Two hundreds are a bit of a weird alice in the motorcycle world. Existing because of certain countries licensing regulations, they do not offer the economy of a 150 cc machine, nor do they fit in as true quarter-litre class motorcycles.

So, why would Malaysian motorcycle manufacturer Modenas offer a 200 cc machine, the 2017 Modenas Pulsar RS200, in what is, in Malaysia, a very saturated market? If you think we’re kidding, Kawasaki alone has five models in this segment, Yamaha has the very popular R-25, Benelli makes the TnT25, Honda has the slightly out-of-date but still capable CBR250R, Naza has the N5R.

The Pulsar range – the other is the Modenas Pulsar NS200 naked sports – is something of a rebirth for Modenas, after having lain fallow for many years with mere minor updates to very out-dated models in the sub-250 cc segment. Tying up with Indian manufacturing giant Bajaj, the RS200, priced at RM11,342, is the first of three models sourced from the Indian sub-continent.

Being previously known for its scooters and kapchais, the Pulsar bikes are a new direction for Modenas, entering the “proper” motorcycle market, as it were. During the launch of the Pulsars, as well as the Modenas V15 cruiser, what made us perk up and take notice was the price point.

Now, there is cheap, and there is cheap. What we were curious about, having never ridden a Bajaj bike before, was if the performance of the RS200 would live up the hype.

Manufacturers partnering to share resource, leverage dealer networks, enter new markets and rebadge products is nothing new. Even the national car maker does it.

What makes the Modenas Pulsar RS200, and by extension, the NS200, any different? For one thing, as we said earlier, Modenas as a brand had been languishing for a while, with no real new products.

A partnership with auto maker Bajaj makes sense in that it would be the quickest, easiest way for Modenas to get a new product to market without the associated costs and delays involved in developing a new motorcycle from the ground up. And since the Indian market has a licensing regulation that allows for a 200 cc motorcycle, this is what we get.

As a full-fairing sports bike, the Pulsar RS200 does look the part, at the first approach. The upper fairing cowl makes the RS200 look bigger than what it is, almost middle-weight sized.

We do realise that this is inline with the demands of the Indian market, where “proper” motorcycles are supposed to look big and bulky. Personally the author prefers motorcycles that are slim and svelte and go round corners in an entertaining fashion, but that’s another story for another day.

Coming back to the RS200 we were issued as a review unit, the bike was painted up in a rather fetching blue and white scheme. Looking at it from the front, we were struck by the similarity of the headlight design to the Yamaha R1 superbike, with its twin projector headlights, and the daytime running lights (DRLs).

The rest of the styling for the RS200 follows contemporary design trends for sports motorcycles, all sharp planes and folded angles. The styling does fit in with the purpose of this bike though, which is targetted towards the younger rider and learner market.

A word on the rear LED tail lights, if you please. The split-lens design is certainly unique, and elicited more than a few comments from observers, but it put us in mind, for all the world, like a pair of spread legs.

Getting into the saddle, we found the seat height to be 810 mm, bringing it right up there with most sports bikes. We did not find it a stretch, and the saddle was firmly padded and cut away sharply to the front to allow riders to bring their feet down.

A fairly substantial tank pad was fitted, almost pillow-like, and we soon found out why. Starting up the RS200 brings the 199.5 cc, single-cylinder, triple-spark plug, liquid-cooled thumper to life, with the resulting vibration.

We did expect this, of course, vibration being an inherent issue with all singles, no matter what the capacity. Setting off on the RS200, we found the clutch pull to be very light, not amazingly so, but enough for us to appreciate it during riding stints in heavy traffic.

Compared to most of the 250s we’ve ridden over the course of the past 24 months, the RS200 comes in close to the Kawasaki Versys-X 250, which we found to have the lightest pull of all. Clicking the six-speed gearbox into first, we found the lever throw to be a little long, so if you intend rowing through the gears to get the RS200 into optimum cruising speed, you’re going to have to make your shifts firm and positive, or end up chewing a lot of false neutrals.

