Hero Xtreme 200R: First Ride Review
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Hero’s newest performance bike promises more excitement for the buck. Is it enough to tempt you away from its well honed rivals?
Remember the Karizma and CBZ? Those were segment-firsts from Hero. Sports bike or sport tourers - call them what you will, the important point is that Hero led the charge for enthusiasts then! However, since Hero and Honda split up, enthusiasts have had little from Hero to think about, refreshes and rehashes aside. In the meantime, rivals have poured in hi-tech and high-performance offerings to spoil us. But with the new Xtreme 200R Hero is giving the right signals once again. Built fresh from the ground up, the new Hero Xtreme 200R looks a bit tame on paper, but could it be enough? We take a spin on Hero’s newest to find out more.
Design and features:
Compared to its rivals, the Hero does look a bit bland and dare we say, dated. It looks larger than its smaller sibling, the Xtreme Sports, but smaller than its rivals, the Pulsar NS 200, TVS Apache RTR 200 4V and Yamaha FZ25. The talking point about the design would be the aggressively shaped tank and large protruding tank shrouds. The headlamp is a large unit as well with a conventional halogen bulb setup and two pilot LED lamps integrated just below a small flyscreen. The seat is a single-piece unit with a more pronounced contour for sportiness. At the rear, the tail section tapers sharply into a well integrated LED tail lamp. Both the engine and the rather large exhaust have been given the blacked out treatment.
It gets two-tone paint schemes with outlandish graphics, which somehow work well with the design. We loved the new paint schemes as well, our pick being the black and orange one.
Overall, the Xtreme 200R has a conventional silhouette with a more aggressive bodywork that allows the bike to look sporty without sacrificing much on ergonomics.
There is not much on the features front. It gets a blue backlit semi-digital instrument cluster, a tank pad and split grab rails. The one-piece handlebar gets quality switchgear which is at par with the segment in terms of fit and finish. The only issue we had was the large choke button placed on the left side switchgear, which is an eyesore.
Engine and performance:
The new 199.6cc motor is a basic air-cooled, two-valve, carbureted unit. In contrast, competition like the Bajaj Pulsar NS 200 and TVS Apache RTR 200 offer liquid-cooling or oil-cooling, four valves, and in some cases, even fuel injection. Also, the Xtreme 200R makes 18.4PS at 8000rpm and 17.1Nm of torque at 6500rpm whereas its rivals make power in the 20-23PS range.
That said, the motor has been tuned to develop a big chunk of torque at revs as low as 3000rpm. This should benefits rideability in slow city traffic conditions and fuel efficiency too. Hero claims a 0-60kmph figure of 4.6 seconds, which sits in between our tested 0-60kmph figures of the carburetted Apache RTR 200 (4.02 seconds) and Pulsar NS 200 (4.86 seconds). Of course we will be testing the Xtreme 200R’s 0-60kmph time when we get it for a longer duration in the coming weeks.
Torque figures aside, at 146kg, the Xtreme 200R weighs 6 kilos less than its heaviest rival, the NS 200, and is the lightest in the segment. That should help the power to weight ratio.
On the track, the motor feels quite torquey, especially in the mid range. But the oversquare configuration allows it to rev quicker and we were thankful for this as our test was at the F1-spec Buddh International Circuit! Invariably, we were in the top part of the rev range most of the time. The engine feels unstressed even close to the redline. Refinement is quite good with negligible vibes transmitted through the footpegs even at close to the redline.
However, it is clear that the top end does not feel as punchy as the low- to mid-range rpm range. This points to the Xtreme’s focus on practicality. It is a tractable motor matched well with the gearbox. The five-speed gearbox helps with the responsiveness, with slightly shorter ratios. Shifts are precise though a tad notchy.
Overall, it is a likeable powertrain that focuses more on real-world usability and refinement rather than outright performance.
Ride and handling:
Hero’s brief while designing the Xtreme 200 was not just to have the right amount of sportiness but also have comfortable ergonomics to make it more approachable to a wider audience. The seat gets a lower 790mm height so reach to the ground is fairly easy. It is well contoured though the rider’s seat slopes a bit towards the fuel tank. While a few laps on the track are not enough to judge seat comfort, the seat feels firm enough to keep aches at bay. Footpegs are rearset and reminds us of the first generation CBZ. The fuel tank is also wide enough towards the knees, allowing you to grip it well during spirited riding. The handlebar is set lower, which has you leaned slightly forward for a sportier riding position.
The chassis includes a diamond-type frame that utilizes the engine as a stressed member. While other Hero bikes use the same layout, this one has been developed specifically for the Xtreme 200R. Suspension components include beefy 37mm front forks, the fattest used on a Hero bike till date, and a rear monoshock damper that is adjustable for preload. Given the smooth surface of the Buddh International Circuit, it would be unfair to comment on the ride quality and we would reserve judgement till we ride the bike in regular road conditions.
It handles quite well, though. Turn-in into corners is a quick and stable affair. Its 1338mm wheelbase is the shortest in the segment, which offers it agility and quick turn-in, though not as quick as the RTR 200 or NS200.
The Xtreme 200R feels quite stable mid-corner with no drama whatsoever. The bike feels stable at speeds close to 100kmph so that’s a boon for highway runs. No doubt it is helped by the chunky rubber. The 17-inch alloy wheels gets 100/80 section tyres at the front and a 130/70 section rear tyre, the latter being the widest used on a Hero bike. While grip levels in the dry gave us nothing to worry about, at the limit, they give out a gradual slip, reminding you of its approaching limits.
Shedding speed is efficiently managed by the 276mm disc up front and the 220mm disc at the rear. While ABS is available, it only works on the front wheel. The braking is good enough, that ABS rarely kicked in on our ride. Overall, the Xtreme 200R is a rider-friendly bike. It is fun to ride in corners and at the same time will offer you significant leeway if you get it wrong.
Let’s get one thing straight: The Hero Xtreme 200R is not competing with any of the 200’s available right now. Even Hero MotoCorp says the Xtreme 200R does not compete with the RTR’s and Pulsars of the world. However, even the RTR’s and Pulsars tread the same line, so how the Xtreme betters them will be interesting to see.
While pricing is yet to be announced, Hero mentions that the Xtreme 200R will carry an extremely competitive pricing. To make the Xtreme stand out, Hero would have to undercut the likes of the RTR 200, which starts at around Rs 95,000, by a good margin. Hero hopes to tempt 150/160cc buyers away with the combination of a usable package for the real world with a sensible price tag. But, does the market really want a 200cc commuter? As always, that's a question only sales figures will answer in due time?