Here’s a fascinating fact for you; out of the 17 million or so two-wheelers manufactured worldwide each year, about 12 million are scooters under 125cc.
Most are made in Asia and used by ordinary people as their only means of transport. Honda make this Activa 100 model in India and it’s designed for a tough life, with metal panels (easy to repair), a four stroke engine and drum brakes.
Alastair Walker rode the Activa for a few days in sunny South Africa, where it retails for around £1000, or can be hired as a holiday runabout.
Honda have been making scooters for over 20 years now, busily stealing the market which Piaggio more or less invented back in the 1950s. The Activa is the latest budget level commuter scooter, which was launched back in 2001 by Honda Motorcycle and Scooters India, where the brand new Honda Gurgaon factory churns out about 40,000 examples of the Activa every year.
OK, you might think this kind of budget level scooter has little bearing on the UK market, because of its low cost features, like metal panels (yes really, like an old Vespa PX), drum brakes, air-cooled, 102cc four stroke motor and its dinky 10 inch wheels.
But the economic balance of power in scooters long ago shifted East, which means that it is going to become harder for European based manufacturers to actually make basic 50cc-125cc commuter machines within the EU, yet still compete with low cost Chinese, Indian and Vietnamese built `rev `n’ go machines. It’s only a matter of time before scooters like the Activa are assembled in kit form in somewhere like Poland or Hungary and sold in the UK.
So what’s the Activa like then?
Glad you asked. The answer is surprisingly capable, given the obvious cost-paring which has gone into its overall manufacture. In many ways, the Activa is a modern successor to `bread and butter’ machinery like the Honda 90 Cub, which served Honda so well for decades.
The bodywork is made of metal, rather than plastic and the reason is that any dents can be fixed by a third world scooter repair shop. In fact the entire rear section of the Activa can be flipped up like the bonnet on a car, or detached completely via its patent CLIC mechanism, so that rapid repairs or maintenance can be carried out to the engine and transmission unit if needed.
The power unit is a 7bhp, air cooled single cylinder, four stroke, with the usual auto gearbox. The example I tested took a second or so for the drive to engage from tickover, then chugged up to an indicated 80-85kph maximum speed, about 55mph flat out. I could feel some sort of ignition limiter device working as I merrily caned the Activa downhill along Chapman’s Peak Drive, near Cape Town. It won’t rev too hard – no matter what you do – but at least you get a chance to admire the stunning South African scenery.
That said, it does the job that any commuter could ask, especially when it comes to miserly fuel consumption. The 6 litre fuel tank has a reasonably accurate fuel gauge and filling it from well inside the red zone took a fraction over 5 litres and cost just £2.50 in sunny South Africa – which included a tip of a few Rand for the helpful gas station jockey.
The Domestic Appliance of Science
For something so cheap `n’ cheerful, the Honda Activa was generally well made and its ride and handling were certainly up to the job of tackling bumpy city streets. The small forks at the front were set pretty firm, which gave decent feedback when you fancied leaning the thing over, or hitting the brakes late coming up to a junction. The single shoe front drum brake was a good stopper, with the rear drum allowing a bit of extra malarkey when harassing your way through jammed up traffic. Cape Town drivers, like most, love changing lanes and jockeying for position, but a scooter is the fastest way to nip down the chic Victoria and Alfred waterfront any day of the week.
There’s a huuuge grabrail at the back of the Activa, which must be a useful anchor point for all kinds of unfeasible luggage in India. A first aid kit lurks under the seat, but the luggage space is disappointingly small – I couldn’t fit my open face Arai inside it, although a `Beanie’ lid, which is legal in South Africa, would be OK.
It also lacks a little cubby hole in the front section of the bodywork, although there is an optional front box available to buy as an extra – plus a bag hook located just below the front of the saddle. On the upside, the mirrors were good, the saddle comfortable enough for two people and there’s an electric, plus kick-starter, to cover all the options. The Activa needed full choke and no throttle first thing to fire up, plus a minute or so of warming up, before it could operate without stalling at junctions.
Otherwise, it just kept chugging along for 200 kilometres with no problems at all. One useful extra the Activa has is Honda factory `Tuffup’ tyres, which contain a kind of mousse, inside a double-skinned inner tube, which – Honda claim – seals a puncture automatically, allowing the rider to continue home.
The scooter also had a sturdy centrestand, which allowed me to park it on the beach near Camps Bay, which is where you can find models doing photo shoots on most days. Niiice.
Have Scoot, will travel
Razzing about on the Activa for four days cost me about £50, plus a deposit of £200 against damage, courtesy of Moto Berlin, (www.motoberlin.com) who are located right in the middle of Cape Town. It was a great way to see Robben Island from way up high on Signal Point, or whiz along to funky club/restaurants like Strega, or Bossanova (where the girls behind the bar sometimes dance on the bar, in front of burning lighter fluid) or dining out at the Buzbey Grill in Sea Point. As tourists get stung about £6 a taxi trip to get from say, Cape Town centre to Hout Bay, where the harbour side restaurants serve superb seafood, holiday scootering definitely makes sense. CT2 travel can arrange a package deal with flight, accom and two wheel transport all inclusive. More at www.club-travel2000.co.uk.
Get Honda motorbike insurance for the honda activa.
Engine 102cc four stroke, single cylinder
Bore x Stroke N/A
Peak Power 7bhp @ 7000rpm
Gears None, automatic
Chassis Steel tubular frame and sub section
Front fork Telescopic, non adjustable
Rear suspension Single shock, non adjustable
Brakes SLS drum 130mm front, SLS drum rear
Wheels/Tyres 350 section x 10 inch front, 350 x 10 inch rear
Electrics 12 volt, electric starter. 35 watt headlight
Top speed……….55mph (est)
Fuel consumption……….120mpg (approx)
Equipment ……….Dual seat, under storage, first aid kit, grab rail, anti-puncture inner tubes, twin mirrors, fuel gauge, indicators, manual choke, luggage hook, kick starter, centre-stand. Optional front luggage box.
Price……….14500 Rand in South Africa (approx £1000 Feb 2004 exchange rate)