The Bajaj Discover 150 DTS-i and the Yamaha SZ-X flummoxed the entire jury at the 2010 ZigWheels Bike of the Year awards. We took them out for another round to find out why
Now we don't like controversies here at ZigWheels, not even a little bit. So if you are wondering just why we are doing a comparison between the Yamaha SZ-X and the Bajaj Discover 150 DTSi after the former has already bested the latter in the fight for the 2010 ET ZigWheels Bike of the Year award, here's a quick rundown. The SZ-X might have taken the top honours, but the within-segment battle was far more tumultuous. With eight jurors giving four votes each to the SZ-X and the Discover 150, there was a tie in the 150cc Commuter Motorcycle of the Year category, thanks to which both bikes were in contention for the big one, the overall Bike of the Year. Here, the Yamaha not only took the maximum points to win the ultimate trophy, but was also declared the segment winner thanks to it scoring more than the Bajaj. Blame this on the SZ-X evoking the riding enthusiast in most of the jury members. So determined to put this debate to rest once and for all, we took both the bikes out for one last comprehensive head-to-head test.
A question of beauty
Now bear in mind that both these bikes are meant to be mass market commuter vehicles, so neither one is going to be winning any beauty contests when going up against the other beefier 150cc motorcycles available in the Indian market right now. That being said, the SZ-X is a rather good looking machine. Sure, it's weedier when compared to its sibling, the Yamaha FZ16, but overall, it is very well proportioned and one would have no difficulty in even describing it as handsome. The real charm of the SZ-X is of course in the details. Right from its two-tone bikini fairing with a floating windshield to the sculpted tank extensions, to the pristine two-tone side and tail panel combination and the split rear tail light - every little bit of the bike looks gorgeous. And to top it off, the build quality and the finish of all the various bits and pieces that make up the bike is just brilliant.
The Discover 150 on the other hand is a slightly different story. By no means is it a bad looking bike, but it does lack a little flair when compared to the Yamaha. While everything is well proportioned, it does give a feeling of being built to a price. But the worse crime the Discover 150 commits, design-wise, is not being significantly different from any of the other Discovers, such as the 112, the 125 or even the 135. Add to that, the lack of colour options - all you get is a black base paint as standard and an option of either blue or red vinyl - and you realize that it really doesn't stand too much of a chance against the FZ-X in terms of aesthetics. Our main complaint is that while the held-back styling still might work in the lower capacity commuter segment, it really doesn't hold much ground amongst these 150cc-plus bikes.
Performance power plays
Looking at both the bikes, one would be led to believe that the SZ-X would just beat the socks off the Discover 150 when it came to performance. But this couldn't be further from the truth. The first hints of this arrive when one glances over the engine specifications of both the bikes. The 153cc single-cylinder mill of the SZ-X, which has been borrowed from none other than its elder sibling, the FZ16, it has been tuned less for outright horsepower and more for strong mid-range torque. On paper, the engine makes just 12.1 PS of power and 12.8 Nm of torque, which about 1.9 PS and 1.2 Nm less than what the same engine produces on the FZ16. On the other hand, the Discover's 144.8cc engine armed with DTS-i and ExhaustTEC technology makes 13 PS of power, beating the SZ-X's horsepower figure by a fair margin. The 12.78 Nm torque figure on the other hand is almost at par. And when you factor in the kerb weight of both the bikes - 132kg for the SZ-X and 121kg for the Discover 150 - one realizes that the Discover scores much higher when it comes to power-to-weight ratio. Thanks to this, the Discover can make the dash from zero to 60km/h in just 5.2 seconds while the SZ-X trails behind at 5.9 seconds.
