Text – Mohit Soni; Pictures – Om Vaikul
Shootout – Hero Splendor iSmart vs Mahindra Centuro
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 60,745/- (Hero Splendor iSmart ), Rs. 57,600/- (Mahindra Centuro)
These bikes are fighting it out in the entry level segment, offering everything plus more
Who says being an automotive journalist is always about having fun and feeling happy that you have one of the best jobs in the world? When it comes to comparing machines, it becomes very difficult these days. Modern technology and a lot of money makes sure that manufacturers do not fall behind their competition by a huge margin. The margin for error and gap is way too short these days. Point proven by Mahindra 2-Wheelers, a company which recently scribbled its clean sheet and drew something amazing on it. Now one of them is out to the challenge the king of the market, in the commuter segment that is. Dominated by three decade old manufacturers, Mahindra is here to challenge them with the Centuro, a product that rubs shoulder with the Splendors and Discovers of the world.
What we have here today is a product that is proven, a household name, a brand that crossed boundaries and became a worldwide phenomenon now, the Hero Splendor. In its new avatar, the iSmart, it comes with the world’s first start-stop-system in a production motorcycle. We did an exclusive first ride review several months ago and now we have compared it with the talk of the town, the new value for money king, the Mahindra Centuro. Some how, we try to explain if a brand new revolutionary product is good or a product which has proven itself over time is the best for you, it’s tough, but here we go!
Styling – The Mahindra Centuro is the latest motorcycle to hit the market and it’s the most attractive and fresh here. Golden ribs, bright and big engine fairing always grab your attention and so is the well executed paint and sticker job. Prominent front cowl with a well sized headlight is form and function and gives character to the bike which it desperately needs because it needs to prove itself. Sure, it resembles the Phoenix but the TVS is not there in this segment. Mahindra has made sure the bike looks athletic and bold at the same time. Tail piece design does look a bit odd but the cool looking LED tail-light makes up for it at the rear. Fit-finish and quality is good and so is the attention to detail. The brake and clutch levers are very different on the Mahindra Centuro (chunkier) than any other motorcycle in the segment.
The Hero Splendor iSmart on the other hand is ages old but with this variant, it is completely revamped in most aspects. The colours add a lot of visual drama and new bits and bobs such as aluminium footpegs, spring loaded front footpegs (usually seen on performance bikes) and split grab rails grabs the attention of people and makes them go “hmm, this is something new from Hero after all”. The overall design is slightly beefed up when compared to the original icon and it does end up looking as substantial as the Mahindra Centuro. There is no reason to complain when it comes to aesthetics because it all boils down to personal taste.
Instrument Cluster and Switch Gear – Without any doubt, the Mahindra Centuro wins by miles with an array of features on display. Digital meter is a segment first for a sub 110cc motorcycle. The O1 variant we have comes with distance to empty, clock, service reminder, tachometer and much more to justify every single penny you pay in terms of features. Let us not forget the key fob which has a LED torch and has unique features such as guide me home headlight (stays on for 10 seconds) and a buzzing sound with indicators flashing to find your motorcycle in a parking lot. On the other side, the Splendor has a speedometer inspired from the NXG variant and the only addition is iSmart and side stand warning light while the rest remains the same old.
Practicality – Both motorcycles have wide and long comfortable seats. You sit upright on both these motorcycle but the Centuro has a slightly more commanding position compared to the Splendor. Rear view mirrors and rear visibility is excellent too on both these motorcycles. The Centuro and Splendor both offer excellent spread from their headlight but the illumination of the Centuro is a notch above compared to the Splendor. Both these motorcycles have storage for documents and other things in a rectangular box above the engine.
Performance and Gearbox – The Mahindra Centuro has a 106cc powerplant while the Splendor draws power from the now famous “97.2cc” mill. The Centuro produces more power and torque than the Splendor, but the Splendor produces less power at slightly lesser RPM. Couple that with 5 kgs of lighter weight than the Centuro, it does score high on paper, but the Centuro is quicker to 60 km/hr by 1.7 seconds due to more power and torque along with clever gearing. Engines on both motorcycles are terrifically refined and smooth. However, there are ups and downs as always. The Splendor has a Honda motor and in typical Honda fashion, it vibrates slightly as soon as the torque band starts. However, Mahindra has eliminated all vibrations on the Centuro between 0 to 8000 RPM but the mill vibrates post 8000 RPM in abundance which a commuter rarely reaches. Vibrations are in first three gears at higher RPM but not in top gear so you can cruise at high speeds on the Centuro as well as on the Splendor.
