After ending its long-term association with Japanese partner Honda, Hero Motocorp has been engaged in the process of carving out its own identity in the two-wheeler market over the past few years.

While it still has quite a way to go when it comes to geared motorcycles, it has recently taken a giant stride in the scooter space by launching two new products — the Maestro Edge and the Duet. Both scooters feature in-house design and engineering, and are powered by Hero’s new 110cc CVT engine. The company has also packed them with a number of practical features in the hopes of stealing a march on the dominant force in the scooter market — Honda’s Activa.

Design Both the new scooters from Hero feature a clean and attractive design that doesn’t take too many risks. The Maestro Edge, as the name indicates has many more sharp edges than the Duet which has gentle, flowing contours. The former makes good use of two-tone plastic panelling to create a rugged yet appealing look while the latter, with its all-metal body, looks much more elegant — showing off a tiny dash of chrome on the front and sides.

The Duet features turn indicators that are integrated into the handle bar unit while the Maestro Edge has them on its front grill.

Both scooters have nicely packaged rear sections and even the exhausts are well placed and protected. The instrument consoles feature a semi-digital array with analogue speedometer and fuel gauges complemented by a backlit digital odometer.

LED taillights, external fuel tank access, under-seat lighting and USB charging ports come standard as well, rounding out an excellent list of kit that makes Hero’s new offerings some of the best equipped scooters in recent memory.

Performance Despite the fact that the Maestro Edge and the Duet feature the same 110.9 cc engine which produces an identical 8.31 bhp of power at 8,000rpm and 8.30Nm of torque at 6,500rpm, there is a subtle but noticeable difference in the way these scooters behave on the road.

The all-metal body of the Duet adds an extra bit of girth that translates into an extra bit of sluggishness in getting off the mark that the Maestro Edge does not have to deal with.

In terms of refinement, the Hero mill delivers smooth acceleration from standstill all the way up to about 80 kmph — beyond that mark, both scooters feel unstable, giving the distinct impression that they are doing things that they were never meant to.

Both scooters have sufficient zip to them to navigate city traffic without breaking into a sweat. Hero claims a mileage of 65 kmpl on the Maestro Edge and 63 kmpl on the Duet, both of which trump Honda’s offerings slightly.

But the difference is small enough that riding style and conditions will be a factor that could potentially even out the odds.

Hero only offers drum brakes on both bikes, but somewhat makes up for that by including an integrated braking system that evens out brake force between the front and rear stoppers.

The suspension system, featuring telescopic forks in the front and springs in the rear, adequately handled the brutal ups and downs of Chennai’s flood-scarred roads.

Handling is breezy — as is typical of gearless scooters, with both machines squirming into gaps in traffic and gliding around corners with ease.

The scooter market is a tough space to break into. There are a number of competent offerings with very little to set them apart.

Bottomline A comfortable ride with low maintenance and good performance is the basic requirement that everyone expects and Hero hasn’t failed on that count with the two new scooters. They’ve added to that solid base by throwing in good design and practical extras that other manufacturers aren’t offering at the moment.

Overall, both Maestro Edge and Duet are excellent all-round packages that make great alternatives to the existing crop of scooters.