Bajaj Pulsar NS160 Review
Is this bike still likeable enough that it can sustain in this cut-throat competition? And should you consider bringing it home? We try to answer these questions in this road test review of the Pulsar NS 160.
The Pulsar brand has been extremely fruitful for Bajaj ever since its inception and it continues to be so. And the best-selling member of this family has mostly been the Pulsar 150. But it was around 2017 that Bajaj realised it needed something more exciting and competitive in this segment. And that was when the Pulsar NS160 came into the picture.
We had ridden this bike in its BS4 avatar and we had liked it for more reasons than one. Now, even after the BS6 update, it has remained majorly the same. But, the competition has gotten tougher and there are many strong contenders out there that the Pulsar NS160 has to face.
So, is this bike still likeable enough that it can sustain in this cut-throat competition? And should you consider bringing it home? We try to answer these questions in this road test review of the Pulsar NS 160.
The Pulsar NS160 is just about average on the quality front and definitely not the best in its class. The quality of plastic bodywork is decent and there aren’t any inconsistent panel gaps either. But Bajaj could’ve done slightly better with the paint job. We could see the white paint on the frame of our test bike being smudged out untidily. And some of the panels were already making soft rattling sounds.
Although it’s not well-finished, the white colour on the wheels and frame makes the bike look much more attention-grabbing than before. But it’s a fairly old design that hasn’t seen major changes since its inception with the bigger Pulsar NS 200. Some styling revisions would have brought a breath of fresh air.
The ergonomics of the NS160 are comfortable but there’s a sense of commitment in its riding stance that makes it engaging. Firstly, the seat height of the bike is around 805mm and that’s the tallest in this segment. But getting on the bike should not be a problem at all, even for the shorter riders.
The riding triangle is a bit on the sportier side with footpegs being rear set and a clip-on handlebar that is placed a bit away from the rider but is placed high for easy accessibility. So, the overall setup feels sporty but comfortable at the same time. And the seat feels a bit firm but has optimum cushioning that didn’t tire me out even after two hours of non-stop riding.
The Pulsar NS160 runs on a 160.3cc, single-cylinder oil-cooled engine with a four-valve head. It churns out 17.03bhp of power and 14.6Nm of peak torque. Although this engine feels refined, there's a hint of gruffness at higher revs, which's typical of a Pulsar. And it also likes to be revved. These aspects make riding the NS160 pretty engaging.
It picks up from a standstill with fair urgency and keeps pulling linearly until redline. Although there aren't any surprises across the rev band, you can feel it speeding ahead with a bit more eagerness post 5,000rpm. The first and second gear ratios are short and the engine is relaxed at slow speeds which means riding in the city is a breeze.
Out on the highway, it can stay at around 100kmph all day long without much stress on the engine. But overtaking requires a bit of planning, downshifting, and wringing the throttle hard. And it's not free of vibrations either. As you approach 6,000rpm, a minor buzz starts emanating on the handlebar but not to the extent of being annoying.
The five-speed gearbox is effortless to operate as it shifts with a short throw and assurance. But it often gets stuck at neutral easily while transitioning from first to second. Fortunately, shifting gears never gets tiring because of the lightness of the clutch.
The NS 160 is also feisty in the way it handles. Despite being the heaviest in its class at 151kg, it feels very quick, well-mannered, and composed while changing directions. The steering response is also sharp and quick. So, the NS160 inspires a lot of confidence while switching lanes or going fast around twisties, all thanks to the well-engineered perimeter frame and suspension setup.
That brings us to its ride quality. Damping duties are handled by telescopic forks at the front and a monoshock at the rear. This setup makes sure that minor road undulations are ironed out cleanly and don’t send a nasty jerk to the rider. There’s a bit of stiffness to the ride while going over taller bumps, stones or sharp-edged elements, but it never bounces harshly or loses composure.
The NS160 also stops quickly and confidently. It gets a 260mm disc up front and a 230mm disc at the rear, and both of them do a good job of shedding speed. The front brake has a strong bite and a decent amount of feel at the lever. Although the rear feels too soft, ample progression means the wheel doesn’t lock up easily.
One area where the Pulsar NS160 is lagging behind is modern features. Firstly, a fully-digital instrument cluster has become a norm in this segment and almost all the bikes get it, except for the NS160. It incorporates a semi-digital console that shows only the basic date and it has remained unchanged since 2012 when it had started its life with the NS200. Similarly, all of its rivals come equipped with LED headlamp but the NS160 is still making do with a halogen setup. Nevertheless, the headlamp illuminates the road really well with a good range and spread.
In mixed riding conditions, the Pulsar NS 160 returned a mileage of 39.26kmpl. That translates into a range of around 470km with its 12-litre fuel tank. While that doesn’t really make the motorcycle frugal, it won’t dig a hole in your pocket either.
Fitness of Purpose
The Bajaj Pulsar NS160 is for those who want an everyday commuter but with a good dose of sporty styling and performance. It feels relaxed but adequately quick for the city while it can also be a fun and engaging option for your weekend jaunts around some twisties. Once in a while, you can also mount your luggage on it and hit the highway for long trips.
With a price tag of Rs 1.10 lakh (ex-showroom), the Pulsar NS160 is priced slightly higher than the Hero Xtreme 160R and the TVS Apache RTR 160 4V. Whereas, other rivals like the Suzuki Gixxer and the Honda X-Blade are slightly more expensive. Now, these bikes deliver a bit more in terms of modern features, an area in which the NS 160 needs to up its ante. But if you aren’t bothered about an LCD display and an LED headlamp, and want something exciting and raw in terms of performance, nimble to handle and comfortable, mainly for your daily rides, the Pulsar NS160 is worth considering. And although it is not really fuel-efficient, it should be affordable to maintain just like most other Bajaj offerings.
Photography by Kaustubh Gandhi
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