A decade back, if your budget had been about a lakh and a bit more and you wanted a fully faired motorcycle back then, you could only get the Yamaha YZF-R15. The next option was the Kawasaki Ninja 250, a brilliant motorcycle that was twice the price of the R15. The R15 has been the bastion for affordable performance fully-faired motorcycles that one could lay their hands on in India. The R15 V 3.0, priced at Rs 1.27 lakh, takes the game even further! In the crowded 160cc motorcycle segment, there is no doubt about the supremacy of the Suzuki Gixxer, which starts at Rs 90,658 for the base variant and goes all the way to Rs 1 lakh for the Fi with ABS variant. All prices are ex-showroom, Delhi.
Suzuki’s dual pronged approach of a naked as well as a fully-faired option has worked out nicely for them so far. It gave the fully-faired motorcycle aspirant another option. While operating in the similar cubic capacity segment, these two motorcycles are as similar as Abhishek and I. So which one fits your bill?
One look and immediately you know that the R15 is the eyeball-grabber in the looks department. The way the styling has evolved from a rounded appeal to a cutting edge design has transformed the looks of the, dare-I-say-baby, R15. The sharp LED units, the chiselled body panels, the air vents on the fairing and the scoops beside the tail section are all indications of the fact that the R15 is purpose-built for speed!
Even the way you perch your bottom on the motorcycle makes the R15 super aggressive for its size. Sure the YZR-M1’s DNA did trickle down along the years but this level of attacking posture isn’t even found on the larger capacity R3 (we think the next update will bring forth similar aggression on the R3 as well). It is now made for the track. For the corner. No longer for the city.
The motor was always a free revving one. The new 155cc single-pot engine is a bored out version of the old 149cc motor. And Yamaha has now specced it out with VVA, which adds another facet to the motor – it makes it tractable. Not that it wasn’t light already in the first place, clutch action is lighter now thanks to the addition of slipper clutch.
Get her out into the twisties, that’s where she revels. Tip in fast and get out faster, and the way she holds her line is pretty astounding. While the India-spec bikes get the conventional 41mm forks, the front end feel is confidence inspiring nevertheless. The ride is on the stiffer side. Although you feel no jarring sensations, it doesn’t iron out bumps and cracks found so commonly on our roads.
The combination of a bias-ply MRF Nylogrip front tyre with the optional radial Metzeler rear is confusing at first. It works with no complaints! Surprising, no?
The brakes are definitely suspect. The test bike showed similar signs of brake fade and issues of lacking bite as we had found earlier during the first ride. That said, few other media folk didn’t report the issue with their bikes but they had different problems with retardation. I simply do not get why Yamaha cannot just offer the bike with ABS right off the bat as the system is a definite boon for our conditions.
Fully-faired and affordability never did go hand in hand. How could they? The exoskeleton is the whole reason that we fawn over such motorcycles, which inadvertently raise costs. That was not the case when Suzuki decided to launch a fully-faired variant of the naked Gixxer. The naked had received tremendous acclaim from critics and audiences alike. The Gixxer SF then had a brilliant foundation. And credit to Suzuki, it was just not a mere slap-on job. Three years since its launch, the Gixxer SF continues to be the most affordable way one can lay their hands on a fully-faired motorcycle but there is so much more to it than that.
It has a very approachable appeal. The design is fairly clean and simple, not shouty and aggressive like the R15. The round muscular tank works well with the fairly simple yet wide fairing design. The headlights aren’t LED yet offer great illumination. Even the single piece seat is comfy and welcoming. Traits we saw in the first-gen R15, which we loved.
Unlike the R15, either first or current gen, the Gixxer SF isn’t as committed. The bars are traditional ones, no clip-ons. The pegs are in neutral territory. And though the diamond frame is extremely capable, it is no Deltabox. However, Suzuki didn’t want to go in that direction and the Gixxer SF is more of a sports commuter. Something that packs in good performance, premium styling and is still easy to live with.
In that regard, the 154.9cc single-cylinder air-cooled mill is tuned accordingly. Be it the carb or the Fi variant (the latter on test here), it has some serious mid-range grunt. It does run out of breath at the top but that’s not where you want to be with her. Zipping through the city hustle bustle is surely an enjoyable experience. Even the gearing of the 5-speed transmission brings out the meatiness of the torque band. She will do well on your weekend twisty blasts. Track time? It will be put to shame by the R15.
The Gixxer SF is just a kilo heavier than the R15 but the way it is set up for the dynamic stuff, it does feel a couple of notches behind the Yamaha. It will for a fact not shock you with razor sharp handling but neither will it be a major handful when it comes to the bends. It does have a more pliant suspension setup which supplements its city riding appeal.
The added advantage of having an ABS option is what one should definitely consider. The brakes are simply stupendous as they provide terrific retardation as well as feedback. The MRF Nylogrips too do a fabulous job.
On paper, these are just two 155cc fully-faired motorcycles. So, both of them should be as similar to one another as they come, right? But often, tech specs can be misleading and one needs to physically ride the motorcycles to unravel their characteristic traits. So, allow us to help you. Suzuki’s Gixxer SF is a brilliant bike in its own right. Its city prowess is unmatched and it’s also a worthy companion for weekend blasts. At Rs 1 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi, the Gixxer SF Fi ABS makes a hell of a lot of sense. But here’s the thing. It is competent but not exciting.
For that, there’s no substitute to the R15. Even though it’s a hefty 27 grand dearer, it’s the Yamaha you really want. It has that extra oomph, that edge in performance and handling that others are still playing catch up with. And it’s loaded to its tail tidy – slipper clutch, variable valve actuation and liquid-cooling to name a few. And of course there’s that brilliant Deltabox.