Thursday, 29 March 2012

Yamaha SZ / SZ-X: Comprehensive Road Test Review

Looking at the business front, none of the current 150ccs from Yamaha was a real volume seller and Yamaha’s desperation to capture the 150cc market brought the low cost no frills SZ to life. So what is it that is encouraging Yamaha to be so boastful about the success of this bike? Let’s read it from Saad Khan’s eyes.
I am generally very excited when I get to test ride a Yamaha machine. This being an altogether a different product from the regular Yamaha genes’ I was all the more eager to explore the capabilities of this bike to know how it fares as a low cost higher capacity mass product bike. So let’s push the crank to see which way does the needle swing.

Styling And Build Quality: A nice and compact stance!

Yamaha’s bikes have always been those aggressive looking kinda and with this low cost variant, the looks do not get reprimanded, thankfully. SZ is beautifully crafted with a muscular and aggressive stance. It all starts with a bikini fairing (unlike FZ’s naked genre) which is all black colored plastic cupped in body colored fiber from the bottom. Raised eyebrows, Yamaha logo right at the forehead, detached transparent windscreen and pointed orange colored side blinkers lend the front a hostile look. Though the contoured tank is not as huge looking as FZ, but possesses more capacity and bulges at the very right angles. The extended tank shrouds look well crafted from the sides but from the front they feel an odd fitment. Side panels are all black and plastic sporting the ‘Yamaha’ name in bold. Body colored rear panels culminate in black plastic again and a fantastically designed tail with a partition in between.

Sticker work is also pretty decently done; it’s neither over nor underdone. The all black theme provides the bike with a very classy look. The matt black finished engine exudes typical Yamaha quality. The front biased design does make the bike attractive to look at but the bike definitely looks smaller as compared to other machines in the 150cc segment which is expected as it’s built to economy. A few odds here would include, the weird position of the front number plate which gets its support from a hinge between the headlamp and the fairing cover, unnecessary use of ‘Power & Comfort’ tag under the SZ sticker, excessive use of Yamaha emblem (it’s used at as many as 5 places: over the headlamp, on either sides of the tank, console and at the tail) and the rod-type rear grab rail which is pretty functional but very old and traditional in design.

However, even after the expected cost cutting tidbits, SZ looks better than a few of the higher priced 150ccs as well. Build quality of the bike looks phenomenal as we expect from Yamaha and frankly speaking unlike some other manufacturers, this bike doesn’t feel exactly an undercut and a half hearted product. Fit and finish was also of Yamaha’s standards especially the paint quality of the red bike I rode felt incredible.
Styling & Build Quality: 8.5/10

Engine And Transmission: Lack Of Juice, Evident!

Powered by the same 153cc mill that does duty on the elder brethren FZ series, this engine produces 12.1PS of maximum power under SZ’s tune and peaks at 7500 rpm. Torque produced is a respectable 12.8Nm at 4500 rpm. A direct comparison of these figures with FZ reveals that the low and mid range power concentration of both the bikes have been retained but SZ produces almost 2PS of power less than FZ. Turning our attention to the torque figures, SZ produces almost 1.2Nm of torque lesser than FZ but the graph has been redefined here. The torque peaks almost 1500rpm earlier than FZ (@4500rpm) which hints that special attention has been paid to load this bike with better city agility characteristics. No doubt the produced power figures are low considering today’s norms, lets hit the road and understand the practical difference.

Before everything, I must tell you that I have ridden the 11.82bhp classic Pulsar 150cc for most of my early biking years and that did give me a benchmark to assess this bike’s power delivery characteristics. To start with, this bike has a different note than FZ. I already had 20k lower expectations from this bike and some of them were benchmarked higher but some did go lower! The pickup of the bike felt decent and cruising at 70-75kmph felt like a breeze with the engine under no stress at all. Another good part is the very good load pulling capability of the bike. I, with a pillion (combined weight of approx 135-140 kgs) tried to pull the bike from lower speeds in 5th gear. From 20-23 kmph, the bike did create a few unwanted noises but managed to pull up but from anything over 25-27 kmph it was gradual but easy for the bike to pull up without much hitch. From similar speeds, a twitch of the throttle allowed me to touch 90kmph on the speedo (though it took time). Inside congested traffic this bike is an ideal companion and does not cry for mercy. This displays the fantastic torque characteristics of the bike.

