Pulsar 160 CB Hornet 160R
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 monoshock unit is stiffer than Hornet
Slightly softer monoshock gives the Hornet better ride quality
Digital instrument console is a bit hard to read
Old analogue tachometer looks better and is easier to read
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