A phoenix rises from the flames

Written by Vikram Chaudhary | Updated: Dec 15 2012, 07:18am hrs
First, a little history. In 2007-08, Bajaj Auto was riding high on its patented digital twin spark ignition (DTSi) technology that powers, among other models, its best-selling Pulsar and Discover bikes. Around the same time, Hosur-based two-wheeler major TVS Motor Company came out with its own version of a twin spark engined motorcycle called the Flamea 125cc bikein an attempt to fill the huge gap in the executive segment where TVS lacked strength. But the Flame couldnt set TVSs sales charts on fire. Primarily because Bajaj Auto filed a petition seeking to restrain TVS from manufacturing and selling the Flame, alleging patent infringement, and the court restrained TVS from using the twin spark technology. Although later the court allowed TVS to go ahead with the production and selling of the Flame, the bike had suffered serious burns by then.

Cut to 2012, TVS made another entry into the 125cc segment by launching the Phoenix, which it calls Indias first premium 125cc motorcycle. Dubbed by the company to be one of the most exciting products to roll off its lines, the Phoenix, according to TVS, is targeted at consumers who aspire to upgrade from just commuting to those who crave for a spirited ride experience without compromising on mileage. For a few days we had the bike to ourselves and here we figure out how good TVSs second serious attempt to crack the 125cc segment is.

The look

Now, why is it called a premium bike The fact remains that there are so many strong players in the 125cc space that, to crack it, TVS had to come up with a bike that offers some first-in-class featuresthats why the premium prefix. And the Phoenix doesnt disappoint. Although you cannot really do much with design in the 125cc space (in order to keep costs down), TVS has incorporated features that make the Phoenix look good. It is shod with six-spoke alloy wheels, blackened engine and exhaust, LED pilot lamps with dawn to dusk visibility, roto-pedal front disc brakes (there is a drum model too), soft touch switchgear, soft-textured handle grips and petal-design tail lamp. So, to an extent, and especially to a keen eye, the bike does stand out from the crowd. Then you also have, what TVS calls, some car-like premium features. For instance, there is a fully digital speedometer and there are hazard lights (first in the segment, and helpful whenever parked on the road shoulder). The digital instrument bay has a trip meter, waterfall-type fuel gauge, low battery warning lights and service due reminder. However, reading the speedometer takes some getting used to. The meter doesnt have a digital clock and gear indicator, both of which could have been nice inclusions.

The feel

TVS has carried out enough research to make the Phoenix as comfortable as possible. The bikes upright riding position is easy for a commuter bike; and then you have a long, well-cushioned, compound-padded seat. In fact, I must admit that the seating is quite pampering. I did 10 journeys from my home to office and back (30 km, one way) and not once did my lower back go numb, and this is quite unlike most commuter bikes in India. Mention must be made here of the telescopic fork front suspension, and a pair of novel shock absorbers at the rear called series-springessentially consisting of multi-rated springs coiled one over another, split by a separatorboth of which ensure that minimal vibrations are passed onto the riders body. Then you have the air cavity foot pegs, which, to an extent, take the vibrations off your feet. The bike is mounted on a single down tube frame, assisted by a rectangular section swingarm.

The power

The Phoenix 125 is powered by a 124.5cc, single cylinder petrol engine called the EcoThrust that, according to TVS, marries performance and economy with a built-in digital-mapped ignition system. It produces a power of [email protected] and a torque of [email protected] Because the Phoenix is the lightest bike in its class, weighing 116 kg, this translates into a good power-to-weight ratio of 94bhp per tonne. You have a four-speed, all-up transmission.

The Play

The powerplant is quite refined and, once you fire it, the engine makes a soft, vibrant purr sounda testimony to its refinement. The gearshift is smooth and clutch is light, thus making riding through urban stop-and-go traffic easy. The bike isnt lightening quick, though; it goes from 0-60 kmph in a little over 7 seconds and stops just shy of 100 kmph at full throttle in top gear. The rear-view mirrors, though classy, dont fully show whats following you, and have to be adjusted by each rider. The long seat is a boon for the pillion rider. In fact, I took my 65-year-old father on a 10-km ride and he was particularly happy with the grippy alloy grab handle at the rear. The handling is nimble, thanks to the TVS Srichakra rubber mounted on its 17-inch wheels, and traversing heavy traffic is a boon. Ride quality doesnt leave you with many complains and potholes are well taken care of by the series-spring suspension. The 240mm front petal disc and 130mm rear drum inspire a lot of confidence while braking.

The thirst

While the company-claimed mileage is an optimal 67 kmpl, we got close to 55 kmpl. Thats primarily because all our riding was through rush-hour Delhi traffic. So, in mixed conditions, expect a fuel efficiency of close to 60 kmpl; even more if ridden well.

The Need

Competing against the likes of Bajaj Discover 125/Platina 125, Hero Super Splendor/Glamour/ Ignitor and Honda CBF Stunner/ CB Shine, the Phoenix had to be priced right. Although R52,000 (disc brake) and R49,990 (drum brake) isnt the cheapest among 125cc bikes, the attractive package and the suitability of the bike for daily commuting makes it a serious contender, and in the long run, value for money. Hopefully, it wont stutter along like the Flame and give TVS the much required strength in the 125cc segment.