Kinetic's Italjets - Seven up!



Come see our seven new products...’ Not only does that sound ludicrous, it also makes life very difficult. Convincing the Editor to lease that much space, keeping the seat-of-pants impressions of seven wildly different machines straight, jotting down reams of data, taking printable pics of each without missing out any, tiny spectacular detail... it’s a bloody difficult task.

And yet, when Kinetic called us to take the covers off their bikes, we were more than happy to go and take a long look. After all, these seven are designed in Italy, which is always easy on the eye. Kinetic has big plans for the scooters. And most importantly, they sounded really excited about just how good this new clutch of scooters were and what they promised to do to the Indian scooter market in the next eighteen months.
As expected, we had an enjoyable, but tough day taking time with each scooter, poring over the details, running our fingers on the lines and discovering the oddly-effective, delightfully quirky and always  chic design sense of one Leopoldo Tartarini. He’s the man responsible for designing each of these beauties, starting Italjet, and the chap who will pen more than just these seven Kinetic sisters.

Instead of trying to rationalise the scooters into any sort of order, we’ll just dive in at random and have a little fun in the saddle while we’re at it, ok?

Jupiter 250
We’re the only magazine in India to have ridden both the Yamaha YP250 Majesty (BSM, Feb 2002) and a Yamaha T-Max (BSM, May 2003). Which is to say that we aren’t complete novices at this maxi-scooter business. Having ridden both a 250cc and 500cc extensively, I am convinced that the Kinetic Jupiter 250 should prove an excellent way to explore the open road.

For the first few minutes on board, I was distracted by the black edge of the tall windscreen. But that passes. What remains is a feeling of utterly sorted suspension, a plush ride quality, unruffled stability and enough power in the engine to press you firmly against the seat step.The stock Italian Jupiter has a Yamaha-sourced liquid-cooled 250cc single cylinder engine. The Indian version will also have a equally potent, 20-22 bhp, four-stroker but the source is yet to be finalised. However, expect the excellent Jupiter to hit Kinetic showrooms around mid-December and first deliveries to some very lucky customers around January 2006. While Kinetic was coy on the price figure front, we have good reason to believe that a sub-90,000 figure is being considered.

On the move, the Jupiter felt confident, quick and trustworthy. More importantly, the big scooter seemed to sport a motorcycle-like cornering ability. Unlike the top-heavy feel of most scooters, the Jupiter felt quite able. So good is the feel and feedback from the scooter, that the cornering shot (not a great lean angle, I’ll admit) is the very first run past the camera Shreenand made.Expect the Jupiter to join or replace the Blade in our long term fleet around February and we’re looking at returning the behemoth post-test to Kinetic around early 2008! Say hello to India’s first on-sale full-house maxi-scooter, ladies and gentlemen!

Kinetic still hasn’t made up its mind, but the Blade is likely to be the first of these scooters to get launched. The machine we rode had an India-spec 150cc engine but the production machines  could get 165cc four-stroke motors instead. Which is all good. Even with the 150cc motor, the Blade felt very agile, offered good acceleration and was very refined. The amount of paintwork you see is not misleading, the Blade is a big scooter and is very spacious. The Euro-spec machine, called Millennium, has a higher pillion seat and a ‘transmission tunnel’ in the footboard. For India, the footboard will be flat and the rear seat has been lowered.

The comprehensively spec-ed Blade is set to open a new niche in the scooter segment, a niche no one is looking at yet. At a price point of around Rs 51,000 on road for the base model, the Blade will offer a plush, spacious scooter that retains a two-wheeler’s endearing ability to slice through traffic fast without the vulnerability that comes with small-wheeled, pint-size scooters. Kinetic seem to have the powertrain-looks-value-pricing mix down pat and I believe the Blade will be a hit. 

What we liked even more about the Blade is that Kinetic will offer a full-spec variant, which will get stock Michelin rubber and disc brakes. In fact, the variant under discussion – ‘should we sell it?’ – is the base model (de-speced to same size Indian rubber with drum brakes), which is a welcome, all-new approach to model strategy.

If the Blade does get launched first, expect the media blaze to centre on it within a couple of weeks of reading this, and the road test in the next BSM issue.

The Euro, known in the land with the eponymous currency as the Jet Set, will probably be the largest selling Kinetic-Italjet of the lot. Its styling maybe all flat planes, well-defined creases and flush mounted details, but at heart, the Euro will be the regular, everyday, niche-less (and hence volume) scooter. That much is evident the moment you take one for a short spin. The riding ergonomics, size, weight and proportion are all very close to the (current) segment standard, the Nova, Activa et al. 

