Suzuki GSX150F: The little engine that can
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I’ve always had a soft spot for the small capacity motorcycle segment. Maybe it’s because they aren’t so well-loved in this country, where bigger is always better in the minds of so many riders, or maybe it’s to do with the quirky nature they often take.
Whatever the reason, small bikes can be a hell of a lot of fun to wring every bit of performance out of, without worrying about losing your licence.
Suzuki has taken a punt that there are still riders out there who, like me, want a small capacity run-around to thrash from point A to point B with joyful abandon. According to Suzuki NZ’s motorcycling general manager, Simon Meade, there are more such riders than expected — the first three-month allotment of bikes sold out thanks to riders in the urban centres.
With the little bike selling so well, I had to grab a GSX150F to put it to the test myself.
Now, along with being a surprise hit with the small-capacity market, the GSX150F also has the important role of being the base for the newest class of motorcycle racers in New Zealand – the GIXXER Cup GSX150R — which gives new riders a real taste of racing for a very small outlay.
Even before the GIXXER Cup had set out of the pit lane, Suzuki clearly benefited from the “race on Sunday, sell on Monday” mantra of old. The GSX150F isn’t a bad bike by any stretch and all that separates it from the R are the mirrors, factory bars and lights.
The tight package gives you a lightweight chassis mated to an aluminium 154cc single-cylinder engine that feels like it puts out the same amount of grunt as the 250 class of the pre-LAMS era.
Hopping aboard I was surprised — to say the least — to find not only a choke lever on our test bike, but also a kick starter. It’s fun to kick it into action, if only to look cool, but it’s nice to know that even if the battery goes a little flat, you’ll still be able to get the bike moving.
Thumbing the starter has the same result as seemingly all Suzukis these days, barely needing to be touched before the bike fires into life.
Well, that’s what happens when you have turned on the fuel tap, another rarity in this day and age. A colleague along for the ride had a right good laugh as I sat there for the first couple of minutes with a puzzled look on my face as the bike sat cranking over, yet not starting ...
It’s clear from the outset that the GSX150F isn’t really designed as a long-distance tourer or open-road bandit, and is much happier among the traffic and low speeds you often find in our urban centres, where you can make the most out of the 5-speed gearbox and torquey little engine.
While battling strong headwinds on the highway, I was reasonably surprised to find I could almost keep the little bike at the legal limit, despite my rather heavy self aboard the lightweight Suzuki; although in order to achieve this, I had to adopt the cannonball riding position.
Thankfully, my next ride in the still morning air didn’t necessitate a repeat, and it’s here that I felt I worked the baby Gixxer out.
Although it’s definitely not designed to be a long-distance tourer or state highway slayer, it does a respectable job at both. It can do the highway if necessary, but it’s more of a modern alternative to the GN125, except it has what feels like the power of the GN250. It is, however, far more at home in town.
Tootling along in top gear at 60km/h is easily doable, with the bike happy to cruise through town sipping gas in 4th. As I found out — in another embarrassing fuel tap moment — the baby Gixxer can travel the length and breadth of Paeroa on the contents of the float bowl alone.
With the bike being so lightweight, I started to consider it more of a cool scooter alternative than a tiny Gixxer.
Tipping the scales at just 139kg, it’s easily manageable in traffic and when you tie that in with the low seat height of 785mm, it makes for a fantastic bike for younger riders to enter the world of riding.
Braking comes from two pistons calipers up front and a single disc and piston combo out back, which have no issue at stopping the bike from the open-road limit, which was a surprise considering the bike’s low price point.
That sums up the little Gixxer in all respects.
It shouldn’t be as manageable as it is, and hauling a 100kg rider along at the open road limit is an achievement for a 150cc machine, whatever way you slice it.
The fact that Suzuki NZ has sold out the first shipment also speaks volumes.
The small capacity segment isn’t as dead as some might suggest, and with the GSX150 also available as a naked, it looks like Suzuki could be the saviours of the small capacity sector.
2017 Suzuki GSX150F
Price: $2995 + ORC
Engine: 154cc 4-stroke, 1-cylinder, air-cooled, OHC
Pros: Affordable, lightweight, will highway if necessary
Cons: Low power