Bajaj Pulsar 150 and Hero Honda Ambition

Upgrade options for 100CC-ers?
That's the Bajaj Pulsar 150 and Hero Honda Ambition.Yeah,but which one?

No, we’re not off our collective rockers. A 143 and a 133 are being compared because many of you are writing in asking for our preference. A Pulsar 150 and an Ambition? Hmm, let’s see, we’ll take the Pulsar 180. But seriously, a proper comparison test was required to arrive at a decision. So, we got our test bikes and went for a long ride to see which of two is the better premium commuter/entry-level life-style machine.

Styling, build & finish
For once, both bikes are easy on the eye,conforming to contemporary styling edicts. Save for the Regal Crest, that is. Ignore that massive outcrop looming over the Ambition head lamp and the bike is pretty nifty to look at. The tailpiece is distinctive and integrates well with the beautifully sculpted tank. The Pulsar is no slouch either it has a beefy tank and muscular panels and the engine fills out the space between frame and tank admirably. 

The most obvious difference is the silencer unit – the Ambition’s seems relatively down-market with its flat chrome and (poorly finished) matt black number that compares badly with the Pulsar’s chrome capsule. The negatives, here on, are pretty even. While the front rubber looks proportionate, the Hero Honda’s rear tyre looks like it was born in a famine devastated land, and the Pulsar begs for the wider 180-spec rubber that completes the brawny rear end. The decals don’t help either bike as well. The billboard-sized Pulsar sticker on the tank spoils as much as the nondescript ones splayed all over the Ambition. The Bajaj also loses points for not having a more distinctive tail lamp. However, the build and finish stakes are even.

Powertrain & performance
The CBZ-based Ambition engine is the more refined of the two mills here and the 150’s engine does not have the pizzazz of the full-blown 180. However, neither engine seems unduly strained. Which is a laugh, for the 133 CC, 11 bhp Ambition is slower to 60 kph than even the LML Freedom, while the 143.9 CC 11.8 bhp Pulsar 150 blazes away quicker than the CBZ! 

Suckers for good riding soundtracks should also look at the Bajaj, which makes motorcycle-type sounds rather than a wheezy-throaty mechanical whirr. Both the bikes offer notchy gearshifts, and rides are rarely without the odd misshift or toe-ache finding neutral.The Pulsar’s much superior top-end performance is balanced by equally good and easy-to-use disc brakes. The Ambition suffers from CBZ-style ultra-sharp brakes, and will nose-dive like a WWII fighter if you as much as blow at the brakes. 

The fuel economy battle settles easily in the Hero Honda’s favour, with the Ambition offering 62 kpl to the Pulsar’s 51 – no surprises there. Point to note: the Ambition employs a TVS-Victor style dual map digital ignition to offer all that fuel economy, but misses the boat on the leading part of its ‘powerfuel’ strapline.

Ride & handling
The powerfuel bike matches the Pulsar 150 move for move on the ride front, though it rocks back and forth annoyingly on acceleration and braking. From here on, the Pulsar 150 edges ahead. Slow corners on the Ambition are unsettling with the bike feeling like has two parts – a quick, sharp front and a rear end that has the disposition of an unwilling pre-schooler. Upping the speed settles it a bit but it just does not have fluency of the Pulsar. The Hero Honda’s case is also weakened by gutless rear rubber, which keeps threatening to give and does not let the bike (or rider) settle at big lean. 

The Pulsar, meanwhile, is way ahead and great fun! Well sorted chassis dynamics and premium rubber allow great lean angles, good corner speed, confidence and an overall harmony. We must mention, it’s massive fun until a Bajaj Pulsar 180 blazes past on the outside. The only crib here is the oddly angled handlebar that can be uncomfortable and certainly returns less feedback than the Ambition’s unit.

A fuel gauge as large as the speedometer is a good indicator of priority. And the Ambition, therefore, does not bother with things like a tachometer. Needless to say, a Hero Honda with an engine kill switch is yet to be seen. Some details are nice, like the battery-run headlamp and the bright tail lamp. The Hero Honda also has the better pillion acco here. The Pulsar is altogether more focused, and while it misses the engine-kill switch as well, does have a rev counter (with neat vertical needles), a side-stand indicator and boxy switchgear (from the Eliminator) that looks like it belongs on the M80.

The Ambition is not a poor motorcycle, but in trying to straddle the twin barrels of fuel economy and power, it emerges completely undistinguished. Moments after you dismount, you cannot remember the ride at all! You can appreciate the details and make a note of the impressive fuel economy, but there isn’t much more to scream about. And at Rs 57,786 on-road Mumbai for the electric-start/disc-brake equipped version, this is not a cheap motorcycle. The Hero Honda name on the tank will boost resale value like no other. The Pulsar 150, shares an almost identical price tag, but offers a lot more. Even if you discount the 10 CC difference, the Pulsar 150 is more fun to ride, can be punted harder and only loses out on the fuel economy front – about 8-10 km to the litre. Here is the nub. People upgrading to a larger motorcycle should ideally broaden their approach to and expectations from motorcycles and lay less stress on fuel economy. However, if fuel
economy and resale value are the decision making factors you should consider the Ambition. For everything else, there is the Pulsar 150.