Bajaj Avenger Street 160 Review
I don’t know about you, but I had to go back and read up to keep track of the number of iterations the Bajaj Avenger has gone through. Now, Bajaj says the consumers - who are mostly commuters - expected better fuel economy numbers from the 180. So the bike maker has brought in the 160 Avenger. And it says the new motorcycle strikes the right balance. But does it, really?
I don’t know about you, but I had to go back and read up to keep track of the number of iterations the Bajaj Avenger has gone through. And, that’s not bad because if nothing else, it keeps the product fresh. And with it, it prevents the sales numbers from tumbling so low that it might warrant the discontinuation of the model.
Now, the Avenger 220 has had a fairly consistent run. No flashes in the pan, and no real slump to talk about. The same, however, cannot be said about the smaller Avenger. The latter started with a 150cc engine. It was well priced and reasonably fuel efficient. But, it wasn’t powerful enough to justify the ‘cruiser’ tag. And so, in came the 180cc version to replace it.
That too didn’t last long. Now, Bajaj says the consumers - who are mostly commuters - expected better fuel economy numbers from the 180. And therefore, the lukewarm response. So now the bike maker has brought in the 160 Avenger. And it says the new motorcycle strikes the right balance. But does it, really?
When it comes to bodywork, fit and finish, paint quality, and the overall look and feel, the new Avenger is identical to the older one. So, the paint quality is good all round, the switchgear operation is crisp, the fit is even almost everywhere, and the chrome - whatever little there is - doesn’t look cheap at all.
But, the silver finish - for the exhaust shields and the headlamp surround - looks a bit tacky. Even the matte finish, particularly for the plastic pieces, could certainly have looked more premium. We are also not thrilled about some of the welds either. The finish for these stand out like a sore thumb.
The seating ergonomics are one of the reasons consumers buy the Avenger, apart from its design, of course. Many commuters - and tourers - believe the low seat, the forward set footpegs, and the wide and easy to reach handlebar will make for comfortable seating. And it does. For the most part at least.
Show it nicely surfaced roads and you’d be able to spend a considerable amount of time in the saddle without bother. Even in stop and go traffic, the footpegs aren’t that far forward to cause you to pull a thigh muscle after repeated peg-on-peg-off use. Plus, the pegs being ahead means there’s nothing to foul with the legs when leg-paddling in traffic.
Now, mildly broken tarmac and low amplitude undulations are handled well by the Avenger 160 - the benefit of having a soft suspension setup, if you will. However, fail to spot a speed breaker. Or, try being brave over badly scarred tarmac. And, your lower back will take a beating. On most other bikes, one can just stand on the footpegs and take the bite off the impact. But, on the Avenger - or on any other leg-forward cruiser - that’s a tough ask.
The really new bit about the Avenger 160 is, of course, its engine. It is essentially the same unit as on the Pulsar NS160. It has the same bore and stroke and even the power output is nearly the same. It makes around 15bhp and a little over 13Nm, which incidentally is almost identical to what the 180cc Avenger made. Back to the NS160 engine, and the big difference between the two 160s is that the Avenger uses a two-valve head against a four-valve configuration on the NS.
On the road, the Avenger 160’s engine feels and sounds like the rest of its brethren. So, it’s loud. And once you are in the mid-range, the vibrations start coming in. Plus, the higher you rev the engine, the more the vibrations. Yes, it’s directly proportional. So much so in fact that close to its redline, a dot of light in the rear view mirror turns into a large circle, as if someone were light painting!
But, it also performs in the same tune as Pulsars. So, it has a potent mid-range. And, it doesn’t lose any of its enthusiasm and charm closer to the redline either. It’s an engine that doesn’t mind being thrashed and is happy to rev its guts out all day long. Needless to say, the Avenger 160 feels peppy and quick. It’s like one of those excitable commuters which can be fun when you are in the mood.
And don’t let that raked out front fool you. The Avenger is more than willing to be flicked from side to side in traffic. Sure, it doesn’t feel as alert or willing as some of the other 150-160cc commuters. But, it’s also nowhere near being lazy or cumbersome as its front end geometry might suggest. Even at high speeds or the speeds it can do - just under 120kmph on the speedo, by the way - it feels stable and confident. But yes, around a twisty road, that front end does feel a tad vague which might prevent you from committing into a corner as much as you might like.
The Avenger is now old in the tooth. And it shows in the technology that the motorcycle has, or doesn’t. It gets single-channel ABS, of course, because it is mandated by law. But that apart, there’s nothing cutting edge about the motorcycle.
The cycle parts, be it the chassis or the suspension, are almost the same as it were in 2015. Or maybe before that. As I said, it’s not easy to keep track of all the Avengers. Also, the engine is still air cooled; the fuelling is still via a carburettor, and the instrumentation is as basic as it comes with just one trip meter as a value add.
One of the main reasons Bajaj has switched to the 160cc motor from the 180cc engine is to deliver better fuel economy. And on our city run, it returned a little over 48kmpl. Now, we know these figures aren’t great, especially for a 160cc motorcycle, but it is an improvement.
Fitness of Purpose
The idea behind the Avenger hasn’t been about ‘feeling like god’, as is widely conveyed. It’s more utilitarian than that. Especially, the Avenger 160. It’s about offering an easy to ride, affordable, and comfortable everyday commute centric motorcycle, which also has a healthy dose of aspiration. The latter has always come via styling for the Avenger series.
The 160 is easy to ride and it is comfortable for the most part. And, at around a lakh rupees on the road in Mumbai, it’s accessible too. But, it now lacks the aspirational co-efficient. Styling can only take you so far. Eventually, being current - be it tech or engineering- is important too.
The Avenger 160 has its pluses. Like we mentioned earlier, it is easy to ride. It’s also accessible, then be it the low seat height, its relatively light weight, or its pricing. But, it’s not an exciting proposition to own anymore, not with its styling being at least half a decade old, and with nothing of note on the technology or newness front.
What we’d like to see now is a complete revamp of the design. We’d like to see LED lighting and a smart digital console. And of course, some new and relevant features which would make the Avenger desirable again.
Photography by Kapil Angane
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