Last year, the commuter segment sprung back to life when Honda and Suzuki dived in, searching for volumes. Since then other players in the segment have either tried to launch new products, or at the very least refresh their existing models. Hero Motocorp, arguably the biggest player in this segment today refreshed its Passion a couple of months back, as promised at the 2012 Auto Expo. We have finally managed to ride the motorcycle.
It's the same motorcycle that was shown at the Auto Expo last year - styling has been tweaked. However, the changes are quite subtle, and the motorcycle is instantly identifiable as a Passion. The bikini fairing has been revised but the basic shape of the headlamp unit is more or less similar to the previous one. The cowls on the fuel tank look nice, but the rest of the design language is again similar to the previous generation Passion. The exhaust can now uses a snazzier design, but the tail light is still a bulb, and not a modern LED unit like some of its competitors. The seat is nicely contoured, and feels nice to sit on. The alloy wheels haven't changed, and are the same as before.
The biggest change though is the new engine the X Pro gets. The Passion which was introduced originally over a decade back, never got an engine upgrade, until now that is. The Passion X Pro sports a 110cc single-cylinder engine derived from the Honda CB Twister and Dream Yuga. Honda continues to provide technology to Hero Motocorp as per their technical agreement, despite the two parting ways. The Passion X Pro thus feels sprightlier as compared to its predecessor - power is up to 8.7PS at 7500rpm from 7.5PS. The torque rating gets a healthy bump as well, and the maximum torque rating now stands at 9.36Nm and is produced at 5500rpm, as opposed to 7.95Nm earlier. This gives the X Pro a peppier feel. In fact, it even feels peppier than the Dream Yuga, where the same engine has been tuned for efficiency above everything.
In terms of straight line acceleration the X Pro feels way quicker than the previous generation Passion - it sprints to 60kmph in 8.92 seconds, which is nearly 3 seconds quicker than the earlier bike. Top speed is a respectable 88.61kmph. But fuel efficiency suffers at the expense of performance, as the Passion returns 62.4kmpl in city and 70.19kmpl on the highway. These translate to an overall efficiency of 64.64kmpl.
The Passion X Pro is quite similar to the Passion in feel. Handling is decent in the city, which is the bike's typical domain. It feels light and nimble, and has no trouble slicing through traffic. The tyres offer decent grip as well. Ride quality is impressive, as demanded by this segment of motorcycle buyers. The Passion is one of the only core commuters to get the option of a front disc brake, which is a boon. The front disc helps the X Pro come to a halt from 60kmph in 2.49 seconds, covering 19.61 metres in the process. The disc brake feels assuring and adds to your confidence at all times, but could have done with some more bite. The seat is wide enough, but could have been softer, as after an hour of riding in the city you begin squirming in the seat.
Overall, the Passion X Pro comes across as a competent commuter motorcycle, but feels average as compared to the competition. Further, at Rs 54,724 ex-showroom, Mumbai for the disc brake equipped version it is one of the most expensive motorcycles in the segment. Hero MotoCorp need to think of an alternate strategy for the motorcycle, if they want to it to succeed in a market brimming with choices today.
For a comparo between the Passion X Pro and it's rivals, pick up the OVERDRIVE April 2013 issue. Out on stands now.