After delivering some hard blows to the competition with the YZF-R15 and the FZ16 in the premium segment, Yamaha India has ventured into the upcoming power-commuter market with its latest offering, the SZ-R. Varad More takes it for a spin to see how much sense and stimulation there really is.
Today's Indian two-wheeler bazaar has evolved significantly over the past decade and the change is catching up even more pace as aspirations rise and the market gets newer motorcycles. In such a competitive and dynamic market, equipment level plays a key role in drawing attention from the well-informed and may we say spoilt for choice, Indian buyer, who is chiefly looking for a feature-rich product at an affordable price-point. So while the Yamaha SZ-X was adjudged as the 2010 ET-ZigWheels Bike of the Year, we still continued our rantings to Yamaha about the SZ-X calling for a disc brake, at least as an optional fitment. And here it is - the top-of-the-line SZ-R variant in the SZ-series comes with a potent disc brake at the front, a tachometer and new aesthetically crafted tank shrouds in two-tone paint. Certainly then the SZ-R is much more appealing than the subdued and less expensive SZ-X but then it also has the equipment to match that extra premium it demands. Available in jazzy colours, the SZ-R packs in a lot more than what meets the eye.
Design language on the SZ-R is quite in line with the taste of the buyer with its sporty and streetfighter-like demeanor but without going overboard and scaring away the non-experimental consumers. The SZ-R is upmarket and bold in its appeal with its pronounced design lines with a well done mishmash of curves and edges. The new well-defined tank shrouds flaunting the SZ-R moniker are loud in their form but Yamaha has kept it subtle by painting them in a rather mild silver shade than a jazzy paint scheme. The large centre panels in silver, smoothly connect the tank to the short and stubby rear panels of the SZ-R that hold the split tail-light in place. Overall proportions and dimensions of the SZ-R are very well-executed giving it a placid feel of a commuter motorcycle yet the solid bearing of a punchy 150cc machine. Apart from some minor design changes, the SZ-R and the SZ-X share the same body panels and underpinnings.
Complimenting its muscular feel is the perfectly calculated handlebar-seat-footpeg equation leading to a comfy riding position that is suitable for city riding as well as long hauling. Before the launch of the SZ-X, Yamaha invited the media for a two-day ride on the SZ-X over the arrow-straight NH4 from Udaipur to Jaipur. Throughout the ride, the SZ's comfy riding posture surfaced prominently as none of us riders complained of fatigue or body aches as we gunned down the open highway occasionally touching the triple digit mark. And now when we got the fully loaded SZ-R for our test, its prowess in city riding conditions also came to fore as I filtered through the crowded streets of Pune, which has one of the highest two-wheeler density in India. Not only did it feel welcoming but it also confidently convinced many of us at ZigWheels that we could spend an entire day astride the SZ-R without any complaints. I was already quite impressed with the grunty and lively motor and now with the right stopping power and essentials like a tachometer, the SZ-R surely is a lot of motorcycle that will warmly welcome its rather commuter-minded buyer to the world of power-biking.
Once on the saddle of the SZ-R, it is easy to see the brutish side of the bike with the sporty yet comfy handlebars, the aggressive bikini fairing upfront with a clear visor and the twin speedometer and tachometer dials. So while the seating and comfort is top notch on the SZ-R, we wish Yamaha would have walked that extra mile to include a pass switch or then placed the high beam button a little more within reach of the rider's thumb. Hunting for the switch is particularly irritating when one is constantly battling high beams from oncoming cabs and big SUVs! But once you get past these little niggles and crank the motor it's a tingling sensation you get as you rev up the engine. The 153cc grunty motor borrowed from the FZ-series powers the SZ-R but in a slightly detuned setup for better fuel efficiency as well as a linear torque spread for better in-town rideability. And it achieves both of these objectives to a great extent. Churning out 12.1PS @ 7,500 rpm and 12.8Nm of torque at 4,500rpm, the SZ-R delivers quite an impressive performance. With a 0-60km/h dash coming up in just 5.9seconds and a top-whack of 103km/h, the Yamaha SZ-R is by no means a slouch. But its biggest advantage is its in-town rideability i.e. in-gear acceleration. It beats all its rivals hands down when it comes to roll-on acceleration from 30km/h to 70km/h in the 3rd, 4th and 5th gear. In the 5th gear roll-on, the SZ-R finished the 30-70km/h dash in just 8.38seconds. That makes it one of the few bikes to do the test in less than 9 seconds! This same motor in the FZ16 takes 12.3 seconds for the same test, which just goes to say how much attention Yamaha has put into improving the rideability of the SZ-R.
