Words - Karan Mathur
With a country like India having the amount of population that it does, it’s hard to have a truly successful product. However, it’s even harder becoming so popular that the very mention of its name is synonymous with the type of vehicle it is. The Activa is exactly that for the highly competitive world of scooters. Launched back in 1999, Honda set out to give India the kind of no-frills scooter that India needed back then. It was such a leap that the ripple effects of that first-generation scooter can be seen on the sales chart till date. Many may call the Activa outdated but no one can deny the fact that Honda sells one every 9 seconds. In its 20 years of existence, the Activa has managed to sell more than 2.5 crore units. That’s all impressive feats, no matter which way you look at it. For 2020, there’s a brand new Activa in town. Putting every telecom operator in India to shame, it’s called the Activa 6G. However, unlike the Activa’s of recent past, this one actually sees significant change. In terms of size, engine, features and comfort, everything on this new version of the Activa has been revised. So without further ado, let’s get to it.
Design & Features
Looking at it from afar, its looks may deceive you into thinking that it’s the same old Activa. No one will blame you. It’s only when you come closer that the changes become evident. Starting from the front, the headlamp cluster is a tad sleeker than before and gets a large chrome strip at the top. When it comes to illumination, it continues with the option of halogen lamps for the STD (standard) version and LED lamps for the DLX (deluxe) version. Further down, the plastic cladding on the front panel also gets revised design with added chrome sills to step up its premium image. Finally, the biggest changes up front is the combination of telescopic front forks and larger 12-inch steel wheels.
Moving further back, the instrument cluster also sees a complete revision. However, instead of upgrading to a more modern and informative unit, Honda has now given the Activa a re-designed all-analogue cluster. The unit comes with a speedometer, odometer, fuel gauge and tell-tale lights for the high-beam, indicators and check-engine warning. It has even lost the display that acts as a service reminder and Eco indicator. Other changes to the features list include a brand-new switch on the right which integrates the engine-kill switch and starter button into one unit. Along with that, the key-slot panel has been revised to include a rocker switch that either opens the seats and now, also opens the external fuel-filler lid. The rest of the bits in the middle remain exactly the same, including the one-piece seat. Practicality, though, sees a bump up as you now get more space to carry bags in the footwell with the use of the two luggage hooks below the handlebar and right below the seat. However, one major gripe I did have was the lack of any USB slots or phone charging conveniences.
Now let’s get to the Activa 6G’s rear profile. Akin to all changes on the 6G, the biggest change you would find here is not very clear to see. Bow a little and tucked in neatly under the rear fender you’ll find a new 3-step adjustable monoshock. Other changes here include the aforementioned external fuel filler cap and a revised design for the tail lamp cluster. While we’ll get to the performance of the adjustable monoshock setup later, the external fuel filler cap turned out to be a useful addition when we had to stop to fill up and realised we had to make no effort other than to just press a button. Activa owners are finally safe from the hassle of popping up their seats and helplessly dragging the entire vehicle all the way to the front of the line for every fuel fill-up. Overall, while design changes of the new Activa 6G may not be significant enough to tell the difference at first glance, the changes are in the details. In my opinion, the new Activa’s design and features have made it a more capable and practical version of itself. While the changes in these two departments hardly justify it as a new product, the upgrades it gets mechanically more than make up for what it loses out in conveniences.
A big point of difference between the Activa 5G and 6G are its dimensions. Addressing points that users had with previous models, the Activa 6G now gets a wheelbase that is 22mm longer than before. The 2020 Activa now boasts the largest wheelbase in its class with the total measuring 1,260mm long. As a result, it also gets a larger footwell that is 23mm longer than before. We’ll get to the difference that these changes have made in just a bit. That’s not all though; along with its riding characteristics, Honda also looked to improve the new Activa’s usability and comfort in Indian riding conditions. They have managed to do so by increasing the ground clearance of the Activa 6G by 18mm, bringing the total up to 171mm. While the Activa might see a bump in dimensions, the new scooter sees a fall in weight. The Activa 6G weighs 2kg lighter and now gets a kerb weight of 107kg. Overall, the Activa 6G might not mirror the changes it gets on paper, but the difference can definitely be felt when you thumb the starter and get moving.
One of the most important changes of the new Activa is its engine. After the BS-VI conversion of the Activa 125 and SP125, it was now the turn of Honda’s most successful product to go through the same conversion process. In its less-harmful guise, the Activa 6G still retails the 109cc, air-cooled,single-cylinder unit but now replaces its carburetted fuelling system with modern fuel-injection technology. As a result, thumb the starter and from the very first twist of the throttle, the updated engine’s refined power delivery shines through. The Activa 6G picks up pace effortlessly and smoothly, building its power in a much more controlled manner.
Thus, the new Activa is much more tractable for city use and a lot more comfortable for anyone sitting pillion. Setting off from a stop at red lights in the city is one thing but getting up to highway speeds does take a bit of time. In our acceleration tests, we managed to do the 0-60kmph run in 12 seconds with just one person on board and that time increased to 13 seconds with the added weight of a 55kg pillion. However, while the engine is a lot more responsive, power figures take a slight beating. It now belches out 7.68bhp but retains its torque rating of 8.8Nm. Not all is lost though because fuel ratings have now increased. Honda claims its new Activa 6G now returns up to 10 per cent more fuel than the previous version. While they remain tight lipped about any official figures, I estimate it would now get up to 45kmpl in real-world conditions.
Ride & Handling
Finally! The bit where it all makes sense. The Activa 6G now features a telescopic front set up and a 3-step adjustable monoshock at the rear. This setup has been carried over from the Activa 125 and is definitely a welcome addition. With its help, Honda has added a whole new level of versatility to the mix. The front now handles in a much more precise manner, while its dampening control hits a balance between comfort and feedback. In conjunction with the suspension set up at the back, the Activa is a lot more adept at being fun to ride and ironing out road discrepancies as well. While using the harder settings for solo and adventurous rides, the shocks can be adjusted to the softest when carrying a pillion or hauling luggage. For a balance between these two, they can be adjusted to the middle setting. Let’s not forget, the Activa also gets a longer wheelbase which also plays its part in better stability at higher speeds.
To sum up, the Activa in its 6G guise is a lot more dynamic in its capability and has the ability to handle most road conditions in its stride. Continuing on our point of comfort, while the one-piece seat of the new Activa is the same as before, it does a great job of cushioning your backside in the city or over extended periods of time. I spent over 4 straight hours riding the bike around roads of Mumbai with parts of it on the straight stretches of Palm Beach Road and never felt the need to complain once. Finally, let’s also talk brakes. The Activa 6G still uses drums at the front and back with no option of disc brakes either. While they do an adequate job of bringing the scooter to a stop when riding solo, coming to a stop with a pillion on-board from higher speeds gets a lot more unnerving.
Summing up the Activa is a mixed bag. With the kind of following that it has, the very mention of its name is enough to garner interest. While the previous few versions of the Activa failed to impress many with the changes that it got, the one in the Activa 6G are a lot more significant than many of them put together. It is a tad more stylish, gets better comfort, is more practical, gets better tractability and is even safer for the environment. Yet, with changing times and interest, is it still relevant in this age of BlueTooth and constant connectivity? Well, for someone who still looks out for a no-frills scooter and a high grade of quality control, the Activa 6G still makes sense. In reality, though, Activa owners are brand loyalist and Honda might have sold over 50 scooters by the time you’ve read this one article