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Hero’s new trio brings a breath of fresh air to portfolio

S Muralidhar | Updated on May 02, 2019 Published on May 02, 2019

XPulse twins and the XTreme 200S share a versatile platform. Can they now challenge the big boys in the entry performance segment?

Hero MotoCorp’s overly commuter focused portfolio of motorcycles always had a couple of bright spots. The Karizma is one of them and the Impulse was one of them. With performance bike buyers maturing and moving on to larger engine displacement motorcycles, Hero’s portfolio needed a unique bike like the Impulse. Unfortunately, it seems to have been a bit ahead of its time; or was a combination of that and ergonomic issues that users faced while riding this off-road style motorcycle. Meant to be a raised, dual-character motorcycle which was part dirt bike, part premium commuter, the Impulse didn’t entirely deliver on its promises, even though it was fun to ride.

A much delayed but welcome commitment to own research and development during the last few years has led to a slew of new products from Hero. While the initial outcomes were mostly facelifts and quality improvements on existing product lines, more substantial changes, product overhauls and completely new platforms are on the way, of which there is none more impressive than the latest platform shared by the trio of bikes launched earlier this week. The new XPulse 200, 200T and the Xtreme 200S share the same engine, gearbox and chassis, but have a fairly different character each based on their positioning. One is an on-road-cum-off-road bike, another a tourer and the third is a sporty, urban premium bike meant for buyers in the entry performance segment.

Earlier this week I travelled to Bengaluru to test-ride the 200 and 200T, and here are my first impressions.

XPulse 200

The most interesting of the trio has to be the adventure, dirt bike style XPulse 200. For a moment there it looks like a ‘Mod’ with over-raised stance, long travel front forks, the upswept exhaust and dual front fenders. But, its finish quality and premium features are clearly market -driven and manufacturer-derived. However, the XPulse 200 isn’t completely clean and fresh. Some of the design features like the fuel tank are traditional, and even attempt to refer back to Hero’s existing bikes, something that is not necessarily the most ideal. But, the rest of the bike is still very purposeful and appealing for its adventure positioning. The stalked hand guards, the retro-design circular headlamps with LED bulbs and the beak-like raised half fender at the front give the XPulse 200 a definite off-road bike air. Unlike the Impulse, which missed a few ergonomic features, this new bike gets all the features that will keep the rider safe and protected even in the rare event that he does take the bike off-road. So, an aluminium skid plate, and half fender for the rear portion of the front wheel ensure protection from the weather and loose gravel, for both the bike and the rider.

The XPulse 200 sports a 21-inch front wheel and 18-inch rear wheel, and 90/90 and 120/80 tyres respectively. The bike thus gets a good, raised stance, though the saddle height is still a manageably low 823mm; and the ground clearance is 220mm (Impulse was 240mm). The XPulse 200, the 200T and the XTreme 200S share the same high tensile steel frame, and the same 199.6cc air-cooled engine in the same state of tune. In fact, most of the brake and suspension parts are also similar with minor variations to suit the character and positioning of the bikes. Cast parts, handlebars and other accessories are a mix of common and unique bits. The XPulse 200 gets a clear plexiglass windshield and a luggage plate with bungee hooks in place of the usual rear grab rail, both of these are practical and also contribute to the adventure bike styling.

XPulse 200T

With retro-styled bikes making a huge comeback and the undying appeal of a brand like Royal Enfield, urging other bike makers to also explore this genre, Hero’s 200T is probably making its entry at the right time. Almost as long as the 200, the Tourer variant is designed to fit into the character of an easy-riding touring bike that is targeted at young urban riders. It features a shorter wheelbase, lowered height (269mm less) and a lower set saddle height (799mm) too compared to the XPulse 200. The ground clearance is also lower at 178mm. The riding position is still upright and not committed, though it is a tad less comfortable compared to the 200.

The tourer also gets 17-inch wheels at both the front and the rear, though the rear tyre is a wider 130/70, compared to the deeper tread 100/80 at the front. The seat is a fairly flat unit, though it is wide enough and accommodating. The seat cover, though, was a slippery, tightly wrapped skin that left my back side hurting at the end of the 200+km ride. I was told by Hero officials that these were pre-production units and that the final spec includes a ribbed, cushioned seat that will be more comfortable.

There were a couple of niggles involving the electricals in both bikes during my test ride that I was told was also due to the same reason. Rider ergonomics are similar in both the bikes with the handlebar position, seat height, mildly forward biased foot pegs position and the knee recesses in the tanks of both bikes being very comfortable.

Performance

Both the bikes get similar electricals, with the switchgear and even the LCD instrument panel with its display configuration and Bluetooth enabled turn-by-turn navigation features remaining identical. Other hardware that is identical are the brakes, with both the bikes getting 276mm disc brakes with single channel ABS at the front and 220mm discs at the rear – the only difference is the XPulse 200 gets petal discs, instead of the regular circular ones in the 200T.

The engine is also shared, with the 199.6cc, 4-stroke, 2-valve, single cylinder engine producing 18.4PS of peak power at 8,000rpm and peak torque of 17.1Nm. The 200T is offered only as a caburetted version, while the 200 is offered as a fuel injected version. Both use a multi-plate wet clutch and the same 5-speed constant mesh gearbox. The ratios are also identical, though there is a marginal difference in on-road behaviour between the two bikes. There is a marginal difference in kerb weight, and the XPulse 200 is a shade heavier at 154kgs.

The engine will not feel underpowered in either of the two bikes when they are being used in the city. But, out on the highway in the outskirts of Bengaluru, the bikes did feel like they could do with a bit more at top-end. Gear shift quality is good; the clutch is also progressive and false neutrals were rare.

The bikes are stable even at triple digit speeds, and don’t feel either heavy or over-light to manoeuvre. The riding position and composed handling, while going through potholes or speedbreakers, was actually better on the XPulse 200.

The 200T was also prone to distracting vibrations at the handlebar and footpegs at lower speeds compared to the 200. So, while the top speed that the XPulse 200 managed was about 120kmph, the 200T topped off at 110kmph, and the vibrations started getting to me earlier in the 200T (by about 90kmph). Apparently that could be because of the XPulse 200’s hand guards behaving like additional bar-end weights and difference in tyres directing away some of the vibrations.

Bottomline

The suspension in both the XPulse 200 and the 200T feature 37mm diameter front forks at the front, with the former getting a longer 190mm stroke. The rear sports monoshocks and while the 200T gets a 7-step adjustable unit, the 200 in keeping with its off-road ability gets a 10-step adjust with a floating piston allowing for a 170mm wheel travel.

The diamond type rigid frame and box-section swing arm contribute to a fairly rigid, yet responsive handling. Overall on the performance front, for bikes in the premium/entry performance segment, these two new entrants are good.

Hero MotoCorp has announced very approachable prices for the trio of new bikes starting at ₹94,000 for the 200T and going up to ₹1.05 lakh for the XPulse 200 FI.

Published on May 02, 2019
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