Hero MotoCorp has been making headlines with the Xpulse twins. However, little did we know, at the launch Xpulse 200 and Xpulse 200T, that the company had a complete surprise in store for us - the Xtreme 200S. Is this the Karizma re-born in wolf’s clothing?
Review by Karan Mathur
Hero Xtreme 200S: Introduction
Hero Motocorp has been on a hot streak with its X (or ‘Across’, as they like to call it) range of motorcycles. The journey began with the launch of the Xtreme 200R last year and then moving on to more purpose-built motorcycles. Next up in the line-up was the off-road ready, go-anywhere Xpulse 200, which was unveiled at the Auto Expo last year and got every budget-conscious adventure enthusiast's heart pounding, also sending the automotive fraternity into an absolute scurry. Following that up was the Xpulse 200T, a motorcycle which shares most of its DNA with the Xpulse 200 but was set up for the touring enthusiast community.
Now, if we stepped back and took in the big picture, we’d notice that Hero Motocorp now had a street fighter, an ADV and a sports tourer in its arsenal. However, the company smartly recognised a gaping hole in this model hierarchy. A missing link of its premium entrant models ‘across’ different premium segments, if you will. This was the absence of a true-blue, faired sports bike. The company has been absent from every list of the premium motorcycles segment, but slowly and steadily, it has been rectifying this shortcoming by introducing its own contenders into the mix.
So now, as a complete surprise to everyone, the company has launched the Xtreme 200S. While it may be genetically similar to the Xtreme 200R, the 200S has been tweaked to be a more focused performance machine. To prove this, Hero Motocorp handed us the keys to the motorcycle at the Buddh International Circuit to help us get a taste of the motorcycle’s capability. Let’s see how it fares, shall we? But before we get to the exciting bit, let’s talk about what the bike has to offer as a product.
Hero Xtreme 200R: Design
When Hero Motocorp (Hero Honda at the time) launched the Karizma 15 years ago, the company single-handedly popularised faired motorcycles for the mass population of India. It was the pioneer of giving the rider a big-bike feel for small-bike money, and there is nothing which we love more than VFM (value for money). However, with its successive updates and the introduced of more lucrative options in the market, the Karizma started to lose momentum and its design dominance eventually tapered.
With the launch of the new Xtreme 200R, the bike was first and foremost, introduced by Hero Motocorp as a ‘spiritual’ successor to the Karizma. This move will definitely help the Xtreme 200R strum many-a heartstrings of motorcycle enthusiasts in the country. This is also because the Xtreme 200R follows the similar design route that Hero took with the Karizma 15 years back but fettled with the lines enough to fit design norms of current times.
At the front, the large fairing looks well integrated with the rest of the bike, which is essentially an Xtreme 200R. Apart from the fairing, what is also new is a LED headlight unit neatly integrated into a blacked-out panel, which in turn is well integrated into the entire front panel. In our opinion, the entire fairing has been cut and shaped well enough to give onlookers a distinct hint of an almost Italian-looking superbike, while also managing to keep the best bits of the Karizma alive. It definitely is the best effort of any motorcycle maker in the country to introduce a naked first and slap on a fairing after.
Look further back, and you’ll find the same, sculpted 12.5-litre fuel tank, one-piece rider-oriented sport seat, blacked-out exhaust muffler and angular two-piece pillion grab rail. It also gets the same set of alloy wheels, coupled to 100/80-R17 MRF rubbers up front and 130/80-R17 rubber at the back. Take one step back, or maybe 20 steps back, the motorcycle looks handsome from every direction, and you can’t help but think to yourself, “ this is what the bike should have been introduced as in the first place!”
Hero Xtreme 200S: Features
Before we get to the features that it has and shares with the Xtreme 200R in the performance section, let’s talk about what the 200S has to offer over and above it in the features department - that slick-looking all-digital smart instrument cluster. This new feature, which was introduced on the bike along with the Xpulse twins, is also one of the key highlights for a bike which costs as much as the Xtreme 200S (which we’ll get to later) does. While it is just an LCD unit, it does provide a whole host of information along with Bluetooth connectivity for call information and phone-based navigation.
