Photography: Rohit G Mane
It appears somebody has flicked on a switch. A switch that has suddenly set the 125cc scooter segment aflame. If Honda renewed its effort in this category with its Grazia, Suzuki’s Access 125 continues to be king of the hill. The Vespa is still the style benchmark and sister concern Aprilia has showcased the SR125. Even Hero Motocorp have unveiled 125cc versions of its Maestro Edge and Duet. In the middle of all this action, could TVS Motors afford to sit back and play spectator? Obviously not. Their answer to all these challengers comes in the form of the NTorq 125, which we have had the chance to swing a leg on at the company test track in Hosur.
There is nothing about the NTorq 125 that has come from any of TVS’ other scooters. It is powered by a 124.79cc air-cooled single with three valves and SOHC. Peak output is rated at 9.3bhp at 7500rpm and 10.5Nm at 5500rpm. This new engine sits in a new high rigidity rectangular tube type underbone chassis.
Beyond the mechanicals, the body panels are pretty much all new and even though the design at the front end seemed derived from other existing scooters to some and the rear too busy for others, the NTorq is a handsome scooter. It looks stylish and sporty and should have good road presence when put in the company of others. There’s no doubt that it’s distinctive and eye catching.
The other bit that’s new, and this is the scooter’s real party piece, is that all digital instrument panel. Shaped like a gaming console from a few years ago, it looks absolutely brilliant and lends a super premium touch to the NTorq. It’s also equipped with the newly developed Smart Xconnect tech which allows the rider to pair his phone with the scooter via the NTorq app that can be downloaded from the Google Play Store. This can then be used for sat nav directions, a feature seen for the first time on any scooter sold in India.
The scooter is also extremely practical. There’s a USB charging port in the underseat stowage and TVS has very thoughtfully put in a light. So no more fumbling around in the dark. The stowage compartment itself isn’t very deep and couldn’t take my full-face helmet but it is long and wide enough to hold a whole lot of other things. There’s a small bottle holder too where you can plonk in a 500ml bottle of water without having the thing roll around.
For the pillion, the seat is super nice and the split grab handles are not only stylish but also great for hanging on to, a trait that we have seen right from the days of the old Apache RTR 160 and 180.
Quality levels are excellent and everything feels built to last. No ungainly notches in the switchgear. No feel of flimsiness. Just solid quality, and that I think is the area where TVS has really made some huge improvements. A quick comparison between the company’s past products like the aforementioned RTR 160/180 with new products like the RTR 200 4v, the brilliant Apache RR 310 and now the NTorq serves to underscore just how much of a leap TVS has taken ahead in terms of sheer quality improvement.
All of which is great, but what’s it like to ride?
From the saddle
Swinging a leg through the scooter, the first thing I felt was how comfortable and natural everything felt. The relation between the handlebar, the footboard and the seat was absolutely perfect for someone of my height. Shorter riders however may have slight difficulties in getting both feet down on the ground since the NTorq is wider than most other scooters in its segment.
Nonetheless, with things being pretty well sorted for me, I got going. The grunt has been spread evenly through the rev range and that CVT-i works like a charm getting the scooter off the line. With my 84 kilos weighing it down, the NTorq clocked 8.5 seconds from 0-60kmph at the track. A friend who is 20 kilos lighter did it in 6.7 on the lap timer integrated into the instrumentation. Yes, incredibly enough, TVS wasn’t happy with just Bluetooth connectivity and sat-nav capabilities. So they put in a lap timer and a Sport mode too! Although I suspect that was more the work of TVS Racing, whose logo graces the side of the footboard, more than TVS Motors. They probably reckon they’ll be racing the scooter some time down the year anyway (TVS does after all have the reputation of having raced or rallied every single product to have come off the line) so why not put the essentials in right at the beginning anyway?
On the long straights of the test track she effortlessly got up to 94kmph on the speedo, feeling planted and confident as she cut through the mild breeze that was blowing across the track. On the long sweeping right-handed parabola her confidence inspiring dynamics meant that scraping the right footboard and a bit of the stylish exhaust became routine, lap after enjoyable lap. Even the quick flick to the left to exit back on to the main straight didn’t unsettle things. Yet, none of this comes at the cost of ride quality. I tried the scooter over the very bumpy ride quality test track and things turned out to be surprisingly supple. Getting that right balance between able dynamics and a pliant ride is a very difficult game. But it would appear that TVS has played the game, and won.
For braking TVS has pulled off a smart move. They took the 220mm petal disc that goes on the rear wheel of the RTR 200 4v and fitted it to the front of the NTorq. The rear though continues to get a drum. There was plenty of feel from the lever and bite at the disc as we hauled on the stoppers to make the U-turn that would lead us back down the straight towards the parabola. Hard braking got the 100/80 12 front tyre and 110/80 12 rear tyre squealing with delight but no unnecessary drama.
We went at it, lap after lap until the folks at TVS must have gotten tired because for sure the scooter shows no signs of wear and it’s enjoyable enough for us to not want to stop. And that’s the thing about this scooter. It has managed to blend excitement, performance, ability, style and practicality into one neat package while others mostly seem to offer only one or two of these facets put together. And on that count, at Rs 58,750, ex-showroom, I would think TVS Motors has another winner on its hands.