Comparo: Bajaj Discover 100M vs Honda Dream Neo vs Hero Splendor iSmart vs TVS Star City Plus

Alan D'Cruz  /
01 Dec 2014 17:48:46 IST

At OVERDRIVE we tend to do a lot of common things in an uncommon fashion, you know, stand out from the crowd and all. In short there is a lot of sense but flowing in an uncommon fashion. But a commuter test has always been about common sense so we've reprogrammed our processors just a bit for this one. With rising fuel prices, their numbers and sales are growing and more and more working class commuters are logically flocking to the market. If you have a budget of 50K, these four motorcycles are possible options in this mango man's market. The Bajaj Discover 100M and the Hero Splendor iSmart displace 100cc while the Honda Dream Neo and the Star City Plus are both 110cc. The competition is hot and though the low cost, no frills and high mileage formula rules almost all product decisions, Bajaj, Hero, Honda and TVS have logically evolved their products and it's not uncommon now to find good ride quality and handling cropping up. In fact the iSmart even features India's first ever start stop technology on a motorcycle. But wait, that doesn't quite sound so common now does it?

100cc comparo (3)

Design

When cost and efficiency drives most product decisions then it's fair to expect these motorcycles to be the plain Janes that they are. Indeed you're not going to be seeing any flashy fairings, single sided swing arms or chiseled bodywork on any of these motorcycles. That said they all sport alloy wheels and tiny bikini fairings while the Hero Splendor iSmart wears a very nice paint job and the Bajaj Discover 100M sports a flashy (for this segment) petal disc brake on the front wheel. While conservative, clean and simple are still the key adjectives that one would use to describe them, they are a welcome change from what this segment looked like five years ago. Let's first look at what we think is the best looking motorcycle of the four.

TVS Star City Plus 2 (1)The Star City Plus is an attractive motorcycle but nothing quite stands out. The large white speedometer holds a handy economy meter on the bottom right hand corner that helps you extract the best out of every drop of fuel

TVS Star City Plus 2The 109.7cc engine of the Star City Plus is smooth and refined with lots of low down poke

The Discover 100M is a step in the right direction as far as looks are concerned. The spider web inspired alloys, cast aluminum rear foot peg unit, gas charged rear shock absorbers and the upswept, sporty exhaust all stand out to make it quite an attractive motorcycle in this company. The other three are more or less on equal terms as far as looks are concerned with nothing quite remarkable standing out for me to classify them into a ranking and so I'll just leave all three of them in second place to the Discover. That's not to say that they all look the same. The Honda Dream Neo takes conventional to a happy place and its simple design is quite pleasing to look at from all angles. The iSmart has attractive two tone paint and graphics to hide its age while the Star City Plus while being an improvement on the Star City still runs for middle ground on the styling front and doesn't particularly stand out. They are thankfully not all lookalikes but overall they score equal second to the Discover 100M.

Honda Dream NeoThe Dream Neo has simple looks and a clean little bikini fairing

Honda Dream Neo 2The 109cc engine of the Dream Neo is also clean revving and linear. Its engine also features the HET technology that optimises all the internal parts for efficiency and refinement

Features

Without a doubt these motorcycles are all about getting the biggest bang for your buck and with customers looking for a value proposition it's just logical for manufacturers to try and sweeten the offer with some additional features. Two motorcycles stand out for offering tangible additions to the package. The Star City Plus sports a nifty economy meter that is based on engine revolutions and it tells you when you are sipping too much of fuel and need to either shift to a higher gear or slow down. It also has a useful 'service needed' tell tale light, indicating that your next service is due.

The Discover 100M is quite the looker in this segmentThe Discover 100M is quite the looker in this segment

The Discover is also the only motorcycle equipped with a disc brake. It's also equipped with gas charged shock absorbers that lend it good cornering manners for a commuterThe Discover 100M is also the only motorcycle equipped with a disc brake. It's also equipped with gas charged shock absorbers that lend it good cornering manners for a commuter

The Splendor iSmart packs the biggest party trick - the i3S start stop technology. This cuts the ignition when the motorcycle comes to a stop and after neutral has been engaged for five seconds. Then when you are ready to pull away, just pulling in the clutch starts it up again. On our ride this worked pretty much as advertised though in our tests it only managed a saving of around two per cent over a 50 kilometer stretch. It also comes with a handy side stand indicator and a maintenance free battery. The other two motorcycles bank more on the technology packed inside their power plants. The Discover 100M prides itself on the technology in its new four valve, DTS-i twin spark engine while throwing in a pair of gas charged shock absorbers into the fray. The Honda is again the plainest Jane here with just the Honda HET or Honda eco technology that improves refinement and efficiency, to back it up. But we'll explore the sensibilities of their technology in the performance section later.

