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150cc shootout - Six Pack!

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This is confusing. We've seen them all before and so have you, and we all know they couldn't be more different. Yet, being rivals in the same segment endows them with a sense of similarity.


Six degrees of similarity, that's what we have here in the form of six of the best premium 150s in the Indian market today, and we've pitted them against each other just so you're not confused anymore. Us too, for that matter. If you're looking for fun without financial ruin, look no further than this!

THE COMPARO STARTS ON THE NEXT PAGE>>

 

BAJAJ PULSAR 150

Max Power 14.09 bhp@8500 rpm
Max Torque 1.3 kgm@6500 rpm
Price Rs 65,583

0-60: 5.6 sec
Top speed:113 kph
Fuel economy: 55 kpl

What you see
The most refined iteration of the Pulsar 150 ever. To its credit, the Bajaj still manages to look pretty sharp and contemporary even after all these years. Bright paint, blacked-out parts and tank extensions help. The ‘eyeliner’ treatment given to the headlight and pilot lamps adds a bit of attitude. But it fades away when you look at the bikes around it. Make-up doesn’t hide the Pulsar’s age.

What you get
A pretty sorted package, actually, but only for sedate riding. Up to 70 kph, the Pulsar can still keep up with the Joneses and not feel stressed at all. Ride quality is plush and the front brake is strong as ever, although the riding position is neither here nor there. Where the Pulsar suffers is on-the-limit handling. The soft suspension struggles to hold a fast line through a corner – braking in a corner? No way! And if you still insist, it will pogo its way through switchbacks with a wide-eyed rider onboard. Pity, since the motor loves to be thrashed, even though the gearbox on our test bike was a disaster that didn’t want to change gears, up or down.  

What you feel
Hopelessly outclassed, especially in the given company. The other motorcycles in this bunch bully the Pulsar in almost all respects. It’s still got the Pulsar name, but doesn’t do anything better than any of the motorcycles here. The game’s moved on quite a bit, dear Pulsar and it’s sad to see you at the bottom of the heap.

The last word Retirement beckons

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HERO HONDA CBZ X-TREME

Max Power 14.2 bhp@8500 rpm
Max Torque 1.26 kgm@6500 rpm
Price Rs 64,553

0-60: 5.3 sec
Top speed: 115 kph
Fuel economy: 54 kpl

What you see
Schizophrenic wheels (what the...?). Samosa-shaped tail lamp-indicator assembly (hmm...). And those infernal goitre-indicators (insert your favourite expletives here). At least these things elicit adjectives – the rest is so-so, but the overall effect is still mildly interesting. Thanks to the oddly coloured parts strewn all over the bike, it looks like a parts-bin assembly. We still like the pastel red shade of yore.

What you get
A fun performer. The grunty motor and the nimble chassis make for a fun combination on twisty roads and on highways as well. In a straight line, it beats all the others except the Apache. In corners, it holds its own rather well, but is certainly not the best anymore. The same goes for the brakes. However, you always know what the CBZ's going to do in a given situation, and that's a big confidence booster.

What you feel
Riding this erstwhile hooligan is always fun and the X-treme always wants to 'go, go, go!' What struck me was, if I didn't look down long enough, I thought I was riding the original CBZ – the riding position and character of the motor are amazingly similar, if my memory of the X-treme's ancestor is correct. This bike is certainly an option worth considering.

The last word - The Hunk's evil twin

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HONDA CB UNICORN DAZZLER

Max Power 14 bhp@8500 rpm
Max Torque 1.3 kgm@6500 rpm
Price Rs 68,395

0-60: 5.6 sec
Top speed: 115 kph
Fuel economy: 53 kpl

What you see
The tiniest motorcycle in this bunch. After any of the others, getting on the Dazzler amplified its tiny stature. It’s a sleek looking thing, this one, though our long-termer’s ‘Eterno-green-brown’ does it little justice. It looks much better in bright colours. Oh, and the Dazzler is the undisputed king of tank extensions – one look at those things would give even sabre-tooth tigers a severe inferiority complex. 

What you get
A rather upright riding position on a ‘sporty’ motorcycle. Seriously, why didn’t you bolt on more rear-set ’pegs, Honda? That aside, the Dazzler... er, dazzles with its lightning quick steering. The light weight and the 17-inch wheels contribute to the fleet-footed nature, though this also contributed to the fact that it squirmed and slithered while braking into downhill hairpin turns. On the highways, the Dazzler remains stable even at high speeds and braking remains standard Honda fare. Where it loses out is its heart – the motor douses the dazzle by being almost insipid in character. It may as well have been an electric motor. But, and you don’t need me to tell you this, it’ll run forever.

What you feel
A much lighter Unicorn. In spite of all the ingredients being there, this Honda fails to click. When I asked people ‘So what d’you think of the Dazzler?’ a blank look fell over their faces. Handling aside, there’s really not much to the Dazzler.

The last word - Uni-con

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TVS APACHE RTR 160

Max Power 15.2 bhp@8500 rpm
Max Torque 1.31 kgm@6000 rpm
Price Rs 61,400

0-60: 5.1 sec
Top speed: 118 kph
Fuel economy: 44 kpl

What you see
A compact motorcycle, much like a pit bull, straining at its leash. In the new ‘Hyper Edge’ makeover, our test bike had a fantastic matte black paint finish that everyone loved. The level of detailing on this bike is still second to none. Be it the foot and hand controls, the stripe running down the tank, the petal front disc, the rear mud flap or the belly fairing – it’s all top notch. 

