The Ultimate 150cc Motorcycle Shootout

Hi, I am Rakesh Patel and I live in Nagpur. Biking has been a passion for my heart since childhood. Machines running with tremendous speeds and pride on wheels have fascinated me ever since I didn’t even know what a machine actually meant. Unfortunately, I never had a chance to own one. My father, being very strict on these matters, never allowed me to ride a bike until I had a license. My school and high-school days went traveling in cars, in junior college, I traveled in a bus, but when I entered my graduation college, I had my learning license made and a two-wheeler for me was a requirement. Without much thoughts and options, (thanks to my dad) I got my new Honda Dio in my first year. As we all are aware that since Honda has introduced its automatic moto-scooters in India, it has completely changed the mindset of families about daily commuting plans. My family is one of them.

I rode my Dio for 2 years now and let me tell you, it becomes a member of your family. Its like a necessity of every family. I was absolutely impressed by the practicality of the vehicle. Its luggage capacity, ease of use and comfort are awesome. I still never regret having it. But still I had to outgrow. This enthusiasm and passion made me want to know more about bikes and cars through every source – magazines, internet etc, and here is where I came to know about BikeAdvice. it’s a wonderful and a very informative medium for every potential bike enthusiast. I’ve been visiting this site for almost a year now and am capable of my own review.

Finally after lots of troubles and resistance, I had my hands on my new Hero Honda hunk on 9th oct, 2009, just a week after my birthday on 2nd. But with all analysis and survey that I have made, I would like to share it with you.

Before going for a bike, decide what are your requirements, needs, capabilities and what is the thing that you want to have from your bike. Are you a daily commuter, who seeks comfort and mileage? Or are you a performance enthusiast, are you more on showing off and want to flaunt your machine wherever it may be? Do you have the spirit of touring or are you a stuntman?

Many think that money is the most important factor in deciding a bike but setting up your priorities and choices is far more important because you should get value for your money. You may get a cheap bike but if its not satisfying your needs, its of no use. After deciding your needs, then you may move ahead with your budget. This is indeed important because these machines are not cheap and are not bought every weekend. Let me tell you that there would be a lots of thinking here because in India you can get a skeletal Luna to a beefy R1.this factor should be properly discussed with your family if they are paying for you. After the budget is set, decide what capacity of engine you need. The next stage is to shortlist what all bikes suit your budget and needs. Take a test drive of each and go ahead with it.

The 150cc segment is the most sought after in Indian market these days due to its perfect blend of power and mileage. Now getting focusd: I was interested for a 150cc bike. Engine refinement was my basic priority, so I went searching ahead with the best selling bikes in this segment.

Bajaj Pulsar 150 DTSi

The oldest of the 150’s to create fire in biking industry. Bajaj has always been an innovator and has always introduced innovations in every aspect. With a huge range of Pulsars from 150 to 220, Pulsar has seen many facelifts, the 2009 series being the latest. What I liked in it were the digital instrumentations, chisel tail lamp and sharp looks. This thing even pulls hard, but the brakes might scare you. They are too sensitive so have to be applied carefully else there is a tendency of toppling over.

Being a Bajaj, you know this thing is gonna give good mileage. But its common that Bajaj engines start making noises after time, but that surely depends upon ones handling. There are also issues with quality of Bajaj spare parts.

Pros: Technology, Fuel Economy, Pickup
Cons: Quality Issues, Unstable Engine, Sensitive Braking.

Suzuki GSX150R

This Japanese giant has had a hard luck on Indian roads. With failures like Heat and the Zeus, it was left behind by the rest. But the company is trying big time to make its comeback through the new GSX150R. previously named as Suzuki Lanza, GS150R sports an ultra modern semi digital dashboard console showing every bit of detail to the rider. This new bike also sports a first time 6th gear advantage which comes really handy while revving up on the highways.

Being a Suzuki, the engine is too refined, but here is were the inconvenience begins. The bike is too refined to be a 150cc bike. Start the ignition and the bike starts sounding like a kitchen mixer. Even on the looks front, its too old school for the competition. Suzuki could have had more success if they would had paid attention towards the looks of this bike. It doesn’t at all seem that the bike has come from a company that has given biggies like Hayabusa and GSXR 1000

Pros: Ultra Refined, 6 Gears, Informative Console
Cons: Design does not attract a target market.

Yamaha FZ16

Reincarnation of a legend indeed! Yamaha has been on Indian soil for long by now. Bikes like RX100 and RX135 were quick hits because of there pick ups. But the company sure lost track after this. Bikes like Enticer, Libero, Gladiator, Crux-R etc failed to charm people to some extent though having good engines. Now Yamaha has returned with a different concept and strategy all together, making small sized clones of its internationally acclaimed legends. The R15 from R1, FZ16 from FZ1 and Fazer 150 from Fazer 1000. These bikes became instant hits just after launch and each one of them was focused in what it was made for.

