Hero Super Splendor, Passion Pro And Passion XPro First Ride Review
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The Hero trio gets engines developed in-house and i3S technology as standard
The JV between Hero and Honda ended over half a decade ago and since then, Hero has been swapping out the jointly developed motors in favour of its engines developed in-house as dictated by the severance agreement between the two two-wheeler giants. It’s taken this long because of the sheer size of Hero MotoCorp’s portfolio and for the company’s desire to sort out its bread and butter models first before moving on to bigger things. And barring the very basic Splendor and its variants, which still run the legacy Hero-Honda motors, the engine overhaul of the Super Splendor, Passion Pro and Passion XPro marks the end of Hero’s drive to switch to its own engines in all its commuter models. The target had been set for 2017 which has been achieved and from 2018, the company plans to develop more premium products in an attempt to recapture the 25 per cent market share it once held in the 180-225cc segment. But today let’s talk about the latest 110cc and 125cc commuters from Hero. Here are our impressions based on a really quick first ride.
The Super Splendor has always been for customers who wanted a Splendor but with a bit more power. The new one doesn’t look too different and in terms of aesthetics, only features minor changes like new side panels, graphics and a redesigned tail lamp. The instrument cluster hasn’t changed and is still an analogue unit, with the speedo taking the centre stage, flanked by the fuel gauge on the right, and the neutral and side-stand indicator on the left. On the face of it, it looks like another sticker job but it isn’t.
The new Super Splendor now comes with a new 125cc single-cylinder engine. It is the same motor that also powers the new Glamour, but this, of course, only gets a carbureted version. Hero has also made other small tweaks all over the motorcycle which have made a noticeable difference in the way the bike now behaves. But the engine first.
The new non-sloper engine from the Glamour makes 11.4PS of max power at 7,500rpm and 11Nm of peak torque at 6,000 rpm. That is a bump up of 2.4PS which in a 125cc commuter does count for a lot and it shows. The motor feels refined and is barely audible when idling. And as you roll off the line, it settles down to a smooth hum that gives way to a whine as the revs climb. There is a strong mid-range here that makes the motor supremely tractable. Leave it in the top gear of the 4-speed gearbox and the Super Splendor can go from 20kmph to 90kmph without a jitter or shudder. For a commuter, it feels quite peppy and has just the right amount of power and pull to allow for a bit of fun in the city whilst maintaining its position as an able commuter. It also comes equipped with Hero’s i3S technology, which combined with the new engine should make the bike even more frugal.
Another little update you notice is when you get on the bike. The seat is now wider and much firmer and not as squishy as before. This translates to a comfortable seat with ample support which should make long commutes on the bike a breeze. The handlebar, seat and footpeg proportion though is quite compact and riders with larger frames will feel a bit constrained. On the move however, it feels much more sure-footed than before. The ride has been firmed up but is still on the softer side. Even though it is a great improvement over the current bike, a bit more stiffness from the suspension would’ve been welcome, especially for heavier rider, or for those riding with a pillion. Having said that, the 5-step adjustable rear shocks should help with the stiffness of the setup. It is quite flickable in traffic, though as the speeds climb, you can feel the chassis resisting to change directions quickly. Also, it feels a bit shaky in the corners if you go into one even slightly over 50kmph. We realize it’s not an enthusiast’s machine but a bit more firmness would’ve complemented the new engine really well. That said, at regular city speeds, which is what this bike has been designed for, it should have no problem carving its way through traffic.
Another thing that would’ve complemented the engine really well are the brakes. The Super Splendor features a drum setup at the front and rear and it would’ve really benefited with a front disc setup. The drum brakes though provide adequate bite, but lack in terms of feel and struggle to maintain composure during hard braking. If you need to slow down in a hurry, you really need to pull the front brake lever hard and really stomp on the rear brake pedal. A disc setup would’ve not only helped with feel but provided a lot more linear bite as well, and we really wish Hero would’ve offered this, at least as an option.
