A well-maintained Karizma R is still a head-turner in any part of the country. Paint is also of good quality, the glossy finish on the body panels and tank looks great. Hero has made some changes to the Stickering to differentiate it from the erstwhile Hero Honda Karizma, part of its re-branding exercise I guess. But the Stickering/graphics don’t look out of place, infact it adds to the overall stance of the bike.
Engine Performance, Fuel Economy and Gearbox
The chassis is a gem considering prevailing Indian road conditions; it provides the level of comfort needed on a sports tourer without sacrificing too much on the handling front. The chassis is infact derived from the infamous Honda VFR Sports Touring series, making the Karizma R extremely potent for both touring and commuting.
Karizma’s engine capacity, though 223cc doesn’t arm the bike with the kind of grunt evident on the Pulsar 220 DTSi or 200 NS. On the contrary, it’s an extremely refined engine wherein vibrations are barely felt even when it is pushed to the Redline. The 17 BHP might not sound interesting from a 223cc engine but, considering the liquid cooled R15 also pumps out the same; but the hidden gem is the 18.35 Nm of torque that’s evident on the Karizma R right from the word go.
The bike accelerates briskly till 100 kmph even with a pillion, but the going gets slow beyond 110 kmph. The max BHP is produced at 7000 rpm making it easier to blip the bike through fast paced highways at not-so-ample throttle inputs. On the contrary, to keep the R15 on the boil, one has to wring the throttle hard making it an arduous task within city limits; the Karizma definitely excels in this regard. Top speed achieved was approx 125 kmph on the speedometer (122 kmph measured on android GPS).
Gearbox is easy to operate during highway stints. However the gearbox does tend to behave a little erratic in city traffic. Finding neutral when the engine is hot is a tough task at times. The 5th gear allows easy cruising at 60 kmph within city limits as there is abundant torque to play around with.
Fuel economy recorded was 37-40 kmpl in the city (with a gentle throttle) and 33-35 kmpl on highways (maintained 90-100 kmph). Above 100 kmph, fuel economy nosedives at alarming rates, it could hit as low as 27-28 kmpl if ridden hard. Best option is to change gears at 4000-5000 rpm to achieve a good balance of power and fuel economy.
Ride Quality & Handling
The handling can be called at best neutral, though much better than the CBR250R. Setting the rear shocks to no.3 position improves handling considerably as opposed to the no.2 factory setting. The front and rear shocks are tuned towards comfort, bad roads and potholes don’t upset the rider’s rhythm much. Even with a pillion, the suspension does a great job at keeping jerks and jolts at bay from the rider’s palm or butt.
The seat is a tad too soft, slightly stiffer foam would have made a great difference on a long ride (nothing that an aftermarket job can’t fix). The Unicorn’s seat is ideal in terms of foam density. However the seat is good enough for daily use within the city. The soft foam on the seat allows the butt to sink in considerably, but riding 150-200 kms at a stretch would be an issue soft seat causing the butt to go numb.
The stock tyres do a great job in providing stability in long sweeping corners and sharp turns even during wet weather conditions. The Karizma might not be an aggressive corner carver like the R15, but it’s not lagging behind either. An experienced rider on the Karizma can give the R15 a run for its money when ridden on twisties.
Brakes are excellent, the front disc provides sufficient bite and the rear drum is pretty effective too. Even under a panic braking scenario, the brakes are up to the task. The absence of a rear disk brake was rarely felt; the drum was functional enough riding in Bombay or on highways. However, I consider it mandatory to warm the brakes a bit by pumping both brakes a few times when riding in wet weather, this allows better braking efficiency and reduces chances of the brakes locking-up.
The Karizma can be a great companion for a rider who is on the lookout for a motorcycle that strikes a balance between good power and great comfort, besides its one hell of a looker too. If maintained well, the Karizma R is a reliable bike over all terrains and weather conditions. There are riders who have successfully scaled Leh, Pangong and Khardung La on this gorgeous looking work-horse.
The latest slew of launches from competitors has to an extent dented the Karizma’s sales figures. A KTM Duke or a P200NS or a CBR250R owner might claim their steed’s technological supremacy over the Karizma, but the fact remains that none of the modern-day machines (considering the Karizma is almost 10 years old since its inception) can strike that “perfect balance” between performance and comfort that the Karizma still offers.
Areas of improvement
- Headlight requires to be upgraded to 55/60W for better visibility. The Philips Blue Vision or the Osram Silverstar is a possible after-market upgrade.
- Horn requires an upgrade to the Dual Horn type, similar to the one on the ZMR. The ZMR horn can be directly fitted, but extensive usage takes its toll on the battery which leads to starting issues later. Its good as long as used judiciously.
- Engine heating up in city traffic situations and during sustained high speed rides. A simple solution is to switch to the MAK 4T NXT synthetic engine oil from BPCL, best results on the Karizma (tried & tested) and ZMR. The 10W30 Hero Engine Oil doesn’t hold for more than 3000 kms. MAK 4T NXT holds well for over 5000 kms on the Karizma, even in extreme ride conditions; it also ensures better starting in cold weather.
- Tyres are a disappointment in wet weather conditions; straight line braking under an emergency causes a spill. Serious tourers switched to the Pirelli or Michelin brands and found it a good fit. I personally didn’t feel the need to change the tyres as they have very good grip in sweeping and tight corners. Maintaining a 28/28 psi (Front/Rear) tyre pressure whether riding with or without pillion allows sufficient grip in wet weather, anything above this might cause a spill under hard braking.
- Cross wind stability of the bike isn’t great under hard winds. The Karizma sways substantially during harsh cross-winds that are often found on our National Highways. My mechanic was of the opinion that removing the fiber belly adjacent to the engine should cure this problem, but I wasn’t too keen on experimenting this as it spoils the look of the bike to an extent.
- Cost of Spares is exorbitant; a spill on the Karizma can cost a bomb depending on the intensity of impact due to the accident. I seriously don’t find enough justification for Hero to charge this steep an amount for Karizma’s fiber parts or brake pads. It’s not as if the bike’s body panels last a decade, rather the fiber parts are quite flimsy and their contact/meshing points give away even without a fall or impact.
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