Now that Mahindra is launching the Gusto today and has lifted their convoluted embargo on media coverage we can finally tell you all about their new 110cc scooter and actually show you what it looks like in the flesh.
What I like most about the Gusto is that it is an interesting and fairly unique looking scooter but its not garish or overtly attention grabbing. The scooter is covered with strong lines especially in the side profile. The rear end is the best looking angle in my opinion, and perhaps its just me but I see a hint of Aston Martin in that tail lamp design! In comparison, the front end gets a safe and slightly boring design that doesn't really gel with the rest of the scooter. The pilot lamps and faux grille add some character but that headlamp looks like it could have come off any number of scooters available today. The LED position lamps do add a bit of flair to the front end but the Gusto does have a rather generic front end. Which brings us to the name. Mahindra says that they expect the Gusto to be a breeze of change for them, a gust of good business if you will. And that's the reasoning behind the unusual name.
After having ridden it we don't think their optimism is unfounded. Simply put, the Gusto is the nicest scooter built by Mahindra to date, both in terms of engine and chassis. Contrary to some reports, the engine is all new and almost entirely constructed out of aluminium. Mahindra says they've given it a stronger crank and bearings, a high energy ignition coil and a high venturi carburettor - all in the name of strong but mainly stress free performance. Christened, the Mtech it displaces 109.6cc and produces 8.2PS and 8.5Nm, figures which put it at the higher end of its segment. But then the Gusto has a kerb weight of slightly over 120kg which makes it considerably heavier than its rivals. Despite that Mahindra is quoting an ARAI figure of 63.5kmpl.
Thumb the starter and the Gusto fires up without complaint and settles into a smooth idle with faint vibrations in the mirrors. It sounds and feels very similar to a Honda engine at idle which is pretty high praise. On the move, what impressed me most about the Gusto was its refinement - the small vibes at idle disappear once you set off. The throttle is smooth and doesn't have that initial tendency to launch the scooter ahead that we've seen in older Mahindras. The Gusto feels unstressed and reasonably quick. It doesn't build speed quite with the pace of the Suzuki Let's but it feels happy and stress free at a sustained 60 or 70kmph. Mahindra claims at top speed of 80kmph but I saw nearly 90 on a slight downhill and even then the engine didn't feel like it was unhappy or being pushed too hard.
The second impressive aspect of the Gusto was its ride quality. Previous Mahindra scooters were very softly sprung in an attempt to be comfortable. The issue with this is that they bottom out quite easily with a pillion on board or if you hit a bump fast enough. Not so on the Gusto with its new telescopic forks and firmer rear spring. It has a nice, taut feel that doesn't get upset even when you don't spot a speed breaker and hit it pretty fast like I did on our ride. The ride quality is firm but never uncomfortable and the Gusto did a good job of resisting crashing through broken roads. Large 12-inch steel wheels with 90 section tubeless MRF Zappers and one of the longest wheelbases in class (1275mm) further add to the stable feeling. The severe lack of corners in the roads around Jodhpur where we rode the Gusto means we can't tell you how it handles, but it looks promising given the combination of a long wheelbase, large wheels and well sprung suspension.
The seating position is pretty comfortable as well, accommodating enough for tall riders like myself but with the potential (read about the adjustable seat ahead) to feel confident to shorter riders as well. The seat, while plush isn't overtly soft like in some of Mahindras previous scooters and that's a good thing as well. You can see that Mahindra has listened to the feedback its gotten from customers and the media and that reflects in the new Gusto. The Gusto runs twin 130mm drum brakes which offer adequate performance but not the best feel. The levers feel quite hard and wooden and require a bit of a pull to produce strong braking performance. Considering that the Gusto will be sold in international markets you can expect a disc brake option someways down the road.
What Mahindra has always prided themselves with when it comes to their two wheelers is the amount of features they offer. Mahindra's goal is to try and make life easier for riders, based on the feedback they get from owners and the media. The Gusto gets quite a few interesting features, but the most important among them is that it is the first scooter to come with a height adjustable seat. Mahindra has engineered a rather complex system where by you can raise or lower the seat height by a difference of 40mm. The system involves twisting a knob and which drops the seat support up front to lower the seat height. Raising it requires a twist of the knob along with a pull of the seat support. Its a very easy system to use and takes very little effort to operate. Mahindra has also engineered the seat to open backwards to facilitate this system. 40mm is quite a bit and I found that it was comfortable for me on the higher setting while shorter riders preferred the lower position. This should definitely be popular in households where riders of different sizes intend on sharing the scooter Another feature I really liked was the reverse style kick start that extends towards the front of the scooter, rather than the rear as in most other scooters. This lets the rider start the scooter without having to put it on the main stand, something that the ladies will quite appreciate. The rear footpegs have a small extension of soft rubber so as to not hurt the back of the riders feet while paddling in traffic with a pillion on. And then of course you get Mahindra's car-like flip key with a find me and follow me system. There's also a small open storage compartment under instrument cluster although I wouldn't store anything of much value in there for fear of it sailing out when you hit a pothole hard. The rear brake gets a locking clasp while there are two bag hooks, one under the front seat and one on the front apron. Honestly, there isn't much missing on this scooter, perhaps with the exception of the option a front disc brake.
The Gusto is available in two variants. The top end VX variant gets all the features I've mentioned above. The base version gets a fixed seat height (set between the max and min position) and a standard key but retains the reverse kick, LED position lamps and soft footpegs. Prices for the Gusto will be out shortly and we will update this story the moment they are.
The Gusto is available in two variants. The base Gusto DX retails at Rs 43,000 ex- Delhi which puts it almost equal against rivals like the TVS Scooty Zest, Suzuki Let's, and a good Rs 3,600 less than the Honda Activa. The DX gets all the features mentioned above except for the flip key with its find me and follow me functions. The seat is also fixed on the DX , set between the maximum and minimum position on the VX. For Rs 4000 more you can have the fully kitted Gusto VX. This puts the Gusto squarely in the middle of a rather competitive market. While the Gusto doesn't really do anything spectacularly better than the competition (except for the features) it is a sorted package that does the job well and leaves very little room for complaint. And that in itself is a big step ahead for Mahindra. They are now more equipped to take on the competition than ever before.
You can watch the live launch here