To all you lovely readers of Wheels for Thought, here’s to a fantastic and flourishing 2021! The New Year brings new possibilities and some of you might be thinking to buy a new car or a motorcycle. You might be looking for the best sporty cars under Rs 10 lakh, while some motorcycle enthusiasts will be looking to buy the best motorcycles in the 250-400cc category. This is the third part of the ‘What kind of bike you should buy?’ series. In this article; we list out the best 150-200cc bikes that are available in the country that you can buy for under Rs 1.5 lakh. The list is categorized based on build so that you can make a better decision. Let’s dive right in!
The baby ADV/dual-sport – Hero Xpulse 200
Price – Rs 1.15 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi)
Adventure for the masses, redefined! Before we delve into the Xpulse 200, let’s take a quick look into the past. Hero MotoCorp made a ballsy move when it first introduced the Impulse in 2011, fresh after its split with Honda. People were shocked at the audacity of the design and failed to comprehend the capability of the mini dual-sport bike and it bombed spectacularly in the market. Due to poor sales, the Impulse was taken out of the showrooms in 2014 and Hero had to ax the Impulse in 2016.
“People were shocked at the audacity of the (Impulse’s) design and failed to comprehend the capability of the mini dual-sport bike”
Ironically, the bike became quite popular after its production was stopped and off-road bike enthusiasts loved it and many used it to take part in the Raid de Himalayas, India Baja, Desert Storm Rally, and other popular off-road rallies. The major chink in the Impulse’s armor was its less powerful (13bhp from its single-cylinder 149.2cc) engine and that was taken care of by swapping the Karizma’s 220cc mill into the Impulse.
After listening to the feedback from its customers and enthusiasts and roping in #FastestIndian CS Santosh for the development of the new bike, the Xpulse 200 made its debut in the 2017 EICMA in Italy and it seemed that Hero had finally nailed it. The bike was launched in May 2019 and it is the go-to bike for noobs who want to try their hand in off-road riding. 220mm of ground clearance, 190mm of front suspension travel, and a 10-step adjustable front suspension are some of the key figures. Other features include an all-digital console, full LED headlamps, and smartphone connectivity with turn-by-turn navigation.
“This is exactly what the Xpulse 200 is – it will open new doors and show the beauty of off-roading to beginners who can then scale up if they are serious”
Though it is a huge improvement over its predecessor, power is still the main issue. Some say that 17.8bhp and 16.45Nm from its single-cylinder 199.6cc engine may not be notable improvements and also add that that more power should have been massaged out of the engine. In hindsight, if you want to make a mass-market mini dual-sport bike, it should not scare its riders with more power and it should be friendly. This is exactly what the Xpulse 200 is – it will open new doors and show the beauty of off-roading to beginners who can then scale up if they are serious. Or just buy the rally kit (for an extra 38 grand) from Hero and take part in national rally raids. The rally kit includes a flat seat, 275mm ground clearance, handlebar raisers, and a rally suspension setup. As a stepping stone to off-road riding, the audience couldn’t have asked for a better bike than the Xpulse 200. Not for nothing, it won the 2020 Indian Motorcycle of the Year (IMOTY) award. It is the lone king in this class.
The 150-160cc naked – TVS Apache RTR 160 4V
Price – Rs 1.05 lakh onwards (ex-showroom, Delhi)
The Apache series in India has a strong fan following and it is a well-known fact that the Apache RTR 160 4V was already the benchmark in the 150-160cc class and the BS6 era has made it smarter, meaner, and more desirable. Smart in the sense that it gets new tech like Glide Through Tech – TVS speak for low speed crawling without opening the throttle, electronic fuel injection, LED headlamps; an aggressive new design that makes it meaner and with all the VFM features and the excellent setup, it is a deal very sweet to ignore. Some might raise their eyebrows just like how the bike looks at you with its questionably designed DRLs. Love it or loathe it, but you cannot ignore the polarizing front fascia of the bike.
“The Apache RTR 160 4V was already the benchmark in the 150-160cc class and the BS6 era has made it smarter, meaner, and more desirable”
Prices for the 2020 Apache RTR 160 4v starts at Rs 1.05 lakh for the rear drum brake variant and tops out at Rs 1.08 lakh for the dual disc variant. While it might have lost out some power and torque compared to its predecessor, the decline in power and torque (0.8bhp and 0.7Nm respectively) will be something you will not notice. Safety-wise, it gets a single-channel ABS setup.
The Xtreme 160R, the latest offering from Hero MotoCorp is another bike that comes close to snatching the crown from the RTR 160 4V, but we have to wait and see if that happens and how people warm up to it. While the Bajaj Pulsar 150 might be the bestselling bike in this class followed by the Yamaha FZS and the Gixxer, the TVS Apache RTR 160 4V is our pick due to its versatility and its ability strike a good balance between price (it undercuts many of its rivals by quite a margin) and the tech and features it offers while retaining its sporty character. Go ahead and give it a test ride, you cannot go wrong with this bike.
