Yamaha FZ25 v Rivals
Yamaha’s 250 not just takes on other quarter-litre bikes, but strikes at the very similarly priced 200-cc machines as well
Muscular street-bikes head into battle
ENEMY LINES WERE DRAWN WHEN Yamaha priced the FZ25, a 250-cc motorcycle, at just Rs 1.18 lakh (ex-showroom). This was neck to neck with smaller capacity bikes such as the TVS Apache RTR 200 V4 (Rs 1 lakh) and Bajaj Pulsar NS 200 (Rs 96,000). We decided to test the mettle of the three best motorcycles aggressively priced at Rs 1 lakh. Starting from our place of work we battled the city traffic to reach the wide open highway, and finally did some sharp bending around corners to explore the scenic hill roads. All this to find out which one stands out. Here’s how it turned out to be.
All the three bikes have a sporty and muscular design that tugs at the heart of enthusiasts. The Yamaha is the youngest in this lot but its design isn’t really radical. It looks like a natural evolution of its popular younger sibling, the FZ16. The beautifully chiselled tank of this bike with its intricate tank extensions add muscle to the design. It has the capacity to carry 14 litres of fuel, which is a couple of litres more than the others. The good-looking exhaust is also similar to that of the FZ16. The small headlight and minimalistic rear design give it the mass-centralised look which works well for us.
Coming to the Apache RTR 200 4V. TVS took the Apache legacy forward when they launched the 200 last year. One can’t miss its TVS Racing DNA. It’s among the better looking bikes from their stable, with its edgy form. The razor-sharp tank and belly-pan look lethal; however, the wedged exhaust design doesn’t appeal to me and looks bare. I do like the off-set fuel filler lid, the split seat and ‘grinning’ headlight which make it the most radical among its rivals.
Speaking of rivals. The Pulsar NS 200 is the oldest here. It was launched about five years ago, phased out in the middle and resurrected yet again this year with some upgrades. Not much has changed in terms of design, apart from new body decals and dual-tone colour, which has slightly enhanced the style quotient. It has now got a two-piece fairing on the belly, which the older 200 didn’t. Overall, the NS 200 looks and feels bigger and bulkier than its competitors.
I compared the specs and realised that the Pulsar has the longest wheelbase, followed by the FZ25. Besides, it has the highest seat height of 804 millimetres. You sit lowest on the Apache, which also happens to be the most comfortable. Not surprisingly, the Pulsar weighs more than its competition by four kilograms, with both the TVS and Yamaha tipping the scale at 148 kg.
One has to give credit to Yamaha for their fit and finish. We can say that with experience. Earlier, we’ve used several other Yamaha bikes, and can say with conviction that those things are built to last. Even on the FZ25, the quality of switchgear, aesthetic design, and overall attention to detail are top-notch.
The TVS isn’t too far apart and its buttons and switches, too, have a nice feel to them and won’t wear down easily. This is not
to say that the Bajaj is lacking in quality, but the others feel a smidge better in this department. The advantage the Bajaj has is the backlit switchgear, which is useful in the dark.
Staying on the topic of features, the Pulsar has an analogue-digital console which offers basic information such as trip meter, clock, fuel-gauge and red-line indicator. The FZ25 offers a completely digital unit, albeit a very basic one. The only additional information it has is fuel economy and average for trip meter. It’s the RTR which has the most comprehensive console with additional info such as a lap timer, top speed recorder and gear indicator. The FZ25 and NS 200 both offer tyre huggers which avoid spraying while riding on wet roads, although we have noticed many an enthusiast remove it for the sake of aesthetics.
Finally, the powerplant. The FZ25 sports a 249-cc air-cooled single, which is mated to a five-speed gearbox. It’s equipped
with fuel-injection and delivers 20.9 PS at 8,000 rpm. The Apache with its air-cooled 197.7 motor and four-valve engine (the Yamaha has two valves) churns out similar power but at a higher rpm, thus making the Pulsar the most powerful bike in this fist-fight, where its four-valve, liquid-cooled unit, breathing through the carburettor, punches out 23.5 PS at 9,500 rpm. Interestingly, the FZ25 makes the most torque, 20 Nm to be precise, which is two Nm more than the others.
Using the extra cubic capacity the Yamaha produces these power and torque figures at lower revs. This gives it a relaxed power delivery, making the FZ25 the most refined among the trio. It doesn’t demand a down-shift while slowing down a little and it pulls seamlessly even from lower speeds. Twist the throttle and there’s enough torque to set you sailing again without the engine knocking. It’s a simple and sweet motorcycle which is difficult not to like.
