Back in 2001, the Pulsar twins started a revolution of sorts. The advent of Brand Pulsar pioneered the democratization of performance biking, offering affordable motorcycles which were not mere commuters. 10 years on, Brand Pulsar, as we know it today has an unparalleled Indian fan base. So the big question that I ask myself as I begin writing this review is, whether the new Pulsar does justice to the to its celebrated lineage? Does it have enough substance to be branded ‘all-new’? Would it be able to carry forward its predecessor’s legacy into an era where Indian biking seems to have finally come of age? The stakes are much higher now than ever before. The Indian biking enthusiast buying into the Pulsar segment has a bigger pocket, and far more options. So does the new Pulsar sustain its relevance as strongly as it did ten years back and throughout the course of its existence? Sounds like a whale of a task, but it was eventually the team behind Project Pulsar which made it the marvel that it is. There’s no reason why we should doubt their ability to recreate the magic all over again.
So have they succeeded?
Trust me on this one; I wouldn’t have given away a single easy point here. But those folks at Chakan, they’ve got it so right, they’ll have to pause and take a bow. You see, recreating a brand without tempering with its essential character and ethos is a mammoth task. It’s easy to screw up when you’re successful. Every plan seems to be right; every ploy the thought of a genius, but the slightest diversion from the brand’s personality spells carnage. You’d be doomed before you know.
To BAL’s credit, they have paid utmost respect to the quintessential definition of Brand Pulsar – A desirable, aggressive looking middleweight streetfighter which delivers great performance, without compromising affordability. The new Pulsar fits poetically into the definition. A visual aberration as regards detailing, but the proportions, the stance, the philosophical connect are still very much there. While having a sufficiently evident visual bond with its parents, the new Pulsar’s powertrain is a quantum leap for the automaker, so is the dynamic ability and handling of the product.
This newly coroneted prince has enough gems in its dazzling crown. Incorporation of liquid cooling, to start with, is a first here by any bike maker of Indian origin. That perimeter frame is all-new, and so is that Nitrox charged monoshock unit at the rear. I’m not so upbeat about that Triple Spark tech, but the NS200 is still the only bike in the world to have three spark plugs infusing life into that 200cc shell. That refinement, that linear power delivery, that sublime handling – it doesn’t happen unless you have a dedicated team putting in years worth of blood and sweat into a product. And this team’s hard work tells. A worthy successor? This young prince is going to make his emperor dad proud.
That engine, is that a KTM200 mill?
In a word, no. However, developing the 200 Duke at their own plant, and working in close proximity with the boffins at KTM has most definitely led to enrichment in Bajaj’s knowledge base. While the exact details about any such synergies wouldn’t be shared by Bajaj to maintain the sanctity of the two brands, it’s quite evident that the NS200 has benefitted a lot from KTM200’s parallel development. The lower engine casing, for some reason, seems uncannily similar to that of the KTM 200. Having said that, the two engines are very different in terms of their character, output and to an extent, the technology employed.
The Triple Spark tech on the 200NS means that the engine design has to accommodate a third plug on the head. Then there is the cooling problem. A third plug means additional areas to cool and for that the flow of the liquid through the cooling jacket has to be taken care of. Ample standalone research has gone into the development of this engine.
Unlike the wild, uncontrollable character of the KTM200, this one’s more refined and linear. It’s most definitely not the same unit, although it may be running some shared components.
How much juice does it have?
Enough, and with a dash of alcohol to get you high! The more important and impressive bit, however, is how that glass is served to you. The first gen Pulsar, as it made its appearance in 2001, was somewhat like having a drink in a country bar. You had this gruff attendant bringing you your poison in those big ribbed-cone glasses with one or two of his filthy fingers properly dipped into the liquid. Thud! He’d smash that glass on the table. And you were supposed to behave as you drank, or you’d be kicked out in no time. You’d be high in no time and lose senses if you had too much. But, it was addictive. You had it once, you’d come back for more!
