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.