In this line of work, we ride nearly every two-wheeler that goes on sale, and without meaning to brag, we’re a blessed lot to be able to call this ‘work’. Naturally, some machines forge a more lasting impression than others and the conversation at the Autocar office often leans towards which bikes left us with the biggest smiles.
Invariably, some names crop up more often than others, and it was one of these very conversations that lead to the idea for this piece. After much back and forth, these are the top 10 two-wheelers that we all agreed upon as being the most fun to ride in a Rs 2 lakh budget.
At this point, I should point out that fun to ride doesn’t necessarily mean the fastest, most sophisticated or best handling. It’s hard to quantify really, but simply put, these are the affordable bikes (and scooters) that we just can’t get enough of – the kind that fuels the very love for riding. So, in no particular order, except that of price (all prices ex-showroom Delhi), here’s the list of bikes that excite.
1. Honda Navi
The funkiest, most unusual-looking machine here is also the most affordable one on this list. Inspired by the Honda’s now legendary Grom, the scooter actually uses the Activa’s architecture. It comes with the same engine and automatic transmission, which allowed Honda to price it incredibly low.
But that’s not why we love it; the Navi makes it here because it's such a unique experience thanks to its tiny, light and super-agile form. The riding position makes it feel like a scaled-down motorcycle and you can’t help fooling around every time you hop in the tiny saddle. The Navi does have its share of problems, like its lack of stowage space, basic suspension and sparse feature list (there’s no fuel gauge) count against it, but none of that takes away from the fact that this is an incredibly cheerful little thing to ride. What's nice is that we’re expecting an updated version in a couple of months.
Price: Rs 42,784
2. TVS Victor
What’s a commuter bike doing here you ask? Well, there are no rules for what can and cannot qualify as a fun bike and the TVS Victor is just that – fun! The Victor earns our love because it keeps all the virtues of a straightforward commuter, and it also manages to bring in an unexpected level of rider involvement for the segment.
This is not to say that it is overtly sporty in any way, but the Victor has a wonderful combination of a smooth and eager engine, a very well-balanced chassis, pliant suspension, good braking performance (disc brake variant) and impressive levels of quality and kit. All this makes the Victor the kind of bike that fulfills all its commuting requirements of comfort, efficiency, and practicality, and it does so without being a bore. We've always enjoyed every ride with the TVS Victor and it is easily our favourite small-capacity commuter. Commuter bikes deserve love too and that's why the Victor earn a spot on this list.
Price: Rs 53,295 (Drum), Rs 55,295 (Disc) and Rs 56,275 (Premium Edition)
3. TVS Ntorq 125
The new TVS has many groundbreaking features including a highly informative digital display, Bluetooth connectivity, GPS navigation and much more. But none of that (or the competitive price) is why the Ntorq makes it to this list. No, that would be entirely down to what a joy this scooter is to ride. TVS has done a great job with its first 125cc engine – it’s one of the fastest scooters we’ve tested and it also produces a pleasingly deep exhaust note.
But that’s only part of the story and the bigger treat comes in the chassis and suspension setup. The Ntorq offers a plush ride quality and it happily takes on poor surfaces, but it’s also an involving handler and is quite willing to attack any corners that come its way. The ergonomics are accommodating of tall riders and the disc brake sheds speed confidently. I’ve been riding the Ntorq on a daily basis now and I genuinely look forward to the commute. That says it all!
Price: Rs 59,650
4. Aprilia SR150
The SR150 blew the scooter segment open when it first launched in 2016 and there hasn’t been a similar product since. It scores with its sensational European style, a powerful 150cc motor, and fantastic handling manners. The SR150, and its younger sibling, the SR125, are the only scooters in India to offer 14-inch wheels. Couple this with a wheelbase longer than that of the average 150cc motorcycle and what you get is immense stability and cornering poise. Sticky tyres from Thai brand Vee rubber and remarkably sharp brakes further enhance the SR’s potency.
Practicality, though, is not a strong point; it has a remarkably stiff suspension, a relatively small underseat stowage space, a tall seat and lacks any frills. The SR is not a something you buy for comfort or practicality, and its unwavering focus on sportiness is what makes us recommend the SR150 over the lower-priced SR125 – the difference is performance is tangible. For the purest SR experience, there's the SR150 Race with optimised gearing for the quickest performance. Ultimately, it’s the fastest, best handling and most handsome (to my eyes) scooter out there, and that earns it a place on this list
SR150 price: Rs 71,486
SR150 Race price: Rs 74,666
5. Suzuki Gixxer/SF
The Suzuki Gixxer is the perfect embodiment of the rules that govern this list. The Gixxer isn’t the fastest, most powerful or most feature-loaded bike in its segment. Despite that, it has managed to win every Autocar comparison review in the past four years and has only just conceded defeat at the hands of the TVS Apache RTR 160 4V. The RTR managed to win this one because it offers a more grown-up, powerful and premium experience than the Gixxer, but the Suzuki is still the more entertaining bike to ride.
