Find out which one stays on top of the list

In the recent years, the segment of 150cc motorcycles has seen a lot action. Thanks to the constant growth in the industry, the 150cc segment has gradually become the segment which attracts as the starting commuter range for most of the buyers, especially in urban areas and Tier-I cities, thus surpassing 100-125cc class by being the first motorcycle for majority of them. It is due to the substantial growth in the 150cc segment, that this particular class of motorcycles is now filled up with various kinds and types of motorcycles.

On closely inspecting this segment, we do find that the motorcycles of the higher and premium end of this segment, which comprises of motorcycles like the CB Hornet 160R, Yamaha FZ-S FI and Suzuki Gixxer, are now churning up impressive numbers. But then, it is the lower end of the segment which is forming up the biggest chunk of this segment, as far as volume is concerned. Thanks to the Bajaj Pulsar 150, which single handedly is ruling this end of the 150cc segment by a huge margin. Being a segment initiator, the Pulsar brought many segment-firsts like digital speedometer, LED tail lamps, backlit switchgear, et al, but then, it was the power-packed performance of the Pulsar, which positioned it above the sea of usual lower-powered commuters.

But going for the Pulsar was not so easy, the motorcycle did found an apt competitor in the form of Honda CB Unicorn almost a decade ago. And now, given the fact that the competition and generation has moved forward, Honda has given the customers an option of an all new Honda CB Unicorn 160, a spiritual successor of the 150cc Honda Unicorn (which though is still available), which comes with modern styling and gadgetry and bigger heart.

Then, there is the TVS Apache RTR 160, the first proper competitor to the ‘then-sporty’ Bajaj Pulsar 150, which comes with a punchy engine and an impressive list of features, giving the customers an option of a value for money package. And at last, we should not forget the Yamaha FZ, which truly re-wrote the rules in the 150cc segment, with its brawny design inspired from the international lineup of Yamaha and a marvelous combination of torquey engine and best-in-class dynamics.

Except the Honda CB Unicorn 160, all these motorcycles belong to one generation before with their new generation models on sale as more premium offerings. In this story, we are going to compare all these four motorcycles which form the executive category of the 150cc commuter segment, to find out which one fits the tag of the segment leader in actual sense.

STYLING

Comparison of executive 150cc commuters – Bajaj Puls|ar 150 vs TVS Apache RTR 160 vs Yamaha FZ vs Honda CB Unicorn 160 Exterior
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Comparison of executive 150cc commuters – Bajaj Puls|ar 150 vs TVS Apache RTR 160 vs Yamaha FZ vs Honda CB Unicorn 160 High Quality
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Comparison of executive 150cc commuters – Bajaj Puls|ar 150 vs TVS Apache RTR 160 vs Yamaha FZ vs Honda CB Unicorn 160
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All these four motorcycles are designed to look as an upgrade over your usual 110-125cc commuters, but then, they do possess a sense of sportiness, which justifies their premium positioning over the lower positioned smaller capacity motorcycles. Though these motorcycles have a dated design when compared to the top of the line premium 150s, they still command attention, if not so much.

Starting off with the oldest motorcycle in this company, the Pulsar 150 – though it has some really cool bits in its kitty, like the digital speedometer, front pilot lamps LED tail lamps and backlit switchgear, we do strongly feel that it is high time that Bajaj upgrades this 150cc warhorse. The design, though a handsome one, looks dated, as it has been there in the market now for almost a decade. The midlife facelift, which gave the motorcycle clip-on handlebars, fuel tank shrouds and slight changes to exterior design of the engine, does instilled a small amount of newness, but then, a major upgrade is what the doctor orders now.

Same can be said about the TVS Apache RTR 160 as well. Though the motorcycle still possesses the streetfighter persona with its aggressively styled body panels and tons of fancy features on board, it is now almost half a decade old, and with the arrival of new designs in the market, this motorcycle, like the Bajaj Pulsar 150, too is losing its steam. However, comparing it with the first generation Apache RTR 160, it looks sharper with shark-inspired front headlamp fairing with daytime running LEDs (first in segment) and bigger and pointier body panels, with the part digital instrument console of the motorcycle being the most comprehensive of the lot.

