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Honda Activa: Gone, but not forgotten

The best selling two-wheeler in India is no longer the Splendor. All hail the mighty Honda Activa

Scooters have come a long, long way. Not the geared Bajaj scooters, those days are gone and finished, but the ones that we are buying gazillions of these days. Once the preserve of women (and their kids) for their convenience, scooters are now the hottest segment of the Indian 2-wheeler market. And this is the scooter that kickstarted, and continues to lead India’s scooterisation. Scooterisation! Yes, that’s a word! Launched at a time when automatic scooters were almost dead, the Activa single-handedly revived this segment and turned it around.

“Nothing went wrong with an Activa. Not with the engine, not with the transmission, not with the electrics, not even with the body.”

The mistakes of their erstwhile partners were blindingly obvious and Honda focused on one thing and one thing alone. Reliability. Nothing went wrong with an Activa. Not with the engine, not with the transmission, not with the electrics, not even with the body since the first Activa was Full Metal Jacket. The example I’m riding hasn’t been stored in an air-conditioned garage, it has been doing the city commute every day for the past 13 years, and it still starts on the button, the CVT doesn’t slip and it doesn’t feel like a bucket of bolts.

“Scooters didn’t brake properly, didn’t handle well, and had headlamps that were like candles.”

Going the 4-stroke way also gave the Activa far better fuel economy but it was the headache-free ownership experience that ensured this Honda found its way into more than 1.5 crore Indian homes. To understand how important this was you have to jog back to two decades ago where the Ki-Ho was ruined by a choke, Bajaj’s attempt at an automatic scooter involved a gearbox with an amazing propensity to break down, and piddly 2-stroke motors weren’t immune to seizure. Scooters didn’t brake properly, didn’t handle well, and had headlamps that were like candles. We didn’t know better so we didn’t ask for the moon.

“A side stand was an optional extra and I think mirrors were too!”

Of course Honda exploited those undemanding standards by asking us to pay extra for a number plate on the Activa. A side stand was an optional extra and I think mirrors were too! Oh wait, so was the front storage box and the spare wheel, not that you needed the latter because of that Tuff Up tube. We grumbled about it but it didn’t stop us from recommending and buying Activa after Activa. It was in a class of its own.

“Scooters have come a long, long way but one name continues to top every scooter buyer’s shopping list. The Activa.”

Things have really moved on from this Gen 1 Activa, most notably in engine performance and the sophistication of the suspension. Equipment too – USB charging slots and even a screen that you can mirror Google Maps onto is standard on some of the newer scooters. A scooter launch was even held at a racetrack. Scooters have come a long, long way but one name continues to top every scooter buyer’s shopping list. The Activa.


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