Mahindra2wheelers forms a significant entity in the conglomerate's quest to be present in all forms of mobility.
Let's start with the Mahindra Stallio, the company's first attempt at a motorcycle. Alas, it was a complete failure that forced Mahindra2Wheelers to take a sabbatical and go back to the drawing board.
Mahindra plotted its comeback with scooters, so far so good, but the commuter motorcycle segment which forms the largest part of the largest two wheeler market in the world is simply too irresistible to miss. So Mahindra has resorted to a two pronged approach to cover the sheer width of the Indian commuter segment.
While the Pantero takes care of the price sensitive entry level segment the Mahindra Centuro vies for the wallet of a bit more aspirational customer. The aim is to offer oodles of features while upholding the crucial fuel economy factor.
We all know that the commuter segment traditionally revolves around established brands. So the inevitable question is, has the Mahindra Centuro got the recipe right? Has is got what it takes to convince the extremely demanding buyer? We went all the way to the foot hills of Himalayas to find out the answer for you!
Does the Mahindra Centuro looks the part?
Well yes! The design of the bike is not ground breaking but it is up there with pretty much any decent looking commuter there is. Unlike its sibling Pantero which has a quirky styling, the Centuro settles for a conventional appearance. It shares its taillight with the Pantero but the rest of the elements are new.
The bikini fairing, the tank, the decals the silencer and the grab rails, they all have a certain sense of belonging to the segment. The twin golden bars that run below the fuel tank are there purely for the styling purpose but they mimic the exhaust manifolds of the upcoming Mahindra Mojo.
The short answer is, the motorcycle has a fine balance in which ever angle you look from.
Head to Page 2 for details on features and build quality.
Why do you say it's for an aspirational buyer?
The Mahindra Centuro adds some hitherto unseen features to the package. The foldable keys for instance (both the primary and the spare key) are remote control units with anti theft system. Apart from benefiting from an understandable boost to your ego because of the car-like key fob, Mahindra assures that you won't be a victim of bike theft.
The engine is equipped with an immobilizer that makes use of 96 bit encryption. Even if somebody attempts to start the bike with a perfectly machined duplicate key, the bike wouldn't start and anti theft alarm will be triggered. Good stuff!
And then comes the goodies like the digital dashboard (with analog tachometer) which supplies useful info like speedometer, odometer, fuel level, clock, trip meter and interestingly a Distance To Empty meter (displays only when the bike sips the reserve fuel).
The other noteworthy features that are unique to the bike are Find Me lamps (lets you identify your bike in a crowded parking lot) and Guide Me Home lamps (the headlamp and taillamp stay on for 10 seconds if the vehicle's ignition was turned off with the headlamp switch on).
These are features that interest the tech savvy customers who are ready to shell out a bit more.
How well is the bike put together?
The overall build quality of the bike is impressive by the commuter standards. The quality of switch gears, handle grips and the plastics are good and so is the paint job.
Get astride and you'll notice that the bike offers comfortable riding position. The tank offers reasonably good support to the riders knees and seat is long and wide.
Head to Page 3 for details on engine, gearbox and fuel economy.
Features aside, how good is the powertain?
Even though the 110cc MCI-5 four stroke air cooled engine is a familiar mill (same as the Pantero), one can notice a marginal improvement in the overall feel. While the power and torque figures of 8bhp and 8 Nm stay intact, according to Mahindra's engineers, the mapping is slightly different from that of the Pantero.
The vibrations of the engine are kept within acceptable limits most of the times. It's only when you are approaching 8,000 rpm that the bike starts protesting. The acceleration is commendable for a commuter and it feels the best between 3,000 to 6,000 rpm. Having said that the response at low engine speeds are not bad either. The Centuro can easily manage a cruising speed of 65kph without bothering your bones and back.
The biggest grouse comes from the four speed all-up shift gear box which feels clumsy and a bit hesitant while shifting down, especially when you are in a hurry and summon the engine to aid in fast deceleration. On the other side the upshifts are smoother and gear ratios are well determined.
Kitna deti hai?
Mahindra answers the quintessential question with a happy face. The bike returns an ARAI certified mileage of 85.4kpl. In comparison, the Hero Passion Pro manages 84kpl and the Honda Dream Yuga promises 73kpl. However we didn't get an opportunity to test the mileage by ourselves.
Head to Page 4 to know about ride, handling and verdict.
Tell me about ride, handling and brakes
The ride quality of the bike is something that impressed us the most. The suspension setup is the usual telescopic forks up front and 5-way adjustable coil springs at the rear. The stiffness in the default setting is just right and the commuter maintains good composure over a rough patch.
Handling is light, surefooted and safe but the brakes could have been slightly better. While the stopping power is significantly improved than that of the Pantero, we feel there is still some void to be filled. Fortunately Mahindra is working on a disc brake version which would come few months down the line.
So what is the final verdict?
The Mahindra Centuro is a very good commuter. It has a smooth engine, very comfortable ride and it feels well screwed together. It offers good performance with impressive fuel economy. The first-in-class features definitely add to the ownership experience.
However Mahindra should accept the fact that it is a brand new player in the motorcycle segment and is going head on with well established titans. Building a brand reputation in this segment is a painstakingly long process and a killer price tag goes a long way in making people take notice.
Head to Page 5 for a detailed image gallery.