The commuter segment has seen many a big-bike influence and though their hearts only potter up to double-digit speeds, it’s all about how easy they are to live with. Do these latest entrants take things up a notch? [Read more…]
The Honda Activa i is an Activa with a plastic body. What’s the point? You may ask, since the Activa’s built-to-last feel comes from its metal body. It does indeed, but it also contributes to the higher pricing of the Activa vis-a-vis its plastic-body alternatives in the 110-cc scooter segment. There are buyers who actually prefer the plastic body due to light weight and cheaper body panels.
Of course, Honda have the 110-cc Dio and Aviator scooters with plastic bodies. However, the Dio’s sporty design holds a lesser appeal for mature buyers looking for a utilitarian scooter, while the Aviator is a big scooter with muscular curves and costs more than the Activa. That’s where the Activa i comes in.
The Honda Activa i is leaner, lighter and faster than the Activa and also the least expensive scooter in Honda’s scooter line-up. But the TVS Wego and the recently launched Yamaha Ray Z aren’t going to make its life easy. Therefore, we compared the three scooters to put things in perspective.
The Activa i has a neutral styling with hints of the Aviator’s design and comes in four colours. The Wego has a wider palette of six colours and its design is angular at the front, but gets meatier at the rear. It looks fresh in spite of being the oldest one here while the Ray Z looks sharp and sporty. The Ray Z, unlike its sibling (the Ray), is aimed at male riders and has three dual tone colour schemes and sporty decals with carbon finish on a few surfaces. There is a small plastic screen over its head and it has an all-black theme for the wheels, engine and exhaust. It looks more aggressive than the other two scooters and also has a slightly better finish overall.
In terms of features, the Wego is the strongest. It has a robust all-metal body, telescopic front forks, five twin-spoke alloy wheels, a 220-mm optional disc brake on the front wheel and LEDs in the tail-light cluster. Furthermore, TVS have smartly placed the fuel filler cap on its tail, so the rider can fill the scooter up without having to dismount. It has the broadest seat with a very soft cushioning and a foldable side-step for the pillion rider on its left side. We also found that the Wego can be kick-started without putting it on the centre-stand unlike the other two.
The Wego is followed by the Activa i, which has combi-brakes (front and rear brake are applied simultaneously via the rear brake lever) and tubeless tyres. It also has the best under-seat storage capacity and a brake locking mechanism for the rear brake lever.
The Ray Z’s feature list includes telescopic front forks, carburettor with throttle position sensor for better air-fuel mixture, best looking information panel and a couple of pockets below the handlebar to store small items.
We head out to the beach side on an American legend and an Indian icon to see what the two are like on Indian soil [Read more…]
We compare the TVS Phoenix 125 with the new and the established to see where it stands in the 125-cc segment.
Commuter motorcycles don’t have it easy. They are used every day of the year in all kinds of weather and are expected to do their duty without a complaint. Good looks and styling are always an added benefit and a compromise in fuel efficiency is tantamount to digging your own grave. And there is also the issue of pricing, which defines the segment. On the other hand, the reward for the manufacturers is the possibility of achieving high sales volumes, which has made this segment a very competitive one.
The commuter bike segment is further divided into three sub-segments, defined by engine capacity. It starts with the 100-cc sub-segment, which includes the most basic motorcycles. Then there is the 110-cc one, which has risen in popularity over the past few years, while the 125-cc motorcycles are classified as the executive commuter bikes. To be frank, this distinction is not very pronounced, since a difference of 10-15 cubic centimetres hardly makes a difference, these being very small engines not tuned for high performance. However, there exists a fierce competition in all three sub-segments.
Honda have been selling the CB Shine 125 for more than six years now and it has stood the test of time to emerge as one of the strongest and highest selling executive commuter bikes. Bajaj Auto have also been successful after re-entering the segment with the Discover 125 a couple of years ago. This year Bajaj added another bike in the segment under the Discover brand, with emphasis on touring. The Discover 125 ST (Sports Tourer) co-exists with its modest sibling, but as a slightly premium offering.
The TVS Phoenix 125 is the latest addition to this segment. TVS have paid a lot of attention to developing the Phoenix with the hope of capturing a sizeable share of the 125-cc market, which they have been missing. We were impressed by the bike when we rode it at TVS’ test track at their Hosur plant last month. This month we went ahead and compared it with the CB Shine and the Discover 125 ST in the real battlefield: the city roads.
Design And Styling
The CB Shine is a fine example of a proportionate motorcycle with a design that doesn’t look dated in spite of being the oldest of the lot. It feels solidly built and its fit-and-finish and paint job are impeccable, except for the poor quality of plastic used in the switch-gear. Apart from the body panels, the rest of the bike has an all-black treatment and graphics give it an upmarket look. Six-spoke alloys wheels are standard and it is the only bike among the three with tubeless tyres. However, there are a few areas where the Shine shows its age. The twin pod analogue instrument panel looks dated and contains a speedometer, fuel gauge and odometer while the headlight assembly lacks pilot lamps.
The Discover ST is a stylish motorcycle. The head cowl has a sharp design that gives the bike an aggressive look. The muscular tank makes it look bigger in size and the ribbed tail-light looks sporty. Its five-spoke alloy wheels have a sporty design and the front wheel has a 200-mm petal disc rotor. The Discover ST has minimal decals and an all-black treatment on the engine, chassis, wheels, front shocks and exhaust. The paint job is good, but the same can’t be said of the build quality of this bike. As with the CB Shine, the switch-gear of the Discover too has flimsy plastic. The instrument console has an analogue speedometer, fuel gauge, odometer and trip meter while the indicator section houses a battery level indicator along with the usual ones. The Discover has the best mirrors among the three bikes compared here. The design of the rear tyre-hugger is a subjective matter, but it is very effective in preventing the tyre from spraying mud or water.
