If you park them next to each other and you don’t have the eyes of a hawk, you will certainly miss the differences between the newest Pulsar – the NS 160 and the NS 200. Yes, they do look that similar. Squint hard and you’ll realise that the forks, tyres and swingarm are thinner. Those aside, everything is identical, including the frame, chiselled 12-litre petrol tank, clocks, seats and handlebars. The engine of course is different but to state that would be stupidly obvious.
The Pulsar NS 160 is meant to be Bajaj’s weapon of choice to tackle the likes of the Suzuki Gixxer and the Honda CB Hornet 160R. We would reckon it’s a little late to be entering the party but better late than never because the old Pulsar 150 has been steadily losing ground to these bikes.
Given such commonality in cycle parts between the two NS-es, most of the dimensions are identical too.The NS 160 has the same wheelbase and saddle height figures of 1363mm and 805mm. Which also means that all the positives and negatives of the NS 200’s proportions are carried over to this new bike.
Perched on the saddle, you are in familiar territory if you have ridden the larger bike. This however would make things slightly uncomfortable for shorter riders for when you compare it to its fellow rivals, you are sitting 15mm higher on the NS 160.
The new 160.3cc single cylinder motor is derived from the old AS150’s mill. The motor however has been retuned to deliver better mid-range performance. The 15.5PS of power is generated at 8,500rpm with the max torque rated at 14.6Nm. This may be less power than what you got with the AS’s motor but there is a bit of a bump up in torque. The fuelling continues to be via a carburettor as the Indian emission norms are slightly more lenient than the ones abroad where the same bike is exported in a fuel-injected avatar.Even the gearing of the 5-speed transmission has been engineered to help in maximising the engine’s mid-range performance. The engine also receives a new counter-balancer to help in engine refinement as well as an oil-cooler to keep temperature in check.
The NS 160 continues to be a capable handler much like its other siblings. The intermittent spits of rains did not allow us to fully test the motorcycle’s cornering capabilities but they should be similar to the AS 150. And that 1363mm long wheelbase sure does lend to good stability on straights and through mid-corner. It is no slouch either when tipping into corners but we believe the Gixxer and the Hornet are somewhat quicker to turn into corners. We hope to find out soon once we get our hands on all three on a clear day.
While we are waiting on confirmation from Bajaj, we feel that the front fork, the monoshock as well as the swingarm has been carried over from the AS 150. Thus, the suspension is still firmly sprung but not as firm as on the 200. As a result, ride quality is better than on the NS 200 but without too much of a drop in the bike’s dynamic abilities.
On paper the small 240mm front disc brake and 130mm rear drum may feel inadequate but let me just squash that theory right there for the brakes offer plenty of topping power. Yes, we would have loved to have a rear disc option and certainly ABS but neither is available as of now. Bajaj has confirmed that a rear disc option will be available as soon as the need ever arrives but have chosen to stay mum on the issue of ABS.
The NS 160 uses MRF rubber with the front receiving the Nylogrip Zapper FS1 compound while the rear gets the Zapper C. The front 80/100-17 tyre works without any fuss butthe same could not be said of the rear 110/80-17, especially in the wet;its the water dissipation capabilities could be better. Overall, a fatter 120-section rear tyre would have helped improve grip.
Bajaj has priced the Pulsar NS 160 at Rs 78,368, ex-showroom Delhi, which makes it cheaper than the Hornet and slightly more expensive than the Gixxer – it’s rivals. After a day spent in the company of the bike we would say the Bajaj definitely has what it needs to take the fight to the other two. The pricing also puts the NS 160 uncomfortably close to the Pulsar 180 but Bajaj is quite confident that the target audience for the older and bigger Pulsar is not the same as that of its newest bike.