Bajaj Pulsar NS125: Road Test Review
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Is the baby NS a more affordable and sensible alternative to the KTM 125 Duke?
KTM tapped into the entry-level 125 space a few years back with the 125 Duke -- a move that saw a massive uptick in the Austrian brand’s sales. An introductory price of Rs 1.18 lakh also seemed fair at that point. However, over the years, inflation and rising material costs have made the baby Duke unreasonably expensive, leaving a huge gap in the entry-level performance segment.
This is where Bajaj's Pulsar NS125 comes in. At Rs 98,234 (all prices, ex-showroom), the NS is around Rs 72,000 cheaper than its Austrian rival. That’s a lot of money if you ask us. So does that make the NS the new go-to bike for beginners?
ENGINE AND PERFORMANCE
- Let's start with the engine. The tiny 125cc mill may not seem like much, but it actually offers decent performance.
- Let me explain… the engine powering the NS125 is neither derived from the 125 Duke nor the entry-level Pulsar 125. It’s, in fact, a downsized NS160 powertrain, paired with an electronic carburettor, and it retains the typical rev-happy characteristics of the NS range.
- Yes, it makes 2.5PS and 1Nm less than the baby Duke, but you don’t really feel the difference when you’re gunning it on a straight patch of road.
- As a matter of fact, the NS feels livelier thanks to its 4kg weight advantage over the BS4 Duke. It’s a whole 14kg lighter than the BS6 version.
- Put those numbers down to the test though and it’s a different story. The NS’ power deficit is pretty evident in our acceleration runs. It isn’t far behind in the 0-60kmph sprint, but the gap increases substantially as you gain speed.
- That said, this gap may reduce if we were to bring in the heavier BS6 Duke 125.
- What works in the NS125’s favour is its meaty mid-range which kicks in around 6000rpm. This makes the motor feel rather tractable, perfect for city commutes and quick overtakes.
- The power delivery is smooth and linear which means you can pull cleanly off from speeds as low as 20kmph in 4th gear.
- The gearbox is crisp and precise too.
- Move your commute to the highway and the motor starts to run out of steam.
- While it can sustain speeds of around 70-80kmph, it does so with accompanying vibes that kick in from the pegs and the fuel tank.
- Quick overtakes also require you to drop a gear even if you’re not within the powerband.
- A slightly easy-going motor does have its advantages though. It sips on fuel sparingly which is fantastic news, especially considering the eye-watering fuel prices.
- It’s also among the most fuel-efficient bikes we’ve tested in this segment.
RIDE AND HANDLING
- The weight advantage we mentioned earlier comes into play here. The shorter wheelbase, sharp and light steering, and pair of skinny tyres make manoeuvring through traffic effortless.
- It loves long winding twisties as well, but the less grippy tyres are a bit of a letdown. So we wouldn’t push the bike to its limit if we were you.
- The 805mm seat height is a bit on the taller side but seems perfect for average-sized riders.
- The good thing here is there’s enough ground clearance to clear the tallest of speed breakers, despite an underbelly exhaust.
- Coming to the hardware side of things. The suspension does a pretty good job at flattening any surface fluctuations on the roads. While the monoshock is a tad on the firmer side it isn't stiff enough to bother you and maintains its composure even over sharp bumps.
- The brakes on the baby NS are pretty straightforward: a disc up front and a drum at the rear, with CBS.
- They offer good bite and feel but lack progression which means you need to be a bit careful while pulling on the lever. Any more than the required input would end up locking up the wheels quite easily. We believe throwing in a single-channel ABS setup would work wonders for the bike, at the risk of jacking up the price though.
- Nonetheless, it still manages to match the braking distances of the baby Duke which comes with a more sophisticated braking setup and grippier tyres.
DESIGN & FEATURES
- No surprise here, the overall styling is the same as the NS160 and NS200. However, the colour choices for the baby NS feel more universally likeable.
- It takes a subtle approach, as opposed to the loud and gaudy paint schemes on its larger siblings. The anodised finish on the frame and wheels are a nice touch too.
- We still think it could do with a couple of modern features such as LED lights, a full-digital console, and perhaps a USB charger -- all of which have become the norm in the upper echelon of the 125cc segment.
The Bajaj Pulsar NS125 isn’t a direct rival to the KTM 125 Duke. But think of it this way, it costs almost half as much, packs a peppy engine, is fun to ride, and could be the perfect beginner bike for you.
Sure, it isn't as sophisticated or premium as the Duke, but would that really matter when you’re likely to outgrow the bike in a couple of years? The entry-level NS125 could be the perfect platform for those graduating from a scooter, yearning to learn the ropes. The money you save could be a deposit for your next bike. Makes sense?