The NS duo receive important updates to up their VFM quotient
When the NS200 and RS200 were launched, the motorcycles seemed to show the way forward for the Pulsar brand. The NS200 in particular as it echoed the Pulsar’s ethos of value for money performance, only louder. It came with a quick-revving liquid-cooled motor (a segment-first and segment-only accolade which remains to this day), perimeter frame and rear monoshock, all this for a price which made the Pulsar NS200 the logical choice. However the NS and RS could not really take the mantle away from the flagship Pulsar 220F which clicked well with the audience. That said, the RS200 and NS200 found their own loyal fanbase. Bajaj did not significantly update the NS, as the VFM quotient remained strong. In fact, the NS nameplate is one of Bajaj’s highest selling export offerings.
It is this export exercise that we can thank the current NS updates for. Bajaj had recently launched the NS160 and NS200 in the Brazilian market under the Dominar nameplate. Besides the rebranding exercise, both the motorcycles received significant updates in the form of upside down forks, standard dual-channel ABS and more. It was only logical then that the updates trickled down to the India-spec motorcycles.
Even after being in existence for over a decade, the NS series pulls off the streetfighter styling well and the new 33mm USD forks add more bulk to the muscular front end. The biggest design update has to be on the NS160 as it is now visually closer to the NS200 thanks to the same tyre sizes (100-section front and 130-section rear) shared between the two. In fact both motorcycles share the same body panels and the only differentiating factor are the badges. The familiar-looking alloys have been borrowed from the Pulsar 250s and are a kilo lighter than before. In fact, Bajaj has managed to shave 1.5 kilos off on the NS200 though the NS160 is one kg heavier than before. Both motorcycles now feature two new shades of Black and White with contrasting red accents.
While a modern LED projector setup would have been nice, the NS continues with the previous halogen setup that sets it apart from the modern P and N series Pulsars. I would have liked the bezel-less semi-digital instrument cluster from the newer Pulsars here. On the positive side, the existing unit now displays real-time fuel efficiency, distance to empty and gear position indicator. It misses out on Bluetooth connectivity, but the NS series has relied on its mechanical sportiness rather than tech gimmicks.
We got a good amount of track time with NS200, this being my first time on a track, the initial laps were spent getting accustomed to the layout on the motorcycle. The latter did not take much time, though. The lighter upside down forks and wheels mean there is less unsprung mass on the front wheel so the Pulsar feels light and is quick to change directions. Pushing it on the track, the front felt a little too reactive almost to the point of feeling flighty at high speeds and during quick direction changes. On roads, at normal speeds though, the Pulsars were absolutely a hoot to hoon around. The NS feels the most comfortable to ride hard in its natural habitat and allows you the confidence to push the motorcycle more than you normally would.
The suspension setup feels firm but compliant and does a good job of ironing out road imperfections. The 300mm front and 230mm rear discs are now sourced from Grimeca and now feature dual-channel ABS as standard. It's an impressive setup with a strong front end bite, and minimal intervention from the dual-channel ABS.
Complementing the handling is the naked sport’s 200cc liquid-cooled motor. It remains unchanged and delivers 24.5PS and 18.7Nm. The motor continues to impress with its refinement and quick-revving nature. That’s a good thing given that most of the grunt comes at the top end of the rev range so you want to get there quickly. The smaller NS160 also continues to feature the same long-stroke 160cc as before. This mill impresses with its tractability, making it easy to potter around town in higher gears.
The updates are substantial and so is the price increase, with the NS160 and NS200 now priced at Rs 1.35 lakh and 1.47 lakh, ex-showroom respectively, dearer by Rs 9,000 for the NS160 and Rs 6,500 for the NS200. Despite the price hike the NS200 and NS160’s USP of being value-for-money sportbikes remain unchanged.
The NS200 is Ben’s favourite Pulsar and he has ridden each one of them. I get the reason why. While these motorcycles may miss on the competition's features such as LED headlamps and Bluetooth connectivity, the NS duo remain engaging and fun-to-ride motorcycles and that's why we want these motorcycles, no?