LAUNCH PAD Bajaj's Pulsar 200NS opens a whole new chapter for the iconic all-Indian bike

The next-generation Pulsar has just swaggered in. Bajaj managed to somehow keep its important new motorcycle completely under wraps till the official unveiling of the 200NS (Naked Sport). It's fast proving to be well worth the wait.

The aggressive Pulsar 200NS sports butch, naked street bike styling with smoothly chiselled lines. There's little resemblance to the Pulsar family of old, although you could spot styling cues from Honda's CB1000R when viewing the bike head on. Easily amongst the very best looking Indian-developed motorcycles, its trendy front mudguard is bisected by a broad black stripe, above superbly executed and slender-spoke alloy rims.

The latest Pulsar comes with a broad, futuristic front headlight, with dinky chin-set city lights. Bajaj has clearly burnt much midnight-oil while detailing their latest Pulsar, giving every crease and angle perfect proportions. The digital-analogue speedometer console offers a shift warning flasher, with the tachometer (redline marked post 10,000rpm) boldly filling its centre. Everything is clear to decipher, and you get a fuel gauge and boldly displayed speedometer.

The 200NS mounts smart, clip-on style handlebars atop a smartly cut away steering clamp, and comes with good quality palm grips, functional mirrors, a nice set of levers and top-quality switchgear, that only lacks self-cancelling indicators, like the ones that spoilt us on earlier Pulsars.

The tank is plastic, cladding the actual fuel reservoir beneath, and deep recesses offer abundant thigh support for even tall riders, a pair of scoops extending forward to shroud this liquid-cooled motorcycle's radiator. You can't miss the broad, twin-spar frame proudly displayed above the 200NS' exposed engine, and there's a generous sprinkling of alloy parts. There's something very Bajaj about the matte black side panels, with neat ‘4-valve' stickers. The new Pulsar comes with smartly textured split seats and a Pulsar-typical tail, complete with twin LED rows and a smart, alloy number plate mount.

A neat touch is the stubby, under-slung single silencer, allowing clear view of the 200NS's rear mudguard and petal-type rear disc brake. The Pulsar 200NS will also be sold in a smashing, bright mustard shade. Good overall build quality and fit-finish are standard with this bike. A neat touch — which needs to be adopted across the industry — are the new, superior snail cam chain adjusters.

The button-started Pulsar 200NS offers a triple-spark-plug-equipped powerplant that outputs a distinct, punchy exhaust note. The pronounced DTS-i whir on older-generation Pulsars is absent, with little audible give-away to differentiate this engine from any single-plug engine.

It's a four-stroke, 199.5cc, short-stroke (72mm x 49mm), liquid-cooled single-cylinder engine with a single overhead camshaft. Peak power output is a healthy 23.2bhp at 9500rpm, while the NS makes 1.86kgm of peak torque at 8000rpm. Twin plugs of matched rating fire as slave units, following a primary plug, and the trio is controlled via an electronic ECU.

Bajaj has worked hard to cram much into this complex head, with the three spark plugs sharing limited combustion chamber real estate with a quartet of valves, as well as liquid-cooling canals.

The gearbox is six-speed, shifted by a toe-only shift lever. Shifts happen in the one-down, five-up pattern, feeling light and positive whether going up or down the 'box. Clutch feel is likewise well-weighted and progressive.

The Pulsar 200NS accelerates with gusto and, though we're yet to strap on our test equipment, the seat-of-the-pants feel is fleet-footed enough. Bajaj claims a fuel economy of 3.61 seconds for the 0-60kph dash, and 9.83secs for a 0-100kph run.

A highlight to the Pulsar 200NS is its bold frame, a twin-spar type steel fabricated unit that neatly encases the engine, leading down to the rectangular, steel section swingarm. A pair of 37mm-diameter telescopic forks and a gas-charged rear monoshock are standard kit.

The riding position is slightly altered relative to older Pulsars — not as radical as on the KTM 200 Duke, yet nice and upright, well-suited to daily urban commuting. The 200NS saddle is well-padded, and proved exactly as roomy as required for my six-foot-plus frame.

Ride quality felt reasonably good, clearly firmer than any of the older Pulsars, but a clear verdict has to wait for our road test.

Brakes are ByBre — by Brembo, the Indian arm of the famous brake specialists — hydraulic discs, front and rear, providing good feel, powerful stopping power and the right progression at both levers. Cornering manners felt consistently fine throughout our track day, with a taut, predictable feel at the handlebar. Steering effort required is light, unlike the older Pulsars which often suffered an unwanted heaviness, and turn-in on the new P200 is quick and encouraging as a result. The new chassis and well thought-out geometry come together to work smartly as one solid package. There is, however, a major shortcoming — all our test bikes were shod with Eurogriptyres with woeful grip that failed to support the splendid new chassis and constantly limited pushing the bike to the full extent of its capabilities.

The Pulsar 200NS offers all you can ask for from an Indian 200cc street bike, taking the Pulsar story a giant leap forward. You get great style, abundant features, adequate quality, an engine that packs a solid punch, and a new perimeter frame that promotes able handling. All this plus a comfortable riding position that ensures you can live with this Bajaj on a daily basis.

While fuel efficiency remains a question mark, as does the exact price of the P200, Bajaj's reputation makes us believe these will be sparkling too. The only foreseeable competition the Pulsar 200NS will have to deal with then, is the KTM 200 Duke. In the end, this isn't going to be a bad thing for Bajaj, which today partly owns the Austrian firm. Yet, we'd like to say this first; a deeper understanding of both bikes will show they are individual and different. The KTM 200 Duke offers all and more in terms of an out-and-out, no-compromise sports street-bike, while the Pulsar 200NS has its fair share of that, but still leans towards the practical, commuter-friendly path that has always been Pulsar domain.

The Bajaj Pulsar 200NS has got it right, and makes a hard-to-beat motorcycle for daily commuting in urban India.