It's been over a year since Bajaj Auto launched the all-new Chetak, reviving a legendary name of one of the most popular scooters from Bajaj Auto's history. But this time around, it's just 'Chetak'. There's no Bajaj branding, or Urbanite, the new electric vehicle vertical under which the Chetak electric sits. So, it's just called Chetak, and it also is a sort of comeback for Bajaj into the scooter segment, albeit in electric form. So, what is the new Chetak like? And does the Chetak name hold any significance in the 21st century? We spend some time getting to know the new Chetak electric scooter.
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The Bajaj Chetak name is legendary, because it's one of those scooters which accounted for more than 75 per cent of Bajaj Auto's sales at one time. It was produced from 1976 till 2006, in its last years with a four-stroke engine, and enjoyed a waiting period of upto 10 years at one time. While Bajaj Auto stopped producing scooters in the early 2000s, focussing on the motorcycle market, the iconic Chetak name is now back, launched as an electric scooter last year. We now finally get to sample what the 'new' electric Chetak is all about.
Chic, stylish and contemporary; that's what strikes you the moment you lay eyes on the Chetak electric scooter. It's definitely a looker, there's no doubt about it, and it's probably one of the best-looking scooters available on sale right now. The paint quality is superb, and each curve along the Chetak's body speaks volumes about its fit and finish. The headlight is LED and there's a strip of LED DRL around it as well, lending a sense of modernity. The front apron has a small grille, kind of like an air intake, which is complemented by a similar-looking scoop at the tail section. The trailing link front suspension and the single-sided swingarm reveal the nice-looking 12-inch alloy wheels.
Lighting is all-LED, and the turn indicators are dynamic, like some high-end luxury cars, which add a touch of premium-ness. There's decent underseat storage, all 18 litres of it, and the both the seat and the glove compartment have remote opening. The soft-touch, back-lit switches add a nice touch, and overall, the Chetak certainly comes across as a well-built, handsome scooter.
Design is the Chetak's strongest point, and it's almost the textbook definition of a neo-retro design, with a classic silhouette, but with modern elements. Although there are features and components which are quite original, there's a sense of familiarity with the design, and it does somewhat resemble a Vespa, particularly the Vespa Elettrica sold in Europe.
Tech & Ergonomics
The Chetak gets a fair bit of features, centred around the LCD instrument console. It employs a black and white theme, with neatly laid out fonts. It's easy to read, and also gets Bluetooth connectivity, through a dedicated My Chetak app for Android and iOS. And once you hook up your smartphone via Bluetooth, you can control music playback from the left handlebar, and yes, the LCD display also shows real time range, state of charge, the time and odometer and trip meter readings. Through the My Chetak app you can also access features like vehicle location, vehicle status and also install geo-fencing for security.
Ergonomics, in one word, are spot on! The riding position is immediately comfortable; the handlebar falls into place, the floorboard is wide and placed at a comfortable height (unlike some electric scooters where you have to bend your knees quite a bit, thanks to the battery placed under the floorboard). The seat is well-padded and has a large enough area for a comfortable perch.
Performance & Dynamics
On the move, the Chetak feels easy, intuitive and familiar from the get-go. There's no frantic rush of power, but the mid-range has enough grunt to keep up with all kinds of traffic within the city. The electric motor delivers around 3.8 kW of continuous power (roughly around 5 bhp), and there's 16.2 Nm of peak torque available at 1400 rpm. We saw an indicated top speed of 70 kmph, more than enough to keep abreast of traffic in smaller cities, but for bigger cities, like Mumbai or Delhi, slightly more top speed would have been certainly welcome. A top speed of around 80 kmph would have really made the Chetak that much more desirable in terms of performance.
The Chetak has a trailing link front suspension, and despite not having a telescopic set-up, the ride quality is pretty good, over potholes, speedbreakers and the like. Around corners within the city, the Chetak remains planted and there's more than enough grip from the tyres, when leaned over, or under hard braking. There are two riding modes, Eco and Sport, and while the rider can manually select the mode, even in Eco mode, with the throttle opened wide, the mode automatically changes to Sport. And if charge is running low, the mode automatically changes to Eco to maximise range.
Speaking of which, on our combined run which mostly included Sport mode usage, we saw an actual range of around 80 km on a full charge. And the battery can be charged on a 5A home socket, which takes between 4-5 hours to be recharged. There's no fast charger available yet, but public charging network is limited to Bajaj Pro-Biking outlets where the Chetak is being retailed in Pune and Bengaluru. And for peace of mind to the customer, the 3.0 kWh lithium-ion battery pack comes with a 3-year/50,000 km warranty.
Prices & Variants
The Chetak electric scooter is available in two variants - Urbane and Premium. The top-spec Premium variant gets a front disc brake, metallic colours, slightly different seat material and different colours on the alloy wheels and floor mat. The Urbane variant is priced at ₹ 1,15,000 (Ex-showroom), while the Premium variant is priced at ₹ 1,20,000 (Ex-showroom). So far, the Chetak is available only in Pune and Bengaluru, but Bajaj says its availability will be extended to 24 other cities across India by 2022.
The Chetak certainly is a fitting tribute to a legendary name from Bajaj. In electric form, it's quite a likeable scooter, and it comes across as a well-built, well-finished scooter with all the features and gizmos associated with a new-age electric scooter. The only drawback for now, is its availability, but that's something which is likely to change over the next year or so. Its design is its biggest strength, coupled with its easy rideability; both strong points to make the 'new' Chetak a force to reckon with, in the electric scooter segment.
(Photography: Pawan Dagia)