Suzuki SlingShot 125 – A No Non-Sense Commuter : Test Driven

From the makers of the Mothership Hayabusa comes another offering, the 125cc SlingShot! This statement might seem completely out of place along with being irrelevant in the Indian context but one thing is for sure that Suzuki is making a slow headway into the Indian market eating into other manufacturers’ shares.

Suzuki Slingshot 125cc

Suzuki, since it launched its operations in India in the two wheeler market has been a very conservative player displaying prowess in the form of Hayabusas and Bandits once in a while. They started operations with entry level 125ccs- Heat and Zeus which were pretty decent offerings with nothing very offbeat to portray. Then came the 125cc scooter Access and 150cc motorcycle GS150R which changed fortunes for the company and helped Suzuki to scale sale of around 20k bikes a month in India.

Last month Suzuki revamped their 125cc stable with the launch of a new bike and named it ‘SlingShot’. Very peculiar it may sound, but it’s not the first bike from the company to be called with the same name. Previously also a few models like GSX-R750 and GSX-R1100 etc had been (formally or informally) called with the same name.

Suzuki Slingshot 125cc

Slingshot is basically a manually powered children’s toy weapon with a V (or Y) shaped frame which has rubber strips attached to it. Britishers call it a ‘Catapult’ and Indians, ‘Gulel’. SlingShots have a capability to produce ample power to cause severe bodily injury. Let’s see does this new kind of ‘SlingShot’ have ample amount of ammunition to cause a serious threat to the 125cc ruling segment leaders. Ride with us….

Engine & Transmission

SlingShot is built around the same platform as Zeus and as a result shares the same 4 stroke 124cc Air Cooled SOHC single cylinder engine with a 53.5mm Bore and 55.2mm Stroke. In its latest tune, SlingShot’s motor is capable of producing 8.5bhp of maximum power which peaks at 7500rpm which ain’t anything to drool over considering the latest norm of 10-12bhps however the impressive part is the rpm band in which Suzuki is able to produce the maximum torque. The torque of 10Nm peaks at 3500 rpm which gives this bike a very healthy advantage in cities. The motor breathes through a Mikuni VM18 carbureter.

Suzuki Slingshot 125cc

Enough of ‘on paper’ stuff, let’s talk about the ‘on road’ behavior of this bike. Though we did feel a little lack of power under all rpms but the way the load carrying capability of this bike builds up at very early rpms (around 2500) owing to the torque concentration at lower and mid range and goes all the way to 5500-6k rpm, we were mighty impressed. A very peculiar habit of this bike is that as soon the torque band starts to drop down, the bike moves to its pure powerband from 6k rpm and goes all the way to 8k rpm.

In simple terms, under lower rpms the bike understands that you need a better pulling power rather than outright acceleration due to congested cities, it starts producing healthy torque which helps you keep free from the hassles of frequent gear changes and zipping through it. And when you come through this crowded space to a more freeway, the bike understands that it’s time to play free; allows you to rev up to its powerband allowing you to enjoy the ride.

Another point we noted that contrary to the characteristics of most of the bikes in India which have overlapping power and torque bands (and at higher rpms) which cause heavenly vibrations to ruin your experience as soon as the ride enters the pinnacle of the powerband, SlingShot offers a very vibration less and smoother ride at almost all rpms. Vibrations only creep in at extreme rpms but yes the bike dies earlier and doesn’t have juice left to carry onto higher speeds. Vibrations are further taken care by weight-end handlebars at either ends of the handle. Also, the bike is greener adhering to BSIII pollution norms.

Suzuki Slingshot 125cc

The pretty well engineered engine is mated with a 5 speed slick gearbox which again had us go gaga over it. The gearbox was butter smooth, the placement of the ‘toe & heel’ shifter was just perfectly convenient- neither too high nor too low and we also did not find any false neutrals. Gear change follows the regularly used widespread 1 down 4 up pattern. The feel is soft enough and the buttery clutch supports the cause further. The only glitch we faced was the very slight hardness in returning to the first gear in absolutely jammed traffic that too very rarely. Gears have also been spaced appropriately just that the 5th gear could have had more work to do!

Overall, it feels a very worthy attempt with everything falling at right places along with a great engineering effort; just that the power output of 10bhp would have added that extra little (and slightly needed) juice to the motor along with providing the hardcore ‘on paper’ specs believers a void point to go against.

