Words: Abhishek Wairagade
Photography: Gaurav S Thombre
What do you do when you have a factory that can churn out a million products a year but when you can only sell about 3.5 lakh? That’s exactly the problem that Suzuki Motorcycle India is grappling with. It’s not that the company doesn’t have good products. The Gixxer – both regular and SF – is a smash hit and is easily the motorcycle to beat in the 150cc segment. The Access 125 scooter is also a fantastic machine and the Let’s 110 isn’t a bad scooter either. Perhaps only the Hayate might still have a walk to the benchmark in its segment. The company also has a generous big bike portfolio, including the awesome GSX-R1000 R. The only problem is big bikes can’t be mass manufactured, even though we certainly wish they could be, and Suzuki’s last attempt at a quarter-litre naked bike (remember the ultra-comfy Inazuma?) failed. But that one-million-a-year plant still needs to be justified. So the answer then? According to Suzuki, the answer is a 150cc cruiser. After all, Bajaj’s Avenger series doesn’t seem to be doing badly and UM Motorcycles’ 250cc cruisers too seem to be selling fairly well. Then of course there is the venerable Bullet that has been helping Royal Enfield grow at nearly 50 per cent month on month for the past god knows how many years. Therefore, behold, the Suzuki Intruder. No, not the mammoth 1800cc bike or even the smaller 800cc machine. This here is a machine based on the Suzuki Gixxer that we love so much.
At the press event, there was no common ground between the journos on whether the Intruder looks good or bad. We either loved it or hate it. I’m kind of neutral here, but slightly skewed towards the latter. First of all, I would have liked it if Suzuki added the 150 moniker to the Intruder name because they’re somewhat bringing down the repute of the original 1800cc bike here.
Secondly, the Intruder looks disproportionate to my eyes. I have been working out since 2007 but during my younger days, I (like the most of others) hated ‘leg days’. Similar is the case with the Intruder. It gets massive plastic claddings that give it an imposing look (you have to see it in flesh to believe it, seriously) but the puny wheels spoil the party. Nonetheless, the silhouette is reminiscent of its elder sibling, thanks to a bulbous headlamp and massive integrated tank panels. In fact during the ride in Lavasa, many were shocked to learn that this was a humble 150cc machine.
It also gets a properly long seat along with a massive exhaust muffler. Overall, the package is sure to shock the masses and we noticed that when a bunch of Royal Enfield riders stopped to praise the butch Suzuki. Which proves Suzuki has done enough homework and has got distinction in the department where it matters the most – looks.
The Intruder is based as we said on the proven Gixxer, which is our favourite motorcycle in the 150cc segment right now and that should be reason enough to expect much from this tiny hearted cruiser. It shares the diamond frame as well as the 154.9cc motor with the Gixxer, making 14.59bhp and 14Nm. Unfortunately, Suzuki has brought in only the carbureted version for now and expect the FI to make it soon in a ‘special edition’, when the upgrade is due.
The gear ratios have been altered here though, to let you cruise comfortably. The air box is larger now and so is the exhaust, allowing for better performance on the road, says Suzuki. All this (along with the plastic panels) has added 7kg to this bike over the Gixxer.
As good as the Gixxer to ride?
Get on the saddle and you’ll be surprised to find the ignition key located on top of the headlamp cluster! Secondly, it’s the forward set foot pegs that add to the cruiser like style. You’re seated not too far away from the handle though as it’s swept back, allowing even short riders to find a comfortable position right away, unlike on many cruisers. The rider’s triangle is almost perfect for someone with my physique (6ft, heavy built). It’s comfortable yet sporty, staying true to the bike’s character.
Get on the move and you’ll be surprised to find how nimble and light the Intruder feels on its feet. It does show off its Gixxer genes quite nicely and that can only bring the motorcycle praise from critics and customers alike.
The engine is peppy and always ready to pounce and power delivery is silky smooth with enough grunt to keep you happy. The tall gearing perfectly suits the purpose of cruising and you feel equally at home even in the twisties. I could hit 80kmph in third cog and 95kmph in the fourth cog which is really commendable for a 160cc bike. And it never feels stressed, even when on steep climbs. I’m sure it’ll get even better once the run-in is complete (the bike I was riding had only 68km on the odo).
Cruiser fans will be disappointed to know that the Intruder is nowhere close to a cruiser when it comes to handling, and even the ride quality is slightly on the firm side. Which means, the Intruder knocks on the Gixxer’s doors with its agility and fun nature. It’s a great bike to go corner carving if you’re prepared to scrape the pegs. In fact, at the end of the 100km ride, my shoe soles were bruised badly. The additional mass never hampers the riding ability and the well balanced chassis allows for easy lean into corners, limited only by its scrapes. The front end is visibly raked out but Suzuki engineers weren’t ready to divulge the steering and rake angles, however hard we tried. Here it gains full points from my side, to make up for the loss in terms of looks. Its lively nature could turn out to be one of the major reasons for enthusiastic riders to opt for it over the traditional cruisers.
Best entry level cruiser?
The closest competitor of the Intruder is the Avenger 150. But the Avenger brings most of its sales from its 220 variant and the 150 is not really a big seller. Which actually gives the Intruder an edge over everything else as it has most of the characteristics of a cruiser, plus the handling of the Gixxer. At Rs 98,340, ex-showroom Delhi, however we’d have to say that Suzuki will have its task cut out for its closest competitor – the Bajaj Avenger 150 retails at Rs 81,459, ex-showroom, Delhi.