But the engine lacks the eagerness to move forward and feels as if it’s an employee of a software firm, does only what it is asked to do! It takes a little time for the bike to respond and understand that it is being asked to scorch through. Outright performance is not what I expected from a 150cc machine and sluggishness is evident right from the word go. I will talk about more of this in the ‘Performance’ section of this roadtest.
But (another twist in the story..) the engine felt butter smooth for whatever time I rode the bike. In fact, it imbibed in me the feeling of ‘built to last’ quality with no amount of roughness creeping in at any ‘riding’ rpms. Vibrations only crept in at higher rpms. SZ has been mated with a lovely 1 down 4 up 5-speed gearbox which had me all smiles. The brilliant, always-precise and in-the-slot gearing along with a wonderful buttery clutch impressed me big time. The clutch operation reminded me of Honda Unicorn, I felt like I am driving a hot knife through butter…sheer quality! The most impressive part about the clutch was the absolute bite which it retained all through the congested traffic of stop and go first/second gear moves.
Engine & Transmission: 6.5/10

Comfort, Handling And Ride Quality: Grossly Comfortable!

With a slightly altered seating position, this bike does feel a little different. The not-so-open chested stance, high raised shoulders and a ‘not completely Hero Honda commuter kind’ of seating, provided a very good seating posture. The complete geometry ensures that the rider doesn’t feel numb at any time. Add to this the fantastically cushioned seat which, I felt, is a very optimum mix of soft and hard with (more than) adequate padding and breadth to aid those always bashed butts and it also provides very good support to the thighs. I did not sit as a pillion so I cannot comment on pillion comfort but the pillion seat was longer and wider than FZ and could carry normal Indian sized butts with ease. I go to the extent of saying that SZ is one of the most comfortable bikes I have ridden till date in this segment. The only little glitch was the slightly taller saddle height of the bike which stands at 802mm which might create issues for people less than 5”6’.

The bike which I was riding flashed TVS rubber, 2.75 * 17 front and 100/90 17 rear and at that very point all my confidence vanished in air. Anyways, no extravaganza (!) but the bike behaved pretty well on the road I rode it on. It accepted the random and sudden swaying with considerable ease; high speed stability was pretty good along with all the on road behavior. I don’t know whether TVS’s are standard across all SZ, but I suggest going for the model loaded with MRF Zappers, if available. A higher 165mm ground clearance also ensures that heavenly potholes are kept devoid of SZs bottom. Ride quality was also plush with absolutely nothing to complain over.
Comfort, Handling & Ride Quality: 8.5/10

Electricals And Instrumentation: Not much to talk home about!

Again the list of electricals doesn’t go long. The front console is a twin pod design which consists of a speedometer in white background calibrated till an optimistic 140kmph and houses an odometer and the green Neutral ‘N’ indicator and a huge fuel gauge towards the right in place of the tachometer. The rest of the console is filled with the necessary side blinker lights, upper beam.

Switchgear is also kept pretty basic with the light button, upper/dipper button, choke lever, side blinkers and horn towards the left hand side and only the starter crank at the right. Yes this means that electricals are non DC and the bike does not have either the tachometer or the pass switch or more importantly the tripmeter.

The buttons also felt flimsy and just OK. Especially the starter crank and horn are very small and pointed and doesn’t give a comfortable feel to the thumb.

SZ comes equipped with a 12 Volt 5 Ah battery on the SZ but I am a little unsure whether it is maintenance free or not. The headlight is the conventional 12 V 35/35 Watt Halogen bulb.

I rode the bike during the day so not sure about its performance during night but I did notice a good glow when I was passing through a dark under bridge with my headlamp On. The instrumentation definitely lacks a few ‘now essential’ features and Yamaha might want to include them in SZ’s first upgrade.
Electrical & Instrumentation: 7/10

Performance And Braking: Needs betterment! I already mentioned in one of the above sections, the bike has this lazy feel attached to it. This engine does feel sluggish when it comes to outright power. In fact this is the most lethargic engine I have ever ridden in this 150 segment, Discover 150cc included! Though I did not have any instrument to measure the exact timings but I am sure this bike would do 0-60 kmph in over 6.5 seconds (probably 7 seconds) which means it would be slower than a few premium 125/135cc machines as well. If that was not enough, there is more to it. Even in the top end this bike becomes a dud. It needed extra amount of seconds to cross that figure of 100 kmph (which should be relatively an easier task for a 150cc machine) and went onto hit a top whack of speedo indicated 112-113 kmph. So it becomes evident that outright performance is not this bike’s forte.

But talk about torque and the bike makes you smile. I waded through the Pune traffic with ease without the need of changing gears frequently and this definitely is one good aspect of this bike. Switching sides again, I would rate SZ as the slowest to stop bike in this segment which was, anyways, evident as it comes equipped with drum brakes only both at the front as well as rear. Yamaha did provide bigger 150mm drums at the front but it doesn’t provide any bite whatsoever. Since I am accustomed to disc brakes (be it small or big), I had a narrow escape when I was about to bump a brand new Honda Accord when the bike plainly denied any halt from 85kmph. Just the thought of shelling out my whole month’s salary to the Accord owner made me switch to slow speed testing of the bike, thereafter.
According to my opinion, disc brakes should be made mandatory on all two wheelers at least for 150cc and above. Drums just cannot provide any good braking capabilities on a 130+ kg 12+ bhp 150cc and above bikes. Well the saving grace here is the fact that we are told that Yamaha would get SZ with disc brakes within 2-3 months, obviously at a premium. Till then I would definitely be tightfisted in awarding points for this section to give you a better glimpse of what you would own currently.
Performance & Braking: 6/10

Mileage, Variants & Pricing: Justified bits!

