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Review: TVS Phoenix 125
Driven December 2012
The 125cc segment is a tough place to be, especially if you’re not Honda or Bajaj. TVS has had its share of success in the 110cc segment with the TVS Star and in the premium segment with the Apache RTR series. The same can't be said about the 125cc segment, where it has had bad luck and legal trouble with its ill fated Flame. But TVS isn’t throwing in the towel yet. The Phoenix 125 is its latest shot in this highly competitive segment.
With the Phoenix, TVS started from scratch. So the bike is all-new, not just a facelift on some existing model. The design follows a very conservative theme, with a basic commuter layout. The handlebar provides an upright seating position, and the soft, almost flat seat offers a fatigue-free ride.
The headlight shares the family look with those on other TVS bikes, like the Star 110, but by way of distinction, the Phoenix gets LED lights like the ones on the RTR 180 – although that design element is not very prominent in daylight. At night though, it gives the Phoenix its signature look.
The styling is plain Jane, but TVS has tried to compensate with the graphics and colour palette. As you can see from our test bike, the Phoenix gets a vibrant choice of colours, metallic lime green being the most eye-catching. The rest of the bike is draped in black, like the engine and alloy wheels. There are optional disc brakes if you want better stopping power. All of which adds up to make the Phoenix stand out in a parking lot.
The instrument cluster is all-digital. We’d have liked a rev meter, and speed displayed in digital numerals as opposed to the bar graph, which is difficult to read and not clearly visible in sunlight. Apart from basics like speed and fuel, the instrument cluster also has a 'low-battery' indicator and a 'service' indicator.
Thumb the starter and the vibrations are minimal. Riding around, the Phoenix feels nimble and light on its feet. The 125cc motor makes 10.8bhp and 10.8Nm. Add to that its 116kg weight and the Phoenix gets a decent power-to-weight ratio.
The gear changes are smooth but we’re still not big fans of the all-up pattern that we find on so many of these commuters. Another thing we don’t like is the absence of a fifth gear. TVS says most of the people buying the Phoenix will ride them in the city, where a fifth gear is rarely used. Thanks for being thoughtful TVS, but please, let customers decide where and when they want to use a higher gear.
Otherwise, the gears are well sorted and the Phoenix can putter around in third gear at speeds ranging from 20kph all the way to 60kph. In fourth, you can push the bike all the way to its top speed of 95kph.
We didn't get a chance to test the fuel figures on the Phoenix but TVS claims it'll return 67kpl. Which we find hard to believe. In the real world, where the Phoenix will be ridden, expect a more realistic 45-50kpl.
When you’re not pushing the Phoenix to its top speed, the ride is good. Even at 80kph, the bike feels stable and well planted, thanks to the series spring technology used for the rear shock absorbers. The series spring is TVS's homegrown technology – not marketing jargon like 'body balance'.
TVS says the series spring offers a 40 per cent better ride than a conventional suspension. This is achieved thanks to the longer suspension and the two layers of spring stacked one on top of the other.
While the company has boiled everything down to graphs and numbers, we think the series spring works very well, making sure the major shocks are absorbed by the suspension, and not the rider's back.
Overall, there are some things we expect in a bike that retails in excess of Rs 50,000. The Phoenix has all that you might need from a bike in this segment, but it doesn’t have something to set it apart from the current crop of commuter bikes. Which is why it's hard to see this bike on top of someone's shopping list.
124.5cc, single-cylinder, 4M 10.8bhp, 10.8Nm, 67kpl*, 0-60kph: 6.3sec*, 95kph, 116kg, Rs 53,000 (ex-showroom, Chennai)
A straightforward commuter bike. What you see is what you get. With a little more attitude and style, it would’ve stood out of the commuter crowd.