Comfort and handling

Of course once we had the quartet on the move the picture started to change. In fact as soon as you swing a leg over each of them you immediately notice that the Discover and the iSmart feel smaller than the two 110cc machines. It's not just a factor of the seat height of the Discover (795mm) and Hero (785mm) which are lower compared to the lofty Dream Neo (820mm) but it's also to do with the positioning of the handlebars relative to the foot pegs. The Star City Plus has a similarly low seat height of 785mm but it's a more roomy seating position and still feels comfortable. I'm 5'10 and to me both the Bajaj and the Hero motorcycles feel a little cramped. More so for a rider like Rishaad who is over six feet tall and neither of us would have been comfortable on either motorcycle on a long ride. For short rides through the city they are both fairly manageable.

Hero Splendor iSmartThe Splendor iSmart looks quite stunning in this red and grey two tone colour scheme. The instrument cluster is well laid out and the little blue i3S light on the left hand corner lights up when the start stop feature is engaged

Hero Splendor iSmart 2The Splendor's engine is smooth but runs out of refinement as the revs rise

The Star City Plus really shines once on the move and its roomy riding position is perfectly complimented by the best ride quality on this test. Its supple suspension easily dispatched whatever the roads of New Mumbai had to throw at it. The Dream Neo is just as roomy but the suspension set up is on the firmer side which you feel over the larger bumps. The Discover 100M is also set up on the firm side but its gas charged rear shocks do handle the rough stuff better than the Dream Neo. While the tank and graphics may have changed, the Splendor iSmart immediately feels familiar once on the move. It's a 20 year old design and ridden back to back with the competition its age shows. Aside from feeling small the iSmart also fairs poorly when it comes to absorbing road imperfections.

While cornering ability is not quite the trait needed in your ride to work, the Dream Neo and the Discover 100M bring an added dimension to the mix with surprisingly good handling around corners and are the fun pair in this test. In fact, two years ago when we took the Dream Neo's sibling, the Dream Yuga, high up into the Himalayas we were pleasantly surprised with its stability around corners. The Dream Neo, with the same underpinnings is no different and just as much fun. With the Discover series Bajaj actually intends to bring a duality (practicality and fun) to the common man and this extra dimension is quite intended. It loves to be chucked into corners with its firm suspension keeping the bike settled and its low centre of gravity further adding to the stability. I just don't like the silly narrow handlebars that feel like they'd be more at home on a kid's tricycle than on a proper motorcycle.

100cc comparo (2)

The Splendor iSmart does the job of going around bends because they are there but I never got any pleasure out of the exercise on the little Hero. It's fairly one dimensional in its pursuit of being a no nonsense commuter. With its brilliant ride mark. With the 200mm petal disc brake up front it also stops much quicker than the rest, coming to a stop from 60kmph in less than 20 metres. The rest make do with drum front and rear brakes and while the Discover can run rings around them all day, they all brake adequately, coming to a stop within 25-28 metres that's par for the course. On account of the rains we were unable to safely test the Star City Plus's braking abilities, though we expect it to be similar to the Hero and the Honda. But these motorcycles are more about sensible fuel efficiency than wide open throttles. And while the Discover has brought a new dimension to the segment, running those extra few kilometers to a litre of fuel matters most. Strangely the Discover despite all its sprinting abilities can also sip fuel when the need arises. It returned a very respectable 68.5kmpl on our city efficiency test while the Dream Neo was the most frugal travelling 69.6 kilometres on a single litre. The Star city was a close third returning 68.22kmpl while the iSmart managed only 56.3kmpl without the i3S engaged.

100cc comparo (1)

You can expect the start stop function to add a further 2-3kmpl to that figure and if you have a commute with a large number of stop lights this could increase as well. The two bikes that did stand out on our ride were the Star City Plus and the Dream Neo that were the most pleasing to ride in the city. This was all down to their refined engines that have very flat torque curves requiring far fewer gear changes than the Discover. The Discover though impressive on paper lacks that low down pulling power and with its considerably higher NVH levels was the least likeable motor to ride. The Splendor is quite pleasant in the city with good low down pulling power but the gear box feels notchy and engine starts to feel harsh once revs rise.

Performance and fuel efficiency

When you do twist the throttle, the Discover again shoots away from the pack. Its little 102cc engine is even more powerful than the two 110s here. That's down to the four valve DTS-i Bajaj technology. The smallest Discover likes to be revved and though its not the most refined mill its a fun bike to dart around on. It completes the 0-60 sprint in just 6.71s while its nearest rival, the Star City Plus is a whole second slower. It's also the fastest motorcycle on test and the only one capable of crossing the 90kmph iSmart is a fresh new take on an old stalwart but the cosmetics can only do so much to refresh what is mostly a 20 year old product. The i3S stop start technology is a nice 'wow' feature but even the Splendor brand doesn't justify having the highest price tag in this test. Unfortunately it's starting to feel old in this company and is definitely in need of a full update. The Discover 100M appeals to us by bringing some excitement to the mix with its good looks, sporty performance and handling. It's the second most efficient on this test but we feel that's not quite enough to win. It offers excellent value and performance but lacks refinement and we think that this plays a very important factor in this segment. If you can live with rather high NVH levels then look no further but if you want something more refined the read on. The Dream Neo or the Star City are both refined and well rounded packages. The Dream Neo has Hondas signature rock solid build quality and reliability behind it but it's let down primarily for being the plane Jane that it is and only just loses out on first place. The Star City Plus has excellent ride quality and just as refined an engine as the Honda. It's nearly as efficient as well and at just over `1000 cheaper than the Honda, it gives you the best value for your money. It may not stand out for its looks but it also has no particular faults and should I ever need a daily petrol sipper this is where I would spend my money.

