Mahindra 2 Wheelers is gearing up to re-launch the Rodeo twist-and-go scooter. The new Mahindra Rodeo RZ gets a raft of improvements, but most significantly it also gets the dual-curve digital ignition system which premiered in its Duro DZ sibling.
Pressure may be mounting on Mahindra 2 Wheelers to get its products and pricing right, but it’s good pressure, according to company officials. The Duro and Rodeo are both solid offerings in the competitive scooter market, and allied to the brand recall Mahindra enjoys, are two products which are critical to the company’s success. We’d already test-ridden the Duro DZ previously, and now we had the opportunity to sling a leg over the revamped Rodeo, christened the Rodeo RZ, in deference to the ‘Z-series’ engine nomenclature.
The Mahindra Rodeo RZ gets DCDI fuel system, with two engine maps. This Z-Series engine carries over its SYM parentage.
Like I mentioned earlier the most significant change to the Rodeo RZ is the improvement to its powerplant. The 125cc SYM-derived engine gets dual-curve digital ignition, or DCDI for short. What this simply means is that the fuelling system has two pre-programmed ‘maps’ or ignition curves – one each for power and fuel efficiency, activated via a throttle position sensor.
On milder throttle inputs, the engine fires on the economy map, with carefully calibrated fuel delivery to delivery maximum fuel efficiency or mileage. ARAI has ratified the Rodeo RZ at 59.38 km/l, which is compares well with the competition, notably the 125cc Suzuki Access.
We were given the keys and let loose around the Film City in Dindoshi, near Goregaon, Mumbai. For the uninitiated who haven’t visited Film City yet, it’s like a verdant paradise in the heart of Mumbai’s urban sprawl, spread over a few hundred acres. The terrain is hilly, and while the main road within Film City is well paved, the little side roads around, including the path which leads down to the Vihar lake, are rutted and broken.
Blessed as we were with the first monsoon showers, it made the conditions especially exciting and perfect for evaluating the new Rodeo RZ.
Clockwise from top left: Front fuel filler adds to convenience; 12 V point is useful; quality of switchgear could be better; digital instruments have differently coloured backlighting, which switches to default red when Rodeo is ridden over 60 km/h.
Thumb the electric starter and the Rodeo RZ’s Z-series single cylinder motor grumbles to life with a muted cough. Idling isn’t very smooth initially, but after a few minutes of riding, once the powerplant warms up, it definitely gets smoother. The variomatic transmission spools up quickly and the Rodeo gets off the blocks smartly. Riding along the winding paths in Film City, the engine was more than up to the task, even on the steeper slopes. I’m not exactly light-weight, but the Rodeo’s engine was more than up to the task of cresting some rather steep slopes with ease.
The ride quality, balance and nimble yet sure-footed nature of the Rodeo came to the fore when I attempted to ride down to the lake. There’s a dirt path which goes down to the lake, frequented by the children from the area seeking respite from the oppressive heat. It’s a rocky path, which requires balance and concentration, but the Rodeo RZ proved surprisingly capable. There’s been a slight increase in ground clearance too, but what makes the Rodeo seemingly better than many other scooters is the well-damped nature of the suspension. It isn’t stiff with short travel, unlike many others in its class. Instead, the longer travel front forks, allied to a single-sided shock-absorber in spring rear suspension gives the Rodeo an edge when tackling such terrain. One is unlikely to use a scooter this way on a regular basis, but it is still an impressive display of the Rodeo’s capability.
The brakes on the Rodeo are conventional drums front and rear, which while having adequate stopping power, didn’t offer as much feel as one would like. This is a criticism of most scooter brakes, due in no small part to the fact that most Indian scooters continue to persist with older-style drums instead of upgrading to disc brakes.
With the Rodeo RZ, Mahindra is targeting the urban yuppie, and the Rodeo is the only scooter with a 12 V charging point, which can be used to charge an iPod or mobile phone, provided you have the equivalent charger. Useful, no doubt. Aiding convenience is the front fuel filler, which means you do not have to dismount at the pumps, another huge convenience factor.
Mahindra claims under-seat storage of 21 litres, in theory enough to take small-sized full-face helmet. There’s a lamp in the lockable storage area as well, another convenient feature, which some other scooters offer too.
If we have a criticism of the Rodeo RZ, it has to do with the level of fit and finish offered. Mahindra officials acknowledge this fact, and were candid enough to admit that new dies were being made to ensure a higher degree of quality. There were some panel gaps, and the switchgear felt cheap and not tactile to operate. These are small issues, but make a big difference to the perceived quality of a product, and Mahindra will have to up its game in this regard.
The ungeared scooter market is an important segment of the Indian two-wheeler market as a whole. The convenience and practicality on offer is tempting even the well-heeled to opt for a scooter as an urban runabout. With three product offerings, including the Duro DZ and the Flyte, Mahindra is trying to cover as many bases in the market as it can.
First impressions are often lasting impressions, and the new Mahindra Rodeo RZ made a positive first impression. Of course, the pricing is yet to be announced, but if Mahindra can launch it at a price which is competitive, and they surely will, the Rodeo RZ will hold the fort for a few years as the company works on newer products.
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