Bajaj is a master at making genres and even exploiting the existing ones for their own benefit. Case in point is the new Pulsar 125 that we tested recently. A familiar bigger motorcycle design, a price that undercuts offerings from other makers in the segment and a more powerful engine than the competition. All these aptly summarise the new Pulsar. It must be mentioned that Bajaj has tried earlier to crack this segment but with little success. Will their latest stab at the booming 125cc sector bear fruits? We will tell you this at the end of this story.
Familiarity breeds contempt. Not quite in the Pulsar 125's case. It looks quite stylish for a 125cc commuter. Moreover, the new Neon graphics also liven up things in the form of inserts in the headlamp cowl, alloy wheels, tank as well as on the side panels. The fuel tank while looking the same as the standard 150, has a lower capacity of 11.5 litres. Bajaj says that while the tank design stays the same, the neck has been reduced. This has resulted in nearly a 4kg decrease in kerb weight, because the mass is calculated with 90 per cent fuel. Nearly everything else is the same as the Pulsar 150 and that includes the semi-digital instrument cluster, front and rear suspension hardware, clip-on handlebars as well as the brake components and seat.
At the time of writing this report, we heard and saw a slightly sportier looking version of the Pulsar 125 in the news. This one has a different graphics scheme, a split seat configuration as well as tank shrouds and belly pan. Prices weren't out but we assume it will be Rs 2,000 over that of the Rs 66,618 of the model we tested. This should further bridge the gap between the 150 Neon and P125.
Engine and transmission
The Pulsar 125 Neon uses the same engine as the P150. However, the stroke has been made shorter, swept volume is lower and now this carb-fed BS-IV motor produces 12PS and 11Nm. This figure is 1PS more than that of the Discover while the torque stays the same. Bajaj is one of the few makers in this segment to offer a 5-speed gearbox apart from the Honda CB Shine SP. The motor stays refined for the most part and has good bottom as well as top-end grunt. This ensures that gearshifts are minimal and you can also potter around in town, in let's say third gear at 20kmph. That's a good thing as the gear shift isn't the smoothest in action but is expected to get better post the first oil change. The engine though is refined due to the use of a counter balancer and Bajaj claims a fuel efficiency of 57kmpl. One can expect around 50-55kmpl when it comes to daily usage.
In the short span that we had the motorcycle with us, the acceleration seemed pretty good for a 125cc. In fact, we saw 95kmph on the speedometer with the revs at 8,500rpm. On the whole, the Pulsar 125's motor seems quite at ease at speeds.
Ride and handling
You sit in a slightly aggressive position like the other Pulsars. The ride quality seemed comfy and is nearly the same as its bigger sibling. This though is one aspect we will like to analyse with more time on hand and a pillion on-board. The handling feels stable on the highway and the brakes are fantastic as well. Since this is a 125cc bike, it comes with CBS and works well too. For a lower entry price point, Bajaj has also given a 170mm front drum brake. While we didn't sample that version, the premium for the disc is well worth.
The clip-ons ensure that things appear a bit sporty from the rider's triangle. It also makes turning the motorcycle in tight corners or narrow alleys a bit more of a 3-point turn. A flatter handlebar will have eased things. The P125 weighs 140kg and Bajaj says that they haven't reduced the mass when compared to others in the market. For comparison, the Hero Glamour and Honda CB Shine SP are around 20kg lighter. With the increased weight, the motorcycle stays stable at all speeds including triple digits. We're happy to report that the cross winds too don't affect the bike much.
The choice of rubber one gets with the 125 is same as the 150/180/200s from Bajaj. This includes either Eurogrips or MRF Zappers. Our bet is on the latter as it proves to be a bit more stickier than the TVS-manufactured units.
To answer the question of whether the 125 will bring in a change in Bajaj's luck in the segment is something only time can tell. However, what we can tell you is that the P125 is a fantastic product. It has good city-highway manners and the engine does feel powerful too when compared to other 125s. It also brings value to the table by offering the equipment as well as goodies at a far lower price than the competition. To us, the Pulsar 125 is a masterstroke from Bajaj and gets a complete thumbs-up.
Images by Lijo Mathai and Anuj Goswami