Ola S1 Air first ride review | The S1 you should buy?
The S1 Air is now Ola Electric's most affordable offering. It was first unveiled in October 2022 with a 2.5kWh battery pack priced at ₹79,999. In February 2023, Ola Electric made available two additional battery pack options for it — 3kWh and 4kWh, but now, the brand has dropped the 2.5kWh and 4kWh versions, and the S1 Air is only offered with the 3kWh battery pack. It has been re-launched at an introductory price of ₹1,09,999 (ex-showroom price including the FAME-II subsidy, until August 15, 2023, after which it will demand ₹10,000 more i.e. ₹1,19,999).
In contrast to the S1 Pro, the S1 Air gets a smaller battery, sports less power and boasts a few less features. I got a chance to ride the S1 Air at its birthplace, at the Ola Future Factory near Krishnagiri in Tamil Nadu and here are my initial views on it.
Ola S1 Air styling
The overall styling of the S1 Air remains the same as its elder sibling, the S1 Pro. Up front, it gets the brand's signature twin-pod headlight setup and slim, neatly integrated indicators in the body. The headlights unit houses a 7-inch touchscreen, which although might look bulky at first, feels normal in no time. The scooter has clean curvaceous lines that give it a very slender look. It gets a wide seat and bits like the rear foot pegs, which sit flush with the body work, are a neat touch. The rear section is fairly wide and gets a sleek tail light setup which also houses the indicators. I have always liked the way the S1 looks and the S1 Air is no different. Traditional, with just the right amount of futuristic elements.
What's exclusive to the S1 Air and the only way you can differentiate it from the S1 Pro is the two-tone colour theme, four-spoke steel wheels and of course the S1 Air name tag on the charging port cover. It's been offered in six primary colours, which are contrasted by black details everywhere. Even three years after it was first unveiled, this scooter still does a good job of turning heads.
Ola S1 Air battery, motor and performance
Powering the Ola S1 Air is a 2.98kWh battery pack that powers a hub-mounted electric motor producing 4.5kW of peak power.That’s 4kW down on the S1 Pro, but surprisingly, the S1 Air doesn't feel '50 per cent less powerful', at all. The scooter starts in 'normal' mode, which has that typical initial EV characteristic. A good push off the line, due to the healthy low-end torque, but it starts to feel slack once past the 35kmph mark. It doesn't feel as fast as the S1 Pro in the normal mode and tops out at 70kmph, but once you're in 'Sport' mode, it starts to move rapidly. Even after the 35kmph mark, it doesn't feel out of breath and continues to accelerate quite progressively all the way till its 90kmph speedo-indicated top speed. Unlike the S1 Pro, the S1 Air doesn't get a 'Hyper' ride mode. But just like the S1 Pro, it switches to the 'Eco' mode once the battery drops below 15 per cent. But no matter what mode you're in, the throttle of the S1 Air does feel a little choppy. It needs to be calibrated for a smoother riding experience. The S1 Air gets drum brakes at both ends, with combi-brake, and this is what I feel is its biggest Achilles heel. At slow speeds, it is good enough because you aren't braking too hard. But once you start to go faster and get a little aggressive with the brake lever, the setup starts to judder and doesn't feel very confidence inspiring. It slows the scooter fairly well, but could definitely do with better progressiveness for riders to use it more confidently.
Ola S1 Air chassis, ride and handling
The S1 Air is underpinned by Ola's new Gen 2 platform. It gets an all-new battery pack which, Ola claims, has increased thermal thermal efficiency, improved management system and is lighter and stronger. Its frame has also received a few tweaks, with 14 per cent less parts and a 5 per cent weight loss and that is noticeable on the handling front. The S1 Air is 17kg lighter than the S1 Pro and as a result, it feels more nimble. It has a light steering and feels agile while changing directions. The S1 Air also feels stable at high speeds.
The ride quality seems comfortable as well. It gets a telescopic fork at the front and twin shock absorbers at the rear. Together, this setup does a good job of dealing with bad roads confidently and has good damping that makes the scooter quite comfy over rough tarmac.
Ola S1 Air ergonomics
Because it is 17kg lighter than its older sibling, the S1 Air feels light on its feet and even easier to throw around. It gets a wide and supportive seat, which tapers at the front, helping shorter riders to put their feet down easily. It has a good amount of cushioning that doesn't tire you at all. The seating position is spot on, with an easy to reach and high set handlebar that doesn't touch the knees during tight manoeuvres.
It borrows the switchgear from the S1 Pro, with rubberised buttons which are easy to use but not as tactical as plastic or metal ones. The S1 Air gets a 34-litre boot space, which is 2-litres smaller than the S1 Pro's, which can still fit two half face helmets. It gets two cubby holes, with a USB port on the front apron, to store your mobile phone. It also gets a speaker which can play music once you've hooked your phone to the infotainment touchscreen.
With the Gen 2 platform, the S1 Air gets a flat floorboard, which aids practicality. The addition of an external boot release, a handbrake and a centre stand would've been appreciated though.
Ola S1 Air features, build quality and charging
The S1 Air gets a 7-inch touchscreen which is responsive and can even be used wearing riding gloves. It is legible and nicely laid out, and gives you all the information you'll ever need. The scooter gets in-built navigation, phone connectivity, cruise control and even a reverse function. What it omits though is the hill-hold assist feature that the S1 Pro gets. As for quality, it still remains a mixed bag. The scooter feels solid, but, without any squeaks and rattles, but the quality of plastics can be best described as above average. The side stand feels flimsy and so does the flap that covers the charging port.
The S1 Air gets an ARAI-tested 125km of riding range — but take that number with a grain of salt. The real world figure will be less. I saw a full charge showing 121km of range, in normal mode, which dropped down to 109km in sport mode. As for the charging, Ola claims that it can be charged from 0 to 100 per cent in 5 hours and from 0 to 80 per cent in 3.8 hours, from a wall socket at home. Unlike the S1 Pro, the S1 Air doesn’t get fast charging.
Ola S1 Air verdict
The Ola S1 Air is ₹20,000 more affordable than the S1 Pro, but it has everything that you’ll ever need. Brisk performance, a good amount of features and a fairly long riding range. It looks cool, handles nicely and is also very practical, with good storage space and room for two adults. Yes, it could do with better build quality and better brakes — definitely, but that isn’t a deal breaker. It makes for a good buy, if you don't need a scooter with outright performance and gimmicky features you'll only use sometimes, if at all.