2023 Bajaj Pulsar NS200 And Pulsar NS160 First Ride Review: Going Upside Down For Good

  • Mar 25, 2023
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Small changes, small impact; but a bit too little too stale?

In 2012, when everyone in the world was worrying about the world coming to an end because of some aged calendar, Bajaj was gearing up for a fresh new dawn for its performance motorcycles. It rolled out the Pulsar 200NS, a radical new direction for the iconic brand. Eleven years in and the NS series as a whole has been stagnant, only morphing to meet the mandatory norms. For 2023, it is evolving once again, the key focus being handling improvements, courtesy this sort of new front-end setup. The question is, is the Pulsar NS still relevant?

The Updates

Here’s a quick rundown on the updates Bajaj has thrown in:

  • A 33mm USD fork – similar to the one found on the Brazil-spec Dominar 160
  • 300mm/230mm disc brake setup from the Pulsar 250s
  • Dual-channel ABS
  • Wider tyres on the NS160 (100/80-17 and 130/70-17)
  • Same console but now has more info: gear position indicator, DTE and real-time fuel efficiency indicator

There’s no performance improvement, no styling changes, no feature updates, and needless to say, no connectivity whatsoever. It does seem like a bummer on paper because its competition has dramatically improved. Hence, if you are seeking performance gains, you are bound to be disappointed. 

Bajaj, though, states that both the Pulsar NS200 and Pulsar NS160 are at the top of their cubic capacity segment with respect to performance. The aim of the update is handling gains. And to that extent…

Still A Thrill Seeker

There’s no change in the Pulsar NS200’s attitude. It is still brash, raw and loves to be ridden hard. Its thirst for apexes has dramatically improved as the front end feels a lot more settled and lighter to steer. So much so that out on the tight sections of the Bajaj test track, the steering effort required to flick the bike from side to side was bare minimum, possibly just as easy as the KTM Dukes. What stuck out like a sore thumb on the track, though, were the footpegs that kept grinding quite a bit and the monoshock tune. It felt a little squishy under my near-100 kilo frame, and required me to bump up the preload for it to feel settled around the bumpy sections of the track.

In the real world, though, the stock settings feel balanced. The lighter steering doesn’t feel jittery as you make your way through tight traffic spots. It didn’t feel quite as tossy, taut or firm as the older bike, making it a bit more welcoming for commutes.

And boosting this pleasant feeling are the updated brakes. Stopping power is seriously better than before, providing great feedback at the levers. And there’s dual-channel ABS too, which works in the background neatly.

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Not Quite Sure About The 160

As delightful as it still is to ride the NS200, the NS160 doesn’t manage to match the same level of joy. Platform engineering showcases why it isn’t entirely beneficial. By using the same identical suspension tune as the NS200, the NS160 has started to feel a bit firm. It isn’t lugging around nearly the same amount of weight as the NS200 is and that is making the rear end tossy over the small, sharp bumps.

Also, the NS160 is now running with a wider rubber at both ends. This takes a bit away from its nimbleness. However, it isn’t greatly affecting the handling potential; and in fact, the wider tyres are lending a bit extra stability to your commutes.

Braking performance is equally good as the NS200, and we didn’t have much to complain about in that regard.

Still Relevant?

Partially, yes. The Pulsar NS200 remains a popular member of the family, so much so that it has been outselling the new-gen Pulsar 250s nearly ten-fold. And it is obvious why. It is still exciting, rev happy and the most thrilling naked Pulsar that you can get your hands on; and with these updates, things just get better.

I am not so sure about the NS160, though, and that’s because of another Pulsar that exists: the Pulsar N160. In my opinion, and most members of the Zigwheels team will agree to it as well, the N160 is perhaps the best Pulsar made to date. It is light, refined, frugal and still a hoot for a 160cc motorcycle. It does everything that the NS160 does in a nicer and easier manner. And it packs in more features as well. The only thing which it doesn’t do quite as nicely is look sporty. But that cannot be your sole motive for buying the NS160 over the N160, which, as you would have it, costs Rs 5000 more.

So, in the Indian context, the Pulsar NS200 still remains an important part of the Pulsar folklore, whereas you can just forget about the NS160 altogether.

Bajaj Pulsar NS200 Video Review

Bajaj Pulsar NS200
Bajaj Pulsar NS200
Rs. 1.58 Lakh
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