The Honda Activa is a legend. The way it reinvigorated a dead scooter market is an amazing story. More recently, the Activa has not only dominated the scooter market but this meek Honda is the largest selling two-wheeler in India today. Having secured their position, Honda has been playing around. The Navi was a fun (and popular) take on the scooter, firmly based on the Activa's platform. And now, we have the Honda Cliq, another variant based on the Activa platform. The Honda Cliq doesn't really have any direct competition in the traditional sense. The Honda Cliq is, however, an almost completely normal scooter with a terrific price if you think about it. And if you approach the proposition like that, then there are numerous scooters it competes with. But Honda says that isn't why the Cliq was created and that's where our story should begin.
Honda, always a customer and customer-survey oriented company discovered - no surprise, really - that the extra-urban customer bought 100-110cc motorcycles almost as default. To make matters worse, they never considered scooters. I say no surprise because 10-inch wheeled scooter have a simple technical restriction - the worse the roads gets, the harder they become to ride.
But Honda says they discovered one real issue and one perception problem that the Honda Cliq will try to tackle. The real issue is simple. The average cost of the 100-110cc motorcycle was a Rs 44,000-odd but the average scooter of equal displacement was Rs 49,000. A simple price problem, then.
The other issue was the idea that all automatics are expensive. And that was one of the reasons why despite the legend, for example, the Honda scooters found little or no traction in the semi-urban markets.
That brings us to the design. The Honda Cliq had to be priced well. It was an important part of ensuring its success for the Japanese manufacturer. It also needed to look robust enough to handle the bad roads. And given that more and more women are demanding personal transportation, ditto men, it needed to appeal to both genders.
Honda also took many leaves from the Navi playbook - remember the Navi is still Rs 1,500 less expensive than the Cliq. So a lot of the plastics remind you of the Navi although Honda has chosen to mix shiny and matte finishes, as well as a carbon-texture finish that gives the scooter more presence than this much plastic should really.
The design is striking and I'm still undecided whether I like it or not. The peak is done is shiny plastic and it looks good from angles and overbuilt from others. That aside, the panels are flat and clean lines with some texture-based interplay, some block motifs and that big round motif that is also present on the Navi.
The exposed bars look cool on the Cliq but chrome bars would have been better, no? A little plastic boss with the Honda logo covers the bar clamp
The headlight is a simple apron-mounted unit and the Cliq uses large faired-in indicators up front and motorcycle-style stalks at the rear. It is a unique look to be sure. The quality of the plastic isn't something you will sing about but it doesn't feel bargain basement either. I guess Honda has the level of plastic pegged to ensure the cost remains where it needs to.
The simple Cliq meters include only the basics. Being apron mounted, they don't turn with the handlebar
The Cliq gets a small accessory range and this carrier that replaces the standard unit is one of the most important ones, says Honda
The nat integration of the toolkit into the Honda Cliq seat pan releases space in the cavity
Honda will offer an optional power outlet under the seat of the Cliq
Utility features on the Honda Cliq include a flat floorboard that my size 11 boots almost filled up, a generous underseat cavity and an optional rear grab rail that incorporates a carrier like the geared scooters of old.
Honda says one of the reasons it believes the Cliq could be priced within the expectations of the target customers was its economy of scale. Enter the venerable, butter-smooth and extremely familiar 8PS 110cc engine that powers almost all the Honda scooters on sale. It's a good one although in character it remains a little too subtle for my taste.
Refinement levels are excellent and the Cliq accelerates well to about 60kmph. Honda says that the engine is able to allay the fear that it won't carry loads like a geared motorcycle might.
In this department, there are no surprises really. Close your eyes and you're more or less riding an Activa.
When you get moving though, you notice a... no you don't notice much difference again. The front suspension is the same trailing link design as the Activa and the rear configuration is the same as well. In that sense neither the handling nor the ride quality has changed.
The Honda Cliq will be shod with chunky block-treaded tubeless tyres. We saw MRF Mogrip and Ceat Gripp tyres on the launch scooters. Size is 90/100-10. The rims are steel and there is no disc brake option
However, Honda will give the Cliq block-pattern 90/100-10 tyres front and rear which do make a small but perhaps vital difference. The test bikes wore Ceat Gripp and MRF MoGrip branded tyres. Honda says these tyres will be standard because they are able to handle poor road conditions better than the usual scooter tyres.
On the move, the Cliq feels and goes like an Activa
At 6ft tall, I had to watch my knees when turning with the handlebars against the stops on the Honda Cliq
Riding inside a village-style resort in Jaipur, the tyres certainly did offer more hook up and drive on sandy surfaces and increased confidence in the loose stuff.
Honda has also added an equaliser to their combined braking system. In essence, when you grab the rear brake, it proportionately presses the front brake as well. The idea is that a new or unskilled rider will see better braking performance.
In practice, it does work. The Honda Cliq proved to be nearly impossible to lock the rear wheel on and it stops well too. Lever effort is high, naturally, because you're using one hand to effectively press two brakes but it isn't something I would complain about. Honda underlines the fact that they're deploying their CombiBrake System early - the deadline is April 1, 2018.
The Honda Cliq is a bit of a gamble. Indeed, Honda officials repeatedly called it a challenge that they have taken on. While no sales targets were revealed, the Cliq is to be made at the Tapukara plant and it will spread out to the 5,200-strong Honda distribution network before the festive season arrives.
Honda is pricing the Cliq at Rs 42,499 ex-Delhi for the Standard version and the stickers-equipped Graphic model is Rs 500 more. Honda will also offer a range of customisation options, including crash bars, the carrier I mentioned earlier, a smoked screen and a storage box that mounts in the middle of the floorboard.
Honda says the Cliq's job is to break down the mental barrier in the semi-urban and rural markets about automatic scooters. And the Cliq is certainly focussed on that with its spec and price. But as it goes with changing people minds, sometimes it takes time before things Cliq.
Images by Ishaan Bhataiya