The Phoenix has a simple design, similar to its smaller sibling, the Star City. However, that has been disguised by the flashy decals and we like the shine of the Phoenix’s paint. It has six-spoke alloy wheels and a petal disc and, like the other two bikes, the Phoenix has also been painted all black, except for the body panels. Its fit-and-finish is of high quality and the switch-gear has ergonomic buttons. It has a hazard light, which is activated by the red switch near the right handlebar. When switched on, the hazard light activates all the turn indicators simultaneously, which is a unique feature in this segment. The Phoenix has white LED pilot lamps like the new Apache. The lights look stunning in dark, but are hardly visible in daylight. The digital instrument panel contains a speedometer, odometer and a trip meter along with service due and battery level indicators. The mirrors of the Phoenix have a good shape, but the short stem reduces the field of vision.
Honda and Suzuki are determined to make their mark in India’s vast executive-commuter segment. We pit their all-new offerings against others in the segment
Photography: Sanjay Raikar
This might look like a civilised struggle among motorcycle manufacturers trying to make some room in the executive-commuter segment of India. In reality, this is a ruthless combat among industry giants, swinging their swords to gain ground in the lucrative 20-30-lakh-unit-a-year segment! And the apple of the eye for most bike buyers across the country has been Hero’s humble Splendor. Millions consider their bikes to be what Parle-G is to biscuits – simple, hassle-free and cost-effective, making Hero MotoCorp the largest two-wheeler makers on the planet.
Arch-rivals like country’s second largest two-wheeler manufacturers, Bajaj Auto, automobile major TVS Motor and internationally reputed two-wheeler makers, Yamaha, have carved a niche for themselves with bigger and sporty bikes, but have not managed to shake Hero’s firm grip on the commuter segment. Taking nothing away from them, there are lakhs of Discovers and Star Cities on the road and the YBR 100 proves to be a decent product. Since the market is so vast, there’s enough room for everyone, but none of the motorcycles has been able to make a major dent in Hero motorcycle sales. Well, until now.
The market is quickly transforming. Hero have bid Honda adieu, thus giving the Japanese company a free hand to launch a direct competition to the Splendor, which, by the way, is a Honda product in the first place. Here comes their most inexpensive motorcycle for India: the Dream Yuga. Meanwhile, as Hero models shed the ‘Honda’ tag, it has caused a slight flutter among buyers about the future products from the company. These recent developments have taken some brilliance off the already ageing Splendor. Sighting this opportunity, Suzuki also jumped into the fray and launched the Hayate, their most aggressively marketed motorcycle in India.
So we take these two new Japanese offerings and bring them face to face with everything else in this segment, including the segment leader in the Slpendor Plus avatar, along with the feature-rich TVS Star City, Bajaj Discover 100 and the refined Yamaha YBR 100.
Design And Features
The TVS bike has good ergonomics, a comfortable seat and solid build quality. It has everything going in its favour. Right from the best in class fuel tank of 16 litres (twice the size of Honda, Bajaj and Suzuki), giving it a staggering range of over 1,000 kilometres. The sporty all-black design, with the attractive white and blue body-art stands out in a crowd. It also has the most comprehensive switchgear in this shoot-out, complete with a mobile phone charging point.
The other sporty design comes from the Bajaj Discover, with its aggressive front fairing and nicely carved tank. The angular chopped exhaust with a chrome protector and clear-lens tail-light and indicators make it unique, although not my favourite aspects of it. The overall proportions are compact even though it has the longest wheelbase of 1,305 millimetres. The Discover has the hardest seat and instead of the ‘Ride Control’ switch, which is more of a marketing gimmick, an engine-kill switch would have been more appropriate. Even the plastic quality could have been better.
Hero MotoCorp sell more variants of the Splendor than any other bike. There is the Splendor Plus, which we rode, which comes with spokes and alloy variants but without electric-start (ES). An extra Rs 3,000 would get you the the ES equipped Splendor Pro, which is identical to the ‘Plus’, but has a black exhaust. There is not much that has changed on the Splendor over the years as the company believes, ‘Why try and mend something that is not broken?’ It has the most minimalistic design and hardly any features and this no-nonsense approach has been working in favour of the bike until now. The tall handlebar of this bike gives it an upright riding position, which is suitable even for well-built individuals.
Following the minimalistic theme is the Yamaha. Although the company is a master of design when it comes to sportsbikes, the YBR looks rather bland in its attempt to keep it simple. The finish and build quality are good, but the bike design as a whole is not very appealing. Like the Splendor it comes with a metal carrier that’s pretty useful.
The Honda Dream Yuga shows the sober cues of its elder sibling, the Shine 125. Since the latter has already been well accepted in India, this was the safest way to go. Its smoothly flowing lines improve aerodynamics while the bike is attractive without being overtly flashy – a smart design that would suit people of all age-groups. The features are on a par with most in the segment and, like other Honda products, the fit-and-finish is great. The long seat and comfortable riding position of this bike is a boon on long rides. This Honda is the only bike in this segment that offers tubeless MRF tyres, which improve road grip and handling. The only other bike to offer MRF tyres (non-tubeless) is the Suzuki.
This brings us to the Suzuki Hayate. The bike takes the right inspiration from the GS150R and SligShot. Its flared front fairing and fender work well with the superbike-inspired tail-light. The carbon-fibre patter on the side-panels and instrument console are interesting. The seat is wide, long and extremely well cushioned and the riding position is spot on. Adding everything, this Suzuki is the most ergonomic of the lot. However, it lacks a few basic features such as the pass switch and its protruding side-panels can be bothersome.
In terms of design it’s a close call between the Hayate, that most people in our office voted for, and the Dream Yuga, which has better features and has subtle cues.