So while the story of straight line performance might be cut and dry, in-gear roll-on acceleration figures tell a different tale. We discovered in our VBOX performance test data that the run from 30km/h to 70km/h in third gear took 6.1 seconds for the Discover and 6.9 seconds for the SZ-X. But the tables turned in higher gears where the SZ-X was faster for the same speed range, taking 7.7 seconds in fourth and 8.4 seconds in fifth, where the Discover 150 could only manage 8.6 seconds and 11.8 seconds for the same. And it is this strong in-gear acceleration that will be most handy whether you are doing your city commute or having a fun ride on twisty mountain roads.
Handling, ride and all that jazz
Almost all bikes made by Yamaha in the recent past have been excellent handlers and the SZ-X is no exception to this rule. The chassis is ultra nimble and flicking the bike around can be done with the utmost of ease. The agile handling combined with the strong mid-range performance makes the SZ-X an absolute joy to ride in any conditions. In fact, it wouldn't be too far fetched to say that that all of us here at ZigWheels had more fun riding the SZ-X than we ever did even on the FZ16. And even though the SZ-X doesn't use any fancy gas-filled suspension, the ride quality is absolutely brilliant. Along with the soft and comfortable seat, the bike soaks up any bumps and undulations on the road in stride and riding on most sorts of terrain is easily manageable. But sadly, there is a big pitfall that Yamaha didn't overcome with this bike and that was the exclusion of a disc brake at the front, even as an option. So while the bike was mad fun to ride, we had to be extremely cautious about opening the throttle because a few hard squeezes on the front brake would leave it badly faded, after which the chances of going head first into the vehicle in front of you increase exponentially.
The Discover 150 sports NitroX gas-filled shock absorbers on the rear and offers a decent ride quality, but the seat is way too still compared to the SZ-X. So while overall, the ride experience is not so bad, it doesn't really measure up to the Yamaha. Handling too, is quite neutral and acceptable. This is of course a good thing as the Discover sticks to its role of commuter quite ardently. It doesn't tempt the rider into any on-road shenanigans, making for a highly functional means of transport for getting from point A to point B, be it inside the city or outside of it. Where Bajaj does score a large number of brownie points is in the brakes department. The 240mm disc brake at front might not have the bite of those units found in the performance-oriented 150cc bikes, it provides adequate stopping power for most conditions one might encounter on one's daily commute.
The bottom line
Though both these bike might be fighting in the same narrow segment, they are as apart as chalk and cheese. The FZ-S offers a great handling package with a very torquey motor which makes it a great machine for anyone who derives a lot of pleasure from riding a motorcycle. The feet back and arms stretched posture also seems to be specifically geared towards the riding enthusiast. The Discover on the other hand, though not as much fun to ride, is a great, no-nonsense commuting tool and will appeal to those who want a proper workhorse for their daily needs. And with 62.3kmpl, it even manages to churn out better fuel efficiency than the SZ-X, which can only manage 57.2kmpl. Where the Discover 150 really manages to outshine the SZ-X is of course in price, something Bajaj always manages to nail just right. The Discover 150 costs Rs. 45,000 (ex-showroom Delhi) and offers a lot of extra equipment at that price, such as a front disc brake and gas-filled rear shock absorbers. The Yamaha is the more expensive of the two at Rs. 52,000 (ex-showroom Delhi) and does not offer a disc brake even as an option (though Yamaha fixed this with the launch of the new SZ-R variant). That being said, at that price, it is actually inexpensive for a 150cc motorcycle which can be described as an absolute hoot to ride.
The SZ-X is a very enjoyable machine and we'd highly recommend it - it took our 2010 Bike of the Year award after all. But the Discover 150 also presents an unbeatable value-for-money proposition. No wonder we had a split jury when we were voting for the segment award. I guess it finally depends on how one likes their motorcycles. For those young 'uns who want a stylish bike which is lots of fun to ride, while offering decent mileage at that, the Yamaha SZ-X is probably a no-brainer. And for those who just want a straight-talking and highly capable means of transport while saving a bit of coin, the obvious choice is the Bajaj Discover 150. There is no objective way of determining which of these is the better bike, nor is the subjective way any clearer. So how about round three?