Considering the two-wheeler heavy nature of the Indian automotive sector, and the fact that India is the biggest market for these vehicles, it shouldn’t be a surprise that they consistently outsell cars and other types of private transport options. What really is surprising is the fact that out of all the models favoured by consumers, the top seller in terms of volume remains a 125cc scooter. This segment itself has become one of the best performing ones in the entire two-wheeler market, despite the fact that scooters don’t always offer the best performance, or even the safest riding experience. What they do offer though, is the first taste of freedom for young riders, especially women, who still aren’t comfortable with the thought of handling heavier and mechanically complex motorcycles.
Responding to this public demand, most two-wheeler manufacturers have released their own 125cc offerings, with equally unique approaches to design, performance and convenience. However, even though there are dozens of choices across a wide price range, there are only a handful of models that have truly captured the imaginations of the masses. We are here to look at four such choices, which represent the best that the segment has to offer. They not only represent how far automatic scooters have come, but also the direction we can expect them to take moving forward.
- Honda Activa 125
This was one of the first models to crack the formula of a reliable automatic scooter that could still offer an exciting riding experience. This feat has earned it the title of the most selling two-wheeler in the country. Over the years, the model has undergone various transformations, eventually separating into various sub-models with different configurations. However, the bestselling one remains the 125cc engine, which just got a BS6 upgrade. This change has lowered the peak power output to around 8.18BHP, with a peak torque of 10.3Nm. Other than that, the rest of the machine remains the same it has been since the last major upgrade, which made the vehicle slimmer, and more comfortable than previous generations. Overall, the trade-off is worth it, considering the new version is a lot more refined, and offers better fuel efficiency. Sadly, these improvements come at a cost, as the top model Activa now comes in at ₹75,000.
- TVS NTORQ 125
This is one of the few cases where an Indian product competes toe-to-toe with the top international offerings in the entry-level performance category, and the NTorq certainly packs a punch; with its throaty engine, easy power delivery and striking design. This is best expressed in the recently launched Race edition, which comes with new LED’s in the front, and the same reliable 125cc motor that churns out 9.25BHP power and 10.5Nm of peak torque. However, what truly sets it apart is the fearless approach towards the future, which is reflected through the adoption of a digital display and SmartXonnect technology. Thankfully, despite all the edgy characteristics, the ride is still quite comfortable, with a wide backseat that pillions will appreciate. You can get the Race edition for around ₹63,000, although that price is bound to go up once the engine is upgraded to match the new BS6 norms.
- Vespa SXL 125
The Vespa name has had a long connection with this country, and its iconic design has influenced generations of Indians through collaborations with Bajaj and LML, that resulted in iconic models of the bygone era. However, the Vespa that is now sold in India is an entirely different beast; a modern distillation of the retro design language, mated with the highest quality materials, and a super refined engine that produces a healthy 9.92BHP max power and 10.59Nm of torque. While it may not be the most spirited ride in town, it still offers a comfortable and premium experience, with a brand value that is hard to ignore. Sadly though, in the process of upgrading the model to modern standards, the company has also made it inaccessible to regular people, with a premium price tag that has only increased with time, thanks to the recent BS6 conversion. As a result, the SXL variant of the Vespa now comes with an eye-watering price tag of ₹1,13,000, with certain models going even further.
- Aprilia SR 125
Even with the smaller 125cc engine that only produces 9.4BHP power and 8.2Nm of torque, the SR 125 is easily one of the fastest and most exciting scooters in the market. The racing heritage behind the Aprilia brand name shines through this model; with its stiff suspension, precise handling and peppy engine that combine to deliver a tactile experience unlike any other. It is one of the few scooters that are actually comfortable at high speeds, in tight corners, and all the small spaces you can find to cram its tiny body through. This sporty setup comes at a price though, as you can feel every single thud and bump going straight to your spine, making it a thoroughly uncomfortable experience at low speeds, on non-existent Indian roads. Thanks to the BS6 conversion, this model too has become one of the most expensive offerings in this segment, at a price of around ₹93,000.