Pul­sar 160 CB Hor­net 160R

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Bat­tle be­tween the pop­u­lar 160-cc Honda and Ba­jaj’s new kid on the block

The bat­tle be­tween the small-ca­pac­ity pre­mium com­muters re­mains an on­go­ing phe­nom­e­non for there is al­ways some­thing new and in­ter­est­ing that catches our fancy. This time around it is Ba­jaj Auto’s lat­est, the Pul­sar NS160, and Ba­jaj claim it to be the most pow­er­ful in its seg­ment. Well, tech­ni­cally, the NS does have 0.25 PS more than its clos­est ri­val, the Honda CB Hor­net 160R. There­fore, we de­cided to bring it in and pit it against the Ba­jaj to see if the most pow­er­ful mo­tor­cy­cle in the 160-cc seg­ment changes the game in any way. The re­sults were quite in­ter­est­ing.

To be­gin with, both the bikes are styled to evoke mul­ti­ple emo­tions. Now, it’s rare for a com­muter to do so but th­ese two do man­age to turn heads in awe. At first, the Hor­net looks more strik­ing, and the credit for that goes to its flow­ing de­sign, an­gu­lar body­pan­els, funky graph­ics, short and stubby ex­haust, petal disc, and sleek­look­ing wheels. It in­duces ex­cite­ment, boost­ing your self-con­fi­dence, tak­ing your style game to another level, while still be­ing an affordable op­tion.

The Pul­sar NS160’s styling also in­duces ex­cite­ment but it’s quite dif­fer­ent from the Hor­net. The NS re­minds you of its elder, more pow­er­ful, and ag­gres­sive sib­ling, the NS200; in­stantly giv­ing the im­pres­sion of a more pow­er­ful mo­tor­cy­cle. Be­sides, since the Pul­sar name is 17 years old, there’s some her­itage right there. In terms of pure styling, how­ever, the NS is a mix of old and new. Its body-pan­els look sleek and carry a sug­ges­tion of ag­gres­sion and bold­ness. Like the Hor­net, the NS’ body pan­els, too, are an­gu­lar, al­beit with a dose of curves in the right places. It’s the perime­ter frame that adds more sub­stance to the NS’ de­sign, which gives the bike an ex­tra cookie point. But I will be a lit­tle diplo­matic here and say that both the bikes are quirky look­ing and have their pos­i­tives and neg­a­tives when it comes to de­sign. So, in terms of styling, it’s a draw.

What about the fea­tures, then? Well, com­muter bikes don’t re­ally get that many fea­tures, but, since we have raised the point, here are a few men­tion­able ones. The Pul­sar NS160’s big­gest fea­tures are the oil-cooler and the perime­ter frame, whereas the Hor­net’s big­gest fea­ture is the fulldig­i­tal in­stru­ment con­sole. Apart from th­ese, both bikes get 17-inch al­loy wheels, petal disc brakes, and monoshock sus­pen­sion. So, with more tech­ni­cally ad­vanced fea­tures, the Pul­sar NS160 lunges ahead.

Let’s move on to the me­chan­i­cals, then. Both the bikes are pow­ered by 160-cc, sin­gle-cylin­der en­gines but with an in­ter­est­ing twist. The Ba­jaj en­gine boasts of an oil-cooler and DTSi tech­nol­ogy that uses two spark­plugs for bet­ter com­bus­tion, whereas the Honda’s unit doesn’t come with any ad­di­tional cool­ing aids and uses only a sin­gle plug for com­bus­tion.

More­over, the NS’ 160.3-cc mo­tor fea­tures SOHC valveg­ear with four valves and the Honda gets SOHC with only two valves. Both fea­ture slick five-speed trans­mis­sions. This stark con­trast is lev­elled out when out­put fig­ures are taken into con­sid­er­a­tion. Both the bikes de­velop al­most iden­ti­cal power and torque. The NS’ mo­tor churns out 15.50 PS and 14.6 Nm, whereas the Hor­net’s en­gine is good for 15.25 PS and 14.76 Nm. Both the en­gines pro­duce peak power and torque at ex­actly the same rpm: 8,500 and 6,500 re­spec­tively.

With just 0.25 PS more, the Pul­sar NS160 is tech­ni­cally the more pow­er­ful of the two, but the Hor­net has slightly more torque, mak­ing it the torquiest bike here. The power and torque out­put might be sim­i­lar, but there is dif­fer­ence in terms of de­liv­ery, re­fine­ment, and smooth­ness. Both the bikes have good re­fine­ment in the lower rpm range, but the dif­fer­ence be­comes ap­par­ent when you re­ally open the throt­tle. The Pul­sar’s en­gine

revs nicely to­wards its red-line but it also gives rise to vi­bra­tions past 6,500 rpm. The Honda, how­ever, doesn’t rev as quickly as the Pul­sar but is com­par­a­tively less prone to vi­bra­tions once past 6,500 rpm. This shows that when it comes to re­fine­ment the Hor­net has an up­per hand.

