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Review: Yamaha Alpha

Driven March 2014

Review: Yamaha Alpha

For a very long time, Yamaha had been focusing only on sporty, stylish and performance bikes in India. But not any more. The Japanese bike maker has been looking to increase its presence in the commuter segment and that saw the launch of Ray duo in the past 18 months. While the Ray and Ray Z was targeted towards female and male buyers respectively, Yamaha's latest offering, the Alpha, has been pegged as a family scooter.

Although its based on the same platform as the Ray, it looks nothing like it. That's a good thing and a bad thing. Bad thing because it isn't as flamboyantly designed as the Ray Z. The Alpha has more subtle styling cues that are pleasing to the eye and sure to offend none, and that's a good thing. The handle bar mounted headlamp, angular turn indicators on the rather simple-looking front apron and the large front mud guard lend the Alpha a typical family-scooter look. The rear styling is rather unique with the brake lamp placed unusually low while the turn indicators sit a bit higher on the tail section. Its something we haven't recently seen on any scooter on sale right now and is quite distinct in its own way. We would say, overall, its a refreshing design, but doesn't particularly set the standards high.

What does, is the manner in which the Alpha rides and handles on the road. Its firm suspension (a combination of telescopic front forks and springs at the back) may not do an exceptional job in ironing out road imperfections - sharp edges resulting in occasional loud thuds. But the stiffer set up also makes sure it handles really well. The Alpha will change lanes at will and maneuvering in traffic is quite easy too. The upright seating position combined with its well cushioned XL-size seat (longest in its class) makes sure riding for longer stint is less painful than the Honda Activa.

The Alpha borrows its powerplant from the Ray unchanged, so its 113cc motor makes an identical 7bhp and 8.1Nm of torque. These numbers may not be great on paper, but the manner in which the power is delivered makes all the difference. The Alpha takes off from standstill with relative ease and the power delivery is very smooth. The motor feels perfectly suited for ambling around town and running daily errands - its quite relaxed till 50kph. However, at higher speeds, the motor doesn't really feel all that refined when compared to its Honda rival and it sounds a bit harsh. Talking of speeds, this tiny scooter, weighing 104kg, can travel in excess of 90kph (on the odo) and if you don't run out of well paved roads, the needle will be more than eager to cross the 95kph-mark, but that would be stretching the engine to its limits.

Even at those speeds, bringing this scooter to a halt won't be an issue as the Alpha's drum brakes work extremely well, even in emergency situations. Also, the grip from 10-inch Ceat tyres is good and shouldn't be a reason of concern even on wet surfaces.

Where the Alpha slightly disappoints is in the features department. The Yamaha may boast of the biggest under seat storage, but it isn't smartly designed and despite being 21-litres in total, you still can't fit a full-face helmet. Also, it doesn't come with a brake lever lock so parking on slopes can sometimes be tricky. And then, there aren't any cubby holes on the front apron like the ones on the Ray duo, which comes in quite handy. Plus, at Rs 47,735 (ex-showroom, Delhi), the Yamaha Alpha is Rs 1,800 and Rs 3,800 dearer to the Honda Activa and TVS Jupiter respectively. Considering the Jupiter has more frills than the Alpha, the Yamaha comes across as steeply priced one.

Still, the Yamaha Alpha isn't a bad product. Fit and finish, built quality, performance, and ride and handling are its strong points. Its only when you look at its price tag, its value for money proposition doesn't really impress us much. And in a closely fought scooter segment, VFM is the ultimate deciding factor. Which is where the Yamaha Alpha may narrowly lose out to its rivals.

The numbers
1-cyl, 4-stroke, 113cc, 7bhp, 8.1Nm, 104kg, fuel tank: 5 litres, Rs 47,735 (ex-showroom, Delhi)

The verdict
The Alpha is a decent all-round performer with good comfort levels and great handling. However, for the money Yamaha is charging its customers, it doesn't come with any extra frills.

Devesh Shobha

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