Both these bikes have similar power bands. Both have adequate low-end torque with good mid-range and top-end power. Both these motorcycles pull hard from 60 km/hr to their top speeds which is 95 km/hr. When it comes to sound, do both sound the same? Nope, Mahindra has made a special effort to make the sound of the Centuro more throaty and it is evident instantly after riding it back to back. The 4-speed gearbox with taller gearing is yet another similarity between both these commuters and the shifting action is smooth and precise. However, on the Splendor, it has an all-down pattern while on the Centuro there is option of toe-shifting as well which is no complex engineering but a toe shifter instead of heel on the front side. Both these bikes deliver between 60-65 km/l in the city. The iSmart will deliver 2-3 km/l more mileage with the system on (more on that in the full road test review of the iSmart).
Riding Dynamics – Telescopic forks, twin-shock setup at the rear and 18-inch wheels are the common bits between both these motorcycles. The rear tyre on the Centuro is marginally bigger than the one on the Splendor. One more similarity between both is the same double-cradle frame being used. Dynamically both these motorcycles are excellent. Both turn-in very quickly and are very stable. They whizz past traffic like no one exists around them. Why don’t most of the riders who own these motorcycles do it? Mileage sacrifice is a sin and hence they do not indulge in pushing these bikes. The tyres on both these machines come from MRF which are the right balance of tyre mileage and safe grip. They inspire a lot of confidence while riding in an enthusiastic manner when the road gets twisty.
Mahindra has taken all the efforts to make the Centuro ride and handle well and it shows. The Centuro feels more sporty of the lot when ridden enthusiastically with excellent composure and confidence from the chassis. The Splendor always excelled at this, but the Mahindra has an edge with a touch of sportiness, even with the ride quality. We gave the bike to an everyday rider who rides a commuter and he was very impressed with the stability and ride quality and said the balance is unique and sporty. The Splendor also has a smooth functioning suspension and ride quality is excellent but it is very commuter-ish and lacks that inch of sportiness that the Centuro gives. Both these bikes come with drum brakes at both ends. If you want a disc, Hero says that you are probably better off with the Passion series while Mahindra is about to launch a disc variant of the Centuro soon. Front brakes on the Splendor are pretty much useless while the Mahindra does give a bit of bite but it is obviously not as effective as the rear brakes. Rear brakes on both these bikes are excellent.
Verdict – Comparing it with the regular Hero Splendor would have resulted in more favour towards the Mahindra Centuro hence we compared it to the iSmart variant which looks better and has some more goodies. Like I told you, it’s very difficult to compare both these bikes. The Splendor is already an accomplished motorcycle and the Mahindra Centuro also does it all thanks to the insane attention to detail. In some small aspects, it even betters the Splendor. Both these motorcycles are very closely matched and are technologically advanced. However, it’s the Centuro which has the usable goodies. LED tail-lights on both ends, the flip key with all the gizmos and a price tag which is unbelievably low for a tech laden commuter.
The difference between them is roughly Rs. 3000/-. Yes finally there is a difference between them. Wait, both these motorcycles also come with a 5-year warranty package. Oh boy, I am tired of punching the similarities between the two. If you excuse me I need to give my brain some rest and anyways it is up to you to decide if you want a tech laden, value for money, modern commuter which also has the basic things right (better in some aspects) or a bike which has only the basics done right and a technology which will save you slightly more fuel. The Splendor is also the proven product with reliability being one of its strongest plusses. From our side though, the winner of this test is the Mahindra Centuro.
The Mahindra Centuro is a sheer value for money proposition and has an upper hand in some aspects. Mahindra’s service network is increasing but will take a lot of time to come even close to Hero’s level. Being something totally out of the box will help Mahindra rise in the minds of those who want something new all the time.
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