The FZ16 surely has got the looks to hold your eyes on to it. Definitely the diamond frame keeps the weight to the centre and increases control. The bike focuses on low RPM performance which makes it very apt for street riding, but this even lessens the mileage because of power delivery is chiefly on lower gears. The twist of the throttle gives instant response. The dashboard is all digital but I think an analog tacho must have been better and added to its looks. There is no kick start here so utmost care has to be taken in maintaining the battery. Mono shock suspensions are used hence another advantage. But the FZ is more of a single person ride because the pillion seat is very uncomfortable. At higher speeds the bike seems unstable as because of its less weight, but its focused on its street fighter role I was made for.

Pros: Genes of a Legend, Focused on low RPM Performance, Macho looks
Cons: Virtual pillion seat, Looks like a toy, Mileage.

Yamaha Fazer 150

Like the FZ and R15, Fazer 150 is a bike that traces genes from legendary Fazer series oriented from sports touring concept. This machine is really a low RPM performer like its siblings, the FZ’s. the bike really feels sturdy and huge, thanks to the huge front fairing and broad rear tyres. “Forget the speed, its all about the looks baby!”, seems like Yamaha has been inspired by this statement while designing this bike. I personally feel a touring bike should have analog meters to give it a more rugged look (personally!), but here Yamaha has used the same FZ dashboard which surely looks tiny in front of the front fairing.

The headlamps used are similar to that of the R15, with twin head lights offering good visibility. Electricals sued are direct but as said earlier, care has to be taken for the battery cuz this bike has no kick start (not strange for Yamaha lately!). the engine is the same 153cc as used in FZ series and I think adding 50cc more would have made this bike a “cool tourer”, but nevertheless, its fine and serves the task well.

The biggest let down for this bike is the feature and specifications of this new machine, not that its not good but surely could have been a lots better for a hugely hefty price tag that this machine sports. There is no oil cooling, no fuel injection, a very expensive 150cc, I mean, when every thing is as same as the FZ16, then why pay 8-10K extra just for R15 like fairing added, when you can get a bike with all above features and also 200+ displacement?

Pros: Legendary genes, Low RPM Performance, Big bike feel, Sturdy tourer
Cons: High Price Tag, Mileage

Yamaha R15

Performance, power, pride and price; looks like R1 junior has it all, that too in high proportions. This mean machine has got scintillating amount of performance under its hood and always wants the rider to rev more.

R15 was the first launch of Yamaha under the new strategy of making little clones of legends. This bike got its design from the massive cc R1. When introduced, this bike had guts to break all limits- performance that no other bike gave, speed that no other bike reached(not even bikes with higher capacities), styling that no other bike flaunted, features that no other bike sported and of course, a price tag that no other bike wore.

This bike has got everything, liquid cooling, 6th gear advantage to rev beyond, digital dashboard display for styling, all these supporting a powerful fuel injected 153cc engine to balance up power with fuel efficiency.

Coming to the structure of this bike, this loads-of-featured engine is set on a light weight delta box frame which helps in increasing confidence at speedy corners. Mono suspensions comfort this bike and provide it necessary stability at higher speeds. The huge front fairing and fishtail structure increases aerodynamics to cut through air resistance.

Unlilke its siblings, the R15 is definitely a high RPM performer. So much so that at low RPM, this bike feels sluggishly dull, but after crossing the 5000 RPM mark, this 150cc engine can fly you to 120+ kmph speeds! Talking about the seating postures, its too sporty and equally uncomfortable. It may give confidence at high speeds but hits your back hard on long tours.

The rear wheel tyre seems slim (or even slimmer, after we know that the same company uses india’s broadest tyres in its other bikes). This may look weird but holds the road hard being soft rubber compounds, but they wear down fast. The bike sports dual disc brakes and have to be handled with caution as they are very sensitive. The twin head lamps do their job well offering good visibility except for in low beam or dipper mode when just one out of two lights up. It looks as if the other one has a fused lamp!

I personally feel the bike is a single rider one, cuz with the pillion on, the performance deteriorates. This bike is absolutely a light weight athlete, which increases confidence in handling. On the mileage front, after knowing all performance features, still it returns a fair value, on the other hand, who would think about the fuel after investing more than a lakh for a performance oriented bike? The bike would surely provide a good option for all sports bike enthusiasts in the country. “got 13 lakhs and wanna have a R1? Buy yourself a Honda Civic MT worth 12 lakhs and a R15…”

Pros: Performance, Performance, Performance; 6th gear advantage; liquid cooled, Fi engine, Mono suspension and much more
Cons: Seating Posture not suitable for touring, Price

TVS Apache RTR 160

This bike is really a performer. Its definitely more than more than what meets the eye. Engineers at TVS are trying hard to include every type of technology into this small chasis. TVS claims to have developed this bike on the race tracks and it surly feels the same. The bike surely stokes the fire in you to rev it more. Every thing seems to be so perfect in it, price, power, techs but the biggest problem with it is its seating posture. Making this bike completely sporty has really hit the back of the rider hard. The rider sits so leaned that long rides pain a lot.

