The Hero XPulse 200 needs no introduction as one of the most highly anticipated small capacity motorcycles to get launched this year. After all, it is positioned as an entry-premium adventure tourer, a genre of motorcycles that are gaining importance increasingly. And that’s beside the fact that the XPulse 200 has been developed by Hero MotoCorp with help from none other than C S Santosh, India’s first Dakar rider, also Hero MotoSport’s factory rider. The bike impressed us as a solid, well-built product when we first rode it, but now its time to tell you how the bike performs in the real world, especially for the young buyer wanting to cut his teeth in off-roading, without burning a hole in his wallet.
Style and Build
A high-mounted mudguard, raised handlebar with knuckle guards and a flyscreen upfront, as also a low slung seat and a noticeable bash plate all give away the fact that the XPulse 200 has been designed with trail riding in mind, so as you lay your eyes on it, you know this motorcycle means business. Oh, for that matter, not just me, but my father was very excited too, when I took the bike home – that’s how universal the bike’s appeal is! I am also impressed with the fit-finish levels – everything on the motorcycle is nice to the touch and the way the bike has been put together you get a distinct feeling that everything has been engineered to take on a lot more battering than your average 200cc machine. Switch and lever action is crisp as well, adding to the bike’s overall premium feel. Our test bike was finished in matte green and while the paint looks nice, the decals look like they were pasted in a hurry.
The fully-digital instrument cluster might look basic at first glance in terms of its layout but works well, offering ample information. Of course, a distinct highlight on the XPulse is the on-board navigation the instrument cluster offers via the Hero ride app. Turn by turn directions could have been more precise, but having navigation certainly saves you the hassle of needing to pull your phone out for directions every other minute on unknown roads.
At 825mm seating is tall and riders below average height will have a little trouble manoeuvring the XPulse 200 in stop and go traffic, as at 5 feet and 8 inches I had to tip-toe the XPulse in tight spots. At the 156kg kerb, the bike is just a bit on the heavier side but the weight has been balanced well enough for the XPulse 200 to feel heavy on the go. The seat is slim, given how slim the fuel tank is at the rear, but its narrowness lets you grip the tank well. That said, the high positioning of the footpegs results in a knees-high posture, though I did use to it soon. Standing up on the pegs and riding is easy. That said, the seating and the way the motorcycle behaves on the move changes drastically with a pillion on board – clearly, the XPulse has been designed to be ridden single primarily, and that’s beside the fact that the pillion perch isn’t very accommodating.
Engine and performance
The 200cc, air-cooled single-cylinder engine produces 18.4 PS at 8,000 rpm and 17.1Nm at 6,500 rpm. These numbers feel adequate, but more importantly, the torque curve feels very linear. That said, fuelling could have been crisper – we only got to ride the FI version – as I stalled the bike a couple of times while climbing a trail and in traffic too where feathering the throttle was the only way out.
As a result, I also took some time to find the throttle’s sweet spot on trails. I also found first gear a little too short a time as I was getting close to the limiter in first easily while second was a little too tall. What was impressive at the time was that there was barely any vibration anywhere – be it the handlebars, footpegs or the seat. The XPulse 200 feels impressed on the highway as well, though the caveat here is that you need to stick to speeds below the 90kmph mark as the engine feels stressed above it, though it runs out of steam only around the 115kmph mark. For those interested, the XPulse 200’s fuel efficiency is impressive too – the bike returned 44.73kmpl in our city test and 52.60kmpl in our highway test.
Ride and Handling
With 190mm of travel, I don’t remember the front forks bottoming out even once, whilst soaking up bumps and potholes with aplomb. I also liked the front suspension for the fact that it does not dive under hard braking, which allows you to grab a handful of the front brake lever without having to worry about unsettling the bike.
The rear monoshock feels adept at its job as well, though preload settings for heavier riders could have been better. Overall the XPulse 200’s feels very confident when riding hard off-road thanks to its well-balanced chassis as also the dual-sport Ceat tyres, particularly the 21-inch front. In fact, it’s the front end that is the star of the show-off tarmac as it lets you dig into the loose stuff and offers ample feel and feedback.
The XPulse 200 also feels very confident on the tarmac and lets you attack corners well. The ride quality is plush as well and the bike does not lose composure on broken roads either. I thus had no trouble keeping the throttle pinned even on pothole-ridden roads, even as almost every other vehicle on the road had to slow down. The seat could have been slightly softer too – a couple of hours in the saddle can get uncomfortable and need you to take a break or stand on the pegs and ride. Moving on to the brakes, the XPulse 200 is equipped with a 276mm petal disc upfront and 220mm petal disc at the rear, which offers adequate bite in a progressive manner. Hero has equipped the bike with single-channel ABS only rather than a switchable dual-channel ABS system, to keep costs low. The setup works well though and in fact not having ABS at the rear means you can lock the brake and slide the rear at will, which helps off-road.
The XPulse 200 retails at ? 1.31 lakh on-road Mumbai for the fuel-injected version, while the carbureted version costs ? 1.21 lakh. It boasts impressive equipment levels for the price, including features and abilities that motorcycles even a segment above it do not offer. Needless to say, the fuel-injected version makes a stronger case for itself and in fact, at its price, the bike is a great option for someone wanting an everyday motorcycle that can also take on the battering of broken roads. That said, at its price, the XPulse 200 is the most affordable adventure tourer in the country and a genuine one at that – you could take it almost anywhere without having to worry about it breaking down. The bike has been engineered to tackle some of the worst terrains and is a great tool to hone your off-roading skills, which is its greatest strength, not to forget, its likeable touring virtues. In fact, the XPulse 200 has the ability to allay all your fears about riding off-road, as it did for me.