All the information available on the screen are an odometer, speedometer, gear-position indicator, two trip metres, time, date, riding time, average speed and a 7-bar fuel indicator. The Bluetooth connectivity, on the other hand, offers information on who is calling and provides navigation by showing a turn-by-turn distance-based pointing the arrow. The latter is also what set up the Xpulse twins as such capable, budget-friendly, adventure motorcycles. The Xtreme 200S features a new all-LED headlamp unit and the LED taillamp of the Xtreme 200R. In terms of safety, a single-channel ABS is standard.
Hero Xtreme 200S: Ergonomics
Like the Xtreme 200R, the 200S also gets an upright but mildly sporty rider’s triangle, with a low seat height of 795 mm, a high handlebar and just slightly swept-back footpegs. The 200S may look the part, but it essentially doesn’t feel all that different from the Xtreme 200R. This is because it is meant to be an all-round machine. What you ride to work, is also what you take to get your thrills on weekends. In our short 6-lap session with the motorcycles, not once was the commute-biased riding position a problem in us pushing the bike to its limit. There is also no doubt that like the 200R, the bike will be as in-tune in urban driving conditions as well. It certainly does its level best to provide rider’s with the best of both worlds, rolled into one package.
Hero Xtreme 200S: Performance & Handling
Using the twinning system with these four new motorcycles, the Xpulse twins share their own set of engine dynamics and chassis geometry, while the Xtreme 200R and 200S get their own. What this means is the engine and underpinning of the new 200S is virtually the same as the Xtreme 200R launched last year, albeit with some minor tweaks to its hardware.
The engine is the same 200 cc air-cooled single-cylinder engine which develops 18.4 bhp and 17.1Nm of torque mated to the same 5-speed gearbox. There is also no fuel-injection option on the 200S, that is solely reserved for the Xpulse 200. With that said, the bike did offer decent grunt on the race track. Hero had assigned a smaller loop for our test circuit, which provided the perfect setting for the bike to show off its bottom-end torque. It was quick to get up and go with a twist of the throttle and only loses steam past the 7,000-7,500rpm mark. However, 80-90kmph is where the bike feels its best, with minimal vibrations at the helm. Past this, the bike starts to feel strained, and that is communicated to you via the handlebars and footpegs.
While we didn’t get to test its top speed as the circuit didn’t include BIC’s straight sections, the bike should go up to the 120 km/h mark, 130 km/h maybe in perfect conditions, before calling it quits. There is no denying that it does feel very familiar to what the Xtreme 200R had to offer, but that was peppy enough to keep a smile on our faces for the entire 6 laps. The transmission also has a very positive and precise shift action, helping the rider get the best out of the powertrain.
However, more than the engine, what kept that smile getting wider is the bike’s handling characteristics. What the 200S does add over the 200R is stiffened suspension dampers to better suit the sport character that the bike is built for. What is identical is the 1,337 mm wheelbase, the 37 mm telescopic front suspension and the 7-step preload adjustable monoshock. Putting all this together, what you end up with is a motorcycle which handles quite well and is extremely forgiving.
Hero MotoCorp does point out that bike is not meant for all-out sportiness and is also the perfect starting point for beginner sportbike riders. Every lap, you start to trust the bike more, and the bike itself urges you to push past your inhibitions. By the end of our session, I was starting to hang off and even blatantly flicking past BIC’s right-left chicanes.
Hero Xtreme 200S: Verdict & Pricing
Hero’s new sport bike marks the company’s return to the entry-level sportbike market. However, as many thrills as it did provide, to call the bike a ‘spiritual’ successor to the Karizma, the motorcycle is not radically different in terms of performance and driveability. Yes, it does have the capability to set pants on fire at a track and make you look like a rock star pulling up at your college parking lot but to call this a revolution would be wrong. The bike is basically an evolution of its predecessor, albeit one that may have come too late.
The performance game has moved on to a new level and the level of equipment that is now on our radar list, far too long. It is not a game changer, yet does manage to offer a machine that is extremely versatile, decently feature equipped and a good start to the world sport bikes, all for a price of INR 98,500 (Ex-showroom, New Delhi). Which puts it squarely in competition with Bajaj Pulsar RS200, TVS Apache RTR 200 4V and Yamaha FZ25. While a test ride of all these motorcycles back-to-back is necessary to determine a true winner, Hero Motorcorp definitely has a winner on its hands and genuinely a welcoming addition to its model line-up.