‘Pucca sports bike’ is how editor Adil Jal Darukhanawala had described Bajaj’s Pulsar 180 and 150 over a decade ago. From then to now the Pulsar range has expanded to six motorcycles – four motorcycles from 135 to 220cc with the 150 and 180 in between and a pair of liquid cooled 200cc bikes at the top of the spectrum. For a long time, these bikes ruled the affordable performance motorcycle segment unhindered but with new emission norms coming into effect and the competition having caught up it was time for an update. And update is exactly what Bajaj Auto has done to its Pulsar portfolio. While the entire range has now been updated to comply with the BS IV emission norms that come into effect on April 1, 2017, and with new graphics, there are specific updates on each bike as well.
Contrary to initial expectations and despite its lovely nature, the Pulsar 135 LS never set sales charts on fire. Bajaj Auto in hindsight realised that the original positioning of this bike may have been wrong. With the 2017 update the company took the opportunity to correct is course and has now made the 135 LS commuter friendly. To that effect the fairing has been made marginally taller giving the front a slightly more robust look and a heel-and-toe gear shifter has replaced the old toe-only shifter. The split seats of yore too have been replaced with a single piece unit and a single grab rail in place of the old split type grab handles.
Power comes from an air-cooled 134.6cc single-cylinder engine with four valves and Bajaj’s signature DTS-i technology. Peak output is 13.6PS at 9,000rpm and 11.4Nm at 7,500rpm. Transmission is via a five-speed gearbox. On the go, the 135 LS feels light and nimble. Flicking it through a set of tight corners feels easy and effortless while the engine’s character remains as delightfully racy as it ever was.
However, there are a couple of areas that need to be looked into. For instance, the tell tale lamps can barely been seen in bright sunshine, and the side stand sticks out a little. On the whole however the 135 LS is perfectly placed to introduce an element of thrill in the daily commute.
The 150 is best described as a bike that straddles the world of commuting and leisure riding. And with the new updates, the bike is even better suited to this purpose. The 150 is also the bike that sees the most significant change in the entire line up; the bore is now smaller while the stroke has increased. As a result, there is a 1PS drop in peak power to 14PS with an accompanying 1Nm gain in max torque to 13.4Nm. This change makes itself evident on the move as you get a better drive out of bends without needing to shift down. Bajaj has also worked on the NVH levels of the bike and riding the new bike back to back with the old bike, which the company had thoughtfully provided, revealed that the new Pulsar 150 is more refined than the old version.
The bike has lost some of its old dynamic abilities but now boasts a plusher suspension set up. Although we couldn’t really test ride quality on Bajaj’s smooth test track, there was a hint of the wallowing feeling one gets when the suspension has been softened. The rest of the bike remains the same and is just as enjoyable as before.
The 180 feels no different from what it was like earlier because apart from the addition of the rear disc brake and the changes necessary to make the engine comply with the new emission norms, there’s precious little that has changed.
The engine is still the air-cooled 178.6cc unit with two valves and DTS-i with 17PS being pumped out at 8,500 revs and 14.2Nm of peak twist force at 6,500rpm. With no mechanical changes to the bike having been done, the new 180 feels exactly like the old 180, which may not be a bad thing given how many people find the old bike endearing.
In the case of the Pulsar 220 the only changes that have happened are the BS IV updates and the new graphics. As a result, the bike feels as good as it ever did. There’s plenty of grunt from the engine of this best selling Pulsar for all sorts of riding, be it touring or tackling a set of fast twisties or an occasional trackday.
Pulsar NS 200
The NS 200 makes a return to the Pulsar line up in BS IV guise and with a new belly pan and new graphics. That liquid cooled single feels more refined than the unit on the old NS but the rest of the bike feels exactly the same. It still handles turns with as much confidence as it ever did. If you want a naked street bike that does everything with a very high degree of competence then look no further.
Pulsar RS 200
According to Bajaj, the only thing that held customers back from putting their money down on the RS 200 was its styling, and we’re inclined to agree. The previous RS was a shade too radical in its design for a consumer base whose aesthetic sense is largely conservative. Not anymore. The RS’s styling has been toned down with the new graphics making it more acceptable to that consumer base.
This should help sell the bike that is powerful and is blessed with excellent dynamics. Interestingly, the RS continues to be the only bike in the Pulsar line up to get fuel injection. Why the others shouldn’t benefit from it is still a mystery and Bajaj isn’t particularly keen to talk about it just yet. Also, we’re still not entirely convinced about that tail lamp design.
Be that as it may, around Bajaj’s test track at Chakan the RS 200 feels as confident and capable as it always has. Its linear power delivery from fairly low down in the rev range means easy ride-ability for the user. At the same time there’s enough top end grunt to cruise at triple digit speeds.
On the whole a bike that was always good to ride and is now compliant with all new regulations and looks better too.