Passion Pro and XPro
The Hero Passion is the second most popular motorcycle that Hero makes after the iconic Splendor. Over the years, the Passion spawned many variants including the Pro TR which was launched way back in 2014 after being showcased at that year’s Auto Expo. One of the most popular iterations of the Passion has been the Pro. So it was only natural that it got an upgrade. But along with the upgraded Pro, Hero has decided to add the Passion XPro to the portfolio as well. The Pro is touted to be the quintessential commuter, whereas the XPro is said to be for those who want a little more style in their commuter motorcycles.
The Passion Pro’s headlight fairing looks almost identical to the current Passion, but for very subtle aesthetic tweaks. The tail lamp has been redesigned and features a sharper design along with an LED lamp. The fuel tank, along with centre and tail panels, have been redesigned too. The clocks are a mix of an analogue speedometer and a digital screen that houses the, odometer, trip meters and the fuel gauge. Like the Super Splendor, it also gets a side stand indicator. The seat is wide and long enough to accommodate two with ease but is still too soft for our liking and is likely to cause some aches and pains over long periods of continuous riding.
The biggest change is the engine which has been borrowed from the Hero iSmart 110. So, unlike the current Passion Pro which displaces 97.2cc, the new one displaces 109.1cc and makes 9.4PS and 9.0Nm at 7500 and 5500rpm respectively. The power is up by 1PS while it has .95Nm more torque. The new engine, with its more vertically oriented cylinder, features Hero’s i3S technology like the Super Splendor which should help it be more fuel efficient. The motor is mated to a 4-speed transmission that works rather well.
On the move, the motor feels refined and smooth. The torque response in the mid-range is strong, and this new Passion scores high on tractability. You can go from 25kmph all the way to 85kmph in 4th gear with ease. There is no drama, stuttering or shudder from the motor. The only issue are the vibes that tend to creep into the footpegs when you cross the 80kmph mark. But it in no way hampers the experience of the bike which is rather pleasant, to say the least.
The suspension has been tuned rather well. The ride is now quite firm, even firmer than Super Splendor’s, but is a long way from harsh. The Passion maintains its composure at all times. The earlier Splendor/Passion had a sorted out chassis and it always felt planted. But this one manages to do even better in this regard. The bumps and undulations are tackled with ease and it is surprisingly good even in turns. A lot of it is down to the double-downtube cradle frame which is quite rigid and negates any flex when you push the Passion into a corner. You are able to carry more speed into and out of the corners even when compared to the Splendor which has the bigger engine. While outright cornering prowess isn’t what’s expected from commuter motorcycles such as these, the Passion’s planted feeling when turning feels reassuring.
Another confidence booster is the optional 240mm disc brake up front which offers plenty of bite and a fair amount of feel as well. Despite its tiny engine and commuter nature, the Passion Pro is a fun little bike to ride. We only wish the seat were a bit firmer.
The Passion XPro, on the other hand, is identical to the Passion Pro apart from the styling. It features a sharper front end with a halogen headlamp and two pilot lamps which can be considered ‘DRLs’ as well. There are new shrouds on each side tank which give the bike a rather sporty look from the side. The tail section tapers off into a rather sharp looking tail lamp with LED lamps that add to the motorcycle’s more premium feel. The clocks, like the Pro, are a mix of analogue speedo and a digital screen that displays the trip info and fuel level.
The moment you swing your leg over the XPro, the first thing you notice is that the seat is much firmer compared the Pro and offers much better support. The engine and power figures are identical to that of the Pro and riding dynamics are identical a well. The XPro though somehow feels a bit more sure-footed and a bit edgier compared to its more sedate sibling. The main difference between the two being the fuel capacity. Where the Pro sports an 11-litre tank, the XPro boasts a larger 13-litre one.
The Super Splendor, Passion Pro and Passion XPro mark some of the best selling motorcycles from Hero. The Indian bike maker has not only fitted the bikes with bigger engines and tweaked the riding dynamics but with the i3S system standard across models, they should now be more frugal as well. These engines, developed in-house, should help Hero win favour among its customer base and should help the company maintain its segment leader status. These three bikes, when launched in January 2018, will most likely come at a slight premium over their current guises but should still fall between Rs 52,000 and Rs 60,000 ex-showroom which would still make them value for money offerings.
Words: Kshitij Sharma Photography: Vikrant Date