The Yamaha FZ changed the game when it arrived into the scene in 2008, as it appeared much more premium than ‘the-then’ 150cc offerings in the market, and even today, even after being an almost 8-year old model, it still manages to look appealing and not dated, which is not the case with the Pulsar 150 and Apache RTR 160. The FZ1-inspired design with macho fuel tank and chiseled body panels, as well as premium kit on offer like fully digital instrument console as well as fatter forks and tyres make sure that you ride a world class motorcycle which is tailor made for Indian conditions.

Honda did attracted the mature audience with the Unicorn, and in order to attract a wider audience, it came up with the CB Unicorn 160 which possesses both the maturity of the Unicorn as well as the modernity of the current crop of 150cc motorcycle. So, the overall design has grown up and become slightly more attractive with nicely designed body panels and interesting design cues like the H-shaped LED tail lamp and fully digital instrument console. Though it may not be a macho or ‘love at first sight’ kind of design like the FZ, but still, it doesn’t appear too commuter-ish like the Pulsar 150

All in all, if we had to pick up a motorcycle based on design and features, it definitely has to be the Yamaha FZ. The CB Unicorn 160 too is one smart looking motorcycle which may appeal to young hearts. The other two motorcycles, despite having a large fan base, need desperate upgrade in terms of visual appeal.

Feature Bajaj Pulsar 150 TVS Apache RTR 160 Yamaha FZ Honda CB Unicorn 160
Digital meters Yes Yes Yes Yes
Front pilot lamps Yes Yes Yes No
LED tail lamp Yes Yes No Yes
Rear disc brake No Yes No Yes
Gas charged rear suspension Yes Yes No No
Rear monoshock No No Yes Yes
Alloy wheels Yes Yes Yes Yes
Electric start Yes Yes Yes Yes
Backlit switchgear Yes No No No
Engine kill switch Yes Yes Yes No

DRIVETRAIN

Comparison of executive 150cc commuters – Bajaj Puls|ar 150 vs TVS Apache RTR 160 vs Yamaha FZ vs Honda CB Unicorn 160 Exterior
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All these four motorcycles are meant to give an upgrade over 125cc motorcycles not only in terms of looks and features, but also in terms of additional performance as well. While these four motorcycles may not give you the sense of power as the more premium 150cc offering positioned above them, they do have suitable amount of zest in them.

The Bajaj Pulsar 150 may have lagged behind other in the aspect of visual appeal, but when it comes to performance, it is right among the top. Powering the Pulsar 150 is Bajaj’s single cylinder, air cooled, twin spark, 149cc engine, which makes 15 PS of power and 12.5 Nm of torque. Its healthy midrange makes it a favorite for those who are looking outright performance in this space. Though, the engine is not as refined as that of the Honda and Yamaha, and the gearbox too is on a clunkier side as well.

Same can be said about the TVS Apache RTR 160. In terms of numbers, it pumps out the healthiest figures in this comparison – its four stroke, single cylinder, air cooled, 159.7cc engine produces a maximum power output of 15.3 PS and a maximum torque output of 13.1 Nm. Unlike the other three motorcycles here, the engine of the Apache RTR 160 is tuned to produce the chunk of power in the upper revs of the rev range, making it a rev-eager engine whose throttle loves to be opened most of the times.

In terms of numbers on paper, the Yamaha FZ appears to be the slowest in this comparison, as the single cylinder, air cooled, 153cc engine of the FZ pumps out a rather low 14 PS of power and 13.6 Nm of torque. This translates to the fact that the SZ-RR may not be as quick sprinter as the other three. But then, the high torque output suggests that it will never fall short on pulling power, with a strong midrange and low end grunt in its favor, making it one of the most city-friendly motorcycles here. Also, the engine, in a typical Yamaha fashion, is smooth and refined, and sounds the best.

With the CB Unicorn 160, Honda moved up from the conventional game of 150cc and plonked an all new four stroke, single cylinder, air cooled, 162.71cc engine on the motorcycle, which churns out some really healthy numbers on tap – 14.6 PS of power and 14.61 Nm of torque. These figures suggest that the CB Unicorn 160’s engine is the best when it comes to handling all kinds of riding conditions – whether city riding or highway touring, with the engine being the most-torque filled of the lot.

So, it is almost clear that when it comes to performance and refinement, the FZ and CB Unicorn 160 lead the front with their impressive power delivery and engine refinement. While on the other hand, the Pulsar 150 and TVS Apache RTR 160 are meant for those enthusiasts who prefer revving their engine most of the times, which do offer a bit more power in higher revs, but lose from the Japanese duo in terms of engine refinement and usability of power.