The Apache is a complete contrast. It has the sportiest nature, always buzzing and pushing you to wring the throttle and have more fun. The track is its playground. The raspy exhaust note and quick throttle response make it the most involving bike here. The Pulsar has a similar temperament but is a mite more docile. Being taller and heavier, it has more traces of an adventure bike than a track tool or a street bike. The TVS and the Pulsar ensure that the rider feels every ounce of power being developed. Since they have to be revved higher to achieve peak performance, this makes them both vibey, especially in lower gears.
Since the NS 200 is the only bike here offering a sixth gear, it feels most comfortable on the highway doing three-digit speeds. This is where both the Yamaha and TVS leave you wanting for another gear to shift up to. The top whack we could achieve on the Apache was 125 km/h, the FZ managed a slightly better 129 km/h, while the Pulsar slayed them, using the extra cog to record 133 km/h on the testing equipment.
Here comes the fun part — performance run. Its light weight and effortless drive make the Yamaha surprisingly quick from 0 to 60 km/h: just 3.46 seconds. Yes, it’s close to a second faster than the Apache and half-a-second quicker than the NS. No one could have guessed that in the 0-100 km/h sprint, the fluid Yamaha would be 1.5 seconds faster than the Pulsar and beat the Apache by nearly three seconds!
Despite their sporty stance these bikes are essentially designed for city use, with the occasional weekend run on mountain roads. So, mid-range plays an important role. We tested the three bikes rolling from 30 km/h in third gear to see which one reached 70 km/h first. The Apache was the slowest in the group, managing it in 6.62 seconds, the Pulsar fared better and shaved off a second, while the Yamaha took merely 4.75 seconds.
Another aspect that helps decipher each bike’s character more clearly is their riding dynamics. During our long ride, we found the Pulsar to offer pretty sorted handling and ride; one of the major reasons for this being its modern perimeter frame, which is more rigid than its competitors’. None of these bikes are sprung too soft or firm, but the Pulsar has a good balance. The suspension takes bad roads in its stride and its long wheelbase offers good straight-line stability. It’s just not as nimble as the Apache. The TVS with its short wheelbase and racing genes is the sharpest of the lot, quick to change direction, and is extremely alert. Also, it’s not forgiving. So you have to be equally alert while giving input. It’s definitely the most engaging as it keeps you on your toes.
The Yamaha is a completely different animal. The Japanese have a way of giving their bike a balance which is close to a Zenlike state. The harmony between the suspension and chassis, and how the rear follows the front wheels on the FZ25 are nothing short of a symphony. It’s a feeling of calmness which sets it apart from the other two bikes. It’s also slightly softer sprung, and offers more comfort than the others. The Yamaha feels most relaxed; be it while negotiating traffic or while scraping the foot-pegs through fast corners. It’s the easiest bike to live with.
Until now we’ve only been speaking about going faster; so let’s shed some light on their braking prowess. All these three bikes have disc brakes on both their wheels and the stopping power is closely matched. The Yamaha and Apache brakes offer a little more feel and feedback, and that’s probably why they’ve managed better anchoring. The FZ25 is the quickest to come to a halt from 80 km/h, followed by the Apache, while the Pulsar is just a fraction behind. As of now, none gets ABS as standard which would have reduced the braking distance considerably.
And that brings this story to a halt as well. As discussed earlier, each bike has a set of virtues and a few drawbacks. So, which one is good at what? The Pulsar is the least expensive and also has a fine balance of sportiness, practicality and is the better machine here for touring — thanks to Bajaj’s widespread network and that sixth gear. Furthermore, it’s a ‘Pulsar’: the epitome of sport biking in India.
The Apache is the most engaging bike to ride as it makes your response sharper. It’s also the most funky-looking, which is sure to impress your mates. The one bike which is always game for a race, be it on a track or on the street. If you like riding on the edge, this is your calling.
The Yamaha is the most understated bike in this comparison. The refined engine doesn’t feel that it’s the quickest, the exhaust doesn’t scream as the bike overtakes the rest, and for a 250-cc it’s very well priced. It clearly is a more mature pick.
Relatively modern perimeter frame give the Pulsar an edge Sportiest motor here; always eager to have more fun
Simple motor offers linear power, and is the quickest here
Analogue-digital console does the job RTR offers lap timer, top speed recorder
Backlit switchgear is useful in the dark Low seat, also the most comfortable
Basic digital display hints at cost cutting
On the softer side but very comfortable