Transformers

Team OD  /
09 May 2013 16:11:05 IST

The first time I saw the Discover 150, I thought it was absolutely pointless, a result of Bajaj's trademark permutation and combination exercise. It wasn't until I rode it that I discovered that a powerful engine in a commuter is like a slice of lemon in your Corona Extra. First there is the added punch that speeds up things between traffic lights. You can think about pipping that youngster on his Pulsar, while still in your formals, sling bag et al. Then there is the comfort of a commuter that can keep you (and your back) happy in the saddle all day long. Of course compared to a 100cc commuter fuel efficiency is a trade-off but not to the extent that it pinches seriously. The real catch is the price that gets you a full 50cc extra bragging rights at roughly the price of a premium 100. So, is this the way forward for the commuter bikes that had been subjected so far to the stereotypical Splendor or Passion image? I think so.

Yamaha was quick to see the potential of this new segment spawned by Bajaj and launched the SZ series with a 153cc engine quicker than we expected. Yamaha, so far, has tasted success only in the premium segment and hasn't been able to crack the volumes segment. A go at the 125s with the Gladiator too didn't prove fruitful, in spite of it being a very good motorcycle. So rather than trying to break into the Hero Honda domain for the umpteenth time, Yamaha did the brave thing of exploring the 150cc commuter segment. The FZ16 was the apt engine donor while cycle parts were toned down to keep a check on prices. However, the SZ is a bit expensive compared to the Discover and we spent some time in their saddles to see if the SZ is actually that good or the Discover is still a better bet to place your hard earned dough on. Read on…

Style and build

The Discover has been around for ages and apart from the new graphics, Bajaj has done very little to keep it updated. But its slender styling is attractive. The teardrop theme for the headlight, tank and tail panels still looks good and the decals efficiently mask its age. The only distinguishing factor seems to be the 150 stickers and a layered LED-effect tail lamp. Things have changed since then. Park it next to the Yamaha and you can immediately spot the difference. The Yamaha SZ-X is certainly the looker here and it's from Yamaha's post FZ-16 era. This means there are a lot of cues taken from the FZ, the angular headlamp unit and the stays that hold it in place for instance. The tank is smaller and not as chiselled but gets a FZ-like scooped out design at the top. The matte-finished centre panel too looks similar but the SZ has a new and very pillion-friendly tail. The split tail lamp design reminds me of the TVS Flame though. The longer tail section accommodates a longer seat, practical for the daily commute.

The SZ has the more comfortable ergonomics. The stepped seat design gives it a lower rider's seat while the footpegs are slightly rearset compared to the usual commuter bikes and the handlebars are slightly lower too. The seating position is the sportier of the two and will be appreciated by the younger lot. More mature riders may prefer the more conventional ergonomics of the Discover though. The seating feels more upright and absolutely stress free, but the seat is a little stiff and not as comfortable as the SZ's.

Build quality and finish are both better on the Yamaha, but I expected the Yamaha to be much better still. The tank extensions are hollow on the inside and don't look good from the rider's seat. The matte finish switchgear isn't high quality and Yamaha should've stuck to the usual ones across the range. The tubular grabrail at the rear also mars the sporty styling of the tail somewhat.

Engine and performance

The engine must've been the core point of focus for both Bajaj and Yamaha because both seem to have done a good job with whatever they had. Bajaj took the existing XCD135 unit and increased its capacity to 144.8cc. The result was a peak power output of 13PS at 7500rpm and 12.75Nm of torque coming in at 5500rpm. The figures are a bit low compared to the other premium 150s in the market but then Bajaj has tuned it more for bottom end grunt than peak performance. The result is a motor perfectly suited to chaotic city traffic. The Discover feels at ease picking up from walking pace even slotted in 4th gear and throttle response is amazingly quick for a commuter.

A look at the numbers: the Discover 150 does 0-60kmph in just 5.3 seconds, which is mighty impressive by 150cc standards and will come in handy during traffic light sprints. The engine feels very spirited and eager to rev. This makes the Discover pretty enjoyable to ride too. It however feels a bit strangled after 80kmph. Most of its juice is concentrated at the low- and mid-range and the top end suffers due to this. Despite its 5-speed transmission, the Discover hit a top speed of just 101.5kmph while we're used to 150s clocking 110kmph plus. The engine also gets buzzy as the revs rise and fine vibes can be felt through the pegs and the seat. The gearbox isn't the smoothest and the all-down shift takes time getting used to, when the one down, rest up shift pattern is the norm.

The SZ borrows its engine from the FZ16. This engine displaces 153cc and develops 12.1PS at 7500rpm, which is about 2PS less than what it makes on the FZ. Peak torque is 12.8Nm at 4500rpm, 0.8Nm less than the FZ. It is quite obvious that the engine has been detuned more for fuel efficiency than anything else. The engine remains very much the same in terms of feel and the fruity exhaust note is reminiscent of the FZ, but the lower grunt is immediately evident.

There is still decent pull available right from the bottom and the SZ accelerates from 0-60kmph in 6.4 seconds, a second slower than the Discover. As with the FZ, this bike too has been tuned for

bottom and mid-range power and struggles at the top end.

The bike starts panting beyond 80kmph and registered a top speed of 97.9kmph during our performance test. What it excels in is

refinement. There are no signs of harshness or vibration from the engine, even when you push it hard. Yamaha surely tops the

refinement stakes in this contest while the Discover undoubtedly packs the punch.

The Discover is also more fuel efficient, delivering 57.5kmpl in the city and 62.5kmpl on the highway. The SZ delivered 52.9kmpl in the city cycle that stretched out to 61.2kmpl on the highway, accounting for an overall figure of 54.9kmpl against the Discover's 58.7kmpl.

Ride & handling

Both these bikes are meant for the city and we stuck to riding them in their natural habitat. Although there is quite a bit of difference in their characteristics, both of them impress with their commuting abilities. The Discover 150 gets a single downtube cradle frame while the Yamaha uses the engine as the stressed member in its diamond-type chassis. The latter configuration is known for better rigidity and tolerance to turning forces whilst in motion. The SZ feels much more confidence inspiring when ridden hard. I like the front end on the SZ, which has a more planted feel and, like all Yamahas, is very communicative. This translates to a more involving ride and lane changing and squeezing-in maneuvers can be executed precisely. The Discover's front end has a very light feel and the tall handlebars did not get me in the mood. It feels compact and nimble though and takes care of the city chores nicely.

On the ride front, it is the SZ that boasts a softer suspension set-up and hence the ride quality is more plush compared to the Discover. But the downside to this is that the SZ gets a little bouncy at speeds while the Discover feels more composed.

Verdict

I'd call these bikes 'sport-commuters' for their punchy and stylish approach to commuting while still being affordable. The SZ range starts at Rs 49,000, ex-showroom. The SZ-X featured in this test with electric start, tank shrouds and a different visor will set you back by another three grand. Now that Yamaha has launched the SZ-R you can also get a disc brake. There's no doubt in my mind that the Yamaha feels fresher and is the better motorcycle here. It has a good blend of performance, economy, comfort and handling that will keep you interested. Personally, this is the motorcycle I'd pick.

But if you are on a budget, the Discover is very persuasive. At

Rs 45,000 ex-showroom, it does feel basic but has everything you a commuter bike should - electric start and front disc brake. Performance wise, it is nearly on par with the premium 150s and pretty fuel efficient too. With savings of about Rs 7,000 over the similarly specced SZ-X, it's hard to argue against the Disco's incredible value-for-money proposition. If you're a hardcore commuter, the Disco is all you need. Motorcyclist on a budget? Think SZ.

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