Engine And Fuel Efficiency
In terms of the engine, all the bikes under consideration here are air-cooled, SOHC with two valves, although the Suzuki Hayate is the biggest with a 112.8-cc motor that produces 8.4 PS of maximum power and 8.8 Nm of peak torque. The TVS Star City’s 109.7-cc engine is one of the most powerful, capable of 8.29 PS and 8.1 Nm, while the Yamaha YBR comes with a 106-cc motor that churns out 7.6 PS and 7.85 Nm and the Hero Splendor Plus’ trusted 97.2-cc engine has the lowest power output of 7.4 PS and the maximum torque offered is 7.95 Nm. The Bajaj Discover has the smallest engine of 94.38 cc that belts out 7.7 PS and 7.85 Nm, but is the only motorcycle here to be mated with a five-speed gearbox, since all the other bikes offer four cogs. The advantage of an extra gear was evident in the fuel economy run, for this Bajaj stretched a litre of fuel to a very impressive 79.5 km on average. The Splendor’s 69.25 km per litre has been its USP, while the Star City and Hayate manage close to 68 kpl. And the YBR managed just 62.5kpl. The Honda Dream Yuga with its 109-cc mill, which also does duty on the Twister, produces the best-in-class output figures of 8.63 PS and 8.91 Nm and also addresses the clichéd but all-important question, ‘kitna deti hai?’, by delivering an impressive 72 km per litre.
On paper, the Bajaj looks most promising, closely followed by the efficient Dream Yuga.
Ride And Handling
The lightweight and compact Splendor is very easy to manoeuvre through busy streets, but it feels too light on the highway. The suspension set-up competitively seems too soft, especially when riding with a pillion. It’s good for the city, but does not feel very reassuring on the highway. On the other hand, the Discover has a hard seat and firm suspension, making it not very comfortable for long rides. During slower riding, road undulations are transferred to the rider and pillion. With its class-leading wheelbase it offers a good straight-line control, but is not the most agile of this lot. The Star City is tuned to be on the firmer side, but, unlike the Bajaj, it soaks up most of the bumps and imparts a solid feel while riding over bad roads. The TVS is fairly easy to handle, but tends to get nervous while negotiating fast corners.
Being tuned for comfort, the YBR offers a soft and relaxed ride. Its handling is not as engaging, but decent enough for this segment and the bike is well behaved during cornering. Similar to the Yamaha, the Hayate is focused on offering a soothing ride quality. It is stress-free and extremely comfortable over potholes. However, when ridden with a pillion at a reasonable speed, it does bottom out while riding over speed-breakers. Like most Suzukis it is very agile and easy to manoeuvre and the great riding position is the icing on the cake. In this shoot-out, Honda have struck the right balance by being neither too soft nor unbearably hard. The Dream Yuga’s long suspension helps it overcome bad patches of the road yet maintain its poise. Being among the lightest in the segment, it is nimble and cuts through traffic like a samurai sword. The two bikes that top this section are the Honda, which is extremely well sprung and very suitable for Indian road conditions, and the Suzuki Hayate, which is soft and is tuned for comfort.
The YBR has a pretty refined engine and feels best when ridden lazily around town. Not that it lacks punch or cruising abilities on the highway, but being the heaviest at 123 kg it takes what seemed like a very long 9.9 seconds to go from 0 to 60 km/h. Even the mighty Hero Splendor shows its age and, at 9.39 seconds, did marginally better in the performance sprint. But in spite of being developed in the late 1980s this smooth engine is still a hot seller, powering six different Hero models currently. The Splendor weighs 14 kg less than the Yamaha, is smooth and efficient, but lacks outright punch, which can be felt while riding with a pillion.
The Bajaj bike uses ingenious technology like twin-spark and swirl induction and manages to have enough grunt across the rev range. The engine feels at home on congested city roads, but on highways it feels strained when revved hard. The fifth gear helps it cruise comfortably at 80 km/h, but the engine becomes noisy. This puny motor propels the Discover from zero to 60 km/h in just over 8.5 seconds, which is remarkably close to TVS Star City’s figure of 8.47 seconds.
TVS’ 109.7-cc motor is one of the largest, has strong power and torque figures and the bike is among the lightest, rather quick off its feet. Its steady flow of torque keeps the Star City going on low revs, aiding city riding, while the tall fourth gear comes handy during cruising. Like the Bajaj engine, even the Star City motor is reasonably smooth at lower revs, but coarseness creeps in when revved harder.
Having the largest motor helps the Suzuki Hayate become the second fastest in the performance run, managing to touch the 60 km/h mark in just 8.26 seconds. The power-band is well spread out and the bike can take both open roads and busy streets in its stride. Surprisingly, its engine is not as smooth as the Yamaha’s or Honda’s, but in terms of refinement it is ahead of TVS’ and Bajaj’s.
Honda’s Dream Yuga shines in this section as well thanks to its gem of an engine. Applying what the company calls ‘Intelligent Ignition Control System’ the acceleration of this bike is effortless no matter what the driving condition. This executive-commuter wipes competition off in the performance run by being the only bike to do 0-60 km/h in under eight seconds, 7.82 seconds to be precise.
Thus Honda and Suzuki impress again with very respectable 0-60 km/h figures and, more importantly, have a wide power-band, which make them a pleasure to ride within the city or cruise on the highway.
It is evident that the two new entrants, the Honda Dream Yuga and Suzuki Hayate, are the star performers in our test, clearly indicating that these modern offerings are well-thought-out products backed by advanced engineering. However, merely earning brownies here will not earn them sales, since a lot depends upon having dealerships deep within India and having a strong service and support network: a factor where Hero, TVS and Bajaj have an upper hand. Suzuki are determined to have 1,200 sales-and-service points within the next three years, while Honda’s target is to go up from 1,500 to 2,000 this year itself. As of now, no one comes close to Hero’s widespread network.