100cc comparo

Verdict

When it comes down to making a sensible buying decision we had to considered their merits, both on paper as well as our reliable 'seat of the pants' meters. The Splendor quality we never expected the Star City Plus to tackle corners as well as it did and though its a little bouncy it never gets out of shape or spoils the fun. In fact the little TVS has managed to find a great balance between comfort and handling that the others haven't.

100cc comparo


  
Bajaj Discover 100M
Engine Type Air cooled, 4 - stroke single, 4 valve
Engine capacity 102cc
Max power 9.3PS@8000rpm
Max torque 9.0Nm@6000rpm
Power/Weight 81.6PS/tonne
UNDERPINNINGS
Suspension (F) Telescopic front forks
Suspension (R) Hydraulic gas charged, shock absorber
Brakes front/rear 200mm disc/ 110mm drum
Tyres front/rear 2.75x17 / 3.00x17
PERFORMANCE
0-60kmph 6.71s
Top speed 90.73kmph
Braking (60kmph-0) 19.87m /2.8s
FUEL EFFICIENCY
City 68.5kmpl
GENERAL DATA
LxWxH 1 986x678x1044mm
Wheelbase 1255mm
Kerb weight 114kg
Price (ex-Mumbai) Rs 46,742
  
Honda Dream Neo
Engine Type Air cooled, 4 - stroke single, 2 valve
Engine capacity 109cc
Max power 8.3PS@7500rpm
Max torque 8.6Nm@5500rpm
Power/Weight 78.6PS/tonne
UNDERPINNINGS
Suspension (F) Telescopic front forks
Suspension (R) Hydraulic shock absorber
Brakes front/rear 130mm disc/ 130mm drum
Tyres front/rear 80/100x18 / 80/100x18
PERFORMANCE
0-60kmph 9.1s
Top speed 86.1kmph
Braking (60kmph-0) 28.7m /3.5s
FUEL EFFICIENCY
City 69.6kmpl
GENERAL DATA
LxWxH 1 2009x737x1074mm
Wheelbase 1258mm
Kerb weight 105kg
Price (ex-Mumbai) Rs 47,869
  
Hero Splendor iSmart
Engine Type Air cooled, 4 - stroke single, 2 valve
Engine capacity 97.2cc
Max power 7.8PS@7500rpm
Max torque 8.0Nm@4500rpm
Power/Weight 70.9PS/tonne
UNDERPINNINGS
Suspension (F) Telescopic front forks
Suspension (R) Hydraulic shock absorber
Brakes front/rear 130mm drum/ 110mm drum
Tyres front/rear 80/100x18 / 80/100x18
PERFORMANCE
0-60kmph 8.77s
Top speed 87.5kmph
Braking (60kmph-0) 26.59m /2.9s
FUEL EFFICIENCY
City 56.3kmpl
GENERAL DATA
LxWxH 1 1965x770x1095mm
Wheelbase 1235mm
Kerb weight 110kg
Price (ex-Mumbai) Rs 50,283
  
TVS Star City Plus (WINNER)
Engine Type Air cooled, 4 - stroke single, 2 valve
Engine capacity 109.7cc
Max power 8.4PS@7000rpm
Max torque 8.7Nm@5000rpm
Power/Weight 77PS/tonne
UNDERPINNINGS
Suspension (F) Telescopic front forks
Suspension (R) Hydraulic shock absorber
Brakes front/rear 130mm drum/ 110mm drum
Tyres front/rear 2.75x17 / 3.00x17
PERFORMANCE
0-60kmph 7.89s
Top speed 88.7kmph
Braking (60kmph-0) NA
FUEL EFFICIENCY
City 68.22kmpl
GENERAL DATA
LxWxH 1 1980x750x1080mm
Wheelbase 1260mm
Kerb weight 109kg
Price (ex-Mumbai) Rs 46,580
  

Honda Dream Neo 2016

Price (Delhi)
  • Rs. 50,563 Ex-Showroom
  • Rs. 55,685 On Road
Engine
  • 109cc Displacement
Mileage
  • 74.00 Kmpl Overall
Transmission
  • 4 - Speed

Hero Splendor iSmart 2014

Price (Delhi)
  • Rs. 50,000 Ex-Showroom
  • Rs. 57,142 On Road
Engine
  • 97cc Displacement
Mileage
  • 102.50 Kmpl Overall
Transmission
  • 4 - Speed
Tags:  | 100cc commuters  | Splendor iSmart  | Star City plus  | Discover 100M  | Dream Neo  | bajaj  | Honda  | hero  | tvs  | motorcycles  | comparison  | review  | road test  | test ride  | bike

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