Engine & Transmission: 8.5/10

Styling & Build Quality

….And we come to a probable controversial section- the styling part of the bike. At the very onset let us make ourselves clear that we DID NOT dislike the design at the same time agree to the fact that the bike does have that ‘Love it or Hate it’ factor. We did find some who liked the styling of the bike and then we also had people who hated it to the core. Let’s analyze the oomph factor of the bike.

Suzuki Slingshot 125cc

Starting upfront is the peculiar (and slightly disproportionate) bikini fairing which hosts an FZ-like headlamp bulging and pointed towards the top corners either sides and converging at the bottom. The fairing also houses slots for transparent side blinkers with orange colored bulbs inside. The placement of the meter console atop also reminds of the Hero Honda Achiever’s ‘Regal Crest’.

Suzuki Slingshot 125cc

The aptly contoured tank has a few flying styling lines at either ends towards the top along with Suzuki’s ‘S’ gleaming at the center on either sides. Petrol filler cap protrudes and the white undetachable ‘instructions note’ act as irritants. The side panels are black colored with big ‘SlingShot’ written over them in style. Rear panels culminate into a circular tail housing the Kinetic Comet-like small tail lamp. The round rods-like grab rails are quite functional but aesthetically soar. A body colored grab rail cover which hides the hinges and holes of joints also looks out of place.

The bike also gets a small but pretty good looking engine cowl under the engine quite reminiscent to the latest Stunner. Apart from being a design element it also prevents the engine from dust and mud. A narrow and basic exhaust pipe is covered by a stylish and broad heat shield providing the muffler a much needed decent look. Chrome plating here (on the heat shield) would have probably added a little to the looks part of the bike but Suzuki has desisted from using chrome anywhere on the bike.

Suzuki Slingshot 125cc

The alloy wheeled version gets peculiar 5 branched spoke wheels which look brittle but do look different and fresh. Front number plate is placed just at the front mudguard which makes the visibility of the registration number well readable. As is the norm, the bike comes with an all-black styling with engine, alloys, handle muffler, muffler shield all painted in black color. For all those who do not like the looks now, we bet you would start liking the design with time.

Build quality of the bike is what we had expected from Suzuki, pretty well done. However, we really do not like the shining black color which Suzuki paints its bike engines from. A matt black finish always looks better and adds to the overall quality perspective.

Styling & Build Quality: 7/10

Electricals & Instrumentation

Slingshot features a pretty neatly done console which houses an analogue speedometer calibrated to an optimistic 140 kmph mark (it has become a norm these days it seems!). The speedometer has a white colored outline, dark blue background and a red colored needle along with the analogue odometer which displays total running in kms.

Suzuki Slingshot 125cc

Towards the right of this speedometer is another window which has a fuel meter, green ‘N’ for neutral, blue upper light and the orange colored side blinker indicator light. SlingShot also features a segment exclusive (currently) gear indicator. A separate window towards the top of the console has numbers marked from 1 to 5 and the corresponding light lits up helping the rider confirm which gear he is currently riding in- a welcome and handy feature we must say. Absence of a tachometer and more importantly a tripmeter and pilot lamps did disappoint us.

Suzuki Slingshot 125cc

The bike comes with electric start as standard across all the models including the base model and Suzuki has also installed a bigger capacity battery of 12V 5Ah where the Zeus used 12V 2.5Ah. Headlight is the regular 35/35Watt which we expect to be decent considering the huge sized reflector it resides in.

Suzuki Slingshot 125cc

We rode the bike during the day so were not able to test the light throw during dark. Switchgear quality of the bike is top notch with very good quality of plastic used. Towards the left is the yellow colored pass switch, upper-dipper switch, turn switch, horn and a manual choke. Right side contains a big red colored engine kill switch, light on/off button along with the starter crank. Buttons are curvy and non-pointed for most functions. A slightly bigger horn and starter crank button would have helped.

Electricals & Instrumentation: 7/10

Comfort & Handling

SlingShot, as we rode, proved to be quite comfortable with a plush and adequately cushioned seat. The seat is also wide enough to provide ample amount of space to both the rider and the pillion. SlingShot is equipped with regular telescopic suspension upfront and 5 step adjustable dual shock absorbers at the rear.

