India’s Best 160cc Sporty Commuter Is…

  • Jun 11, 2023
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We put India’s top 5 160cc bikes through a series of challenges meant to test their performance, real-world rideability and riding experience

160cc sporty commuters are a unique breed of motorcycles. They do not just do their bidding in the urban jungle but are also meant to be good learner tools for sport riding. They aren’t unidimensional by any means, striking the right balance between accessible performance, stylishness, and practicality. And just to make sure you make the most sound purchase decision, we’ve got five of India’s top 160cc sporty commuters. And we shall be putting them through a series of challenges. And hopefully at the end we should have a definite victor!

Each test winner is awarded 5 points and it whittles down to 1 point for the loser, except for the one final special test where the points are doubled.

Challenge 1: The Fastest One

Bikes

0-60kmph Time

Points

Bajaj Pulsar N160

5.24s

5

TVS Apache RTR 160 4V

5.58s

4

Hero Xtreme 160R

5.62s

3

Suzuki Gixxer

5.74s

2

Yamaha FZ-X

7.04s

1

Despite being one of the heavier bikes here, the Bajaj Pulsar N160 actually romps ahead to grab early honours. The free revving nature of the Pulsar helps it reach commuting-friendly speeds quicker than the competition, especially over the TVS Apache RTR 160 4V, which in fact has a better top end. The Hero Xtreme 160R’s lightness does help it eke out a narrow edge over the Suzuki Gixxer 155 while the Yamaha FZ-X’s wheezy engine just doesn’t match up to the rest of the lot.

Challenge 2: The Best Stopper

Bikes

80-0kmph Distance

Points

Bajaj Pulsar N160

33.91m

5

Suzuki Gixxer

38.08m

4

TVS Apache RTR 160 4V

38.36m

3

Hero Xtreme 160R

38.83m

2

Yamaha FZ-X

40.84m

1

Once again, the FZ-X disappoints. There’s simply no confidence in the braking department, leaving the rider wanting for more. Things are more evenly matched between the Xtreme, Apache and the Gixxer. There’s a clear winner, though, and that’s the Pulsar. Not only because it takes the shortest amount of distance to come to a dead halt but also impresses you with its incredible lever feedback with dual-channel ABS helping matters incredibly.

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Challenge 3: The Best Handler

Bikes

Lean Angle And Speed

Points

Bajaj Pulsar N160

51° at 60kmph

5

Hero Xtreme 160R

51° at 58kmph

4

TVS Apache RTR 160 4V

49° at 58kmph

3

Suzuki Gixxer

49° at 56kmph

2

Yamaha FZ-X

44° at 49kmph

1

Since these motorcycles are meant to be the starter tools for many beginner sport riders, we had to test just how much confidence each one provides when riding hard in the twisties. Surprisingly, it is the Pulsar with its extremely competent chassis and tighter wheelbase that helps you carry a lot of lean and corner speed. 

What was a bigger surprise was the fact that the Apache came in third and not a close second. The main reason for it not performing well was the fact that the bike we used for the test was a friend’s bike that had done over 7,500km and not a fresh media unit. So, the tyres weren’t in as good a shape as the one on the Pulsar’s. 

The Gixxer has the chunkiest rear tyre which makes it super stable in the bends but also hampers its agility. Lastly, the relaxed ergonomics of the FZ-X hinders you from pushing the bike harder into bends. Had we got the FZ-S like we had intended and not FZ-X, matters would’ve been closer.

Challenge 4: The Comfiest One

Bikes

Water Left In Jug

Points

Yamaha FZ-X

750ml

5

Hero Xtreme 160R

675ml

4

TVS Apache RTR 160 4V

625ml

3

Bajaj Pulsar N160

600ml

2

Suzuki Gixxer

600ml

1

We brought back our jugaad water jug spill test to test out just how comfortable each bike is, both from a rider’s and pillion’s perspective. As anticipated, the FZ-X demonstrated its superior ride quality by spilling the least amount of water. The Xtreme, benefiting from its smooth ride, secured the second position. Surprisingly, the Apache, despite its soft rear end and rapid rebound, exhibited some wallowiness. Consequently, the pillion is constantly bobbing, resulting in a higher water spillage. However, it wasn't as pronounced as the Pulsar and Gixxer, both of which have a firmer suspension setup. From the rider's standpoint, the Gixxer feels extra firm.

Challenge 5: The Most Frugal One

Bikes

Fuel efficiency

Points

Bajaj Pulsar N160

59.11kmpl

5

Suzuki Gixxer

58.37kmpl

4

Hero Xtreme 160R

55.47kmpl

3

Yamaha FZ-X

55.11kmpl

2

TVS Apache RTR 160 4V

47.61kmpl

1

Bajaj has certainly wanted to make the Pulsar N160 the best when it comes to city rideability. No wonder then that its roll-on figures are the quickest amongst the lot and it has the most frugal motor here. The Apache forces the rider to work the gearbox a fair bit to keep it chugging along in the city. So, it doesn’t perform as well. 

Bikes

Fuel efficiency

Points

Suzuki Gixxer

56.17kmpl

5

TVS Apache RTR 160 4V

49.80kmpl

4

Yamaha FZ-X

48.67kmpl

3

Hero Xtreme 160R

47.38kmpl

2

Bajaj Pulsar N160

44.38kmpl

1

The Gixxer might’ve lost out on its zestiness but it still packs an efficient engine. It delivered the second best city fuel efficiency and was the best out on the highway. The Apache’s better top-end performance does enhance its highway riding abilities and comes in second. 

