2021 Aprilia SR 160 first ride review: Still the benchmark for sporty scooters?

We get astride the 2021 Aprilia SR 160 which gets to see if it still has what it takes to beat the ever-increasing competition in the sport scooter segment
The 2021 Aprilia SR 160 receives styling and cosmetic upgrades to keep it relevant
The 2021 Aprilia SR 160 receives styling and cosmetic upgrades to keep it relevantShot by Abhishek Benny

Meet the 2021 Aprilia SR 160. The 2021 iteration of the SR 160 is not an overhaul from the ground up. Rather, Aprilia has decided not to mess with the tried and tested engine and chassis combination that is clearly well-received in the Indian market and has only updated the styling of the scooter. Are these changes enough to allow Aprilia to stay king of the castle in the sport scooter segment or have recent launches done enough to topple the Italian’s dominance? We got a chance to ride the 2021 Aprilia SR 160 to find out exactly that.

2021 Aprilia SR 160 design

This is where the majority of the changes for the 2021 model year of the Aprilia SR 160 have been focused. The scooter now gets revised styling to make it more modern and appealing to the audience. It all starts with the new headlamp and DRLs at the front end. The front headlamp unit has been completely redesigned and it is significantly larger than the outgoing model and this definitely adds to the scooter’s road presence. The DRLs are also neatly integrated into the same unit and all-in-all the SR 160 looks much better in my opinion. Making your way around the scooter you will notice the new design for the seat which has stitching in the centre to show separation between the rider and pillion seat, almost making it seem like a two-piece seat despite it being a single unit. Move to the rear and you are greeted by an updated tail-lamp. The tail-lamp uses the same housing as before but the LED lights inside it now illuminate an X pattern. One downer though is that the turn signals are still traditional bulbs, instead of LED units which is not too much to ask for when you are shelling out a fair bit of moolah for this scooter. We were riding the Carbon Edition which sits in the middle of the SR 160 line-up, between the standard edition and the race edition.

The side panels replicate a carbonfibre weave finish
The side panels replicate a carbonfibre weave finish Shot by Abhishek Benny

The scooter, like with the earlier Carbon editions gets a carbon fibre-like weave finish around the body panels, instrument cluster and mudguards. Overall, Aprilia has done a good job in making the 2021 SR 160 a bold looking scooter with an identity of its own.

2021 Aprilia SR 160 performance

The 2021 Aprilia SR 160 offers solid performance, but it's not the way it used to be
The 2021 Aprilia SR 160 offers solid performance, but it's not the way it used to beShot by Abhishek Benny

The 2021 Aprilia SR 160 continues to be propelled by the same BS6 single-cylinder. 160.03cc, three-valve engine. No changes have been made to the unit and the outputs remain unchanged at 10.8bhp at 7600rpm and 11.6Nm at 6000rpm. Off the line, the scooter does not feel the fastest but it does pick up the pace once you cross around 25-30kmph and it will accelerate smoothly till about 85kmph. The scooter will continue to accelerate to a speedo indicated speed of over 100kmph but it is a slow climb getting there. The engine is fairly refined with marginal vibrations kicking in around the floorboard area by the time you’re doing 80-85kmph. The Race Edition has a CVT that has been tuned slightly differently to improve acceleration but we haven’t gotten a chance to ride that just yet. But performance figures aside, the competition with products like the Yamaha Aerox has really started to stir things up offering significantly more performance for not a lot more money. The Aprilia does offer solid performance, but it certainly doesn’t own that space as it used to anymore.

2021 Aprilia SR 160 ride and handling

Like with the engine, the chassis on the 2021 Aprilia SR 160 has been carried over as is. So, you get the same underbone frame, 30mm front forks, rear monoshock and 14-inch wheels. The riding position is the same and you have a commanding stance when you are riding the scooter. The handlebar placement means that even taller riders needn’t worry about busting their knee while making u-turns or filtering through slow-moving traffic. However, the scooter on the whole doesn’t feel extremely accommodating for bigger riders. In terms of ride quality, the SR continues to be a stiff scooter but it is heaps better than the first generation of the scooter. At slower speeds, the ride feels stiffer than you would like and isn’t plush like the other commuter-focussed scooters out there.. Although, things get much better once you start to pick up the pace. You start to experience a certain level of pliancy and the bumps and jerks don’t feel as harsh at all. The 14-inch wheels definitely aid the process.

Handling remains one of the redeeming qualities of the 2021 Aprilia SR 160
Handling remains one of the redeeming qualities of the 2021 Aprilia SR 160Shot by Abhishek Benny

On the handling front, is where the Aprilia starts to properly redeem itself. Get on the SR take it down a winding road and why it became an instant favourite since its launch becomes apparent. The stiff suspension and 14-inch wheels shod in 120-section rubber make for a hoot and a half. The front end is agile and easy to flick around the faster you go, the better the experience gets. You almost get a sense that you are riding on rails. The grip on wet surfaces however is a little skittish courtesy of the tyres.

The braking performance on the scooter is solid. The front 220mm disc does a good job of ensuring a strong initial bite and rather decent amounts of feedback after. The rear brake despite being a drum also offers confidence-inspiring braking. One point to note however is that the single-channel ABS system on my test scooter didn’t seem to be calibrated right and I found the front wheel locking occasionally under hard braking.

2021 Aprilia SR 160 features

The new digital instrument cluster has been borrowed from the SXR 160
The new digital instrument cluster has been borrowed from the SXR 160Shot by Abhishek Benny

The Aprilia SR 160 gets one of its major updates in this department. The instrument cluster is all-new for the SR range and it’s the same unit that is found on the SXR maxi-scooter range. The instrument cluster is well laid out and has all the information you’d need plus extra like ambient temperature and top speed. However, for the price you are paying, you don’t get Bluetooth connectivity as standard and you have to pay approximately Rs 2000 extra for the Bluetooth module, and that still doesn’t get turn-by-turn navigation. Other features include a USB charging slot and a lamp in the boot that come as standard. Speaking of the boot, it is still the same size and is enough to accommodate a small bag and maybe a wallet maybe.

2021 Aprilia SR 160 verdict

It's still a great scooter, but the competition has stepped up the game
It's still a great scooter, but the competition has stepped up the gameShot by Abhishek Benny

The 2021 Aprilia SR 160 with its design changes definitely looks more appealing than ever but to answer my question from the start of this review — has Aprilia done enough to make it a viable choice in the midst of scooters like the Yamaha Aerox 155 which costs Rs 1.29 lakh or even the TVS Ntorq 125 Race XP which costs significantly less than the Rs 1.17 lakh sticker price of the Aprilia SR 160 Carbon? I don’t think so. The Aprilia, despite its handling chops has started to feel a bit long in the tooth and the fact that the Aerox sits so close to it doesn’t do it any favours. It’s still a good scooter in isolation, but there’s no ignoring how much more the Aerox brings to the table, is there?

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