The other very important factor is price. The current market leader, Hero Splendor in its ‘Plus’ variant, retails at Rs 50,185 and the ‘Pro’ with electric start at Rs 53,488. The rugged Bajaj Discover carries a price tag of Rs 50,136, while the feature-packed TVS Star City is sold at an aggressive pricing of Rs 49,769 and the Yamaha YBR 110 at Rs 50,335.
This brings us back to the latest entrants since the two have completely different strategies. Suzuki have introduced the well rounded Hayate at the bottom end of the spectrum at Rs 47,735, which should get them a strong following from semi-urban areas and smaller towns. Honda, who have recently become the number two two-wheeler manufacturers in India, are cashing in on the respect they have garnered for their products and have priced the Dream Yuga at Rs 55,025, making it the most expensive in this segment.
The Hayate comes a close second. It’s a wonderful package, but loses out in efficiency, ride quality and, as of now, Suzuki have fewer dealerships. On the other hand, the Dream Yuga demands about Rs 1,500 extra compared to the Hero Splendor Pro, the segment benchmark, but offers great fuel efficiency and is equally powerful with new-age technology. More importantly, it comes with Honda’s quality assurance and widespread sales and service network. We’ll go with the Honda this time round.
The proven Honda CBR 250R now has a new competitor in the form of the Hyosung GT250R. We take a ringside seat as the rivals lock horns
Photography: Sanjay Raikar
It was a long time ago that Hyosung entered the Indian market in a tie-up with Kinetic Engineering and offered us the Comet. In its naked avatar, that twin-cylinder 250-cc motorcycle was a hit among the enthusiasts, but its success proved ephemeral owing to the limited number of bikes sold, poor after-sales service and non-availability of spares. This month Garware Motors are all set for that bike’s re-entry in a new garb – the Comet R. The additional R in the name is because of the full fairing on the motorcycle. Another technical change in the bike from the old Comet is that they have dumped the carburettor and introduced fuel injection, primarily to meet the emission norms. Apart from these, there isn’t much that is different in this bike from its old version. How would this bike fare against the current 250-cc all-rounder, the CBR 250R? We decided to find out.
Design And Styling
The CBR 250R as well as the GT250R are both full-faired machines and that is the only thing common to both so far as styling is considered. The GT250R looks quite nice from a side profile with its big bike looks. It is actually the same size and shape as its elder brother, the GT650R. This works both in favour of the bike and against it. There is a whole bunch of buyers who want these bikes for their muscular and big looks and the Comet R serves this purpose quite well. However, so far as performance goes, this big and heavy bike fails to impress.
As an individual bike, the GT250R does appeal with its muscular styling. But when compared to the CBR 250R, the design looks a little dated. For example, the front screen of the bike is flattish, something that we have seen in the early 1990s. In fact, the bike has very little curves all through, which might add up to its aged looks. Nevertheless, there is no denying that the Comet R has a lot of road presence and manages to attract the attention of quite a few. The CBR 250R, on the other hand, is much smaller with modern styling. The layered fairing and the Y-shaped headlight make it quite an appealing motorcycle.
Ride And Handling
The CBR 250R has been built on a twin tubular frame while the GT250R sports a cradle frame. This itself puts the GT in a better position than the CBR. Also, the Hyosung has a set of 41-mm upside down forks upfront and a pre-load adjustable rear mono shock suspension. The CBR sports 37-mm regular front forks and a pre-load adjustable mono shock suspension at the rear. However, the big difference between these bikes is the set-up that they run. While the GT250R is on a much stiffer side, the CBR runs a soft set-up. Now this distinction in set-ups gives different characteristics and usability to these bikes. The Comet R comes across as a very good bike for hardcore sport riding with excellent handling and road grip, but becomes a bit of a pain in daily city commutes. The CBR 250R’s soft set-up gives it a very comfortable ride on city roads, but while cornering hard, it induces a little bit of wallowing, especially if the surface is uneven. Also, the relaxed sitting posture on the Honda is much more practical for daily riding than the extremely aggressive seating of the Hyosung.
Engine And Performance
The engines powering both these bikes are 250 cc. Apart from the displacement, though, there is hardly anything common between the two motors. The Hyosung engine is an air-cooled, 75-degree twin-cylinder that pumps out 28 PS of peak power at 10,000 revolutions per minute and 22.07 Nm of torque at 8,000 RPM. As against that, the Honda’s engine is liquid-cooled, single-cylinder that pumps out 25.5 PS at 8,500 RPM and 22.9 Nm at 7,000 RPM. Greater power and twin-cylinder configuration might make one think that the GT will have an advantage in outright performance. However, it is not so. Under outright acceleration, the CBR sprints to 100 km/h from standstill in 8.47 seconds while the GT250R takes 9.62 seconds. The CBR has an advantage not only in outright acceleration, but also in in-gear roll-on acceleration. Furthermore, the CBR scores more on top speed too by getting to 144.4 km/h with one gear to go while the GT makes it to 141 km/h in the top gear.
The CBR gets this advantage over the GT for several reasons. Firstly, it has 0.83 Nm of extra torque. Secondly, it makes peak power and peak torque at much lower revs than its competitor. Thirdly, the CBR’s engine is mated to a close ratio six-speed box as against the five-speed box on the GT. And very importantly, the CBR weighs just 167 kg (ABS version), which is a whole 21 kg lighter than the 188 kg GT. The only advantage that the GT250R has over the CBR is that due to its slightly lower gearing and twin cylinder engine, it can run easily at slow speeds in higher gear.
The CBR 250R has turned out to be the better of the two in various aspects so far and continues to do so when it comes to versatility. It has a more refined engine and comfortable ride quality that gives it an everyday practicality. With its relaxed seating posture, the CBR proves to be a great one on the highway too for touring. The GT250R, on the other hand, has great road presence with its big bike feel. It has better handling for sport riding too. But as an overall package, it fails to make an impression with its engine’s slightly lower performance, unrefined character and heavy weight.
