest and most stylish looking of this lot and that is thanks to its loud fairings and the new cowl. The new graphics and its sporty half chain case, as well as decent looking black alloys, add more character to the bike. The Stunner also has a split seat to separate the rider and pillion, unlike the TVS and Suzuki which have long single unit seats. The TVS Phoenix is probably the least pleasant looking bike, but in the 125cc most buyers tend to lean towards practicality and not looks – so we won’t go into too much detail here. Both the Slingshot and the Phoenix have got nice alloy wheels, well designed instrument clusters and nicely shaped headlamp, but other than that their designs are very minimalistic.
The bikes are pretty evenly matched when it comes to their specifications. The most powerful is the Honda CBF Stunner with 11bhp and 11Nm coming from the 124.7cc engine, next would be the TVS Phoenix with its 124.5cc engine that produces the same amount of power but less torque at 10.8Nm. Surprisingly the Suzuki Slingshot, with its 124cc air-cooled, 4-stroke engine is the least powerful with only 8.5bhp and 10Nm of torque. The TVS Phoenix comes with a 4-speed constant mesh gearbox, while the Honda Stunner and the Suzuki Slingshot come with a 5-speed and the Stunner gets a constant mesh clutch while the Slingshot features a wet multi-plate type and it also has gear indicator – a useful feature when you’re looking at maximizing fuel efficiency. All three bikes also come with the option of disc brakes on the front, and those are the variants we had with us. The rears were all mechanical drum units. Even the suspension setup of all the bikes is roughly the same. All the bikes have telescopic front forks, but when it comes to the rear suspension the Slingshot gets a coil spring setup, while the Stunner has 3-step spring-loaded hydraulic shocks and the Phoenix gets twin 5-step adjustable hydraulic shocks.
When it comes to performance on the road, the CBF Stunner once again shines above the rest. At 128 kilogram dry weight, it’s not too heavy and its engine refinement and power delivery is very good. The throttle responds very well to your wrist movements and the handlebars also feel good, plus the seating position is very comfortable – good for tall riders too. The Stunner also has the best ground clearance at 173mm, which means it’s more capable on rough roads. The bike also can reach higher revs and, at the same time, gives you more power when the revs are low, hence the engine is also slightly more fuel efficient – you should be looking at about 50-55km/l. However, it has the smallest fuel tank capacity of just 10 litres. The overall build quality of the bike is very good – the best out of the three bikes – and the bike is tough as nails and there are very little vibrations that are transmitted.
Also a good performer on the road is the TVS Phoenix. While its engine may not be as refined as the Stunner it still pumps out decent power and allows for smooth acceleration. The Phoenix that we had perhaps had an idling problem – it was revving at almost 2000rpm while the other bikes revved somewhere around 1100. The gear changes are also not as smooth and seamless as the Stunner and the addition of a 5th gear would have been helpful to save on fuel consumption. Unlike the Stunner and Slingshot which have a 1 down 4 up gear arrangement, in the Phoenix its up all the way till you reach the 4th gear. However, the Phoenix is the lightest at just 116kg making it extremely easy to handle and perfect for congested roads. The overall quality is not at par with the Honda or even the Suzuki for that matter. It’s got a decent ground clearance of 165mm and the fuel tank has a capacity of 12 litres. The TVS Phoenix also has hazard lights as a safety feature.
The Suzuki Slingshot has perhaps the smoothest and most refined engine. There are no vibrations whatsoever on the handlebars or the seat, so it’s quite a smooth and comfortable ride. The acceleration of the bike is not as good as the TVS or Honda, but it still is linear and you get enough power at low revs. With just 8.5bhp it doesn’t have a very high top speed – with a 120-kilo me on the bike I could barely manage 90km/h. The Slingshot weighs nearly the same as the Stunner at 129 kilogram, and handles very well also, but it’s just not as easily maneuverable. The Phoenix is perhaps the best handling bike out of the three. The biggest problem with the Slingshot is its brakes. It does have a single disc up front but you have to really clamp down hard on the brakes, and the same goes with its rear drum – it needs some serious work. Overall the Slingshot provided the smoothest ride and a pretty good fuel economy at around 60km/l.
To decide on a winner is very hard. The CBF Stunner wins in almost every field, but it’s priced much higher than the other two at Rs. 61,233 on-road in Delhi. That is a very steep price for a 125cc bike, but it definitely is top quality. It’s got the best fuel economy, best acceleration and it looks the best, and also has the most comfortable riding position. Its main drawbacks are its price and the small fuel tank. The TVS Phoenix also has fantastic acceleration and it handles the best, but it looks nothing special. The Suzuki Slingshot looks decent, has a very refined and smooth engine and decent fuel economy as well, plus the gear indicator is a good feature as well, but then again it’s got the least power and the least effective brakes. The Slingshot and the Phoenix are both priced roughly the same – Rs. 52843 and Rs. 54905 on-road Delhi respectively.
The obvious choice for me would have to be the CBF Stunner, but for the majority of people its price is too high. If I was on a tight budget I would go for the Suzuki Slingshot, as its compromise on power for better fuel economy and its smooth engine are its best selling points. Plus it’s got a Suzuki badge.