2003 was an eventful year, Google launched AdSense, the Concorde superjet was retired and Mars was the closest to Earth in over 60,000 years. But we motorcyclists were busy ogling at the Hero Karizma- a motorcycle ahead of its time. Ever since you saw Hrithik Roshan ride it on screen, looking away from that bright yellow paint was not an option, especially with that chunky semi-fairing glaring at you. You knew you wanted to have one in your garage.
Well, 20 years later, that dream is back in an all-new avatar and is called the Karizma XMR. It is still as yellow as ever and aims to be as iconic as the first one. But does it live up to the hype? And does it make sense over the current market leader- the Yamaha R15? We rode it for a short while to find out.
The Karizma XMR aims to be aggressive in every sense- right from the sharp and aggressive-looking full-LED headlamp to the tail section. It comes with a fairing, which sports defined lines and creases and stretches to the belly pan.
The design is not particularly inspired by the original Karizma but is rather a modern take on it. However, we couldn't help but notice the design semblance the XMR has to bikes like the Suzuki Gixxer SF, Yamaha R15 and Hero Xtreme 200 S too. In any case, the new Karizma turns heads, more so in the yellow colour. You can also have it in red and matte black. I also liked the design of the wheels that add premium-ness to the package.
That said, the new Karizma is compact but it is hard to argue about the lack of brawn. It gets well-fitted panels, but looking closer, the motorcycle comes with decent build quality which, in our opinion, could be better.
Hero has been generous while listing the features of the new-gen Karizma. The bike comes with a slipper and assist clutch, dual-channel ABS and full-LED lighting. But that's not all, the XMR also gets a six-step adjustable rear mono-shock. However, the piece de resistance is the adjustable visor- a first in its segment. It is easy to operate and can be done with a push of a button and sliding the visor either up or down manually. Although apart from adding a smidge of bragging rights, this feature doesn't change much on how the wind is buffeted.
Other than this, the XMR comes with an LCD screen with dashes of colour. Along with vital information, the screen comes with Bluetooth connectivity as standard and auto illumination. This is with the addition of a turn-by-turn navigation system- a first in the class too.
Besides the new styling, the Hero Karizma XMR also comes with a brand-new 210cc motor. It comes with a dual overhead camshaft and liquid-cooling unlike the other 200cc options and offers 25.2bhp and 20.4Nm.
This new engine is characterful and instantly likeable. It offers potent low-end grunt and a strong mid-range too. Even the top-end is quite impressive with the Karizma managing a top speed of close to 130kmph easily. I'm sure the punchiness that the motor offers is what will have you hooked. It has enough torque spread through the rev band so downshifting isn't required while overtaking. Speaking of shifts, the XMR comes with an assist and slipper clutch. It feels light, but shifts are slightly notchy at times.
Well, the new 210cc engine is much better than previous Hero 200cc motors but it isn't entirely stress-free. The handlebar, tank and pegs get buzzy at around 5000rpm. These vibes are then felt on the seat too. But in the overall experience of riding the Karizma XMR, these vibrations weren't a dealbreaker.
What I also liked was its handling. With just 163kg, the XMR is light and handles like a charm. It felt right at home in the infamous Delhi traffic. The ride, however, is on the stiffer side. While this wasn't an issue on the well-paved highways where we rode, it could feel uncomfortable on broken roads. Now, the Karizma offers a seat height of 810mm. Getting on the motorcycle is easy, but if you are under 5’8, having both feet planted can be a challenge. On the move, the ergos feel comfortable. The raised clip-ons, slightly rear-set footpegs and well-cushioned seat make it easy to be on the saddle for longer durations. However, the challenge comes if you are inching close to six feet. Due to a lack of space on the seat, the Karizma would feel uncomfortable.
With the latest edition, Hero has somewhat finally nailed the design of the Karizma. It is aggressive, decently built and most importantly, yellow. But I was even impressed with the XMR's performance. It is punchy in the low end and has enough grunt in the mid-range. While in the top-end, the Karizma is impressive too. With great handling and low kerb weight, it is a hoot to ride in the city. The combination of its comfy egos and flat torque curve should make it a decent tourer too. Apart from it being slightly vibey, I failed to find any real flaw in the motorcycle.
Now when it comes to pricing, at an introductory price of Rs 1.72 lakh, Hero has got it spot on. Its only competition is the Bajaj Pulsar RS200 which now seems dated and the Yamaha R15 which gets much less power and is priced at Rs 3,000 higher if you choose the M variant with all the features.
So should you buy the Karizma XMR? We recommend it if you are young and upgrading from a 150cc motorcycle, want something other than the R15 and looking for a do-it-all motorcycle under Rs 2 lakh.
Photography by Kaustubh Gandhi