Another thing that disappoints a little is the quality of material used and the fit-and-finish. The price of the motorcycle is yet to be announced and it will certainly play an important role in deciding the fate of this machine. With the CBR 250R ABS model priced at Rs 1.9 lakh (OTR, Pune), it will be quite a task for Hyosung to beat it. Besides, the missing ABS option on GT should be a factor to think about, since buyers today demand more value for their money.
Honda are all set to take on the mighty Yamaha YZF-R15 with their latest offering, the CBR 150R
Photography: Sanjay Raikar
Motorcycling in India witnessed a change in perception when Yamaha launched the YZF-R15 back in mid-2008. This 150-cc offering from Yamaha changed everything that a 150-cc bike meant for the Indian customer. It had all the elements that made bike enthusiasts put it on a high pedestal where no one else dared to challenge it.
After almost four years of being on the top, there is some competition now for this supersport machine. Honda have quietly (I say quietly because I haven’t come across much media hype for this product) fielded their CBR 150R in the market and started selling it bang on against the R15. That naturally gives rise to the big question: which of these two is the better bike? Both are Japanese, both are 150-cc supersport machines, both have names with a legacy and both are priced competitively. Then what is it that sets them apart? What differentiates the two machines? Let us find out.
Design And Styling
The YZF-R15, which has been in the market since 2008, got a cosmetic enhancement a few months ago. The upgraded R15, version 2.0 as they call it, is an outright aggressively styled machine. Its sharp edges and straight lines make it a stunning looker. The R15 has enjoyed a lot of love and craze among the youth owing to its fast bike looks derived from the elder sibling, R6.
If that is the story of the Yamaha, the Honda gets its styling cues for the CBR 150R from the CBR 250R, launched last year, and the big VFR1200F. It is a little on the subtle side that would suit a sports tourer more than a supersport rider. The black treatment to the headlight cluster, the stubby exhaust and eye-catching white and orange graphics (our test bike in specific) are the elements that appealed to us the most. The glossy paint on the frame is the only let down, though. It would thus be very difficult to decide which of these two bikes looks better, for each speaks its own design language and each is impressively styled.
So far as the quality of material and fit-and-finish go, the R15 scores over the CBR. The switches and the clip-ons on the Honda have a little less exquisite feel to them. In fact, the switches seem to have come straight from one of Honda’s commuter bikes.
Posture And Ergonomics
The YZF-R15 looks aggressive and feels aggressive too. Its sitting posture is such that it demands a lot of lean-forward style. The seat is tall and the clip-ons and tank are low. Because of this geometry, it feels as if you are sitting too high and away and give a feel of stretched out posture. Besides, the knee recesses along the tank are quite deep, giving the bike a skinny feel.
On the other hand, the CBR 150R offers a more relaxed seating. The handlebar, seat and foot-pegs geometry is perfect for a comfortable ride – whether in the city or on the highway. Also, the wide tank offers a good feel to clamp on with the knees and its tall position gives it a bigger bike feel.
Engine And Features
This is what matters the most when the two bikes under consideration are high-performance machines. Both have four-stroke, four-valve, 150-cc engines, liquid cooling, fuel injection and are mated with six-speed transmissions. However, the R15 uses the SOHC mechanism while the CBR makes use of DOHC. So far as power and torque figures are concerned, the R15 makes 17 PS and 15 Nm while the CBR makes 17.8 PS and 12.66 Nm. It shows that there is a small difference in the power output of the two bikes and there is a considerable difference between the torque figures.
The differences don’t end here. The biggest variation between the two engines comes in the way they produce the power and at what RPM they do so. Whereas the R15 makes maximum power at 8,500 revolutions per minute, the short stroke engine of the CBR does it at 10,500 RPM. In case of the torque too, the R15 puts out the maximum torque at 7,500 RPM while the CBR does so at 8,500 RPM. These differences show up when it comes to outright performance testing. The slightly more powerful CBR 150R accelerates quicker from standstill to 100 km/h in 13.62 seconds while the R15 does the same in 14.13 seconds. Though the outright acceleration varies so much, things look a little different when it comes to in gear roll-on acceleration where the R15 goes much quicker from 30 km/h to 70 km/h in the third, fourth as well as the fifth gear and that too with a good margin over the CBR 150R. This is basically because the Yamaha puts out higher torque at lower RPM than its competitor.
What is worth mentioning about the engine of the CBR 150R, though, is its ultimate refinement. Even at high RPM, the silken smooth engine barely has any high-frequency vibrations.
Chassis, Suspension And Handling
The best part about both the bikes is the chassis and suspension settings. The YZF-R15 was the first Indian made bike to introduce the twin-spar or deltabox frame, as they call it in India. The CBR 150R follows the Yamaha now and brings in a similar frame. Both the bikes have a monoshock suspension at the rear and neither allows pre-load adjustment. However, there is hardly any need for it unless you are taking the bikes out to race professionally at the track.
It is really a very tricky proposition to decide which one handles better. Both are rock-steady in the corners and commit themselves to what is demanded. The only small difference that we found between the two machines was how briskly they turned in while attacking a corner flat-out. The CBR 150R, thanks to its shorter wheelbase, feels a mite sharper here.
Living With The Machines
Being slightly on the sporty side, one would expect neither of these machines to be comfortable for everyday use. Well, that isn’t really the case with the Honda. Because the R15 has an extremely committed stance, it automatically lends itself better to sport riding purpose. It is a great machine to challenge the corners. However, it suffers a little when it comes to everyday riding comfort (for the pillion as well) and while touring. On the other hand, the CBR can serve very well in almost every aspect. It has a comfortable seating for commuting everyday from home to college/work and back, can make for a good machine over the weekend and can be a wonderful machine on the highways.