So what makes the Suzuki Gixxer so special? It’s one of those combination factors once again, where everything ties in beautifully. While the engine could use a stronger top end, it does have an eager and characterful nature with a punchy mid-range which is great fun in urban conditions. The gearbox is crisp and the chassis is tremendously engaging. What seals the deal is that you get one of the best riding positions in the class, which allows the rider to lock onto the bike, giving you a great sense of control while still remaining comfortable. Even after all these years, it’s still one of the most gratifying 150-160cc bikes out there and you can’t go wrong with either the naked bike or the faired Gixxer SF
Gixxer price: Gixxer: Rs 77,015 (rear drum), Rs 80,929 (rear disc) and Rs 87,250 (ABS)
Gixer SF price: Gixxer SF Rs 90,037 (rear disc) Rs 96,386 (ABS) Rs 93,032 (FI) Rs 1,00,216 (FI and ABS)
6. TVS Apache RTR 200 4V
The RTR 200 is the third TVS on this list, which only confirms that the Hosur-based manufacturer really does value the fun-to-ride factor on all its products. The RTR 200 is the brand’s first bike to offer a 4-valve head, a monoshock at the rear and a slipper clutch. The 200 presented a huge leap forward and while it offers a bigger and more premium feel, it still manages to retain the RTR brand’s reputation for a naughty and playful nature.
While the RTR lacks the top-end performance of the NS, it feels engagingly sharp and responsive at urban speeds. This peppy performance is made all the more engaging with the RTR trademark – a deep exhaust note. And thankfully, its agile handling doesn’t come at the cost of a stiff ride quality. The suspension soaks up bumps well and all you need to deal with is the somewhat sporty riding position. The RTR 200 isn’t just the most fun bike in the segment, but it’s our overall pick in the 200cc category too. While the RTR comes in multiple flavours, the ABS-equipped model is the one we strongly recommend.
Price: Rs 96,185 (4V), Rs 1.08 lakh (FI 4V) and Rs 1.09 (4V ABS)
7. Bajaj Pulsar RS 200
The RS 200 is the fastest, best-handling and most richly equipped in Bajaj’s 200cc range. The Dominar is faster still, and by a good margin too, but it’s the RS that is more fun to ride. It makes a great statement on paper with a 4-valve head, liquid cooling, a perimeter frame and optional ABS. The RS also manages to balance its identity very well – the riding position is sporty, but far from extreme, and the handling is stable and enjoyable, but without being punishing over poor roads.
On the flip side, the RS 200 is fully faired, but its looks are subjective, to say the least, and a rattly fairing is something you’ll have to live with as well. But then again, this Pulsar makes for fantastic value given the performance on offer.
Price: Rs 1.25 lakh, Rs 1.37 lakh (ABS)
8. Yamaha R15 V3.0
The new Yamaha R15’s motor displaces just 155cc, but it’s a high-tech engine with a 4-valve head, liquid cooling, and variable-valve actuation, which helps it make an impressive 19.3hp and 15Nm. Consider its low kerb weight of just 139kg and you have a recipe for plenty of laughs. The Yamaha R15 is a highly talented handler and as we discovered in our road review, it's one of the best beginner sport bikes on sale today.
The latest R15 is one of the best-looking small-capacity motorcycles on sale now thanks to its new R1/R6-inspired design and it also has a committed riding position to match. The only issues we have with it are the iffy quality here and there, and the lack of ABS, even as an option.
Price: Rs 1.26 lakh
9. KTM Duke/ RC 200
The 200cc KTMs have been around for many years now and they’re just as much of a riot now as they were when they first came out. The 200s are famed for their frantic performance, which is made even more dramatic by the very short gearing. This restricts top speed to just under 140kph, but it ensures laugh-out-loud performance below that. Another offshoot of the gearing is that the 200 is far more tractable in city conditions than the bigger 390s.
The KTMs are easily the most-focused and committed sport bikes of this lot and you must be willing to live with that nature, and also a good amount of engine heat at city speeds. If that (and the unfortunate lack of ABS) is alright with you, these little thrillers will rock your world.
200 Duke Price: Rs 1.52 lakh
RC 200 price: Rs 1.77 lakh
10. Royal Enfield Himalayan
Yes, that’s right! There’s a Royal Enfield on the list of the most fun-to-ride bikes under Rs 2 lakh! The Himalayan joins this illustrious company thanks to its great chassis that makes it a blast to ride over the rough stuff. A large 21-inch wheel works with long travel suspension and on/off-road Ceat tyres to make the Himalayan a very capable, yet friendly off-road bike. It is quite a hefty beast, but at the moment, at this price, there's nothing that comes close to the Himalayan’s abilities. And by extension of this nature, the Himalayan also happily swallows all manner of broken roads that comes its way.
The Royal Enfield Himalayan is a deeply likeable machine, but it does have its issues. The engine, for one, is a disappointment and it cannot comfortably sustain cruising speeds upwards of 100kph. The bike also has a bad reputation when it comes to quality and reliability and that’s something Royal Enfield has worked hard to address in the latest BS-IV update. Nevertheless, this is one of the most characterful motorcycles here and it absolutely deserves to be on this list.
Price: Rs 1.68 lakh
There are a few bikes that did not make it to the list, but ran it close. The first of these would be the Honda CBR250R. Honda’s premium 250 is a strong performer and a rather good handler too, but it’s just too old now, having been around in our market for seven years now. We deserve more, about 36.5cc more to be precise, in the form of the CBR300R that replaced the 250 in most international markets well over three years ago.
Then there’s the Yamaha FZ25 and Fazer 25, both of which are quick machines, but they make for better premium urban machines than they do exciting sport bikes. Meanwhile, KTM’s 250 Duke offers a funkier style, five more horsepower, and a more mature riding experience, but we have a softer sport for the naughty streak in the 200 Duke. The 250 Duke also costs over Rs 2 lakh (on-road) in some states, which brings the price closer to more powerful machines. And finally, the Mahindra Mojo calls for attention too, but while this quirky machine is quite endearing, it’s not exactly fun to ride in the traditional sense.
Like what you see or have we missed something out? Let us know in the comments below.