3 Reasons To Buy The Ola S1 Air & 4 Reasons Not To
Good performance, endless features and an affordable price tag: the S1 Air does sound good…at least on paper
One year! It was nearly a year ago that Ola first launched its most affordable scooter, the S1 Air. That meant it was just slightly more expensive than the evergreen Honda Activa 6G, while promising a lot more performance than it. So what happened in these 12 months? Well, FAME 2 subsidies fell and long story short, the S1 Air now costs Rs 1,09,999 (Rs 1,19,999 after August 15).
So is it as much of a value-for-money proposition now? We recently rode the scooter at Ola’s ‘Future Factory’ in Tamil Nadu to find out exactly the same. But before we dive into that, let’s see how the S1 Air differs from its older, more premium sibling, the S1 Pro.
Right up front, the S1 Air gets a telescopic fork which replaces the S1 Pro’s single-sided unit. Right below the fork, you’ll see steel wheels (replacing the alloys on the S1 Pro) and drum brakes at both ends.
Moving to the side, there’s a flat floorboard courtesy of a smaller 3kWh battery pack, as against the 4kWh one on the S1 Pro. Ola claims that the scooter will return an IDC-certified range of 125km in Eco mode. And as you reach the scooter’s rear, you’ll see a less powerful motor (2.7kW nominal and 4.5kW peak) which enables a 90kmph top speed. Interestingly, this scooter gets a hub motor, something we’ve previously seen on the TVS iQube S. So repairing punctures could be painful, an issue that we faced during our long-term test of the iQube as well. Also, gone is the lovely single-sided swingarm, as this scooter gets a box-section one. Eagle-eyed people will also see the new chunkier-looking grab rails.
All in all, these were the changes that make the S1 Air the most affordable scooter in Ola’s lineup. Here’s how all these changes felt like in the real world, along with what we liked, and what we didn’t:
Likes: Feature Rich
Booting up the scooter, you'll see that the 7-inch touchscreen console hasn’t been fiddled around with, and that’s a good thing. The S1 Air still retains almost all of the features that the S1 Pro gets; and in that way, it’s still a segment leader.
Likes: Performance & Handling
Ola S1 Air
Ola S1 Pro
Eco, Normal & Sport
Eco, Normal, Sport & Hyper
While the less powerful hub motor does mean slower acceleration times, the S1 Air still feels quite quick. Yes, the Eco mode still feels a bit too slow even for city usage, but Normal mode should take up commuting duties well. Sport mode, meanwhile, feels properly quick and the absence of Hyper mode isn’t really felt.
Likes: Enhanced Practicality
Sit on the S1 Air and you’ll notice that the smaller battery has resulted in a flat floorboard, meaning it can accommodate a bit more of your luggage beside your feet. If not luggage, your legs will now have a bit more space, something taller riders will appreciate.
But what will really gobble up luggage is the 34-litre boot. Yes, it’s 2 litres less than the S1 Pro, but it’s still more than enough to take up your grocery runs.
And finally, having spent quite some time on the S1 Pro as a pillion, my big gripe with it was its flimsy grab rail. But this new one on the S1 Air, although a simple steel tube, feels a lot sturdier and pillions will definitely feel more confident to grab onto it.
Dislikes: Throttle Calibration
The throttle calibration continues to be a pain point for this Ola scooter too. It’s jerky and the power delivery is a bit abrupt, especially in Sport Mode. That, combined with the fact that the scooter still cuts power the moment you get on the brakes, translates to tricky tight u-turns. If you even touch the brakes mid-turn, the power will be cut instantly and you’d lose momentum, something that could put you in a tricky or uncomfortable position.
And while that’s still manageable, something that’s borderline dangerous is the delay in cutting power after you roll off the throttle. Once you do close the throttle, the S1 Air takes nearly a second to cut power delivery. So while you might be ready for the scooter to slow down, it doesn’t do so for nearly a second and that can be quite scary and dangerous.
Dislikes: Strong Regen Braking And Soft Negative Throttle
So the key is to roll off the throttle quickly, right? Well, not exactly. You see, the negative throttle on the S1 Air (given for regenerative braking) is super soft. So if you roll off the throttle a bit more than needed, regen braking will kick in instantly. And the regen itself is a bit too strong for our liking, even in the medium setting. The moment you roll off the throttle, it feels like someone’s suddenly squeezing the scooter’s brakes, resulting in a bobbing motion, something we didn’t like.
Dislikes: Inconsistent Quality
The S1 Air, unfortunately, doesn’t score high in terms of quality, either. The panel gaps in some places are inconsistent and the welds on the new grab rail aren’t the nicest to look at. Now, Ola did say that these were pre-production scooters (while production ones were being churned out right behind us at Ola’s factory). So we’re hoping these bugs don’t make it to the production S1 Airs because we do not expect to see such things on a scooter that costs well north of Rs 1 lakh.
Dislikes: Laggy Console
While the console retains all the features of the S1 Pro, it does feel a bit slow to respond, especially when navigating your way through it using the touch interface.
All in all, the Ola S1 Air’s first ride experience could’ve been a decent one had it not been marred by some of the issues we talked about earlier. While the panel gaps and laggy console are something one can live with, the throttle calibration issues are borderline dangerous and we really hope Ola fixes them as soon as possible.
So if you were considering the Ola S1 Air as your next affordable electric scooter, we’d recommend you hold off your decision for a little while. Once we get the S1 Air for a proper road test review, we’d be able to tell you more about its real-world range, ride quality and whether Ola has fixed the other issues or not.
Talking about affordable electric scooters, we recently rode Ather’s affordable scooter, the 450S, and we do have quite a lot to talk about. Our first-ride review of the same drops tomorrow so do stay tuned to BikeDekho for the same.