Kinetic has made a few crucial changes to the scooter, and says the product is absolutely launch ready. It will most probably sport a 135cc or 150cc four-stroke engine with a variomatic transmission for India and should sport a sticker price similar to the Nova 135’s. However, if the Blade gets launched first, expect the Euro to hit just before Diwali and make off with the holiday season sales.

The cosmetic changes – black flanks on the front panel – quite effective. In traditional European-spec, the whole panel would have been silver, which gives the Jet Set a flat, wide appearance that I’m certain would be lost on our sensibilities. Not to mention that it would’ve looked ugly. The matt black panels look much smarter and give the scooter a slimmer, more stealth-ish look that is quite welcome. Oh and I’m sorry to report that the cool upside-down forks are unlikely to make it to our shores. Will the low-mounted twin-headlamp look with twin handlebar faired pilot lamps work? We shall soon find out.   Torpedo
The Torpedo, to be honest, was Nandu’s (aka Shreenand) last ride for the day. It was no coincidence that it was my last pick as well. I think that it looks a bit gawky and even though I like that snaking tube design idea along with the big alloys, I think the Torpedo is  a bit awkward. Which doesn’t seem to dim its sales potential though. Aprilia’s even more two-left feet, squint, stubble and knock-knee Scarabeo has sold well and is now available with a 500cc motor!

If you expect the Torpedo’s performance to match its looks and you’ll bite the dust and your lip. The 75cc four-stroke motor may not appear impressive, but the first time you hear the chirp of a rear wheel spinning up on gravel mid-corner, you’ll know that the Torpedo’s throttle is not to be messed around with. It’s very quick in a straight-line, corners confidently thanks to its big wheels and is a hoot to ride. I don’t think I’ve had my eyes opened quite so violently by a motor this small before.

Kinetic haven’t quite got a handle on the Indian motor yet, but if they can keep its character intact, the Torpedo will be a fun ride. It may also be practical, stable and so forth, but it will be fun, above all else. We’re expecting the Torpedo to be one of the last products to get launched, especially since it effectively is a 21st century step-through and hence, unlikely to set fire to sales graphs.

The moment Nandu set eyes on the Formula, he somehow super-imposed the name Rothmans on the scooter and referred to it as such for the rest of the day. Not surprising, really. The blue-red-gold on white does look like the Rothman’s F1 racers of yore and on the Formula’s rakish 80s looks, they look just right.

A scooter being called 80s styled today would be up a cul-de-sac. However, the Formula carries the 80s chic – venetian blinds over the tail lamp, over numerous faux vents on the flanks and the huge, Dragster style intake on the stubby nose – with a supreme sense of style and proportion. It isn’t old-hat, it’s retro-chic.

The twin silencers just add to the overall coolness. Kinetic is mulling a four-stroke 150cc motor for this one, and the single cylinder motor will breathe through an identical-looking but redesigned twin exhaust system. You will, however, have to wait a little bit for the Rothmans, er... Formula as it isn’t slotted for launch before mid to late 2006.

You’ve already seen a detailed riding impression of the Italjet Dragster in our September 2004 issue. As the first magazine to ride the Dragster, we approached Kinetic post-ride for launch prospects and received a surprised, ‘where did you find one of those in India?’ As it turns out, Kinetic do intend to launch the buzz bomb in India. While the stonking two-stroke motors (125 and 180cc) will never make it past our emissions minders, we could be looking at two extremely potent four-stroke scooters, one with a 150cc engine, and the other with a hi-po 180cc motor. Kinetic’s official line advises you not to go challenging Dragster riders to light-to-light races.

This is the one that makes you want you to yell ‘Mamma mia, bellissima, brava...’ and every other over-used Italian phrase known to ignorant motoring (yes, ‘m’ pointedly in lower case) hacks. And you can see why. I was in love from the moment I set eyes on it. I couldn’t care less when I spotted the ungainly top mounted key with a Chetak-style steering lock below. My beating heart carried right on throbbing when they told me that the Velocifero was but a puny two-stroke 50cc motor-ed runabout. I didn’t even bat an eyelid when they told me that the green one was for display only, and the grey one’s clutch wasn’t assembled completely.

I took it for a spin, dragged it to a heart-breaking 5 kph and (still) more or less promised to buy one the moment Kinetic got around to selling me one. Of course, that currently means sometime in 2006. And instead of the character and blue contrails of the little two-stroke, I will get an 80cc two-stroker (Zing-sourced) or a (new?) 75cc four-stroke motor. 

