Bajaj Pulsar 125 Neon review: Small yet powerful


Since it borrows most of its components from its elder sibling, the bike looks and behaves like one from a segment above

When the first generation of the Bajaj Pulsar came out in 2001, it rewrote the entire book on what an affordable, performance bike could be. So iconic was the motorcycle, that even now, almost two decades later, it still remains one of the most esteemed monikers in Indian motorcycling. Over the years, a number of models have come out of the Bajaj plant wearing the Pulsar badge, but one thing remained constant — they all stood for sporty performance. The latest addition to the list, the Pulsar 125, however, happens to be the smallest and least powerful one yet. So does it stay true to the Pulsar ethos?

In its entirety, the new Pulsar 125 Neon remains unchanged and unbothered by the passage of time. It looks almost exactly like it did years ago, with the only major differences being the neon detailing and lack of a belly pan or tank shrouds. But those differences aren’t new either, as they were seen on the Pulsar 150 Neon. That’s not all. Everything, from the frame and suspension to the brakes, has been carried over from its larger capacity sibling. And since it borrows most of its components from its elder sibling, the end product is a bike that looks and behaves like one from a segment above — it’s larger and significantly beefier than similar capacity bikes like the Honda CB Shine and the Hero Super Splendor. Even the switchgear and semi-digital instrument console are from the 150s; both may seem dated, but are still impressive in the segment.

The engine, too, is from the 150s, but Bajaj has reduced its cubic capacity to a bit under 125 by shortening the stroke — to 50.5mm from 60.7mm. The bore, on the other hand, is identical at 56.0mm. Out in the real world, this was an engine that behaved very much like that in a Pulsar 150, except with slightly lower top-end performance. Power delivery is linear, and the engine is largely unstressed even at higher revs — something bikes in this segment usually suffer from. I managed to see 107kph on the speedo, but the engine did have a little more in it — only enough to get it to around the 110kph mark. The sub-125cc motor also means that this Pulsar doesn’t require an ABS system by law, helping the manufacturer keep costs in check.

Bajaj made it very clear during the ride briefing that the 125 isn’t a commuter, but a bike that stays true to the Pulsar experience in the commuter segment. They even had the baby Pulsar’s ARAI certified fuel-efficiency figures compared to the rest of the segment, despite it being the lowest of the lot, at 57.5kpl. Nevertheless, the 125 will do a splendid job as an everyday commuter, as the suspension offers a plush ride and both rider and pillion seats are comfortable.

At 140kg, the 125 is a good 15kg heavier than its nearest 125cc competitor, but this doesn’t compromise the handling or low-speed manoeuvrability. Yes, it may not feel as easy as some of the lighter bikes in its class, but it’s still a very easy-to-ride bike.

We were given the front disc-equipped variant to ride, and the brakes are noticeably better than those on most other models in the segment. There’s also a drum brake variant, but considering the performance of these brakes and how Bajaj has stressed on this being a sporty motorcycle, we’re surprised the company made the decision to offer this option at all. Our test bike also came equipped with Eurogrip tyres and I found they weren’t the best for the job — they don’t inspire much confidence in the corners. However, the 125 can also be had from the dealership with the MRF Nylogrips, and from previous experience, they should provide much better performance.

In my opinion, the Pulsar 125 accomplishes what it set out to do. Barring the KTM 125 Duke that costs nearly twice as much, it is the most powerful bike in the 125cc segment, and perhaps even the sportiest. And Bajaj has once again delivered with a competitive price that is more or less on par with rivals like the Honda CB Shine SP or the Hero Glamour. The drum brake variant costs ₹64,000, and for a little more money, you can get our pick of the two — the disc brake variant which costs ₹66,618.

You could also argue that for just a little over ₹6,000 more you could get the larger capacity, more powerful Pulsar 150 Neon (₹71,200). However, the 125cc segment is a price-sensitive one, and the difference is considerable at the price point. Bajaj also told us that while all Pulsars are being readied to switch to BS-VI, it is working towards pushing the Pulsar 125 past the norms, while still using a carburettor, taking the significant price of a fuel-injection system out of the equation. If the manufacturer manages to do this, the difference between the 125 and 150 will be much more significant after the switch to BS-VI.

The Pulsar 125 is for those looking for a bike in the commuter segment but one that is less mundane and offers an experience that stays true to the Pulsar lineage, albeit in a more docile and affordable manner.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 12:34:25 AM |

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