What you get
The quickest and fastest motorcycle of this lot. This ‘cheater’ will leave everyone else in its wake. I’ve said this before, but you really can feel its racing pedigree in the way the Apache moves. The Apache rewards precise steering inputs by slicing and dicing corners of all shapes and sizes. The motor has power everywhere, and lots of it too. The front disc is the strongest, though the TVS tyres let it down. Another area it loses in is refinement – though the gearbox is probably the best here, the motor’s vibes can get unbearable after continuous hard riding. The riding position is best suited for short bursts. Slap on stickier rubber and you’ll have a real Indian racer-for-the-road.  

What you feel
Butterflies in your stomach. Everything about it – the motor, the brakes, the compact riding position and the handling – is hardcore when compared to the other bikes here and as such, it requires a fair bit of commitment to ride. If you’re not careful, the Apache can quickly become a handful. Not for the faint of heart, this one.

The last word - The class bully

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HERO HONDA HUNK

Max Power 14.2 bhp@8500 rpm
Max Torque 1.26 kgm@6500 rpm
Price Rs 68,416

0-60 kph: 5.4 sec
Top speed: 113 kph
Fuel economy: 52 kpl

What you see
Joshua on one wheel. He’s a crazy guy – really. And he loves the Hunk (I never miss a chance!). Rude puns aside, the Hunk is quite a handsome motorcycle, even more so after the last upgrade it got. The sinewy tank and slim-line panels get fantastic paint, while even the cycle parts are coated with different shades – understated and classy. The icing on the details-cake is that Lambo-esque bull logo on the tank extensions – naturally it tugs at all our heartstrings. We still like the older analogue dials, though. Oh, also, does anyone else think that the ‘Hunk’ on the tank looks like ‘flunk’?

What you get
A great motor and a willing chassis endowed with capable suspension. The way the Hunk absolutely smothered a 20-km stretch of bad tarmac on our ride was eye-opening. The gas-charged shockers work and how! In terms of ride quality, the Hunk stands tall over the others. In terms of performance, it’s quicker than only the Pulsar and the FZ, but it doesn’t feel that way. Power is plentiful across the rev range, especially mid-range and top end. The Hunk takes much longer than the others to run out of breath. And when you need to stop, the discs are more than up to the task.

What you feel
Satisfied. The Hunk cossets you, pleases you and is a reliable performer. And no, I’m not trying to make any of this sound dirty. It’s just the name, I tell you.

The last word - Name calling excellence

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YAMAHA FZ-S

Max Power 13.8 bhp@7500 rpm
Max Torque 1.38 kgm@6000 rpm
Price Rs 70,889

0-60: 5.9 sec
Top speed: 104 kph
Fuel economy: 46 kpl

What you see
The most beautiful motorcycle made in India. The FZ focuses on pure form to make an impression. The details are there too, but not as prominent as say, on the Apache. However, it’s got everything the Indian motorcyclist wants (except a fairing) – a muscular shape, fat tyres and oodles of attitude. True scaled-down international styling. We love it.  

What you get
A near-perfect riding position for urbania, a faultless motor-gearbox combo and the greatest breadth of handling in this class – it’s the easiest bike to get your knee down on, thanks to sticky rubber and sorted suspension. Ride quality is firm but never harsh, though the seat could be more supportive. The front disc is superb to use and stoppies are easiest on the FZ. The motor is quick enough to be fun, but it doesn’t prevent the FZ from being dead last in a straight line. Much embarrassment for me, since I rarely got off the bike. However, in the twisties, it left pretty much everything for dead. The downhill champ. 

What you feel
Oh, just about everything. No, really. The FZ has feel dripping from every component, whether you’re toeing the gear lever, squeezing the brake lever or flying over a bump at speed. A class act.

The last word - Momentum is king

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SUZUKI GS 150R

0-60: 5.8 sec
Top speed: 116 kph
Fuel economy: 57 kpl

We did ask Suzuki for a bike. However, we were refused one – they didn’t have a bike. Unless they’re selling each and every one they make every day, we don’t see how that can happen. Nonetheless, we try to be a fair lot and included the deserving GS here, if only in spirit.

What you see
Nothing. We didn’t get it, remember? However, the GS probably has the best-looking tail lamp in India, and the meters too. The rest, well, Suzuki tried to do a Unicorn, hence it’s pretty regular looking. 

What you get
A smooth customer. And strong, too. The only six-speeder in its segment, the GS should also exhibit better fuel consumption characteristics. The powertrain is silky smooth, even more so than the equivalent Honda’s. Handling might be slightly squishy, but you do gain ride quality for that. Braking is excellent and overall riding experience is better than most here. Pity we didn’t get to ride it back to back with its rivals and hence can’t consider it for the final judgement. 

What you feel
Puzzled. Despite such a good product, why has Suzuki not done well? They’ve characteristically done well across the world and make some of the best motorcycles in the world. Look at their four-wheeled division in India and Suzuki’s two-wheeled misfortunes are confounding. I hope they aren’t refusing to give bikes to customers too.

The last word - We want to ride it!

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Pack Decision

Reaching a conclusion has given us a collective concussion. Even though these motorcycles are getting on in years, they’re all really good. Also, we don’t actually have other options, do we?! I wish I could say that all of these bikes make sense. I wish I could say that each one has something that the others don’t. And I wouldn’t be wrong in either case. However, this time, I’ve got a gun to my head and I have to come up with a winner. Sigh.

What is a 150? By all accounts, in India it’s a breed of motorcycles that has a premium image, features good quality and specifications, is comfortable, handles well, makes respectable amounts of power along with decent fuel consumption AND is STILL a reasonable buying proposition. Only one bike does all of this and that’s the Hero Honda Hunk. The Hunk does all that you could want from a 150 and does it well enough to beat the others to the top.