Rivals worth looking at – Hero Xtreme 160R, Suzuki Gixxer 150, Yamaha FZS-Fi, Bajaj Pulsar NS 160, Honda X Blade
The 200cc naked – TVS Apache RTR 200 4V BS6
Price – Rs 1.25 lakh, (ex-showroom, Delhi)
No surprises here, as the TVS Apache RTR 200 4V was already a benchmark in its class and now, the BS-VI makeover and some new updates have just given it an edge over its rivals. Yes, the price of the latest iteration of the bike has gone up a fair bit as compared to the BS-IV version, but TVS justifies the price by offering some cool features like three ride modes, the GTT tech, a fully digital console with turn-by-turn navigation, call, and SMS notification and race telemetry that gives you info like the lean angle and crash alert.
“Aggressive new looks and sporty character topped off with some cool tech and features make it a winner in this class”
On the hardware updates, it gets full LED headlamps and taillamp setup, adjustable Showa suspension for the front and a rear Showa mono-shock, a slipper clutch, and an adjustable front brake lever. The pièce de résistance of the 2020 Apache RTR 200 4V is its riding modes – Rain, Urban, and Sport. The full power of 20.5bhp and 17.25Nm of torque can be used in the Sport mode, while in Urban and Rain Mode, the power is 17.08bhp and 16.51Nm. Top speed in Sport mode is a claimed 127kmph and in Rain/Urban modes, it is restricted to 105kmph.
That it aces in the design department with its butch and aggressive lines only adds to the overall visual drama that the bike provides. The bike looks particularly handsome and sporty in the Matte Blue shade with red accents. The Apache RTR 200 4V tops at Rs 1.31 lakh for the top-end variant with dual-channel ABS. For its price and the features and tech it offers, the bike remains the benchmark in the 200cc class. Until Bajaj gives a major upgrade to its Pulsar lineup and launches it this year, that is.
Rivals worth looking at – Bajaj Pulsar NS200, KTM 125 Duke, Yamaha MT-15, Honda Hornet 2.0
The sportbike – Yamaha R15 V3.0
Price – Rs 1.49 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)
Yamaha’s best-selling product in the country and India’s second best-selling 150cc bike is the Yamaha R15 V3. But the story started way back in 2008, when the R15 made its debut in India, winning instant appreciation for its mini-R1 looks, the tech it packed, its friendly nature, and sporty character. The R15 V3 packs in a lot of tech and in many ways better than the V2, though many will agree that the first generation model was truly game-changing for Yamaha in India.
“The bike which started the mini-sportbike segment has beocome more versatile to cater to the next-gen riders”
But be it the first-gen or the latest gen, one trait is common and is the core DNA for R15 – sporty, performance-oriented, fast, and packed with tech. The V3 looks smashing with its redesigned front fascia that takes inspiration from its big brothers. Powering the bike is a single-cylinder, liquid-cooled, 155cc engine that puts out 18.3bhp and 14Nm of peak twist and comes mated to a 6-speed gearbox. The BS6 conversion has cut down power and torque by 0.4bhp and 1Nm respectively but you will barely notice the drop in those figures. The V3 also packs in tech like Variable Valve Actuation, an Assist & Slipper Clutch, dual-channel ABS, LED headlamps and tail lamps, and a fully digital instrument binnacle. While it is not famous for its touring abilities, you can get your knee down with it if you have a racetrack nearby. Or just flaunt it around and garner some eyeballs. Either way, it is a fun bike to ride.
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The cruiser – Bajaj Avenger
Price – starts at Rs 1.01 lakh (Street 160, ex-showroom Delhi)
While this segment is highly popular in the premium motorcycle segment above 250cc, this has been a tough nut to crack in the below 250cc segment. Yamaha tried it with the 125cc Enticer in 2003, failed to capitalize on it, and eventually axed it in 2006. Bajaj, during its heydays with Kawasaki, took a shot at the premium cruiser bike segment by launching the Eliminator. It was pegged as a premium product and came with a price tag of Rs 86,000 (ex-showroom, Delhi). It was powered by a 174cc engine that churned out 14.8bhp and 13.7Nm of peak twist. Due to its hefty price tag, Bajaj relooked into the business case, gave it a makeover and christened it ‘Avenger’ in 2005 and thus the Avenger moniker was born.
In recent years, the bike saw a gradual growth putting in consistent numbers (monthly 4000-5000 units roughly, pre-Covid-19) but it has seen a decline in 2020. Come to think of it, 2020 marks 15 years of the Avenger moniker for Bajaj! Congratulations, Bajaj Auto! That the Avenger nameplate has been for so long says volumes about itself. Available in two versions, Street 160 and Cruise 220, the Avenger is for someone who likes to ride at a leisurely pace and likes touring.
“The Avenger series made cruiser bikes affordable and created its own fan following”
The Street 160 is powered by a 160cc single-cylinder engine that develops 14.8bhp and 13.7Nm, while the Cruise 220 gets a 220cc single-cylinder engine with an oil cooler that develops 18.8bhp and 17.55Nm of peak twist. Both the engines are mated to a 5-speed gearbox. On the downside, it is not packed with features like you would expect a bike from 2020 and the Avenger models just make do with an all-digital console, LED DRLs, and a single-channel ABS.
What are your thoughts on the aforementioned bikes? Let us know in the comments below!