So which one to buy then? Well, for those who are looking at hardcore weekend rides towards the twisties and don’t care much about their or their pillions’ comfort, the R15 makes for a good machine. It’s engine also offers good rideability in the city. But for those who want an overall package with a good top-end performance, comfortable ride and a comparatively fresh styling, the CBR is the obvious option. However, be prepared for a slightly sluggish performance while riding around town and also be ready to shell out an extra Rs 4,000.
While there’s been a deluge of new bikes in this segment in the last couple of years, choosing one out of the pack has become more difficult than ever, what with every manufacturer offering almost the same quality, style and performance ina slightly different package.
Saeed Akhtar and Piyush Sonsale help you narrow down the choices
Design plays an important factor here, and more so in less expensive models. While being a very subjective factor, racy design cues that hint at sportiness and aggressive aerodynamic enhancement are appreciated the most here.
The FZ-16 is the bad boy of the lot here. With tyres so phat they almost don’t need a centrestand. With over-engineered suspension bits and muscular styling borrowed directly from the FZ1, this is one mean streetfighter. The resemblance to its bigger, much bigger, sibling is uncanny.
Ever since its launch, TVS has continually kept on tweaking the Apache, both cosmetically and mechanically. And it shows. The RTR we have here is a far cry from the original, let’s say a sportbike minus the fairing. The GS 150R borrows styling cues from Suzuki’s global superbikes, especially the shape of the tank, the tail section and the headlamp assembly.
The Dazzler is to the Unicorn what Spiderman is to Peter Parker. Adopting Honda’s new design philosophy has done wonders to the sober Unicorn exoskeleton, and the outcome is refreshingly good. Then you have the Hunk which looks exactly what the name indicates, an otherwise nice guy who just happened to spend too much time in the gym. Lastly, we have the Pulsar, which was the sportiest-looking bike in the market a decade back, but, is now starting to look a bit jaded despite its yearly tweaks. We really wish that Bajaj will come out with something radical very soon.
What good is stylish design without solid build quality to back it up? While it goes without saying that careful maintenance can expand a bike’s lifespan and save you from recurring maintenance headaches, production methods matter too. Honda has rightly earned a reputation for solidly built bikes and it shows in their products here. No unsightly welding points are visible on these, the paintjob is deep and lustrous enough to be a mirror, and the electricals are tucked away neatly in place. Interestingly, the Yammie and the Suzuki has retained the legendary build quality that made them so popular here in their two-stroke heydays and is every bit as good as the Dazzler when it comes to build quality.
Then there’s the Hunk. While its over-the-top styling is not to everybody’s taste, there’s no denying the fact that it is very solidly built and the fit and finish is also very good. Finally we have the Bajaj and TVS bringing up the rear end in this category.
The Pulsar 180 sports clip-on handlebars, a toe-only gear shifter and a stepped two-piece seat to offer a charging stance and does feel sporty. However, the seat tends to be hostile to your rounder side during long rides and the gas charged rear shock absorbers help but little, while the Pulsar 220-derived tail grab rails still lack utility and body vibrations are noticeable. The Hunk gives a tucked- in feeling with its huge, ‘well carved in for the thighs’ tank shell and the scooped seat for the rider which has just the right cushioning and contours for your behind. The footpegs are rear biased and the handlebar is on the shorter side giving a sporty edge ride. The Dazzler is more of a 150-cc commuter with forward set footpegs and an upright riding posture. However, the scooped single piece seat induces seating discomfort in time. The FZ 16 has the streetfighter character. The single piece handle bar is wide and straight and the tank shell provides a good grip but the 140/60 rear tyre’s low profile makes the ride stiffer than expected. Taking note of the negatives, the FZ has rather small mirrors, a very painful pillion seat and the grab rails come right under your bottom. The RTR 160 scores high on ergonomics when on the track but feels too focused on the streets. The engine revs high and tickles you throughout the ride and the rear gas-charged suspension is stiffer than expected. Also, the bike’s small size doesn’t suit tall riders. For them the king size GS 150R is the answer. It lends an upright but relaxed riding posture with its wide seat, huge tank shell and high handlebars, while the toe-heel ‘rocker’ gear shifter stamps its commuter nature, but as an executive one.
The Dazzler’s chassis gives it the best handling characteristic. It feels nimble and in control on any road surface, while the rear hydraulic disc brake adds to its stopping power. Similarly, the FZ too handles like a hot knife through butter due to excellent mass centralisation upfront, a wide handle bar and a steep rake angle. But the biggest advantage these two bikes have is the monoshock rear suspension. The other four contenders of our comparison are more-or-less on the same level below these two. The Pulsar is a good city bike but doesn’t feel as sure footed as the rest in corners. The Hunk hugs the road all the time and comes with a rear hydraulic disc brake like the RTR, who’s small wheelbase, stiff suspension and good throttle response makes it a very manoeuvrable bike. The big boy GS is a steady commuter.
