Mahindra’s new Duro 125DZ review here

There was a time when the automatic scooter segment in India was almost written off. This was the time when the once famous Kinetic was finding it hard to sell their scooters. People said automatics are a thing of the past and it was going to be bikes all the way. Chetak and Kinetic loyalists were taking to bikes from Hero Honda, Bajaj and TVS.

Mahindra Duro

The Duro has nice road presence. Partly due to the large wheelbase.

And then sometime in 2003, the new entrant Honda announced they were going to launch an automatic scooter. The market was surprised by this decision as the general perception was that India was finally going to get the big bikes from the Japanese giant. Nobody expected them to offer an automatic scooter. There were doubts galore. Bajaj’s effort at keeping the segment alive with the Saffire had hopelessly bombed. And here comes Honda, a new entrant in Indian two wheeler scene, wanting to try to tap into the same segment. It was looked upon as a strange and not-so-intelligent choice from Honda.

Mahindra Duro FrontMahindra Duro

But when it comes to strategies, these Japs have this knack of proving ordinary market analysts and auto journalists wrong. Remember when Toyota wanted to stop the production of the Qualis and start with Innova? People said Toyota was killing its golden duck. And with Innova being priced higher, they were definitely going to lose out on volumes. We all know what happened in the next part of this history, so let me cut across straight to the Honda Activa history. Just like how Toyota proved the industry wrong with the Innova, Honda did it with the Activa.

The Activa was so much of a success that it indirectly benefited Honda’s competitors. The reason why the Suzuki Access sells as much as it does now is not because of the scooter’s capabilities alone. It is because of the lack of availability of the Activa. Waiting periods extend up to 9 months at some places in the country is what I have heard.

Mahindra Duro Instrument Console

Plain jane readouts.

It is similar with other scooters like the newly launched TVS Wego and Hero Honda Pleasure. The success of Activa gave other manufacturers renewed confidence. That Bajaj tried again with the Wave and then the Cristal and bombed again, can be the topic of another discussion. TVS also saw the option of upgrading their Scooty from a sub-scooter segment to scooter segment with the Scooty Pep.

Mahindra Duro Switch GearMahindra Duro Switch Gear

Reaching the horn switch with my thumb required some effort.

When there was this mad rush to capitalize on the market opened up by the Activa, Mahindra had come into the picture with their two-wheelers. They were able to get everybody’s attention by announcing the Mojo, a 300 cc bike along with the 125 cc Stallio. The fact that nothing much has happened with the Mojo since, shows the strategy employed by Mahindra. That the Mojo was more of an attention seeker for the new company.

But they did not stop with the bikes alone. They too wanted a pie of the by now burgeoning automatic scooter segment. And they launched the Rodeo, Duro and Flyte to show off in this department. They also have the Kine to compete with the Scooty in the lower segment.

It is relatively simple to understand all the scooters launched by Mahindra above. All you need to know is that before the end of days for Kinetic it was owned by Mahindra. And that Kinetic had a tie up with a Tiawanese company called Sym to manufacture scooters.

Think of the above equations and you might have guessed how Mahindra was able to build their scooters. The Rodeo, Duro and Flyte all are powered by the same 125 cc 4 stroke, 8 BHP engine that was sourced from SYM. Now that this review is of the Duro, let us look at it in detail.

Mahindra Duro Rear 

Now, where have I seen that familiar tail? Oh yes… It was on the Kinetic Nova!!!

Even though the Rodeo, Duro and the Flyte have the same heart, they cater to different types of people. The Duro sits bang in the middle with Rodeo being priced higher and Flyte lower. While the Rodeo is funky and has more features catering to the college/younger crowd, Duro is more of a family man’s scooter with conservative styling. There are no weird angles or flashy graphics. Nor is it available in catchy colours unlike the Rodeo. Rodeo has a colour called the Derby Red while Duro gets Majestic Maroon. Get the drift of it?

A couple of looks at the Duro and I began to scratch my head to try to remember where I had seen a similar scooter earlier. I didn’t have to think too much as the Kinetic Nova was available for sale till not very long ago. The visual similarities are obvious. It’s as if Mahindra took the shell of Nova and plonked in the 125 cc engine in it.

Overall, the build quality is fine and there are no noticeable gaps anywhere. Mahindra’s four wheelers are known for their reliability and rugged build and hopefully we can expect the same from their two wheelers. One niggle that I did feel particularly was the position of the horn switch. I wasn’t able to reach it easily with my left thumb and had to make a conscious effort to bring my left hand closer to press the button.

Since this segment was revived by the Activa, it is only natural that any newcomer’s ride is compared with it. And almost all of the scooters can hardly match up to the Activa mostly because of the gem of the engine Honda makes. The Duro rides definitely with elegance. But don’t expect it to have the plushness or the utter smoothness of the Honda.

The ride quality is reasonably soft for city cruising. Even though it is a 125 cc engine, don’t expect it to have earth shattering pick up. Where this engine makes its mark is when there are two people on the scooter and you need it to cruise without signs of any strains. The Duro did this comfortably even at 60-70 KMPH. I wanted to go faster but the brakes weren’t very confidence inspiring at higher speeds, as is the case with scooters.

The engine felt rugged and noisier (obviously) than the Honda but the scooter also felt sure footed all through the afternoon that I spent with it. Quick dash to the store or regular daily trips to office, this scooter should do its job with no fuss. I liked the simplified and diligent manner in which this scooter went about its tasks.

Mahindra Duro Underseat Storage

Quite a large storage area.

Coming to fuel efficiency, during my commute through suburban traffic, I was able to average around 40 KMPL. Considering the fact that the scooter I was riding was new, it would be safe to assume that anywhere between 40-45 or 50, if you are lucky, must be the fuel efficiency figures you can expect.
Since this is priced lower than the Rodeo, it does not get the digital display, a power point at the front or the anti theft key that the Rodeo has. But what you get is more than decent storage space and one of the longest wheel bases among scooters. This wheel base was a primary reason for the sure-footedness that I had experienced during my rides on it.

The large wheel base means it won’t be happy doing the wheelies that are shown in the Rodeo Ad. Honestly speaking, I think you should never try it on any of these scooters as it can cross the fine line between risky and being a maverick.

All in all, the Duro comes across as an efficient no-nonsense scooter. It is more of a conservative, middle aged, government office goer rather than a cheerful, ‘wanting to expand beyond the horizon’ business man of the same age. And there is no need to fret while comparing with the Activa. At around a good 3000 rupees less, it makes a strong case for itself. And unlike the Rodeo ad, it does not say what all it can do. The Duro simply says what it will.