By that analogy, the previous gen Pulsar had you drinking in an upmarket lounge bar with an English speaking waiter serving you a branded Indian whisky. It was nice and all, but it still was relatively rough to take in. Too much of it and you’d be clutching your head next day. The 200NS, by that definition is like having Megan Fox lying naked with you in bed, and making you sip a fine aged scotch, on the rocks, holding a fine cut-glass in both her hands. Yep, the difference is that dramatic.
The refinement here is in a different orbit. The engine is happy to let you harass it across the rev range. I don’t know if it owes its existence to an Austrian firm, but its sure feels smooth, as if it were from Japan. And the tranquility doesn’t get disturbed as the revs rise up. Twirl the throttle hard, make the rev needle touch redline, and this shortstroke engine still has that wide smile on its face. Some bikes would have you worried much before you hit the redline. On this, the rev limiter had to barge in, just to let me know it was time to shift. There is an extremely frail clatter audible at 1000-1200rpm, very tough to make out, but it goes away quickly as soon as the revs build up.
Character wise, this engine is very linear. There is enough spunk to pull neatly from as low as 2000rpm – absolutely no spluttering at ridiculously low speeds in the sixth gear. I’d need to consult a psychiatrist if I tried to do that on the street. The bike didn’t complain though. For the speed freaks amongst us, however, the power really starts building up at around 6000 rpm, the point from where the rev needle really begins lunging towards the redline. At 8000 rpm, you hit the jackpot. Between 8000-10,500 rpm I am assuming I looked like one of the Beagle Boys with a big sack full of currency notes on his back. Sixth gear, throttle to the max, and the Speedo read 137km/h on the test track’s backstraight. Blame it on my 98kg frame, or wind, but it won’t go any further. Sixth gear, post 9000 rpm, the bike showed a bit of reluctance to gain further momentum. Good thing is, the bike doesn’t seem too far off from Bajaj’s 0-60km/h claim of 3.6 seconds and 0-100km/h time of 9.8 secs. Give or take a few fractions and the 200NS would do it. We didn’t log in our test gear, but as I observed from above the tank, 60 and 100km/k marks arrived rather quickly.
The all-new six-speed transmission seems to have been perfected to deliver a good mix of efficiency, acceleration and top whack. The five ratios have been intelligently spaced out to deliver thrust in the lower gears, thrust with tractability in middle gears, and a relatively tall ratio (read fuel efficiency) for the top gear.
Triple Sparks? Why three when just one works fine on some?
Honestly, even we have seen better specific power output on some bikes with just one ignition unit. The advantage of those three fire canons, however, as explained by the top tech boys at Bajaj, more than the extra power, is better fuel efficiency. Of the three plugs employed, the master unit is positioned towards the center, tilted to the left. The slave plugs are positioned across the lateral axis of the engine head. The ignition mapping for the three plugs is not constant. Controlled electronically, the three plugs are programmatically fired based on the throttle input and engine speed. There is a multitude of ignition maps to ensure that the flame propagation across the ignition chamber is optimized, resulting in more power, better fuel efficiency, lesser engine knocking and more smoothness.
Snazzy looking fat rubber, red monoshock with golden damper – does all that jazz work?
Throw in one more Megan Fox into the bed, replace the regular scotch with Macallan Fine and Rare 60 year aged (Rs 20lakh apiece) and make the room a sea facing suite on the most expensive resort on an exotic tropical island. With analogies for the previous gen Pulsars remaining the same that’s how much the new bike has improved. If I had to mention the single most improved department for the new Pulsar, it would have to be the handling and dynamic ability.
The emergence of that monoshock unit, a 1363mm (longest ever on a Pulsar) wheelbase, a new perimeter frame and an equal front/rear weight distribution has worked wonders for the 200NS’s handling. Swinging a leg around the new Pulsar, sinking into the front part of that split seat, the first thing I notice is the friendly riding position. The handlebars fall easily to the hands, though slightly more upright than I would have desired. Legs fall comfortably to the front footpegs. There’s no air of intimidation around this one. Hop on and go zipping, simple as that. The Pulsar 200NS doesn’t make any overly sporty pretences, and I really think of it as a big positive.