Though Yamaha is not promoting this bike as an efficient commuter or at least I have not seen any ad which flashed “xyz kmpl * (* Only Yamaha riders could achieve it, don’t crib afterwards)” but considering the lower power characteristics and customer base this bike is aimed at, SZ should return anything over 52-53kmpl where ideally it should be 58 kmpl plus. This might be a challenge as Yamaha is not known much for frugality of its engines. However, one of my friends has reported initial mileage figures of over 50kmpl.

Like FZ, SZ also comes in two variants: the base variant, SZ 150 and the premium variant SZX. SZ 150 is offered in two colors: Red and Black whereas SZX is offered in 3 color tones to chose from: Red, Black and Grey metallic. SZ 150 is plain and simple and kept devoid of the front wind scoops and stickerwork is also kept minimal. The front transparent visor is also not present on this lower priced variant. The major difference here though, is the presence of electric starter on the SZX where SZ 150 has to be content with only a kick starter. Ironically, SZX doesn’t have kick starter. With this apartheid, the SZ 150 is priced at Rs 54,960 and SZX would set you lighter by Rs. 58,275, both prices on road Pune. Yamaha is also offering a 5 year warranty on the bike out of which 2 years and 30k kms is the conventional comprehensive one whereas the remaining 3 years and 40k kms covers engine, carburetor and related parts.
Mileage, Variants & Pricing: 9/10

Bikeadvice Verdict:

Now there are 3 angles from which this bike could be looked at. One: ‘Ahh another regular competitor against the existing 150cc creed’ which will definitely leave you wanting for more from this bike. Two: ‘An emergence of a new low cost 150cc segment’ which currently has Bajaj’s Discover 150 as the only competition. Third: ‘A better alternate to any (smaller) bike under 60k on road’. I would leave the first angle and talk about the remaining two, since it really is not pitted against any of the current ‘regular’ breed of 150cc motorcycles in the market.
Like the 100cc, 150cc is becoming so huge that manufacturers have started exploiting various ways to capture it. And the sheer volume of sales in this segment has allowed for creation of sub-segments. Bajaj started it with an ultra low cost 150cc Discover 150 and now Yamaha follows suit with this offering. The good thing about SZ is that, unlike Discover, it does look upmarket and fresh with brand new looks. And the creation of this sub-segment ensures that more and more people can afford ‘power’ and ‘torque’ now, which in the longer run is definitely the way to go along with being a measure of India’s market (and mentality) growth.

Between 53k and 59k, SZ would inadvertently compete with Pulsar 135LS from Bajaj, Glamour & Super Splendor from Hero Honda, Shine, Twister & Stunner from HMSI, Flame from TVS and SS 125 from their own stables. A closer look will reveal that specificationwise SZ betters almost all of them and those extra cc’s always add that refinement, longer life and ease of operation to the engine. Out of all the above mentioned bikes SZ is the most relaxed bike and possess the best load carrying capabilities owing to its much better torque. This means carrying that slightly heavier girlfriend around the city would be a lesser concern now. Moreover, SZ is the best bike out of the lot to take on the highway as they say “There is no replacement for displacement”. Does this quick comparo make SZ justified..? No…..? Then read further…
To be true a 150cc bike at this price point should not be expected to be a rocket performer, so a little lack of juice could be pardoned. SZ is a very good bike and a very compelling alternate to all the bikes listed above. More mature buyers who do not care about outright bursts might prefer SZ over even the Pulsar 135LS. This bike is for anyone from a 11th/12th standard student, to a young college goer, to a new job seeker, to a fresh new joinee, to a happy go lucky bachelor, to a just married man. This bike is also for those who like to or has to carry a heavier pillion or a marketing executive who has to encounter congested traffics for most part of his day in the field work job.
BikeAdvice Verdict: 8/10
  • Fresh Looks
  • Overall Quality
  • Price
  • Comfort
  • Sluggish Engine
  • Switchgear Quality
  • Dumb brakes
  • No Tachometer, tripmeter and DC Electricals

1 comment:

  1. I liked your way of explanation and I think you are an adept automobile. Contrary, the stopped racing has been begun again with new launching Yamaha SZ X 150, which is likely to beat its rival.