Bajaj Pulsar NS160: Does it have the makings of a good premium 150-160cc bike?
Enthusiasts will appreciate the fact that Bajaj has kept the styling of this new NS160 nearly identical to the 200’S. In fact, at a quick glance, you’d be hard pressed to notice any visual difference between this NS160 and its larger sibling.business Updated: Aug 07, 2017 17:58 IST
The Bajaj Pulsar 150 was one of the first motorcycles to really kick off the performance 150cc segment in India. Powerful, stylish and affordable – this was the mantra that worked in favour of the original Pulsar and there has really been no looking back ever since. However, the 150cc segment of motorcycles has evolved over the past few years and now features bikes with better styling, improved dynamics and even a bump in cubic capacity. The Pulsar 150 never really got on this bandwagon. But Bajaj finally has a sportier, more premium commuter in the form of the new Pulsar NS160.
Bajaj really did a great job with aesthetics of its first naked street, the NS200. Its styling was inspired by big-capacity nakeds such as the Honda CB1000, and even five years on, it’s still one of the best-looking bikes in its segment. So enthusiasts will appreciate the fact that Bajaj has kept the styling of this new NS160 nearly identical to the 200’S. In fact, at a quick glance, you’d be hard pressed to notice any visual difference between this NS160 and its larger sibling. Even from the saddle, there’s no way of telling them apart, thanks to the riding position being identical.
Take a closer look and the differences can be seen. The front forks are thinner, as is the swingarm and the tyres. The motor too, is smaller and there is no rear disc brake either.
With styling from a bike playing in a full segment higher, the NS160 is a handsome motorcycle no doubt. However, the skinnier forks and tyres lend it an odd look from certain angles – the analogy of a body builder with chicken legs comes to mind.
As mentioned earlier, the seating posture is no different from the NS200. This makes the NS160 feel like a bigger bike than its competition. Its tallish 805mm seat is higher than all its rivals, but that should be an issue only for the shortest of riders. However, its 170mm ground clearance is the highest amongst its rivals and something a lot of riders in India will appreciate.
The real highlight of this Pulsar NS160 is its new engine. This 160.3cc, air-cooled, twin-spark, oil-cooled motor makes a healthy 15.5hp and 14.6Nm. With the most power and second-most torque in its segment, the performance is really noticeable. The motor just loves to rev and the acceleration is rather brisk. But more impressive is the engine’s sheer useability. It’s got plenty of grunt at low and medium engine speeds which allows you to pootle around at speeds as low as 18-20kph in third gear comfortably. The motor feels equally comfortable holding speeds of up to 110kph. But its real sweet spot is around the 80-85kph mark.
Bajaj decided to stick with a five-speed gearbox for the NS160, but it feels perfectly suited to the motor, with extremely short first and second gears for easy city ridability. Another surprise with this engine is the refinement level. Sure, it isn’t as butter-smooth as the Suzuki Gixxer or the Yamaha FZ FI, but it’s effortless for the most part. Even the buzz that did come into the bars and foot pegs at about 6,500-7,000rpm doesn’t feel too intrusive.
While the tyres look a touch skinny, they do a great job of keeping the bike nicely planted when you’re leaning into corners. That said, a big part of the bike’s dynamic ability comes from its well-tuned suspension and that phenomenal twin-spar frame that’s been lifted straight from the NS200.
When you factor in the reduced resistance that the slimmer tyres offer, coupled with the 10kg weight reduction from the NS200 (the NS160 weighs just 142kg), you end up with a bike that’s quite nippy. And at the same time, the longest-in-segment 1,363mm wheelbase ensures that there is plenty of stability when manoeuvring the motorcycle.
The suspension is really well set-up, not just for impressive handling, but also for riding over broken roads. Even bumpy surfaces don’t upset the bike, and while ride quality isn’t plush, it certainly is comfortable.
On the braking front, the NS160 comes equipped with a 240mm petal disc at the front and a 130mm drum at the back. These aren’t the largest brakes in the segment, but there’s plenty of bite and adequate feel at the lever. Even when riding on wet roads, the brakes offered predictable stopping power.
To sum up, Bajaj has certainly hit all the right marks with the NS160. It looks great for the most part, the motor is extremely useable and the bike handles and rides well too. While first impressions are positive, let’s not forget that the NS160 has to compete with extremely capable motorcycles. Priced at Rs 78,368 (ex-showroom, Delhi), it is cheaper than the Yamaha FZ FI and the Honda CB Hornet 160, bit it’s marginally costlier than the Suzuki Gixxer. However, its sporty design and top-drawer build mean that in this premium 150-160cc segment, the Pulsar is no longer just a ‘significantly more affordable’ option. But, whether it can make a dent in this space is something that remains to be seen.
Price: Rs 78,300 (ex-showroom, Delhi)
Engine: 160.3cc, single-cylinder, oil-cooled
Max Power: 115.5hp at at 8500rpm
Max Torque: 14.6Nm at 6500rpm