TVS's new Fiero F2 undergoes a road test,while the manic old Fiero passes the baton
The old TVS Fiero had a multiple personality disorder. Or to be more accurate, a heart the body couldn’t keep up with most of the time. The resulting mood swings were very much like the dramatic Hollywood movies on the subject – primarily a sense of disbelief at the vagaries of the script. Now, the new Fiero F2 is supposed to have been through extensive counselling sessions and pronounced fit as a fiddle to take on the real world.
The story opens with the Fiero F2 wearing a sharper, more contemporary wardrobe. The integrated headlamp cluster has now been returned to the scooters, whence it was borrowed and even the integrated tail lamp has been given the boot. However, the smiling multi-reflector headlamp that has been drafted as a replacement is a feature fast becoming as common as blond starlets in tinsel town.
Set in a large all-plastic fairing, it does get attention, but invariably one or two autograph seekers will ask if it doesn’t remind you of the Hoodibaba. Inside the fairing sits a comprehensive instrument cluster, a huge improvement over the old Fiero’s speedo/fuel gauge. The F2 is the first to place the rev-counter where it belongs – in the middle, flanked by the fuel gauge and the speedo with its odo and trip meters. The pass flasher, however, gets minus points for not working once the low beam is on. Just like the Victor. Strange...
The body panels have evolved from the Fiero – but surprise, park the F2 next to a Pulsar and it appears to be larger, helped by a tail end that’s a mite taller and a visibly wider seat. However, straddle the new bike and it’s as slim as the old one, which gives you the impressive of a more controllable entity, though you do sometimes wish your knees had a little more to hug.
However, two things take away from the F2’s dapper looks. The upswept silencer is nice, but ends in a unsightly spout, with two concentric rings and nuts that just look messy. Secondly, our wine-red F2 came across as a bit dull visually, not helped by the decals which unsuccessfully try to combine the higher points of faux carbon-fibre finish and a dull ochre yellow. Thankfully, it does come in silver, blue and black as well.
So far, the F2 has become a well-dressed Joe from the old gawky hillbilly, showing no signs of any vestigial violent alternate personality. Under that skin lurks a reinforced new chassis that is a step forward in engineering and a whole leap forward in corners. The old Fiero was a twitchy, nervous ship, hampered by a flexing tubular swingarm and rearward weight distribution. The new one gets it all right. Weight distribution is much better, the swingarm is a box-section hunk and the chassis has been reinforced. As a result, the F2 is a capable friend in the twisties. It remains as agile as the old one, but is many times more stable when being flicked on to its ear and in quick direction changes. And yet, there a certain weightlessness to the manoeuvre that tells you unequivocally that you are doing all of this on a Fiero. The TVS Fiero Special tyres at either end do a great job of sticking tarmac and motorcycle together. This one can corner.
Old hillbilly missed out on brakes too. The front drum struggled to control the pace of the whole show due to the rearward weight bias. The new 240 mm disc, in complete contrast, makes you want to rub your hands in glee. The bite is sharp and retardation gets progressively stronger from there on... until the rear wheel rises to protest against such shenanigans. All this time, the brake lever talks to you lucidly about how much more you can squeeze it. The last time we got brakes of this caliber were the stoppers on the black Pulsar 180 we tested back in December 2001.
But while the chassis is finally willing and able and the brakes are some of the best, the ride quality is the diametric opposite of what you expect. Instead of a sporty firm ride, the F2 cushions your tush with initially soft springing that becomes progressively (and perceptibly) harder. A combination so good that you use sections of road you never dared to before, trusting the forks and springs to attenuate potholes to a mere murmur at the handlebar. The ride quality is amazing, yet does not have you pogo-ing in the seat – yes, magic carpet references are welcome at this point. At the limit, one could accuse the F2 of masking some of the road feedback, but its hardly likely to affect you 98 per cent of the time.
The only deceptive part of the F2 package is the engine. The old Fiero’s engine had very little you could complain about. Power delivery was effortless and abundant and you could not stress out the 147.5 CC engine. But in the post-emission norms holocaust scenario, the F2 is instead an effortless commuter. It’s marginally slower than the old one, posting 5.4 seconds to 60 kph. Unlike the old engine, the new 147.5 CC engine has lost its rorty voice and the soundtrack is an uninspiring subdued whirr. But, the refinement is so good that it makes the old Fiero look like it had some sort of respiratory problem.
When the rev-counter swings past 6000 rpm, the engine note instantly becomes louder, acceleration picks up (as do the vibes) and the 8000 rpm redline approaches with a bit more hurry. The run to the top speed of 104 kph (up two from the old bike) is a top end rush completely at odds with the slightly high-powered commuter persona the bike exudes at lower revs.
The personality rift deepens with wide variations in the fuel economy figures. Keep things rolling steadily and the green light glowing on the tacho and the F2 will return as much as 58.2 kpl. Let the more diabolical side come out by cranking the loud handle and that number could drop to as low as 46.8 kpl. Throughout this film, the F2 kept the average mileage figure around the 53 kpl mark, more than sufficient for the segment we expect.
If the powertrain has a weak spot it would have to be the gearbox. The trouble spot isn’t mechanical – it is TVS’ persistence in handing out only four gears. Riders and pillions alike say, not good. The man in front keeps wanting to shift past fourth while the person at the rear suffers from speed vibes down the highway when the bike holds 70 kph or more in top for extended periods. For the want of a cog...
TVS is pricing the Fiero F2 roughly at par with the Pulsar 150 and you can have the disc brake F2 version for Rs 47,500 ex-showroom Bangalore. Drum brakes will be Rs 2,000 cheaper while electric start is more expensive by that very amount. The F2 will hit showroom in the first week of May and should be all over the country by the end of that month.
Clearly, the new Fiero F2 is a huge leap forward from the old Fiero. However, in the engineering needed to meet the emissions norms and such like, the Fiero experience has gone from involving to extremely civil and refined, sometimes even bordering on the anaesthetic. I guess, while the old Fiero had a multiple personality disorder, the new one perhaps has a slight personality deficit.