On the move, a cautious entry into the first corner culminates in an easy exit, and I’m already friends with this baby. I have a principle in life, to start off slowly on a bike, give it some respect, allow it time, and let it be one of my limbs slowly, never forcing myself on it. It works beautifully every time. With the new Pulsar, it happened more quickly than ever. Two cautious laps and the NS begged to be ridden hard. I obliged.
We had about 15 minutes for a high speed run, so I did only a couple of fast laps, leaving the rest of the time to observe a few other things. Now, into the corners, leaned over, I felt more confident than ever on a Pulsar. The 220 was a monster to tame around bends. It behaved like a rogue, trying all it had to make you pop. This one is like an obedient, devoted disciple – doing what you want it to, without ever complaining. It feels as weightless to dip as it feels light to pick up again, especially around those slow corners. Around those faster sweeping curves, it wheels weight neutral and perfectly balanced, helping you carry maximum speeds in without letting any doubts rear up. The NS200 has the poise and composure that would now put the Pulsar in a higher league.
The 200NS has petal discs front and rear, and are mighty impressive with enough bite and feedback. Those 130 section rear Enduros were heard squealing for mercy as I downshifted hard around a couple of corners. Quiet and obedient to a fair degree, they wailed and slid whenever I tried get overly demanding. The grainy, grippy surface of the Chakan track didn’t let us complain much about the grip, but there most definitely is scope for that hard compound rubber to be replaced with something that clutches mother earth a little more viciously. Those tyres are good, to be honest, but aren’t quite the best option when you’re on the limit. Apparently softer compound rubber will be available as an option for those who are ready to pay the extra money.
To put things in perspective, if I gave five marks out of ten to the Pulsar 220, I would give the NS200 eight and a half. Pulsar’s extra power demands more from the setup, but for its overall balance around the bends, I would rate the R15 marginally higher at nine.
You seem to have forgotten the aesthetics
Not at all! Usually it’s the first thing we talk about. But in this case, the newness of the ‘New Pulsar’ is defined more by the changes it has undergone beneath its skin than a quick swap of panels or stickers which typically is the hallmark of most ‘new’ Indian bikes.
With the 200NS, the designers at Bajaj have created a new visual identity for the Pulsar without making an aberration from the brand’s core design principles. The new version seems more balanced, more modern and more contemporary. The Pulsar 220 looked horizontally elongated, thanks to its half fairing and the distance of the headlamp from the handlebars. The meat of the bike has been packed more closely together on this one, for a tighter, more compact and ‘ready for action’ look.
The overall proportions, the front heavy stance and most importantly, the tail section are some of the things which form a strong connect between the new and the old. Those meaty headlamps, giving the NS200 it’s wicked face, that chunky tank with an extended top and that meaty rubber are some of the highlights of the NS200’s design. Conspicuous by absence is the sneaky little exhaust can, positioned stealthily beneath the underbelly, lending the bike a sharp, sexy and unusually clean rear. Those lightweight alloys too are the sexiest ever seen on an Indian bike.
Details such as the saber tooth tank extension, sporty aluminium finish rear footpegs, 135LS-style rear number plate mounts and the new frame itself further do their own bit to add to the aesthetic appeal of the machine. Some of the elements like the front fender, and the front headlamp with their two-tone finish look rather busy though. That golden engine colour doesn’t go too well with the overall colour scheme of the bike either. An all-black treatment for the engine would have looked nicer we reckon. And then there are the comparisons with the CB1000R.
All in all, a stellar effort, and save a few really minor qualms, which again are subjective, the 200NS most definitely is visually the most smashing motorcycle this side of Rs 100,000.
Should I be bothered about something before I buy it?
Well, this particular Pulsar doesn’t have anything much to do with the old Pulsar, making it an all-new product. Bajaj have been testing these machines day and night and each one of the test mules have clocked more than 35K km, apparently without a problem. But it still is a new product, and there may be some teething issues.
