2023 Bajaj Pulsar NS200 and NS160 first ride review
Ever since its inception in 2012, the Bajaj Pulsar NS200's main USP has been its VFM performance backed by Bajaj's excellent service network. It was the start of a new chapter for Bajaj. Short for naked sports, the NS200 was the most powerful and advanced Pulsar launched with its KTM-derived engine. After getting discontinued and receiving a mid-life update in 2017, Bajaj also added the NS160 and NS125 variants to the family making it more accessible to a wider audience and increasing its popularity.
For 2023, Bajaj has given NS200 and NS160 a few tweaks to make them more competitive, but is that enough to make a strong statement over the NS twin's dated styling and lack of features? Me and Karan went to Bajaj's test facility in Chakan and rode the 2023 Pulsars NS twins to find out.
2023 Bajaj Pulsar NS200 and NS160 styling
If it weren't for the NS160 and NS200 graphics on their tanks, we wouldn't have been able to differentiate between the 2023 NS160 and NS200 at all. While their overall design remains the same as their predecessors, with the autobot style halogen headlight, a muscular tank and a sharp tail, the bikes have received new graphics, a 'fuel injected' badge on the frame, a few tweaks to their cluster and that is about it. But if you really want to differentiate between the two, look out for these things: The NS160 sports a footrest, and a wider front guard.
Both the NS160 and NS200 sport twin five-spoke 17-inch alloys borrowed from the Pulsar 250s now, with a 130-section rear tyre. And this update has brought the NS160, ever closer to the NS200 in terms of styling. Bajaj has also given the new NS twins a gear position indicator in its cluster, distance-to-empty, average and real time fuel efficiency readings, finally.
Back in 2021, when the brand debuted the Pulsar 250 twins, the N250 and the F250 with completely new styling so while the brand can give the NS a complete makeover it hasn't touched its design at all, because this styling is proven and more importantly giving them the numbers, especially in the international markets. Here's a fun fact: The NS garners more sales in the international market than on its home turf! In certain markets the motorcycles are rebadged as the Dominar 160 and Dominar 200.
While a facelift would have certainly been appreciated, I don't mind the NS' design at all. Styling is subjective and yes, it does feel a bit dated, but it looks every bit as macho and sharp as it looked over a decade ago.
2023 Bajaj Pulsar NS160 and NS200 engine and performance
The NS twins haven't received any major changes mechanically, other than the fact that both motorcycles are now OBD.2A compliant, get a USD front fork and Grimeca brakes from the Pulsar 250s.
The NS200 continues to be powered by the 199cc single-cylinder which produces 24bhp at 9750rpm and 18.7Nm of peak torque. This powerplant is mated to a six-speed transmission. While the NS160 on the other hand gets a smaller 160cc block. It’s engine produces 17bhp and 14.6Nm and sends power to the rear wheel via a five-speed gearbox.
Both motorcycles are underpinned by the same Perimeter frame but when it comes to engine performance both are like chalk and cheese, as expected. Right off the starter blocks we noticed that the NS160, because of its lighter block, feels more nimble and easy to filter through traffic. Its engine feels more tractable because it is tuned for a better mid-range. This results in quick overtakes between 30-60kmph. At 80kmph the NS160 is already doing 7000rpm and that is when you feel the lack of a sixth gear. It badly needs one, especially so if you're planning to cruise at highway speeds. But compared to its bigger sibling the NS160 feels more refined, and doesn't transfer as many vibrations through its handlebar.
The NS200 on the other hand really gets going past the 5000rpm mark. It is very eager to rev and livens nicely on the other end of the tacho, which doesn't make it very tractable. But unlike its younger sibling, it can do triple digit speeds on the highway all day long, because of its sixth gear. It also transmits more vibrations, but nothing to make you uncomfortable on a daily basis.
Bajaj Pulsar NS200 and NS160 ride and handling
The NS has always been a very comfortable bike to ride be it around town or even on the highways. Even though it is a naked, it gets a very relaxed riding position with fairly forward set footpegs and low set handlebar. It makes for a good commuter, but also doesn’t disappoint when you want to have a little fun in the corners. It does a good job of absorbing bad roads, but you have to be careful on sharp speed breakers, because it does like to scrape its belly every now and then. Especially so if you are riding one up.
A big update on the new NS twins is the upside-down front fork, a first on any Pulsar, ever. And this has made both bikes better handlers. The setup is stiffer than the traditional telescopic fork and gives a sharper front-end feel, without sacrificing ride quality. The bikes also respond much faster to steering input courtesy of the lighter wheels picked off of the 250s. Then there’s the braking setup. The ByBre setup available earlier has been swapped with Grimeca brake calipers on both ends, with dual-channel ABS, also a first. This setup offers good initial bite, and feedback but doesn’t do a very good job of slowing the bikes on small inputs. You have to really squeeze the brake lever with all your might to extract the best out of it. The ABS is very well calibrated though and does a good job of working under-the-radar even under hard braking conditions. But for the NS160, this is a superior setup altogether, because of its larger front disc size.
Just like the NS200, the NS160 also gets a 130-section rear tyre and that not only helps it in the styling department, but also gives it better cornering capabilities, more stability and the confidence to push harder.
2023 Bajaj Pulsar NS200 and NS160 price, rivals and verdict
Bajaj has always priced each and every variant of the Pulsars super competitively against its rivals and this time is no anomaly. The 2023 NS200 is launched at Rs 1.48 lakh (ex-showroom) and the 2023 NS160 demands Rs 1.35 lakh (ex-showroom) of your hard earned money and that is a price hike of Rs 7000 and Rs 10,000 respectively, expected and not that much considering the upgrades. But their competitions offer better kit, LED headlight, a digital instrument cluster with bluetooth connectivity and even a debatable for the class safety feature like traction control. The NS160 rivals the likes of the Yamaha FZ-S Fi, TVS Apache RTR 160 4V and Hero Xtreme 160R, whereas the NS200 rivals the TVS Apache RTR 200 4V, Honda CB300F and Yamaha MT-15.
The new upgrades on the 2023 Pulsar NS twins have definitely made both the bikes better, in terms of handling and a much needed upgrades like dual-channel ABS and those updates cluster have brought them closer to their rivals than ever, but they still lack a few features and therefore suffer in the bragging rights department. But if you are ready to live with their decade old styling, there’s no arguing the fact that they deliver in the performance and thrill of riding department.