Hero Xpulse 200 vs Hero Impulse: Worth the upgrade?

03 July 2019, 10:38 AM Vikrant Singh

Introduction

Is the Hero Xpulse 200 a worthy upgrade from the Hero Impulse? That’s the question we have been asked most often since the former was launched. 

So, to finally arrive at a definitive answer, we decided to ride the two bikes back to back over a variety of conditions to see how much of an improvement the Xpulse really is. And, of course, if it’s a big enough improvement for an Impulse owner to consider it. 

But to answer that one question, we decided to ask three more. Talk about being superfluous.

Is it more fun?

Motorcycles like the Xpulse and Impulse might fall into the commute category. But these are for petrol-heads on a budget. And so, the two you see here must also be fun to ride.

Now the Impulse is a 150cc motorcycle. And when it was new, it made around 13bhp and a little over 13Nm of peak torque. It wasn’t a peaky engine, but it had decent mid-range. It came alive at 5,000rpm and stayed potent till 7,000. It wasn’t the quickest off the line, but it could do an indicated 105kmph. Maybe even 108kmph with the throttle wrung to the stop and with enough time in its hands. Its ideal cruising speed though, was more like 80-85kmph. 

But, here’s the thing. If you wanted, you could pull wheelies on it. And because the engine was so smooth and refined and vibefree, it never felt strained or under duress even when you revved the valves off it in every gear. And so we did. But, it refused to break down.

Ex-showroom, Mumbai

 98,000

The Xpulse isn’t as refined or smooth as the Impulse. But, it has the same unbreakable vibe to it. And it doesn’t mind being revved either. And when you do, you realise this near 200cc engine has significantly more grunt than the Impulse. 

So, it’s easier to wheelie. It makes traffic light motogps more fun. And while the Impulse has to be ridden flat-out nearly all the time to have some semblance of momentum, the Xpulse manages it without even getting within sniffing distance of the redline. But, when you do wring it out, it will happily get to 115kmph and sit there as well; which also makes it a better highway motorcycle.

For those who are interested in the numbers, this air-cooled but fuel injected single cylinder engine makes almost 18bhp of max power. The torque at 17.1Nm is healthy too. And when you consider that it peaks at 6,500rpm but doesn’t fall off the cliff then on, it’s no surprise that the Xpulse’s mid range feels more than just usable. It’s fun and exploitable.

Is it better off-road?

Back to the Impulse, and one of its endearing qualities has been its ability to take abuse off-road. You can jump it, drop it, or slide it (on the rear brake mostly). You can ride over rocks, wade through water, or just ride it down a flight of stairs. 

The Impulse would do it all with a dismissive wave; as if none of it was challenging enough. And if you got it wrong, you might have a broken mirror, a bent lever, or a few scratches on the paint to show for it. But nothing that would prevent you from thumbing the Impulse into life and doing it all over again. It was almost unbreakable. 

The good news is, the Xpulse 200 is from the same mould. It has more to break, yes, and it would be more expensive to fix, but one can still continue to ride it without paying attention to any of it. So, one can jump it (higher), drop it (harder), and slide it (on power) with gleeful abandon. Moreover, when the going gets tougher, the Xpulse only feels better. 

Now, it might not feel as light or agile as the Impulse, but the bigger wheels that cause this also make the Xpulse more confident when it comes to tackling rocks or ruts. It also has a stiffer suspension setup that allows the bike to land smoother, hit the ruts harder, and go about its business without much of wallowing or a head shake. And then to top it all - it has much better ergonomics for standing up and riding. 

Is it better at commuting?

For commuters, it is a close call. Now just like the Impulse, the Xpulse too might be the only motorcycle in the household. And that means it has to do a good job of the daily commute; and it must haul a pillion comfortably. Not to mention, it needs to be easy to ride in traffic, and light on the pocket come fuelling time.

The Impulse with its smaller engine and lighter weight was known to return just under 50kmpl. And, it has always been an easy motorcycle to ride. It’s light, it’s reasonably nimble, and though one has to deal with fork flex and less than adequate brakes, the Impulse, with its plush slow speed ride and good clearance makes for a good commute option. It has a long seat too and a comfy, upright seating for the pillion as well.

The Xpulse has a shorter seat in comparison, which doesn’t leave adequate room for two hefty adults. The pillion pegs on the new bike are higher as well. So, things are a little cramped for the Xpulse’s pillion. 

The seating ergos for the rider are better. Now compared to the Impulse, the Xpulse has a taller and wider handlebar. And it has an almost identical seat height which is quite accessible for the average Indian. But, the latter has slightly higher set footpegs. So, even though the Xpulse’s seating triangle gives the rider better control and more leverage, taller riders might find it a little cramped. 

As for its commuting abilities, the Xpulse doesn’t have the Impulse’s shortcomings. It has a more rigid front end which allows you to get on the brakes harder. And the brakes themselves - disc at both ends, with a single channel ABS - offer better power, bite, feel, as well as progression. 

So, not only does the Xpulse make for a more confident commute machine, it’s also faster because one can rely on its mechanicals more. As far as ride quality goes, it isn’t as plush as the Impulse, but, the Xpulse’s tauter suspension works better at higher speeds and over a variety of different surfaces.

So, is it worth the upgrade?

The Xpulse 200 is an improvement over the Impulse, no question. It is quicker, more fun to ride, and it is better suited for highway outings. 

We also found the Xpulse to be better off-road. It is easier to tackle inclines with, thanks to higher torque. The throttle response is crisper and more alert, which is a boon when things get slippery. The mechanicals - the bigger wheels and the beefier suspension - allow you to throw it around without having to worry about breaking something. 

But, is it a worthy enough upgrade for an Impulse owner? For the price, it certainly is. You get a better version of everything on the Xpulse. And if you want more power, then a step up from the Xpulse, namely the Royal Enfield Himalayan, requires almost Rs 80,000. And that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

Photography by Kapil Angane

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