Everything you need to know about the Hero Splendor iSmart 110
Hero has just launched its first all-new motorcycle, the iSmart 110. But the juicy bit is that it arrives wearing the Splendor name. That makes it a significant step for Hero on multiple fronts. The Splendor iSmart 110 is on sale right now at just over Rs 53,000 ex-showroom everywhere in India, and we've been able to get a brief taste of the 110cc commuter-class motorcycle. Here is everything you need to know about the Hero Splendor iSmart 110.
The Hero Splendor Smart 110 was created by Hero R&D, the Centre of Innovation of Technology based at Kukas, outside Jaipur. Malo Le Masson, Hero's new global head of product planning, explained that the development process was fairly conventional in the sense that it began with customer surveys. The iSmart is a product that has a hard challenge ahead of it. The issue is that the customer is super-conservative and change is anathema to them. At the same time, there is the near-constant need to get better economy, slightly more comfort and as Le Masson puts it, "to get more done in the day." That was a simple brief that Hero R&D had to attack. The complication comes from a combination of the conservative buyer and the minimal manoeuvring space available to the engineers in terms of costs and intended price.
The engine is all-new. It displaces 109.51cc and is a simple two-valve, air-cooled design that is fed by a carburettor. Hero officials confirmed that the engine should be able to face the upcoming emissions norms without having to switch to fuel injection. In fact, they went so far as to note that the expectation that the FI adoption will be widespread might actually be a bit optimistic. The peak power is 9.52PS at 7,500rpm. But Hero is rather more kicked about the torque curve, which is why they've gone and branded this a TOD, or Torque on Demand engine. Peak torque is 9Nm at 5,500 rpm, but Hero says the tuning offers a nearly flat torque curve from as low as 3,000rpm. This is to ensure that rideability is an obvious highlight of the motorcycle to the rider and gear changes required are minimal.
The dramatic visual change to the engine is the orientation of the cylinder. The iSmart 110 is the first Hero Splendor to now use the ex-Honda horizontal design. Hero's engine boss, Markus Feichtner, noted that the new orientation has multiple benefits. First, the vertical engine presents a greater surface area to the incoming airstream which means more effective cooling. He also says that the earlier engine tends to get caked with mud in the rains and the vertical engine runs, er, cleaner.
The engine also offers, surprise, a lower centre of gravity, and that is one of the reasons why the iSmart feels more natural and responsive to ride than the older Splendor. The new engine also runs a higher compression which, as we know, brings both greater economy as well as performance. The traditional downside of raising compression is that the engine becomes more sensitive to bad fuel. But that happens at much higher compression ratios, and the Hero engine is still far from that state. In fact, more commuting motorcycles will never hit those compression ratios - in that sense, no downsides to the raised compression really.
The gearbox is a straightforward 4-speed unit. The big change is that the idiotic pedal on the front of the gear lever - which offers marginal utility to the commuter while alienating us toe-shifters - has been junked in favour of a regular nubbin.
The Hero Splendor iSmart wears a new tubular cradle with "optimised geometry" - I couldn't get more details on the changes to steering geometry. The new engine does permit a shorter wheelbase - 20mm shorter than the Passion. Then again, the Hero website shows that the iSmart 110 is actually 10mm longer in wheelbase that the 110cc iSmart. Hmm.
Suspension is the fairly basic set-up we are used to. The front is a telescopic fork and the rear is a preload adjustable pair of coil spring over hydraulic dampers. Hero says the spring rates are completely new for a comfortable ride.
The brakes are a 130mm drum in the front and a 110mm drum at the back. There is some chatter about a disc brake, including stories that the disc brake version will arrive before the festive season. Hero officials were reluctant to comment on the disc brake saying, "You really think there is demand?"
The Hero Splendor iSmart uses a completely new design that's quite appealing while sitting firmly within the claustrophobic boundaries of the commuter segment. The deep gloss of the paint is unmistakable as is the excellent build quality and finish. I also like the restrained, even sleek, stickers. The red-silver motorcycle looks too much like the 100cc iSmart for my taste, but the blue-black I rode was very nice to look at. A design classic it isn't but the iSmart 110 looks fresh and from to tip to tip, it looks inviting.
The little details I noted were the blue i3S (Hero's start-stop technology) switch replaces the engine kill switch while there isn't a headlight switch at all because the iSmart 110 runs its headlamps all the time. They're connected direct to the battery for flicker-free illumination.
All the footpegs use thick rubber that looks very segment-correct and not very sleek. But all the pegs flip up which means if you can trust the Ceat Secura Zooms (which displayed exemplary grip in dirty corners during our short ride) then peg down action should be possible.
The new meter console looks neat and new. Is it memorably new or does it add something drastically new? No. But you do notice the fresh look.
Just like on the 100cc iSmart, this one also dies five seconds after you stop and select neutral. The Splendor iSmart 110 will wake up instantly when you pull the clutch in. As we have noted before, the system is effective in reducing fuel consumption but it isn't easy to use - there's a fundamental hiccup to using start-stop with manual transmissions. An automatic naturally comes to neutral and the start-stop system in that sense is invisible to the user and hence fully intuitive. A manual transmission vehicle simply cannot achieve that elegant simplicity.
The Splendor branding
I find the iSmart 110 a shrewd bit of strategy. Hero is simultaneously leveraging its primary product brand, giving it a forward-looking, high-tech hue while protecting the conservative core that forms the foundation of the brand. In other ways, now that we have tasted the iSmart 110, I'd say that engineering has now delivered and Hero's sales and marketing teams now have the ball in their court.
Availability and price
The Hero Splendor iSmart 110 is now available across the country at prices just over the Rs 53,000, ex-showroom. Four colours are on offer. Hero says the iSmart 110 doesn't have any direct competition but the price brings it closer to the Honda Livo.
Starts Rs 67,100
Starts Rs 69,422
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