Figures Bajaj Pulsar 150 TVS Apache RTR 160 Yamaha FZ Honda CB Unicorn 160
Power 15 PS 15.3 PS 14 PS 14.6 PS
Torque 12.5 Nm 13.1 Nm 13.6 Nm 14.61 Nm

RIDE AND HANDLING

Comparison of executive 150cc commuters – Bajaj Puls|ar 150 vs TVS Apache RTR 160 vs Yamaha FZ vs Honda CB Unicorn 160 High Quality
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All these four motorcycles are engineered to impart to the rider a more comfortable ride for their daily routines, without sacrificing on the fun factor – something which all these four motorcycles manage quite well.

The Bajaj Pulsar 150 comes with a set of conventional telescopic hydraulic forks at the front and gas charged coil springs at the rear, which have been tuned to impart a perfect balance of both outright sporty riding and daily commuting. The suspension, in this comparison, appears to be a little bit on a stiffer side, with the absence of monoshock being badly felt.

The TVS Apache RTR 160 too suffers from the same fate – its telescopic hydraulic forks at the front and gas charged coil springs at the rear are tuned on a stiffer side to make it appear slightly more dynamic and sporty than others, but it slightly compromises on the aspects of daily riding comfort, and here too, like the Pulsar 150, a monoshock is the need of the hour.

The Yamaha FZ did manage to change the scenario here by offering the best possible mechanical setup in this comparison setup – a set of 41mm telescopic hydraulic forks at the front and a monoshock at the rear, which are tuned in the exact manner in which one could wish for, thus offering the comfort and sharpness in its riding dynamics at the same time. The fatter tyres do complement the suspension setup even further.

Like the FZ, the CB Unicorn 160 too offers a monoshock at the rear, but offer thinner conventional forks at the front. The overall ride quality is quite comfortable, and is purely tuned as a city commuter. This motorcycle is not meant to be a corner-eater as the Apache RTR 160, and loses out on the factor of sportiness.

All the four bikes here come with a braking setup of a disc at the front and a drum at the rear, with the Apache RTR 160 having an option of a 220mm disc at the rear, thus making it a bit more superior over the other three. Though, the CB Unicorn 160 also offers the Honda’s trademark Combined Braking System (CBS) as an option - a big win.

Traits Bajaj Pulsar 150 TVS Apache RTR 160 Yamaha FZ Honda CB Unicorn 160
Front suspension Telescopic Telescopic Telescopic Telescopic
Rear suspension Gas charged hydraulic coil springs Gas charged hydraulic oil springs Hydraulic monoshock Hydraulic monoshock
Front brake 130mm drum 130mm drum/200mm disc 130mm drum 130mm drum

CONCLUSION

Comparison of executive 150cc commuters – Bajaj Puls|ar 150 vs TVS Apache RTR 160 vs Yamaha FZ vs Honda CB Unicorn 160 High Quality
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When it comes to performing daily basic duties, all these four motorcycles fare really well, making them very practical motorcycles which have a good blend of performance as well as fuel efficiency.

But when compared, the Pulsar 150 ends up being the tail ender. While it is the Pulsar 150 which is credited for starting this segment and has the best feature set list in this company, we do feel that the motorcycle now needs a major upgrade in terms of aesthetics as well as powertrain.

Rounding up at number three is the TVS Apache RTR 160. It does offer a sharp styling as well as good valuable features on board, as well as a grunty and rev-loving engine and excellent sporty riding dynamics too. But then, like the Pulsar 150, it too needs a substantial upgrade to take on the likes of the Japanese motorcycles in this segment.

At number two is the Yamaha FZ. Yes, it might be an 8-year old motorcycle at today’s date, but even then, it doesn’t misses out on the oomph which one looks for in this segment. The engine, despite falling short on power, is rich in torque, which makes it an enjoyable ride. And then, being a Yamaha, it offers an excellent package of mechanical combination of suspension, brakes and tyres, thus making it a wonderful motorcycle. But it misses out on some things which cut it short from reaching to numero uno position.

This brings the Honda CB Unicorn 160 to be on the topmost position here. It looks smart (if not as brawny as the FZ, but not as dull and dated as the Pulsar 150), it has an excellent feature list for the price which it commands, pumps out the most impressive performance, has a decent ride and has the best brakes too (the only bike with CBS). It may be on a pricier side, but then, when it comes to value for money and sheer factor of novelty, the CB Unicorn 160 wins this battle hands down easily.

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