Challenge 6: The Most Feature-packed One

160cc bikes are getting fancier by the day. While we do feel that traction control, ride modes and span adjustable levers will not make a huge difference to the ride experience, it is welcome nonetheless. Things like a radial rear tyre, USB charger and turn-by-turn navigation do help.

Features

Smartphone Connectivity

Turn Navigation

USB Charger

Dual-channel ABS

Traction Control

Slipper Clutch

All-LED Lighting

Ride Modes

Adjustable Levers

Radial Rear Tyre

Total Features

TVS Apache RTR 160 4V

1

1

0

0

0

1

0

1

1

1

6

Hero Xtreme 160R

1

0

1

0

0

0

1

0

0

1

4

Yamaha FZ-X

1

0

1

0

1

0

1

0

0

0

4

Suzuki Gixxer 155

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

3

Bajaj Pulsar N160

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

Bikes

Points

TVS Apache RTR 160 4V

5

Hero Xtreme 160R

4

Yamaha FZ-X

4

Suzuki Gixxer

2

Bajaj Pulsar N160

1

Hence, here’s the features list of each bike and the Apache turns out to be the most feature-packed bike of them all. Bajaj’s slightly analogue approach with the Pulsar earns it the last spot.

Challenge 7: The Best Headlight

Bikes

Points

Bajaj Pulsar N160

5

TVS Apache RTR 160 4V

4

Suzuki Gixxer

3

Hero Xtreme 160R

2

Yamaha FZ-X

1

In the features section, we intentionally omitted mentioning LED headlights since they are standard in all bikes. However, it is worth discussing which bike has the best headlights. Unfortunately, the FZ-X falls short in this aspect, which has been a recurring issue with Yamaha's FZ series. On the contrary, Bajaj excels in producing impressive headlights, with the Pulsar illuminating dimly lit roads exceptionally well.

Challenge 8: The Most Affordable One

Bikes

Top Variant Price (ex-showroom Delhi)

Points

Hero Xtreme 160R

Rs 1,30,008

5

Bajaj Pulsar N160

Rs 1,30,560

4

TVS Apache RTR 160 4V

Rs 1,32,070

3

Yamaha FZ-X

Rs 1,36,900

2

Suzuki Gixxer

Rs 1,40,900

1

Considering all the feature-loaded top trims, the most affordable one of the lot is the Hero Xtreme 160R, with the Pulsar a few hundred rupees dearer. Suzuki has quite literally priced the Gixxer out of reach for many buyers, narrowly edging closer to the 200cc segment. 

Challenge 9: The Most Emotionally Connecting

Bikes

Points

Bajaj Pulsar N160

9

TVS Apache RTR 160 4V

9

Hero Xtreme 160R

6

Suzuki Gixxer

4

Yamaha FZ-X

2

And the final and perhaps the most important test of them all has to be how connected you feel with the bike, which one brings out the most emotions, which is the one that tugs at your heartstrings the most and that’s why we awarded double points here. However, picking between the Pulsar and Apache is virtually impossible as both excel in this regard. 

The Pulsar has been the Indian poster motorcycle for kids growing up in the 2000s. It built its reputation by being the street friendly sport machine with incredible potential for stunt riding. Similarly, the Apache earned its stripes on the race track. TVS’ racing pedigree comes to the fore as the bike puts you in a neat zone to go around bends in a fast manner. 

So, we gave both bikes 9 points each to make it a fair draw in this matter. And as a result, the final standing looks like this:

Fifth Spot: Yamaha FZ-X - 22 points

It is shocking to report how the mighty Japanese have fallen because if you remember it was Yamaha that sort of created this segment with the FZ16. Multiple generations and a weird iteration later, it has diluted into a run-of-the-mill commuter motorcycle that doesn’t really excite. 

Fourth Spot: Suzuki Gixxer 155 - 28 points

What was even more shocking is just how badly Suzuki has lost the plot with the Gixxer. If Yamaha created the class, Suzuki definitely made it its own for years. And still the handling package is extremely strong. In fact, the Gixxer has the best riding posture of the lot. Sadly, the engine is a major let down now, not able to keep up with the times. More so, its astonishingly high asking price doesn’t help its case.

Third Spot: Hero Xtreme 160R - 35 points

We are glad to see the Indian manufacturers taking over at the front. Hero’s attempt at the 160cc segment has sort of paid off with the Xtreme 160R. It is extremely light, is the cheapest of the lot and is good for the most part. It just misses out on a bit of va va voom, something that its compatriots have. Hopefully, the incoming update with a 4-valve engine and USD fork increases its sporty appeal. Until then, it has to settle for the podium.

The Winner Is…

Bikes

Acceleration

Braking

Cornering Test

Comfort Test

City Fuel Efficiency

Highway Fuel Efficiency

Features Test

Headlight Test

Price

Emotional Test

Total points

Bajaj Pulsar N160

5

5

5

2

5

1

1

5

4

9

42

TVS Apache RTR 160 4V

4

3

3

3

1

4

5

4

3

9

39

The king has been dethroned. The segment is no longer ruled by the Apache but rather Bajaj has returned to the top. The Pulsar scores highly in areas that actually matter, only lagging behind in the frilly features department. However, it is the only bike here to get dual-channel ABS, which is a big thumbs up from our end.

Having said that, if you pick either the Pulsar or the Apache, maybe even the Xtreme, but certainly not the Gixxer and FZ-X, you would have made a good purchase decision.

Bajaj Pulsar N160 Video Review

Bajaj Pulsar N160
Bajaj Pulsar N160
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