The five-speed gear­box of the Pul­sar NS160 has short ra­tios, whereas those of the Hor­net are taller. The ad­van­tage of the shorter ra­tio box is that the bike can get to the top gear, even in the city, with ease and stay there for longer. The Hor­net’s taller ra­tios, on the other hand, al­low rid­ing the bike in, say, third gear in the city with­out shift­ing up or down fre­quently. This gives the Hor­net bet­ter ride­abil­ity.

As for power and torque de­liv­ery, both have good bot­tom and mid-range de­liv­ery with lin­ear ac­cel­er­a­tion and quick throt­tle re­sponse. The Hor­net’s power comes in smoothly and in a lin­ear man­ner that al­lows you to cruise at low speeds with­out the need to fre­quently shift up and down, which makes it much eas­ier to ride in the city. The Pul­sar’s en­gine also de­liv­ers power smoothly but to keep the bike in the right power-band, you have to shift up and down fre­quently to keep the en­gine away from the red-line.

Be­ing al­most iden­ti­cal in terms of power and torque out­put, the per­for­mance of the two bikes is also sim­i­lar. Both post sub-six sec­ond 0–60 km/h times, with the Pul­sar be­ing ahead by just 0.27 sec­onds. Quar­ter mile tim­ing also has a marginal dif­fer­ence; how­ever, the Hor­net takes the top-speed cake with a true top speed of 114.26 km/h, whereas the Pul­sar only man­aged 108.15 km/h. The roll-on times of the Pul­sar are bet­ter than the Hor­net’s mainly be­cause of the shorter ra­tio gear­box.

The sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the two bikes are more than what I ini­tially thought, for they are on a par even in re­spect of fuel ef­fi­ciency. The Hor­net de­liv­ers an over­all ef­fi­ciency of 55 km/l whereas the Ba­jaj is just 0.75 km/l

be­hind at 54.25 km/l.

Talk­ing about the ride qual­ity and han­dling, I can say that the two bikes are quite dif­fer­ent. Both fea­ture monoshock sus­pen­sion but the Honda’s setup is softer than the Ba­jaj’s. This setup, cou­pled with a ca­pa­ble frame, gives the Honda good ride qual­ity. It can gob­ble up un­du­la­tions with ease with­out the need to avoid even the smaller ob­sta­cles. The Pul­sar’s slightly stiffer setup is also ca­pa­ble of han­dling road ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties with gusto, giv­ing it com­pa­ra­bly good ride qual­ity. How­ever, when it comes to han­dling, the true dif­fer­ences are re­vealed. What works won­ders for the Pul­sar is that perime­ter frame, which is bor­rowed

from the big­ger NS200. It lends the NS160 ex­tra rigid­ity and re­duced chas­sis flex, which the Hor­net lacks since it fea­tures a more con­ven­tional di­a­mond frame. The Pul­sar can take cor­ners like a pro, boost­ing your con­fi­dence with each pass­ing bend. It changes di­rec­tion with pre­ci­sion and the sta­bil­ity through a cor­ner is prob­a­bly the best in the seg­ment. The Pul­sar is a more cor­ner­friendly bike than the Hor­net, which han­dles well but not quite like the Pul­sar. Brak­ing-wise, both the bikes are on a par as they have sim­i­lar brak­ing dis­tances and times.

In sum, I would say that the two bikes here are sim­i­lar yet dif­fer­ent. The price dif­fer­ence be­tween the two is just Rs 3,495, with Pul­sar cost­ing Rs 78,368 (ex-Delhi) and the Hor­net Rs 81,863 (ex-Delhi). While the Honda wins when it comes to en­gine re­fine­ment, ride qual­ity, and top speed, the Pul­sar zips past the Hor­net in terms of han­dling. Over­all, both the bikes are quite good for the ur­ban com­muter as they ful­fil the most im­por­tant cri­te­rion: com­mut­ing in style. The Pul­sar is for the dis­cern­ing ones who want the best han­dling bike in the seg­ment, whereas the Hor­net is for peo­ple who are look­ing for an over­all prod­uct to ful­fil their needs. So, make up your mind and ride on.

As for power and torque de­liv­ery, both have good bot­tom and mid-range de­liv­ery with lin­ear ac­cel­er­a­tion and quick throt­tle re­sponse

The Pul­sar’s en­gine is the most pow­er­ful, how­ever, it lacks the same re­fine­ment to com­pete with the Honda’s unit

The Hor­net’s en­gine has more toruqe and it is also more re­fined than the Ba­jaj, and it posted a higher top-speed too

Dig­i­tal in­stru­ment con­sole is a bit hard to read

Old ana­logue tachome­ter looks bet­ter and is eas­ier to read

The Pul­sar’s monoshock unit is stiffer than Hor­net

Slightly softer monoshock gives the Hor­net bet­ter ride qual­ity

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