Once I took this bike for a long ride to a temple some 15km away, but my arms and back ached a lot on retuning back home. The engine is smooth this time and roto pedal discs play there role very well and digi instruments are a treat. I would never want to go for a TVS because the engines have some issues sooner or later, but it surely depends upon the rider and is subjective.

Pros: Sports Oriented Vehicle, Good Braking, Pickup, Price
Cons: Issues with the brand, Seating posture

Honda Unicorn

Honda brand name speaks for itself and to tell you I am a big fan of Honda. Being a Honda, you know this engine is going to last a lifetime period. Honda was already successful in India under its collaboration with Hero. People accepted these bikes for their reliability. Unicorn is a product of sole Honda wing of motor cycles in india.

Unicorn is really a smooth and smart 150cc, a all time best choice for daily commuters. Its seating posture is straight and comfortable, power delivery is smooth and the engine itself is a “butter”. It introduced India’s first mono suspension which adds up to comfort of the rider. Power delivery may not be instantaneous on twist of throttle but advances smoothly. I would have stopped here without any negative points if I had written this review way back when Unicorn was first launched. But age and not-much changes have added some cons to this good bike.

The company needs to bring some technical changes and advancements in this bike so as to keep pace with the rest. All that this bike has seen is just cosmetic changes.

Pros: Honda, Mono Suspension, Fuel Efficiency, Smoothness
Cons: Aging looks, Expensive Parts, No Digital Console

Hero Honda Hunk

Hunk is the latest under 150cc segment in Hero Honda stable. It uses the same 149.2cc engine as in CBZ Xtreme, taken from hero Honda achiever that in turn traces back to the Unicorn. But the engine is advanced this time. It uses a new technology for fuel efficiency called the Advanced Tumble Flow Technology (ATFT) that uses a mixture of air and fuel to provide greater mileage. The most reliable and trusted manufacturer had created a revolution when it launched its CBZ in 1999.

Unfortunately, they lost track and could not match the standards set by their own CBZ. When I was in the showroom, I was much impressed by the looks of the new Hunk. The bike looks and feels big (thanks to its tank shrouds). On the comfort front, it offers GRS (gas reservoir suspensions) which damp the jerks on the road. GRS suspensions are only found on the new Karizma ZMR apart from Hunk. The Hunk has got right amount of power to weight ratio and is really heavy. This adds up to its stability at high speeds.

Every thing on this bike is smooth, from acceleration to braking. The company claims a mileage of 50-55 kmpl but am yet to test it on that front. The dashboard is all analog and looks royal and masculine. The firing of this bike is worth mentioning. Acceleration is smooth and uniform. It inherits the same smooth engine of the unicorn with added features, mileage and power.

It really is a pride to have this bike. Its just impossible for anybody to ignore it and not give it a second look. With new cosmetic changes, nobody messes with it!

Pros: Big bike feel, Smoothness, Reliability, 3 years warranty from Hero Honda, Fuel efficiency, Fantastic looks
Cons: All analog dashboard, Some false neutrals (reduces after first and second servicing), The bike isn’t particularly focused over something, it does everything good but nothing exceptionally well, No LED lighting.

CBZ Xtreme

This bike inherits its name from the legendary CBZ, which had set new standards for Indian youth biking. Coming to the xtreme, it surely has a much better engine but lacks heavily on the looks front and not even close to it if compared(anyways looks are completely how the person sees it). The new xtreme powers from the same 149.2cc engine cloned from the hunk. Coming to the structure and built part, this bike looks tall. The dashboard sports an unsymmetrical design and placement of meters which look a little weird.

Hero Honda has played a fair game as ever by distributing features amongst the CBZ and hunk. The xtreme sports LED tail lamps and integrated indicators which is futuristic whereas the hunk sports GRS suspensions and muscular looks making it macho and royal. Xtreme is all about smooth curves, at the same point, hunk looks all “super cuts”. Every thing in the engine is the same including th power and mileage. The suspensions are the same used on karizma R and feels stiff sometimes, but otherwise, are comfortable. Latest advancements were just some cosmetic changes, but on the lower side. And old problem for Honda it has been for upgrading its bikes, in which they are really slow, but the result is good. But they need to make some engine and technical improvements ASAP.

Overall it’s a great bike but surely was a letdown for all CBZ lovers (including me!), to see that the much hyped advanced version of a legend isn’t even worth its name when compared.

Pros: Engine; Smooth firing, Reliability, Efficiency
Cons: Asymmetrical Dashboard, No macho looks, Could not meet standards of CBZ.

Final Verdict

We can hence finally categorize the bikes as follows:

  • Want comfort but can compromise little on power – Unicorn and GSX150R
  • Complete performance oriented biking and ready to pay a price for it – R15
  • Adrenaline rush and street racing with mileage but can compromise on comfort and engine – Pulsar and Apache RTR
  • Good city cruising, touring and short stunting – FZ16, fazer
  • Want a bit of everything in your machine and an all rounder – Hunk and CBZ Xtreme

Still the decision is yours, I hope my review would help some of the potential bike buyers with their decisions. Always remember, its not a bike but a part of you, its your passion on wheels.

– Rakesh