The Pulsar 180 has the biggest engine in contention and boasts the highest power and torque figures amongst the contenders of this comparo. It is the quickest to attain the 60kmph mark from standstill, in 4.98 seconds, and covers the 30-70kmph transition in 11.77 seconds in the fourth gear and has a top speed of 117.5kmph. When it comes to top speed though, the Apache RTR 160 comes to the forefront of the pack with 118.7kmph, thanks to its correct gearing and a high power to weight ratio. Its 0-60kmph time is 5.04 seconds while the 30-70kmph in fourth gear requires 8.92 seconds, the best roll-on figure here. The Dazzler and the Hunk share the same 149-cc Honda engine but the nature of tune and other vehicle dynamics like chassis, the aerodynamics and the weight differentiates their performance. The Dazzler has a high top speed but isn’t quick through the gears while it’s the opposite for the Hunk. The Dazzler has a true top speed of 118.18kmph, making it the second fastest bike of our comparison and it accelerates from 0-60kmph in 5.45 seconds while the heavy Hunk is the slowest punk with a top speed of 107.16kmph but accelerates from 0-60kmph in 5.08 seconds due to its shorter gearing. The Dazzler achieves the 30-70kmph jump in fourth gear in 11.9 seconds. The Hunk does the same in just 9.52 seconds. Moving on, the FZ 16 develops 14PS of power at a lower engine speed (7,500rpm) than the other five bikes. On the performance chart though, it doesn’t score any stars. It accelerates from 0-60kmph in 5.51 seconds and completes the 30-70kmph run in fourth gear in 9.2 seconds, while the top speed stands at 110.9kmph. The GS 150R has a 149.5-cc power plant which produces a respectable 14 PS of power and 13.4 Nm of torque, but it’s the heaviest bike of the lot, which hampers its performance. It accelerates from 0-60kmph in 5.46 seconds and has a top speed of 108 kmph. The 30-70kmph progress in fourth gear comes after 11.5 long seconds.
The Rs 65,000 to 75,000 price bracket defines the affordable performance bike category in the Indian motorcycle market, but who are we kidding — fuel efficiency is always the common denominator for an Indian bike. For this review, we have collected the fuel economy figures of all our previous road tests and have combined them in a no-nonsense percentile format.
And the results are interesting, to say the least. Despite its considerable heft, the Suzuki GS150R is the most fuel efficient bike here thanks to its sixth gear which is essentially a cruising gear, delivering an astonishing figure of 59.75kmpl overall. The Dazzler comes in second with 55.70 kmpl, followed by the Pulsar 180 and HH Hunk, both delivering 51kmpl overall. Just half a step behind the two comes the high revving RTR 160 with an overall fuel efficiency figure of 50kmpl. Completing the roundup is the FZ-160 whose wide tyres and massive suspension bits endow it with an overall figure of 43.5kmpl.
Cost of Spares
The question of ownership doesn’t end after the purchase, it begins there. The overhauling part of the maintenance ritual hardly bothers the pocket, it’s the cost of spare parts to be replaced that affects the maintenance cost. Hence, it is an important factor to consider. We fetched the Pune prices of the frequently required spares, compared the totals of each and alotted them points according to their percentile with respect to the smallest total. However, do keep in mind the fact that cheaper spare parts don’t directly translate into long-term gains, because the quality of materials determines how reliable a part will eventually be. And that’s where the Honda, Hero Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki (in that order) have an edge over Bajaj and TVS.
Bells and Whistles
Fitting in with the crowd is not always a good thing. There are perils and pitfalls in being just another innocuous stand-in. To captivate the heart and minds of the consumer, a product needs to have that X-factor, that zing and the killer edge that sets it apart from the breed. And while every contender here has a few tips and tricks up its sleeve, there are some features that do stand out. Like the 6-speed gearbox on the GS150R, the only one here. And the 140mm rear tyre on the FZ. Moving on, the Bajaj and Suzuki offers LED tail lamps while the Honda and Yamaha sports a monoshock suspension at the rear. Apart from the usual console functions and tell-tale lights, the RTR’s unit also has a 0-60 timer and a top speed logger whereas the GS150R is the only one here with a gear indicator, highlighting its unique in-class sixth-speed gearbox. Like most current Hondas, the Dazzler incorporates a viscous air filter and a maintenance-free battery that should helpfully reduce maintenance chores but misses out on an engine kill switch (the Hunk hasn’t got one either). And, oh, with the exception of the GS150R, every other bike here rides on tubeless tyres.
No matter how much you love your current bike, or the one you’ve set your eyes on right now, there’s no doubt that a few years down the line, a better bike will come along and set your heart of fire. And there’s a high probability that you will have to get rid of your current prized possession in order to accommodate that in your garage. Plus the added cash won’t hurt.
Amongst the bikes that we have lined up here, the Honda has the strongest brand image and it shows in its extremely high resale value. It is the brand that generated the most enthusiastic response amongst the second-hand market. Yamaha’s legendary reliability that manifested itself in its two-stroke era is still visible in its current products and thus it manages to come a close second here. By virtue of association, Hero Hondas come third here, with their products faring especially well in the rural markets thanks, in no small part, to the enormous cult following of its Splendor and CD brands that have rubbed off on their premium products. Then we have the ever-popular Pulsar, which many youth will buy with their eyes closed, followed by TVS and Suzuki in short order.
Hero Honda ranks number one here hands down. No region in the country lacks a Hero Honda dealership but the ‘distinctly ahead’ Bajaj brand isn’t too far behind. They lack the number of dealerships in a particular area but Bajaj’s dealer network is as exhaustive as that of Hero Honda’s. The TVS Motor Company ranks third here followed by Honda in fourth place, while the other two Japanese bike makers Yamaha and Suzuki rank fifth and sixth respectively.
This is it, judgment time. Just a glance at the final points tally will tell you how close a fight it was and how little there’s to separate one contender from another. The Suzuki GS150R is one of the most comfortable bikes in this segment and is the only one here to offer a six-speed gearbox. Yet its lazy power delivery and innocuous character doesn’t make it an enticing buy and hence, it is relegated to the bottom of the charts here. Then we have the Hunk and FZ16 bringing up the rear end, each with an overall tally of 69 points each. Bajaj really needs to update the Pulsar substantially, and if it does so soon, we won’t be surprised if the new Pulsar 180 comes out on top next year. On the plus side, Bajaj is offering a 180-cc bike at the price of a 150! That brings us to the joint winners of this guide, the Hero Honda CB Dazzler and the TVS Apache RTR 160. While the Dazzler offers buyers the best overall ride, handling and ownership experience in a relaxed and commuter-ish package, the RTR is for the sporty rider who wants absolutely no compromise on the performance front. Either way, you can’t go wrong with one of these.