Having said that, Bajaj’s collaboration with KTM for the development of the 200 Duke must have substantially enriched their knowledge on how to build bikes better. Lesser tolerances, better finish, more reliability and an overall better package – the KTM collaboration has cut down at least three years from what Bajaj would have taken to do something like the Pulsar 200NS all by themselves. In that sense, the new Pulsar has to be incomparably better than the product it replaces. The finish on the products seems pretty neat. Quality of plastics is good, there is hardly any inconsistency in the panel gaps and metal parts don’t have any worrisome weld marks or sharp edges. Good signs, those!
The day we reviewed this bike saw us riding them flat out on the inviting Bajaj track. There were only three bikes, and plenty of riders to lay claim on them. Everyone rode the machines to the limit for hours together, with the rev needle pinned to the redline most of the time. Incidentally we were shooting the bikes till late, after everyone had ridden them enough. And as we realized, there were no rattling sounds, bothersome scents or unusual engine sounds emanating from the contraption. All that points towards a well put together machine. From what we observed in those short five hours, there shouldn’t be any real worries if you were to put your money on these things.
A buy or no buy?
It’s rather tough to deliver a verdict on a product which hasn’t even been priced yet. BAL says that the bike will be priced below Rs 1 lakh when its launched. Let’s do a bit of math. The 220F in its prime cost you close to 85 grand OTR Mumbai. And it sold. This one is a far better product, and it really shouldn’t hurt paying Rs 10k extra given its superior power output and delivery, new technology, sublime handling, more fuel efficiency and more appeal. So if Bajaj manages to price it below Rs 1 lakh OTR, it shouldn’t be much of a debate. The legendary democrat would live on, famous as ever. For anything more, though, the 200 Duke would seem excruciatingly close to not endure some additional pain for.
Hey wait! Kitna deti hai?
Thanks for asking, makes this review complete for India. Bajaj is claiming 58kmpl if you keep the speedo at a constant 60km/h. Doesn’t happen in real life, does it? Another interesting fact is a claimed 10-18 percent efficiency gain over the 220. Add all that up, and you’re looking at 40kmpl or thereabouts for your everyday riding. While we cannot put down the definitive word on this subject, not having tested the bike for long enough, it should be safe to assume that the 200NS will be reasonably more efficient than its 220 forebear.
Pulsar 200NS Specifications
Type SOHC – 4V – Liquid Cooled
Combustion system Triple spark
Ignition system Independent spark control through ECU
Crankshaft Type Integral
Max Power 23.52 PS @ 9500
Max Torque 18.3 Nm @ 8000
Bore 72 mm
Stroke 49 mm
Displacement 199.5 cc
Fuel system Carburettor, UCD 33
Air filter Paper element
Exhaust system Exhaust TEC enhanced centrally mounted
Frame Type Pressed steel Perimeter Frame
Wheel Base 1363 mm
Length x height x width 2017 mm x 1195 mm x 804 mm
Seat ht-Rider 805 mm
Ground Clearance 167 mm
Vehicle Kerb weight 145 kg
FAW/RAW 72/73 kg
Fuel Tank capacity 12 L
Front suspension Telescopic Front Fork with Antifriction Bush Dia 37
Rear Suspension Nitrox Mono Shock Absorber with piggy back gas canister
Brakes – type
Front Petal Disc with floating caliper
Rear Petal Disc with floating caliper
Front Dia 280 mm Disc
Rear Dia 230 mm Disc
Front 100/80 – 17, 52 P, Tubeless
Rear 130/70 – 17, 61 P, Tubeless
Front 10 spoke 2.5 x 17, Alloy
Rear 10 Spoke, 3.5 x 17, Alloy
Max Speed 136 Kmph
0-60 kmph 3.61 sec
0-100 kmph 9.83 sec
Braking Distance – Both brakes (60 – 0 Kmph) 16.33 meters
System DC Ignition
Battery 12V 8AH VRLA
Head Lamp HS1 35/35W
Tail/Stop Lamp 0.3/3 W, LED