Suzuki Slingshot 125cc

Suzuki has retained the 18 inch tyre size on this bike. Front is 2.75” with the rear being 3.00” in width providing ample amount of traction to give the bike decent handling characteristics. The bike has high rise handlebars along with forward biased footpegs and a well sculpted knee-recess which provide a very comfortable riding posture in cities and the numbness factor is also kept at bay during continuous hours of riding. The bike is made for riding in cities and it performs pretty well in that.

Suzuki has increased the wheelbase of SlingShot to 1265mm from 1240mm of Zeus which further gives the bike a better ability to handle on road. Ground clearance also gets further higher from the road by 5mm to 160mm from 155mm of Zeus. Overall dimensions of the bike are 2035mm * 770mm * 1075mm (Length * Width * Height). The bike weighs 127 and 128 for Spoke and Alloy wheel variants respectively.

Comfort, Handling & Dimensions: 7.5/10

Performance & Braking

If you were waiting all this while for the 0-60 figures, let us tell you that we did not test the bike for any kind of outright bursts. SlingShot is made for a purpose and that purpose is commuting from place A to B with utmost ease and comfort and this is where the bike excels. As we have described in the first section, torque band is concentrated towards the low and lower mid range ensuring that the bike feels at home when other more powerful bikes are struggling in congested traffics. And this is precisely the reason that the bike performs well under low and medium speeds. The bike pulls up from 30 kmph in 5th gear with considerable ease and without any unwanted noise. At anything over 80kmph the bike takes its own sweet time to respond to the stimulus of the accelerator twist.

Suzuki Slingshot 125cc

Seated two, the engine feels more comfortable and at ease when compared to a few competitor bikes. Braking capabilities of the bike are pretty ordinary with 130mm drum brakes as standard across all models. A disappointing fact is that the bike doesn’t even have an option of disc brakes currently even when Suzuki on its website displays a SlingShot loaded with front discs. However, respite comes when we get to hear that the bike would/ should get 240mm front discs by January 2011. Till then we would cut a few brownies for what we have at present.

Performance & Braking: 7/10

Mileage & Pricing

Zeus proved to be excellent in terms of fuel efficiency and since SlingShot is also based on a similar platform and also considering the specs and nature of the motorcycle we expect the bike to be as frugal. According to our sources, SlingShot should be returning anything around 62-65kmpl in cities and over 65kmpl on longways where gear changes are not very frequent and the rider can ride at a constant pace. With a good tank capacity of 12 liters, the bike has a fantastic range of over 750 kilometers before it would say ‘I quit’ running out of fuel. If we have to speak in a slightly harsher tone; if any healthy SlingShot returns anything lesser than this, it would/should be counted as a shortcoming!

Suzuki Slingshot 125cc

Suzuki has currently planned two variants for this bike- one with alloy wheels and the base variant with basic spoke wheels (both come with electric start as standard). The base spoke wheel variant is priced at Rs. 49,443 and the alloy wheel variant is priced at a 2k premium at Rs. 51,500, both on road Pune. The mentioned on road prices make the bike the cheapest 125cc with electric start. We expect another variant with electric start, alloy wheels and front disc brake at Rs 53,500-54000. Slingshot is offered in 4 sparkling and vivid colors – Metallic Mustard Yellow, Candy Antares Red, Pearl Nebular Black and Metallic Fox Orange. The Red color wins our vote for being the best looker followed by Black. Yellow color is also good and would suit people who are youthful at heart however, orange color looks a little dull.

Mileage & Pricing: 9/10

BikeAdvice Verdict

Like GS150R, SlingShot also seems to be a conservative bike from Suzuki which would make its mark deeper with time. SlingShot may not look great on paper with specs sheet talking smaller numbers, but a thorough ride would put many notions to fault. Agreed, it is not as powerful as the competition but it definitely does its job pretty well- in fact better than many of them under particular criterias. We would recommend SlingShot to all of those who want a no-nonsense 125cc bike and can compromise a little on the outright performance part or probably enjoy rides at slower speeds.

Suzuki Slingshot 125cc

And when all of this comes at segment least prices and fantastic fuel efficiency figures it becomes an icing on the cake. This bike is suitable for executives who want a long time companion, whose part of job include regular travelling in congested city traffics, who are a little short of affording a 125cc bike but want almost all the segment privileges. Suzuki SlingShot is definitely a good bike and it needs its due credit. We were fairly impressed and we urge you to ride it to believe it.

BikeAdvice Verdict: 8/10

Words: Saad Khan | Photos: Deepak Raj

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