Ex-showroom, both cost the same. On the road, however, they are as far apart from each other as Italy and Japan. Adhish Alawani swings his leg first over the Suzuki GSX-R1000 and then over the Ducati 848 to find out which of the two better suits the Indian customer’s tastes
Photography: Sanjay Raikar
Really speaking, it’s not been long since I last rode to my heart’s content. But, I just don’t seem to get enough. So, on what was a typical morning for other mortals, I decided to have some more fun than usual. I had the Suzuki GSX-R1000 standing outside my house and my head abuzz with ideas for an interesting ride since the evening before. Hmmmm… How about asking someone to give me company? No, no, how about asking someone ‘good’ with something ‘better’ for company? A call went through to a commodore and like-minded two-wheel disciple, Yatin. “Lavasa?” Promptly came the reply, “Gimme 15 minutes.”
So the scene was set with the two of us riding two big machines. Both the GSX-R1000 and the 848 cost approximately Rs 15 lakh on road in Pune, but are extremely different entities. While an inline four engine powers the Japanese motorcycle, its Italian companion comes with a 90-degree V-Twin (also called an L-Twin). One is a litre-class race bike while the other is just a hypersport that doesn’t fit in any international race class. The GSX-R1000 signifies evolution over the years while the 848 is a young project. Indeed, the curiosity about the difference in the characteristics of these two machines was greater than the excitement of riding them. How can two sportsbikes priced so closely be so different?
I have ridden the GSX-R enough in the past and I am quite familiar with it. This litre-class bike comes loaded with insane power – as much as 185 PS. It’s not just the power that drives you crazy. The colossal peak torque (117 Nm) is enough to give a greenhorn on a litre bike the fright of his life. Add to this the bulk of the bike and you are in for serious trouble in case you overestimate your abilities. All this made me believe how impracticable a litre-class machine can be for frequent city riding. At least that is what I thought until I got on to the Ducati.
That the 848 is a typical Ducati is what I had read since its launch in late 2007. But what is a typical Ducati? That was still the question. To start with, it’s a beautifully crafted machine, made by designers who know how to translate aggression from concept into production. The fierce look of the motorcycle is enough to tell us that it means business, serious business. Sharp angles, minimal curves, shark-like fairing nose and absolutely no graphics are a testimony to the no-nonsense stuff on offer. An aggressive character goes along with the Italian badging. Getting on to the saddle revealed a lot more. The seat is a thin sheet of high-density foam offering minimum necessary padding. Clip-ons are low and placed far away. The tank is wide on top and narrows down suddenly at the bottom, creating a perfect hollow to protect the rider’s thighs and knees from the wind-blast. Foot pegs are high and the riding posture is extremely racy. From the pilot’s seat, you get to see the dash that Casey Stoner must have looked at on his GP8 and GP9 bikes.
Compared to the Ducati, the Suzuki now felt a little relaxed and less aggressive with its clip-ons not too far away, foot-pegs not too high up, the seat not too hard and the riding position not too extreme.
The Ducati’s L-Twin is much lower on power and torque as compared to the Suzuki’s inline four. At 135 PS peak power and 96 Nm peak torque, I thought that the Ducati was going to be tamer than the Suzuki. With the first gear red-lined, I was not doing more than 104 km/h on the speedo as compared to the scary 145ish km/h on the GSXR. Further, getting to 160 km/h on the Ducati meant shifting into the third cog whereas it meant shifting into just the second one on the Suzuki. Both bikes deliver extremely linear power. However, the bulky GSXR’s front end kept the bike planted even with the throttle whacked open all the way until the red line.
On the Ducati, it was a different case with the lightweight machine’s front end floating as the revs built up and hit the limiter. I shifted into second and pinned the throttle for the second wheelie in running. More fun on the Italian, I must say! Even with less power, the rawness of the 848’s motor makes it feel much more aggressive.
In a country like ours less power is better in view of the limited driveability in terrible traffic. That made me believe that the Ducati would turn out to be more practical. That, however, was not the case. The problem with the 848 is the twin cylinder engine that needs to be kept spinning all the time to avoid snatching. Even in the second gear, at speeds below 40 km/h, the bike will grumble to move without snatching. That was the biggest issue with the 848. As against this, while the litre-class machine has helluva power to be dealt with, it still allows one to ride at low speeds owing to its inline four powerplant. Another problem with the 848 is its hydraulic clutch that needs herculean efforts to operate. As they say, the Italians have never really managed to make clutches that are as easy to operate as the Japanese have.
Coming down to handling, the Ducati is the thing – light, nimble and great chassis-suspension to have fun with. The additional benefit comes from the narrower 5.5-inch alloy with 180-mm section rubber on the 848 as against the six-inch rim with 190-mm section rubber on the Gixxer. It gives the bike better agility that helps a lot while quickly changing direction and the ability to negotiate corners with ease and confidence. The suspension on the Ducati is stiffer, offering more feedback round corners than the slightly softer Gixxer. Overall, the Ducati is definitely more focused round corners with loads of aggression.
At the end of it all, both the bikes were analysed and ridden hard. While one was extreme and aggressive, the other was rideable, smooth and soft.
The question now was, had I been a lot richer, whixh would I buy? Not an easy question to answer considering that each bike has a special something to offer while lacking in some respects. For those who want more of an all-rounder that can do the exciting Sunday rides (though not as aggressively as the Italian) without nit becoming a pain in the city, they can surely go for the much softer Gixxer.
However strange as it may sound, I would go with the Italian for a number of reasons. It’s focused, hardcore, light, nimble, aggressive and without doubt the sexiest looking machine I have seen so far. Sorry, Japs, my loyalties have changed. You might be making more practical bikes, but who cares when I have to ride it just on weekends and get the knee down – I prefer riding something a little less practical yet a hell lot more exotic. Wait, Doc, here I come too!