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The Indian motorcycle market has seen a tremendous growth over the last decade or so. Every manufacturer worth its salt is either already here or is planning to set up shop in India. This growth has brought in all kinds of motorcycles for the prospective buyers, from street bike to cruisers to adventure touring machines. Especially, the big bike market is dominated by cruiser sales and Harley-Davidson sits right there on top. Royal Enfield undoubtedly owns the mid-size cruiser category and in fact is one of the fastest growing motorcycle manufacturers in the country of late. Bajaj is the only player catering to the bottom end of this market with its sole offering – the Avenger 220. Of course Hyosung is there with the GV250, but its price bracket sets it further apart in this category. The Avenger has done decent numbers (around 4000 units per month) for Bajaj despite seemingly almost zero efforts from Bajaj’s end to promote it. The last big upgrade the Avenger has seen was in 2010 when it was fitted with a 220cc engine. Yet the Avenger has held its ground. But the recent upheavals in the market have forced Bajaj to shift gear and give the Avenger the kind of attention it needs.
Bajaj recently launched an entire range of Avenger and there is not one, not two, but three different variants of the Avenger now on sale, with which Bajaj is aiming to touch the 20k units per month sales target. The Avenger is now available in 220cc Cruise and 220cc Street versions. The Street version is also available in a 150cc variant, which is aimed at people who want the styling and comfort of a cruiser but need to take care of their budget and fuel economy restraints as well.
Bajaj Avenger Street 220
Bajaj Avenger Cruise 220
Bajaj Avenger Street 150
Styling wise, broadly, the new Avenger series is the same old Avenger that we’re used to seeing. However, there are some major changes that make these bikes as new as they can be. As suggested by its name, the Avenger Cruise 220 carries all the things a cruiser would have. Firstly, it has chrome and lots of it! It also has a new handlebar and a more relaxed riding posture for those long hauls on the highway. There’s also an optional wind screen for those who are willing to shell out a few extra bucks. The Street 220 and the Street 150 on the other hand get an all-black treatment, including the engine, alloy wheels, and the grab rail. The handlebar on the Avenger Street is flatter and lower to make it more manoeuvrable in city traffic. The Cruise 220 comes fitted with spoke wheels whereas the Streets get a 12-spoke blackened alloy wheel at the front and 9 spoke alloy at the rear. The Cruise 220 also gets a pillion backrest. The seat height of new Avengers is raised by 15mm and that is contributed by the extra foam on the seats for extra comfort. The new Avengers also get a white headlamp, which Bajaj claims helps in better visibility after dark, though we couldn’t test it as we rode the bikes during daytime. Flexible indicators also find their way into the Avenger Street and Cruise. There is a new design analogue speedometer with a tiny LCD screen within, which displays odometer and trip meter readings. And obviously, the Avenger Cruise gets chrome plating on the speedo, wherein the Street 220 and 150 have got it black. The fuel gauge is fitted onto the tank itself. The overall fit and finish is top notch.
Some closeups of the Avenger Cruise 220
The Cruise 220 has got a very solid presence on the road and it will surely grab a lot of eyeballs. The Avenger Street 150 and Street 220 look pretty much identical except for some minor differences, the most notable of them being the blue colour of the Avenger 150. The Street 220 comes in black-red dual colour tone. It is hard to miss the influence of Harley Davidson’s Street 750 on the Avenger Street bikes. From the black alloy wheels to black rubber bellows on the front suspension to a minimalistic single pod instrument cluster to a round headlight. But it is a well-executed product in the end and that is what matters. Ticking the final box in the Cruiser checklist is a slightly bigger wheel at the front (17 inches) than the rear (15 inches).
Bajaj Avenger Street 150 closeups
Coming to the performance, let’s talk about the Street 150 first. The Avenger Street 150 surprised us by its performance. It uses the same tried and tested 150cc engine that Bajaj has for a very long time. This engine is tuned for a better low and mid-range torque and is mated to a 5-speed gearbox. It makes a healthy 14.5BHP at 9000RPM (at par with most of 150s in the country) and a torque of 12.5Nm at 6500RPM mark. The engine was smooth and vibration free even at high RPMs. The torque seemed to kick in rather early and evenly throughout the rev range. The gear shifts were positive and smooth as well. The bike seemed good enough to be able to cruise around 90kmph throughout the day without much fuss. The Street 150 also gets a 38-teeth sprocket at the rear and a larger air filter for improved low and mid-range.
The Avenger Cruise 220 and Street 220 retain the same old 220cc oil cooled DTSi engine that makes 19PS at 8400RPM and 17.5Nm of max torque at 7000RPM. These figures remain unchanged from the earlier avatar of Avenger. There is a very solid and planted feel to the Avenger when you ride it. The bike is quick off the mark, but obviously not the quickest of the lot. The engine responds readily to rider inputs and is smooth. The 5-speed gearbox also didn’t show any signs of distress or false neutrals. On the handling front, the Cruise 220 true to its name acts in a very relaxed and sedate manner. It loves to go straight and feels a bit hesitant when put it through the zigzags of city traffic. The Avenger Street 220 on the other hand is 5 kg lighter and, thanks to its flatter handlebar, feels much more eager to turn quickly and wants you to push it more. Overall the Avenger 220s behave reasonably well on the twistys, though none of them are corner cravers and shouldn’t be treated like one. The rear suspension on these bikes have been tweaked and it seemed to take the potholes and large speed breakers with much more ease than earlier without transferring much of the impact on rider’s back.
Braking is ably taken care of on the 220s with a 260mm disk up front and a 130mm drum at the rear. The Street 150 uses a 240mm disk at the front and a 130mm drum at the rear. The bite seemed adequate, the braking progressive and we didn’t have much to complain even during intentional hard braking. The 130 section rubber at the rear and the 90 section at the front complemented the brakes.
We are pretty sure that it would be a difficult choice for people who would be choosing between the Avenger Cruise 220 and the Avenger Street 220. It would be a classic battle between the heart and the mind. The heart would want to go with the Cruise for its quintessential classic cruiser feel and the oomph factor and that chilled out riding posture, but the mind would want the Street 220 for all the practical reasons like its handling and the alloy wheels to put tubeless tyres. Making the choice easier would be of course the similar performance and the 220cc DTSi workhorse engine. Whatever you might end up with, one thing is for sure, you are going to get a lot of attention on the road while riding the Avenger Cruise 220 or the Street 220 and you could own either by spending INR 84,000 ex-showroom Delhi.
The Avenger Street 150 would be a no-brainer for anybody looking to venture down the cruiser road with a limited budget. It is definitely the surprise package of this Avenger overhaul. The performance parameters are at par with most of the bikes in that category. The engine is smooth and responsive too. There was hardly any negative points about this bike that we could find. This bike will be of particular interest to those not-so-tall riders for whom the saddle height is the single most important criteria when buying a two-wheeler. It would also find a lot of takers among the fresh out of college youth looking to buy a ‘cool’ bike with their first or second salary. The Avenger Street 150 could be yours for INR 75,000 ex-showroom Delhi.
Overall, the new Avenger series seems to be a step in the right direction. It is a win-win situation for everyone as Bajaj got its portfolio expanded, the brand Avenger has got the attention it deserved, and consumers have more options to choose from. Also, there is hardly any competition in the small capacity cruiser segment, so it makes even more sense for Bajaj to take (or advance) the lead in this segment because if Bajaj wants to become the number one motorcycle manufacturer in terms of sales, then it would need to have the brand Avenger contribute more to its sales numbers.