There was a time when the name ‘Karizma’ stood head and shoulders above the competition. No Indian motorcycle could challenge its dominance, and in terms of aesthetic appeal, it was definitely a class apart. But that was the Karizma of the past. Over time, it underwent a few changes, acquiring suffixes like the R and the ZMR. While the former managed to be popular, the latter received more of a tepid recompose. Now, a new iteration of the bike has emerged, called the Karizma XMR. So, does it live up to its legacy? We pit it against the Suzuki Gixxer SF 250 to find out exactly that.
Hero Karizma XMR vs Suzuki Gixxer SF 250 Comparison Review: Apples & Oranges
In terms of design, the Karizma XMR seems to have taken a rather sharp approach – its bodywork features a lot of sharp creases and angular corners, which even extend to elements like the headlight, fuel tank, and tail section. All this imparts an edgy aesthetic to the motorcycle, which looks quite vibrant, especially in yellow and red colours. What’s even more remarkable is that the Karizma looks stunning from all angles.
Suzuki designers, on the other hand, have taken a curvaceous approach with the Gixxer SF 250, which means that the overall design is characterised by smooth curves rather than sharp, angular cuts. This approach is particularly evident in the fascia, which looks rather bulbous. Similarly, the fuel tank and the rear section of the motorcycle also follow the same approach. This seemingly intentional approach to the design aims to increase the longevity of the Gixxer’s aesthetic. Interestingly, this approach has also allowed Suzuki designers to skilfully incorporate elements that subtly echo the design of larger Suzuki motorcycles – the legendary Hayabusa, anyone? – making the Gixxer look bigger than it really is.
Hero Karizma XMR vs Suzuki Gixxer SF 250 Comparison Review: Modern Problems, Modern Solutions
Unlike the previous Karizma, which had a 225cc air-cooled engine, the XMR features a downsized engine with a displacement of 210cc. However, on the upside, it now gets liquid cooling, dual overhead camshafts, and a higher compression ratio. All of this ensures an increased power output despite a decrease in displacement, making the XMR the fastest Karizma to date. That said, you really have to work this engine to get the most out of it. In other words, the power delivery is concentrated at the top end of the engine, which can be problematic for those who prefer a more laid-back approach. This makes the Karizma a bit sluggish if you take it easy, but twist that throttle enthusiastically, and it immediately springs to life. Ideally, a middle ground between the two would have made the Karizma more practical for everyday riding, without compromising on the engagement aspect. But as it stands, you really need to push it to its limits to truly enjoy the XMR, which, while exhilarating, can be a bit hairy at times.
To address this issue, Hero could have drawn inspiration from Suzuki, whose engine incorporates similar technology to the Karizma’s, albeit without the dual overhead camshafts. Now, Suzuki’s solution for an increased engine output is quite simple, i.e. to maintain a high displacement. This translates into more mid-range torque in real-world scenarios, while still offering a spirited top-end performance – the best of both worlds. In fact, unlike the Karizma, Suzuki didn’t need to push the engine’s compression ratio to extremes, resulting in a more relaxed feel regardless of how hard you rev it. But that’s not to say that Suzuki’s engine is without flaws, for it emits a lot of vibrations, even in the cruising range, especially through the footpegs. While wearing riding boots can mitigate the vibrations, it nevertheless is a compromise that you’ll have to learn to live with.
In terms of transmission, the Karizma has an edge over the Gixxer. The former gets a slip-and-assist clutch, which allows for aggressive downshifting without any unsettling moments. Plus, its clutch pull is notably light. The Suzuki Gixxer SF 250, on the other hand, misses out on a slip and assist clutch. In comparison, the Karizma’s gearbox also feels snappier to respond. The Gixxer’s transmission exhibits a bit of sluggishness at times, necessitating a bit more effort in shifting gears. Frankly, it’s not a deal breaker, but there is no doubt that the Karizma’s transmission offers a smoother experience.
Hero Karizma XMR vs Suzuki Gixxer SF 250 Comparison Review: Around the Bends
One of the biggest appeals of faired motorcycles, like the Karizma and the Gixxer, lies in their handling capabilities. Now, the Karizma is quite a comfortable motorcycle to ride despite its sporty appearance. The high-set handlebars allow for a less aggressive riding posture, which is excellent for city riding, for it makes manoeuvring through traffic quite easy. However, if you want to enjoy the motorcycle on winding roads, you need to adopt a more aggressive riding position.
The Gixxer, on the other hand, keeps you in a slightly committed position at all times, allowing you to swiftly navigate corners without any need to change your riding position. While both these motorcycles remain stable around long corners, the Gixxer feels sharper in its response to rider inputs.
In terms of brakes, both motorcycles offer similar levels of stopping power, but the Gixxer’s front brake provides better feedback, adding to the overall braking experience.
Hero Karizma XMR vs Suzuki Gixxer SF 250 Comparison Review: Fancy Features
In today’s automotive market, every product is expected to be filled with features to the brim. In this regard, the Karizma does a decent job. I would have said ‘good’, if not for its adjustable windscreen, which is quite difficult to adjust and stays jammed most of the time – the more you try to reposition it, the more you fear damaging one of its plastic parts. Nevertheless, the standard position is effective in deflecting the wind. The Karizma also gets automatic headlights, which get activated as soon as you enter a dimly-lit area, like an underpass or a parking lot – a thoughtful touch indeed! Additionally, the Karizma also offers smartphone connectivity for turn-by-turn navigation and calls.
The Gixxer, on the other hand, falls a little short in this area. Its small windshield – which definitely adds to its aesthetic appeal – has quite limited functionality against the wind. It also lacks any standout features, except for the instrument cluster. Despite being a regular LCD unit, it displays clear and legible information and offers similar smartphone connectivity as the Karizma. While the Gixxer offers fewer features, its overall fit and finish and features’ quality feels comparatively better.
Hero Karizma XMR vs Suzuki Gixxer SF 250 Comparison Review: Verdict
After riding both bikes for a week, I seem to lean towards the Gixxer for simple reasons. Not only is it built better but is also more aesthetically appealing – to my eyes, at least. Not to mention that it always offers an engaging ride experience. And even though it’s relatively more expensive, it offers more than enough to justify its price.
While the Karizma competes admirably with the Gixxer in certain aspects, even surpassing the latter in some, its overall riding experience is marred by its high-strung nature. In other words, you always have to push it to the limits to extract the maximum performance. And frankly, it can get a bit tiring over time. I think, Hero missed an opportunity by not giving the Karizma a larger displacement, which could have truly revived the legend of the Karizma.
- Hero Karizma XMR
- Suzuki Gixxer SF 250
Engine: 210cc / Single-Cylinder / Liquid-Cooled
Transmission: 6 Speed
Power: 25.2bhp @ 9,250rpm
Torque: 20.4Nm @ 7,250rpm
Price: ₹1.8 Lakh (Ex-showroom)
X-Factor: A value-for-money sport-tourer with a legendary name tag.
Engine: 249cc / Single-Cylinder / Liquid-Cooled
Transmission: 6 Speed
Power: 26.1bhp @ 9,30rpm
Torque: 22.2Nm @ 7300rpm
Price: ₹2.06 Lakh (Ex-showroom)
X-Factor: An old-school analogue motorcycle, which prioritises riding pleasure above everything else.