The Bajaj Pulsar 150 has been the undisputed leader in the 150-160 cc motorcycle segment in India with an almost untouchable fan following, selling as many as 65,000 bikes every month. And now, Bajaj wants to replicate that success in the 125 cc segment with the new Bajaj Pulsar 125, the new entry-level model in the Pulsar family. It is the most affordable model in the Bajaj Pulsar range, and it gets a 125 cc engine, so it's primarily a commuter motorcycle, but boasts of having the 'thrilling personality' the bigger Pulsar models are known for. So, will Bajaj taste similar success in the 125 cc motorcycle segment with the new Pulsar 125? We had some saddle time to understand what the new Bajaj Pulsar 125 offers.
Watch the video review:
Design and Features
The Pulsar 125 looks more or less identical to the Bajaj Pulsar 150 Neon. And that's because, almost every single component is shared with the bigger Pulsar 150 Neon. It also has the exact same dimensions, and shares almost every single body panel, component, chassis and even cycle parts with the Pulsar 150 Neon. In fact, at first glance, you may be fooled into thinking that it's the Pulsar 150 Neon, apart from the slightly different colour schemes and the understated '125' graphic on the tail section. The part-analogue, part-digital instrument panel, clip-on handlebars, and even the wheels are identical to the Pulsar 150 Neon.
So, is that a good thing or bad? Pulsar 150 Neon owners may not welcome that, but the fact is that the Pulsar 125 looks bigger and muscular than anything else in its segment. With a kerb weight of 140 kg, it's heavier than any other 125 cc motorcycle and boasts of having the longest wheelbase in its segment - at 1,320 mm. In fact, its USP is that it promises to have similar engaging performance as its bigger siblings in the Pulsar family. But street presence is one thing, and it's eventually performance, ride quality, affordability and running costs that makes winners in this segment, so the Pulsar 125 may need more than just traditional and Pulsar design, with a slightly smaller engine.
Performance, Ride and Handling
The engine is derived from the Pulsar 150, so it has the exact same bore of 56 mm, but with a shorter stroke of 50.5 mm; the Pulsar 150 engine has a bore and stroke of 56 mm x 60.7 mm. The engine puts out 11.8 bhp at 8,500 rpm and peak torque of 11 Nm at 6,500 rpm; and it's the most powerful 125 cc motorcycle available on sale right now. It's smooth and refined, thanks to the counterbalancer, and from the get go, the Pulsar 125 feels peppy and eager to achieve speeds to keep up with traffic. Eighty kilometres per hour is achieved without the engine showing signs of feeling stressed out, and given some real estate, it can certainly go beyond 100 kmph.
In fact, engine refinement is what could be called one of the Pulsar 125's biggest strengths, and it can easily achieve 80-85 kmph without giving out any vibrations or feeling any strain. With a kerb weight of 140 kg, the Pulsar 125 is just 4 kg lighter than the Pulsar 150. And it's at least 15 kg heavier than the next heaviest 125 cc motorcycle. But the added weight actually gives the Pulsar 125 a sense of solid stability, and that stability translates to very good ride quality, especially over potholes and even broken roads. The only downside is the slightly rubbery feel on the 5-speed gearbox, but that isn't what we'd call a dealbreaker. Whether it actually accelerates faster than other motorcycles in its segment, we'll reserve our comment till we actually get the bike for a full review and comparison.
Price and Market Positioning
The Bajaj Pulsar 125 is priced at ₹ 64,000 (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the front drum brake version, and ₹ 66,618 (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the front disc brake version. At that price, it's only about ₹ 6,000 less expensive than the Bajaj Pulsar 150 Neon. But what it offers is better fuel efficiency, with ARAI certified figures of 57.5 kmpl, but we estimate real world fuel efficiency figures will be in the range of 45-50 kmpl, depending on riding style and traffic conditions.
The 125 cc motorcycle segment is one of the largest volumes segments, with sales of over 2 lakh motorcycles every month. And it's a segment which has been dominated by the Honda CB Shine, closely followed by the Hero Glamour. But both of those two motorcycle offer slightly better fuel efficiency figures, at least in the ARAI-certified numbers. The Glamour has claimed figures of 62.2 kmpl, while the CB Shine has claimed figures of 64.6 kmpl.
But it's not just fuel efficiency and affordability, Bajaj is banking on. The biggest consideration is the brand equity the Pulsar name commands in the Indian motorcycle market. And Bajaj reckons with the 150-160 cc motorcycles becoming pricey and inaccessible in a depressed market, the Pulsar 125 may be the perfect product to boost sales, and that too, bang in the festive season when automobile sales traditionally pick up steam. And of course, with the transition to Bharat Stage VI (BS6) emission regulations coming up next year, all motorcycles are set to become even more costlier. So, a 125 cc Pulsar, boasting of engaging dynamics, with near identical looks as the bestselling Pulsar 150 seems to make sense.
But there are other considerations as well. As much as 53 per cent of customers in the 125 cc motorcycle segment are first-time buyers, and as many as 36 per cent of 125 cc motorcycle customers are below 30 years of age. So, the new Bajaj Pulsar 125 is targeted at those customers - students and young professionals, who may seek the excitement and thrill of the Pulsar 150, but also seek fuel economy and affordability. That is the target audience of the Pulsar 125, but it has its task cut out, to beat the bestselling segment leaders from Honda and Hero.
The Bajaj Pulsar 125 has a smooth, refined and decently powerful engine. The excellent ride quality, and impressive stability only enhance its capabilities as a well-rounded commuter motorcycle. The only dampener is that its design looks much too common, and identical to the Pulsar 150 Neon. So, no marks for freshness of design. But that strategy could well work to the Pulsar 125's advantage, boasting of similar engaging performance, similar dimensions as the bigger Pulsar 150, but in a more fuel-efficient package. Whether that works to make it the new king of the 125 cc motorcycle segment though, remains to be seen.
(Photography: Azam Siddiqui)