After a successful stint with the CT Boxer motorcycle which went on to become one of the best-selling products to roll out of the Bajaj factory, the Pune-based bike maker is back again into the commuter game with the new Boxer 150 which aims to lure the Splendor-crazy populace of rural India with its capacity hike and long-standing legacy of the Boxer brand. We got our hands on the latest offering from Bajaj Auto, the Boxer 150 and took it for spin around the countryside. Here is how comfortable it was and our first impression of the Boxer 150!
Practical and functional are the first words that come to the mind looking at the new Bajaj Boxer 150. No frills styling with a mishmash of the previous generation Boxer and the Splendor overtones are clearly visible on this new budget Bajaj. The large-ish fairing upfront keeps the air out of the rider’s way while the curvy tank is neatly drawn to accommodate short or lanky riders alike. The centre panel is bulbous yet does not look out of place flaunting the ‘BM 150’ moniker. The only eyesore that we found on the new Boxer was the chrome-doused rear carrier but then it certainly makes up with its utility for the lack of flamboyance. For the rural public the utility of the carrier is of significant value than the need for something that looks good but doesn’t serve much purpose. Although the round and neatly drawn indicators do add some sort of pizzazz to the simplicity of the Boxer 150 and so does the tastefully done saree-guard.
The raised commuter-friendly handlebars make no fuss and offer decent comfort and feel especially when riding over bad roads. As soon as you swing a leg over the bike, the striking bit on the Boxer 150 is the XXXL-sized saddle that can comfortably accommodate two large adults and still has room for a third one to fit on the seat before the fourth one spills over the steel cradle on the back. Not that we condone such law-breaking practices, it is just a indication of how spacious the Boxer’s saddle is. Also it is soft, cushy and suggests that spending hours on it won’t really transform into fatigue or exhaustion. Of the few days that we had a go with the Boxer 150 exploring the Indian countryside, it was quite a revelation to see how many village folk actually noticed and showed interest in the new motorcycle. No fancy tit-bits on this one to lure them but just a very approachable and familiar set of wheels that they have grown with and known for years.
The idea behind plonking a 150cc mill into a hardcore efficiency friendly commuter is to not only offer added value but also a better ride and power delivery thanks to increased capacity. And this is what sets apart the bigger Boxer from its competition of 100cc commuters. The 144.8cc motor borrowed from the Discover 150 comes minus the twin-sparkplug head unit and replaces it for a single spark plug setup. Pumping out 12.01PS of power at 7,500rpm and an impressive torque output of 12.26Nm peaking at 5,000rpm, the engine is mated to a conventional all-down shift-pattern 4-speed transmission which has been a favourite trend amongst the rural markets for generations.
The minimalist attitude of having least plastics and trashing all unnecessary junk around the bike has helped the maker to limit the weight of the Boxer to just 123kg, which transforms into a killer power-to-weight ratio of 97.64PS/Tonne. Lesser weight to lug around combined with added disposable torque from the 144.8cc motor means overall improvement in the vehicle’s performance with regards to fuel consumption as well as pick up. Also the increase in capacity and bumped up torque with 4-speed gearbox means torque is well-spread and freely available across the rev-range with the Boxer 150 effortlessly pulling from 20km/h in 4th gear. The 12PS of power and short gear ratios means the bike is quick off the line for good initial pick up but it certainly hampers its top-end performance, but then that is something not many of its target customers will really explore.
Handling and dynamics:
What they will explore is the comfort and ease of riding the Boxer 150 on the bumpy – bouncy village roads in the country. And in that department, I can say with conviction that it won’t let anyone down. The steering is light and easy, swiftly responding to minor inputs from the rider without any twitches or drama. The upright sitting posture makes it very comfortable for quick and effective maneuvering without having to fight the handlebars and the rider finding himself in control of the machine at any given point. The front suspension duties are managed by 125mm travel telescopic forks while Bajaj-patented SNS suspension looks after the rear end. Benefits of keeping the weight low also add to better suspension setup on the Boxer 150 that offers a good mix of ride quality and handling without any sort of compromise with either of it.
The underpinnings are more than enough for the speeds the Boxer 150 is capable of doing and won’t let out a hiccup even when taken over some really demanding roads at a respectable pace. But when it comes to stopping, the 130mm drum brakes on both ends lack bite and suffer from wear when bringing the 150cc motorcycle to a halt. Cutting costs is important to keep the pricing competitive in the Indian two-wheeler space, but the budget brakes on the Boxer 150 surely have some scope for improvement and especially considering it’s a quicker motorcycle it is even more critical to have good stopping power. Although, the wide MRF tyres on the 17-inch spoke wheels offer excellent grip and hugely aid in braking as well as handling. Good choice over the rather scary TVS Srichakra found on most commuter motorcycles in the market.
Living with it:
With the Boxer, Bajaj Auto has certainly pulled a fast one but even more important is the company’s straightforward attitude to correctly position the brand in a segment where no-nonsense and no-frills products make the cut above all the unnecessary jazz. The switchgear quality is bare-basic but well-made while the twin-pod instrument console upfront houses the speedometer, fuel gauge and the usual tell-tale lights. Practical and functional – quite like its design, its engine and also its character, the Bajaj Boxer 150 has everything going for it. Although know for inventing and entering unconventional products like the Pulsar and the Avenger, thanks to the brand’s positioning, Bajaj Auto has stuck to conventionalism by applying tried and tested fundamentals with the Boxer 150. For instance, metal body work, a sturdy carrier, large seat and commuter-friendly ergonomics. But being Bajaj Auto, the new Boxer has been radically priced at Rs. 42,000 (ex-showroom, Pune), which is cheaper than most of the 100cc commuters on offer in the Indian market.
India’s second largest two-wheeler company, Bajaj Auto, has taken the challenge to claim the number one spot in the market and the key for it to achieve this goal is to infiltrate the colossal rural India which has been Hero MotoCorp’s (formerly known as Hero Honda) playground for over sixteen long years with its 100cc offering, the Splendor ruling the roost in all of the villages and small towns handing its maker the crown of manufacturing the highest number of two-wheelers in the world over and over again! That said, Bajaj Auto’s top boss, Rajiv Bajaj recently made a very interesting statement when he said that the numbers are not as important as profitability. That is a very interesting way of looking at the Indian two-wheeler space where most companies’ battle on units sold than profits earned. He also added that for a product, especially a motorcycle, to be doing well in our markets it is important to create a brand and correctly position it. A clear example being the Splendor motorcycle which established itself as an icon of reliable commuting and efficiency especially in the price-conscious rural India. Is Bajaj Auto trying to re-do a Splendor with the new Boxer 150? And will it be successful with it? Only time shall tell.
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