As we rode the RS200 around, we found the clip-on handlebars, which looked sporty from a distance, are actually attached to risers, and place the rider is a fairly upright seating position. This is not a bad thing, as there isn’t a lot of space in the saddle for moving backwards, the humped pillion seat limited the fore-aft seating allowance.

Perched as you are, the RS200 does allow the rider to have a head upright view, as opposed to the looking through the top edge of the visor riding position. Bringing the RS200 up to its redline of 10,000 rpm revealed that the engine does have a little power in it, some 24.5 hp worth, and 18.6 mm of torque.

These numbers proved to be adequate for around town riding, cutting through rush hour traffic, and in this role, satisfied the author perfectly well. Heading out on the open highway did call for a little patience to build up speed, and if you missed a shift along the way, there was enough time for tea and a cigarette before the engine answered the call for bells.

But, and this is a big but, the RS200 surprised us with its handling. Taking it on our usual test loop up the mountain, the RS200 would, when its neck was wrung and with a (very) firm hand at the bars, corner well, and hold the line.

It did feel a little nervous if the approach was uncertain, so riding the RS200 fast into a corner and out again requires commitment. A rider who knows what they are doing will find that the RS200 will, indeed, keep up with the usual gang of 250s, but it needs work.

The key for the RS in terms of handling performance is corner speed. Leave the brakes alone, choose your line, and dive in. The RS200 will track straight and true, and made us wonder what would happen if we fitted it with premium rubber on its 17-inch wheels.

Ground clearance on the RS200 was not that much of an issue. Nothing ground out during spirited riding, and pushing the 164 kg RS200 to the limit showed it did not really like being brought to the edge of the tyre tread.

But this is neither here nor there. In all cases, handling on the RS200 had no vices, except the vibration level would increase as the throttle was wound open.

At its top speed, with the rider tucked down behind the fairing, the RS200 would do its level best to stay with the 250 boys, and did not give much away. Let’s just say the deficiency was about 5 km/h, and unless you’re on a racetrack, this does not mean much in the real world as you would be rolling up as the other guys are just about to take their helmets off.

Cruising on the RS200 was quite nice, whether seated upright or tucked under the bubble to get out of the wind blast. If you’re not in too much of a hurry, the Pulsar RS200 would quite happily sit at 120 km/h all day, with the 13-litre tank giving you about 220 km or so in range before the warning light comes on.

A first for this segment is the inclusion of front-wheel ABS on the RS200. We like that it is standard equipment, and indeed, apart from the KTM 250s, no other quarter-litre machine in Malaysia has this.

With hydraulic discs front and rear, braking on the RS200 was reassuring, and was sure and strong. Very hard braking when strafing the corners of Ulu Yam did show a little fade, and the lever came back to the bar just a touch.

Enough to be noticeable, we doubt many riders would be pushing the RS200 as hard as we did. Rest assured, if you ride the way the RS200 is meant to be, the brakes will perform to satisfaction, just make some allowances if you have a pillion on board, or if the road surface is sketchy.

You would have to make some allowances for the buzz coming through the bars for long distance riding though. We found using leather gloves with thick pads on the palms made the issue go away, and we always recommend wearing gloves when riding any sort of motorcycle anyway.

Priced at RM11,342, including GST, but excluding road tax, insurance and registration, the Pulsar RS200 represents Modenas’ hopes in exciting the Malaysian bike market in the quarter-litre segment. There are two colour options available for the RS200 – Blue/White (as reviewed) and Black.

So, who needs the 2017 Modenas Pulsar RS200? If you’re a young rider, with a fresh license and on a budget, the Pulsar RS200 makes a good choice, coming as it does with ABS and styling that doesn’t hurt the eyes. The RM11,000 price-point is well within the reach of many young riders, and with Modenas promise of expanding its dealer network, we feel the RS200 is worth considering.

While some may say that giving away 50 cc to most of the other contenders in its class is a negative, we are reminded of the words of a good riding buddy of ours, “it isn’t what you ride, it’s how you ride it.” That the rider in question once took the author, on his 916, on the outside while riding a Pegaso 650 is perhaps adequate proof.