My money won’t buy a pillion seat or a side stand. And I will never really need one. The retro-look has me floored and the details are gorgeous. From the brilliant twin-headlamp froggy mug, to the tapering tail piece. I only wish they’d made the front panel of rubber, then I’d have a fair shot at pulling its cheeks and doing my best imitation of  an adolescent ‘cho sschweet...’

Task master
While the slinky scooters make it look easy, Kinetic will have to work hard to get it right. The company has bought the full rights to these scooters and that includes the body panel moulds. However, that’s just the beginning of the process. The Nova 135 is a sign that Kinetic is able to put out effective powertrains and the Blade prototype’s gutsy, linear engine confirms that. However, Kinetic will now have to sort many powertains. Simultaneously, they will have to keep a tight check on quality standards and upgrade its point-of-sale look and feel. 

The manufacturer told us that Kinetic dealerships are already in revamp mode and a big design house is working towards a stylish, standardised showroom. The quality is also crucial because Kinetic has bought all the rights to the scooters, including manufacturing and marketing. So if the company is to leverage the good, steady sales of these bikes in Europe and America, quality continuity is crucial. 

But what is most important is that the mood at Kinetic is different. The company seems to have shaken off a few years of wrinkles and is ready to re-take the scooter market by storm. The strategy is well-timed too, with market leader Honda still setting up its battle plan in the motorcycle segment, and LML unlikely to enter the gearless scooter arena till December. Only Bajaj seem to be playing the scooter game seriously, and even they are only planning a product around the financial year end, rumours say.

What it amounts to is that Kinetic has the timing and the opportunity to make a killing. We know now that they do have the products they can capitalise on. Here then, is a battle I’d like ringside seats for.

Kinetic is eager to listen to what you have to say about these beauties. If you have feedback on the looks, engine specs, launch dates or just want to say thank you, send a mail to   Kinetic Blade
European motor: 100cc 2-stroke, 125cc or 150cc 4-stroke singles.
For us: 150/165cc 4-stroke
Launch: July-Aug 2005
Price: Around Rs 51,000 on-road

Blade: Blade runner: India’s first premium scooter will not be expensive. The spacious machine will be lively to ride and looks fetching. Note the cool dials, flat India-spec footboard and the lower pillion seat
Kinetic Torpedo
European motor: 75cc 4-stroke (50cc and 125cc variants added recently)
For us: Unknown. 100cc 4-stroke likely
Launch: Before Dec 2006
Price: Undecided

Torpedo: Run and Hyde: The Torpedo is surprisingly quick. Big wheels allow confident corner carving. Quirky looks will put the Torpedo at the end of the launch plan
Kinetic Euro
Euro motor: 125/150cc 4-stroke
For us: 135/150cc 4-stroke
Launch: Pre-Diwali likely. Not confirmed
Price: Just above Nova 135

Euro: Jet wash: The modern Euro will be the bread-and-butter model. Sleek looks mask a convincing ‘normal’ gearless scooter.
Kinetic Jupiter 250
European motor: Liquid-cooled 249cc single cylinder. 22 bhp
For us: Liquid/oil-cooled 250cc single cylinder. 20 bhp approx
Launch: Jan 2006
Price: Under Rs 90,000

Jupiter: Maxi power: Expansive Jupiter will be well-priced come January 2006. Plush feel, confident stance and great ergonomics make this a promising ride. Final motor will be a 20-odd bhp 250cc single
Kinetic Velocifero
European motor: Force air-cooled 50cc 2-stroke
For us: Unknown. 60-80cc 4-stroke?
Launch: Undecided
Price: Premium scooterette

Velocifero: Velo baby: Ultra-cool Velocifero is the baby of the swarm. And intensely desirable. Will be the
ultimate India retro-chic scooterette at launch.
Kinetic Dragster
European motor: Liquid-cooled 2-stroke 50, 150, 180cc singles
For us: Undecided. Tuned 150cc and 180cc 4-stroke variants likely
Launch: Before Dec 2006
Price: Premium performance scooter

Dragster: Drag queen: The spunky, stubby Dragster is just too cool. Expect powerful four-stroke motors at its launch some time next year
Kinetic Formula
European motor: Liquid-cooled 50cc (single) and 125cc 2-stroke twins
For us: Undecided. Could span the 100-150cc four-stroke range
Launch: Before Dec 2006
Price: Performance runabout?

Formula: Pitstop: The factory-ready pit-scooter on Dragster underpinings holds great promise. Twin pipes likely to make it to India, two-stroke motor definitely won’t.