The Indian automobile market is challenging for numerous reasons, one of which is people don’t want to move on. It is one of the reasons why so many versions of cars were left unsold, despite being launched with improved replacements.
It is the same with motorcycles too, with some of the best ones being in the 150-160cc space. For instance, Honda had to put significant effort into making the new-gen Unicorn look just like the old one because customers refused to accept the Unicorn 160 when it was first launched. Another prime example is how successful the old Apache RTR 160 2V remains in the northern and eastern markets, which led to its sale alongside the vastly improved RTR 160 4V.
It is a similar story with Bajaj and its new-gen Pulsar N160, which is on sale. The market demand meant that the company also had to create a new Pulsar 150. It gets a new chassis and engine, all in the effort to create a bike that is more commuter friendly compared to the N160, and yet, be sporty.
This Pulsar looks similar to the Pulsar N160 and the N250 as it shares the same body panels as those two bikes, with the only difference being the headlamp design (an LED projector headlamp, which is nice). There is also a small cowl that shades the simple, but good-looking ‘infinity’ instrument console that debuted on the 250 Pulsars.
The primary objective with the Pulsar P150 was to make it an easier, more comfort-oriented motorcycle compared to the N160, which Bajaj seems to have gone all out to achieve. The chassis has a new design with the specific intention of lowering weight. At 140 kg (141kg for the dual-disc model) this bike weighs 9kg less than the older Pulsar 150 and up to 14kg less than the new Pulsar N160. Some of this weight reduction comes from the chassis, engine and the fact that this 14-litre fuel tank holds one liter less than the old 150.
On the move, the P150 feels light and agile, but not nervous or skittish. This means that manoeuvrability in traffic is excellent but if you do decide to take on some corners, you will notice it has a much better handler. It is not sharp and sporty, but the heavy and somewhat disconnected feeling of the old Pulsars has been consigned to the history books. The braking performance is adequate as well, with a dull initial bite at the front (typical of bikes in this category) but reassuring performance once you pull the lever further.
What is interesting is Bajaj’s decision with rider ergonomics. The split-seat variant comes with a set of clip-on handlebars and rather rear-set foot pegs that put the rider in a more committed riding position than expected. This feels odd, given the bike’s positioning as a more comfort-oriented machine. Especially since the suspension on this bike is softer and plusher over bad roads compared to the N160, which happens to have a one-piece handlebar.
It also comes with a taller, flatter single-piece handlebar that puts the rider in a more upright and comfortable position (the foot pegs are more comfortably set as well). The only downside is you get a rear drum brake (the split-seat variant gets a rear disc) and a slimmer rear tire (100-section vs 110 on the twin disc model). Still, it is a compromise I would make for the comfort that I would expect from the more practical Pulsar.
The P150 gets a new engine that has traces of both, the old Pulsar 150 and the new 160 but with its differences. This air-cooled engine uses the same 56 x 60.7 bore x stroke ratio as the old Pulsar 150, but with the new architecture seen in the N160. That means it gets the new-age refinement that has become a hallmark of the new Pulsars and this motor is leagues ahead of the old Pulsar in that regard.
With 14.5hp and 13.5Nm, it is not more powerful when compared to the old 150 and it makes about 1.5hp/1.1Nm less than the N160. With a 0-60 time of 6.3sec and a 0-100 time of 21.13sec, the Pulsar P150 is not the fastest bike in the segment, but that does not matter much, given its practical role as a quick and comfortable urban commuter. And to the engine’s credit, that is where it performs the best.
Like the new N160, the fun is all in the low and mid-range sections. The engine pulls nicely at almost any point in the rev range and while it redlines at around 9,500rpm, you will not want to go that high. This is all about effortless city performance, something that is evidenced in the way you can ride at 30kph in fifth gear with no sign of protest from the engine. Bajaj says that its internal tests reveal an overall real-world fuel efficiency of 49kpl, which is not far from our test results where we got 48kpl on the highway (holding speeds between 65-75kph) and 43kpl in our city test through the typically dense Mumbai traffic.
Although Bajaj does not really lead the charge when it comes to feature-packed motorcycles, it does offer some meaningful ones like the LED projector headlamp. It is a segment first and works quite well, but not as well as the unit on the N160. There is no Bluetooth connectivity, but you do get a conveniently placed USB charging port as standard, and the bike comes with single-channel ABS.
The single-disc model is priced at ₹1.17 lakh and the twin-disc at ₹1.2 lakh (ex-showroom), making them ₹6000 to ₹10,000 cheaper than the Pulsar N160 and more affordable than the TVS Apache RTR 160 2V – the motorcycle it is trying to beat. Will Bajaj be able to pull it off? That, only time will tell.