And to buttress its spot on ergonomics as well as the performance of the efficient engine is the extremely adept and supple chassis that makes the SZ-R an exceptionally easy-to-ride motorcycle. From the moment one gets astride the bike, there is no time spent in finding the perfect riding position. The SZ-R is a great city tool that can weave through traffic with minimal effort from the rider and at the same time it can very easily deal with fast sweeping corners with equal conviction. The telescopic front suspension is softly sprung and takes the potholes and bumps in its stride without any hiccups. The twin rear suspensions look after providing comfort to the rider and they do an excellent job of endowing the rider with plush ride quality even when dealing with broken roads. It is not always that such level of detail is given to ride quality but the SZ-R truly outshines with its assuring and unperturbed nature. Assurance is further heightened with the inclusion of the disc brake as this bit of kit is extremely important on any motorcycle and in any conditions especially when the motorcycle is capable of touching the triple digit mark. The disc brake on the SZ-R has a strong bite providing the rider with highly accurate feedback during braking whereas the braking duties on the rear are handled by 130mm drum brakes which too deliver good performance and decent feel under braking. The SZ-R took 33.56metres and 3.3seconds to come to a standstill from 80km/h and this can be bettered only if Yamaha opts to give the SZ-R better quality rubber that it deserves like MRF Zappers than the not so great TVS tyres. I'm almost certain that the MRF rubber will truly transform the SZ-R into an excellent sporty motorcycle without taking much away from its econo-conscious line of thought.
Coming to another important aspect in the power-commuter bracket - the fuel economy of the SZ-R does not break any new grounds but delivers efficiency comparable to its rivals. With an in-town figure of 55kmpl and highway efficiency of 64kmpl, the SZ-R will merrily return an overall figure of 57.25kmpl under mixed riding conditions. As said before, it is a fairly decent figure for a 150cc motorcycle but does not outshine its immediate rivals. However, it more than makes up for it with its superbly sporty dynamics and thrilling ride experience. Overall setup of the SZ-R is spot on with oodles of functionality as well as plentiful of fun packed into the motorcycle. Apart from some small niggles and need for better tyres, there is nothing to fault about the motorcycle. Also with Yamaha's top-down strategy working in full-force, the SZ-series is bound to make hay while the sun is shining. And with an attractive price-tag of Rs. 55,500 (ex-showroom, Delhi), the Yamaha SZ-R is also one of the cheapest 150cc motorcycles presently in the Indian market, the only other economical offering being the Bajaj Discover 150 DTSi, but then it's purely a 150cc commuter with oodles of functionality and VFM, but not much flair or exuberance that one would want from a 150cc power-commuter.
The Yamaha SZ-R on the other hand is a fitting piece in the jigsaw puzzle of the 150cc motorcycles in the market as it nicely bridges the gap between the economical and the premium 150cc motorcycles with its impressive performance, decent fuel efficiency and a competitive price-tag. Yamaha's SZ-series does promise good value to various buyers to suit their requirements. The SZ-R then, slots into as the college-going crowd-puller with all the fancy and sporty tit-bits on it like tachometer, stylish new tank shrouds and a disc brake. The only rival that actually comes closest to the SZ-R is the youngest Pulsar of them all, the Bajaj Pulsar 135LS, which has very sporty styling and same equipment levels but a 4-valve engine and a much lighter physique. It will be indeed very interesting to see how well the Yamaha SZ-R with its trifling capacity advantage battles the Bajaj Pulsar 135LS. But one thing is for sure that in this war amongst the bike-makers, the buyers are sure to draw the best and the most benefits with more competent and well-made products to choose from.