Once a crowd favourite, does the ‘Lord of the Streets’ pack enough punch to take on the new players?
‘Lord of the Streets’ is what the FZ is to Yamaha India. Back in 2008, it undoubtedly was. The bike had a striking presence in a generation where only Pulsars and Unicorns made it to the ‘cool boys’ list. This Yamaha made the Bajaj and the Honda a thing of the past and made the FZ an instant hit with the Indian audience (thy correspondent included). Though the butch looks played a big role in the bike’s success, the FZ also offered an engine that was lot more refined than the Pulsars. And inadvertently, Yamaha kicked off the 160cc segment. In 2014, the FZ received an update in the form of a scaled-down engine from 153cc to 149cc in favour of increased efficiency and a cosmetic overhaul. Now five years later, Yamaha has revamped the FZ but this time, it is mostly superficial. The only major update is the addition of the single-channel ABS which it was bound to get. So is the FZ still the ‘Lord of the Streets’?
Staying true to the FZ lineage, the 2019 FZ FI retains its muscular and sharp profile and with design inspiration taken from the FZ-25, the bike looks considerably bigger. We had the FZ-S variant which gets chrome treatment for the faux vents on the tanks and a bashplate over the standard FZ and demands a premium of `2,000. The FZ-S FI Version 3.0 ditches the split seats from Version 2.0 and gets a wider single seat to aid everyday riding. The bike also gets a new grab rail for better pillion support. The FZ remains a sporty commuter and in a quest to make it friendlier for the urban jungle, the handlebar has been slightly raised and tilted a bit towards the rider. This makes up for a comfortable riding position while moving through city traffic. Another change is the new LCD display. The negative-lit screen is very easy to read even under direct light, imparting a premium feel to the bike, somewhat marred by the absence of a gear position indicator and a side-stand indicator.
The FZ-S gets an air-cooled, single-cylinder, 2-valve 149cc engine producing 13bhp at 8,000rpm and 12.8Nm at 6,000rpm. Yes, it’s the same one from the previous version. The buffed-up avatar of the new FZ gets an additional 5kg and with only 13 ponies, the package may not sound interesting at all, especially when you consider that of the Apache RTR 160 4V, Suzuki Gixxer and the Bajaj NS 160, it is the FZ that makes the least power. So is that a deal breaker?
Surprisingly, not at all. Once you get on the bike, the numbers don’t matter. The saddle is soft, roomy and at 790mm, accessible to even the shorter riders. The pegs aren’t too rear-set, which makes this Yammie comfortable and easy to ride around even in chock-a-block traffic. With the FZ-S’ strong midrange punch, getting past vehicles in city traffic is easy. The Yamaha FZ’s engine is comfortable puttering around at as low as 30kmph in the fifth gear. Out on the highway, the Yamaha FZ-S enjoys being at 85-90kmph. However, the smaller 149cc engine shows its limitation. Getting past the 90kmph mark is a big task for the bike and it takes its own sweet time to reach triple-digit territory. Gear shifts are positive, but bring the Apache RTR160 4V into the picture and it feels dated.
With the same suspension as on the previous model, the front suspension does its job of soaking up the bumps well, however, the rear is a bit stiffer in the stock setting. However, it’s not that bad and is something you can live with. The brakes, too, are from the previous-gen model and do their job pretty well, offering enough stopping power, and the single-channel ABS can be barely felt. The MRF Zappers inspire confidence and didn’t let me down while cornering or even on loose gravel. So is the FZ-S Version 3.0 the perfect weapon for the everyday hustle?
Sadly, no. The FZ-25-inspired headlamp is disappointing. The low beam has good spread but lacks intensity. The high beam, on the other hand, has great intensity but the throw doesn’t go beyond a few feet. Also, the choice of halogen bulb for the pilot lamp doesn’t go well with the fascia.
Surprisingly, the overall build quality feels compromised and definitely not close to Yamaha standards. The panel quality is nowhere close to what the Apache RTR 160 4V or even the Suzuki Gixxer 155 has. The panel around the key was a bit flimsy and the chrome bits on the tank didn’t really add a premium feel to the bike.
Though the Yamaha FZ was once a benchmark in the 150-160 segment in the 2000s, it seems that the bike has taken a backseat for Yamaha. For someone looking for a commuter that could make you happy on spirited weekend rides as well, the TVS Apache RTR 160 4V, with its `99,101 sticker, definitely makes more sense than the FZ which sells at `98,180 (ex-showroom, Delhi). However, if you are on the lookout for a mature and calm everyday hustler that is comfortable on the highway as well, the 2019 FZ-S FI Version 3.0 is worth a look.