At Autocar India, we gauge bikes through a very specific lens – fitness for purpose. Every bike is designed with a specific purpose in mind: touring motorcycles are supposed to ferry riders over long distances in relative comfort, superbikes prioritise speed and handling over all else, and so on. So, every motorcycle should be evaluated based on how well it serves its target audience.
Now it’s been a while since we compared commuter motorcycles, so we decided to put two of the newest ones to test. The commuter motorcycle segment is quite expansive, so we narrowed it down to 150cc premium commuters, and then sifted through to pick out the most competitively priced and latest ones – the Hero Achiever 150 and the Bajaj V15.
Before we actually pit them against each other, it would behove us to understand what makes a perfect premium commuter. Commuters, we can all agree, are predominantly urban vehicles meant for city riding conditions. As such, they need to be relatively comfortable, capable of dealing with potholed roads, neutral from a riding position perspective, fuel efficient, affordable to own and run, and easy to navigate through urban sprawl. Speed and acceleration are not priorities. Desirability used to take a back seat in the past as well, but that trend is reversing today.
The Achiever 150 looks like a true-blue commuter. It’s well-designed, but it will not stand out in a sea of commuter motorcycles. The V15, on the other hand, is a whole different story.
The V15 looks premium. There is a distinct novelty to its design – a freshness that was much needed in this segment. The tank, side panels, seat and tail segment are all very different from what we’ve come to expect from commuter motorcycles. Particular points of attraction are the café-racer-like rear seat cover, the LED tail-light and the muscle lines on the tank. The butterfly-shaped headlight is also distinctive, though I am not entirely sold on its aesthetic. And then, there is the bike’s connection with INS Vikrant, the decommissioned Majestic-class aircraft carrier of the Indian Navy. Every V15 purportedly uses a bit of the INS Vikrant’s metal in its making, which is one of its greatest selling points. On the whole, the V15 is a very desirable-looking motorcycle and will definitely stand out in the very sea of commuters that the Achiever 150 might get lost in.
The Achiever 150 and the V15 are both powered by single-cylinder, air-cooled engines with SOHC. The Achiever 150’s mill is a 149.1cc unit that produces 13.6hp at 8,000rpm and 12.8Nm at 5,000rpm, whereas the V15’s 149.5cc unit produces 12hp at 7,500rpm and 12.7Nm at 5,500rpm.
The Achiever has the commuter feel nailed from the moment you get into the saddle. The riding position is very upright, which will prove comfortable even for extended city commutes. Start the bike and you are greeted by vibrations at idle. Slot into first using the light clutch and, as you set off, some things become immediately obvious: the engine is torquey and not very refined, and is certainly not happy to be revved too much. The gearing compels you to upshift very quickly as you build speed. I was in fifth gear by the time I hit 50kph, with the tacho needle indicating revs at about 4,000rpm. This, as I soon discovered, was the sweet spot; rev it beyond and the engine feels strained and vibrations soar. Highway cruising, thus, is not a great option. However, the early torque delivery ensures that you don’t need to downshift much, even as the speeds drop.
Bajaj claims that it has prioritised torque delivery in the V15 by increasing the engine’s stroke. While it definitely does feel torquey, it is slower than the Achiever in a head-to-head acceleration test. But the manner of power delivery is more enjoyable in the V15; it is more linear and the engine will rev more freely and smoothly. The V15 feels more comfortable at high revs, allowing you to space out your upshifts more; downshifts too can be spaced out because like the Achiever, there is plenty of torque in the lower range to go around. However, vibrations in the V15 are even more pronounced at idle than in the Achiever and continue to filter through the handlebars, fuel tank and foot pegs during your ride.
In terms of riding position, the seating geometry of the V15 is slightly cruiser-like, with wide handlebars, a low-set wide seat and forward-set foot pegs. It is comfortable for both urban as well as highway riding.
Being commuters, both bikes have a soft ride. The Achiever’s is the softer of the two. It is superbly absorbent at low speeds, but bouncy at higher ones, especially if you are a light rider like me; it may be more settled for heavier riders. The relatively firmer suspension of the V15 was more to my liking – soft enough to tackle bumps, lumps and crests well, but also firm enough to do away with any lollop on highways and open roads.
In terms of handling, both bikes were easy to navigate in traffic. The V15 was a little more adept at taking corners though, probably due to its lower concentration of weight and fatter rear tyre.
As mentioned before, fuel efficiency is a big talking point for commuter motorcycles. Both bikes get 13-litre fuel tanks, though the Achiever’s reserve at 1.8 litres is slightly more than the V15’s 1.7 litres.
i3S kills engine after 5 seconds of idling.
The Achiever 150 gets Hero’s i3S (Idle Start-stop System) technology to improve fuel economy – with i3S switched on, the bike automatically kills the engine after five seconds of idling. Pull in the clutch and it comes back to life again.
However, when we conducted our fuel tests, the V15 delivered a better city fuel efficiency at 56kpl, compared to the Achiever’s 50kpl.
Fresh is best
In terms of equipment, the Achiever comes out on top: it gets a side-stand indicator, tachometer and i3S. The only novelty the V15 enjoys is the LED tail-lamp. However, the quality of the switchgear feels better on the Bajaj. Both bikes get the Automatic Headlamp On (AHO) feature, though the Bajaj has the brighter headlight of the two.
On the whole, the Achiever 150 is the faster bike here, with that handy i3S. But that is where its supremacy ends. On all other fronts, the V15 comes out on top. It is smoother, more comfortable, and offers better riding and handling. More importantly, it is desirable. Desirability was almost always overlooked in this segment, but the V15 is changing that rule of the game. It looks and feels a lot more premium than its price tag suggests. The V15 not only meets the requirement of a commuter, it goes beyond them to make the rider/owner feel a little special. We cannot yet comment on the long-term reliability of these bikes, but as first impressions go, it’s the V15 that takes the cake.