Is it an ADV? Is it a Gixxer 250 on stilts? Can it do long-distance touring? Is it capable off-road? We've finally ridden the brand-new Suzuki V-Strom SX to answer all of your queries!
Entry-level ADVs are to motorcyclists what lollipops are to kids. You don’t really know if they solve the purpose or if it’s a mere distraction to keep you away from big and expensive toys, but as long as you’ve got one in your mouth, it’s a sweet feeling.
The brand-new Suzuki V-Strom SX is a bit like that. On paper, it comes across as a little underwhelming. For starters, it’s not a hardcore ADV, it shares the same 250cc engine and other bits and bobs with its naked Gixxer sibling, and there aren’t any real off-road frills that will make you go W-O-W. However, at the same time, if you aren’t very choosy and are on a budget, the V-Strom SX has got everything that’ll keep you calm and content.
Mini V-Strom or Gixxer Max?
While this quarter-litre ADV features V-Strom badging, it’s not as Strom-y as its elder siblings. Under the skin, it shares much of its components with the Gixxer SF. Think of it as a naked motorcycle with an outdoorsy and adventurous outfit. That’s not to say that it looks unimaginative or commonplace though. In fact, if you ask me, the design of the baby V-Strom is one of its main USPs.
Keeping up with its ADV traditions, the V-Strom SX features a long beak, a small windscreen, knuckle guards, a big 19-inch front wheel, and an aluminium luggage rack (which can hold up to 6kgs of load) at the back. The meaty semi-block pattern MRF Mogrip tyres further show that it is adventure-ready. According to Suzuki, the frame has been tweaked slightly and the swingarm is new. The wheelbase has been stretched by 100mm – 1,440mm vs Gixxer’s 1,340mm. The rake angle is also relatively relaxed at 27-degrees. The full-LED headlamp unit and the 12-litre fuel tank are lifted directly from the current Gixxer’s parts bin, while the tail lamp comes from the old Gixxer. Overall, it’s a compact and cohesive design. No panel on it looks out-of-place or a last-minute thought. Long story short, it’s a good-looking ADV and one that’s got the V-Strom DNA in its design.
The instrument cluster is a basic LCD display like the one offered with the Gixxer. It’s got a digital tach, speedo, gear-position indicator, a clock, fuel level indicator, and usual tell-tale lights. However, the V-Strom SX brings Suzuki Ride Connect Bluetooth connectivity to the mix, meaning you can pair your phone and use turn-by-turn navigation, get call alerts, and more. You do also get a USB outlet. The plastic quality of switchgear and general fit-and-finish is satisfactory if not remarkable. As expected, the standard features are quite basic, albeit functionality wise there’s nothing more that you can expect from a bike at this price point, competing in its segment.
The baby V-Strom draws power from the same oil-cooled 249cc single-cylinder engine that also does duty in the Gixxer 250 and Gixxer SF 250. Power output and torque figures are identical at 26.3bhp and 22.2Nm. The drive is channelled to the rear wheel via a 6-speed gearbox. There’s no slipper clutch if you’re wondering.
Performance-wise, it’s a familiar affair. Like the Gixxer, the V-Strom’s powertrain offers crisp throttle response, and punchy performance at low rpm, followed by a slightly flat-ish mid-range, and then a strong surge post 6,000rpm. It isn’t exactly exciting but the kind of performance that’s on offer here is more than enough for all occasions. The six-speed gearbox has short ratios for the first three gears, so you have to work the gearbox quite often.
More than the gearbox, though, it’s the vibrations from the engine that force you to upshift quickly. From 5,000rpm upwards, you’ll notice the footpegs and bars start buzzing and the NVH levels increase progressively as the revs climb. This can bother you over long distances. Since I got to ride the motorcycle only in the hills – barely got to do triple-digit speeds for longer durations – it remains to be seen if the V-Strom SX can cruise effortlessly on highways. That said, there’s definitely more speed in the engine to offer, so hitting 120km/h or speeds above shouldn’t be a problem. What’s more, you’ll be comfortable cruising on it at high speeds because, dynamically, the SX is a potent tool.
The suspension is stiff, and the ride quality is on the firmer side. It doesn’t get uncomfortable or jarring at any point, but it isn’t as plush as the RE Himalayan. This rigidity, however, helps it around the bends as the V-Strom SX is a great handler. Despite featuring a 19-inch front wheel, it flows in corners rather beautifully. Sure, it isn’t as sharp or quick turning during side-to-side transitions as the Gixxer, but it isn’t a lousy ADV.
If there’s one thing that I can’t really wrap my head around here, it’s got to be the choice of tyres on this motorcycle. Suzuki surely knows that the V-Strom SX is an adventure tourer that’s primarily going to be ridden on the tarmac, so why would they fit it with semi-block pattern MRF MOGRIP tyres? Now, the tyres aren’t bad per se, but they don’t inspire enough confidence, and the grip isn’t that great either, especially at full tilt. From what I understand, the lack of options (since it’s a 19-incher) might have forced Suzuki to opt for these tyres.
Can it do ADV-enture?
So, the V-Strom is all good on the road and that was, kind of expected. But is it as good off-road? Well, there’s no straightforward answer. And that’s both a good and a bad thing.
Let’s start with the least impressive bits first. Now, even though it looks like an adventure-ready motorcycle with a long-travel suspension, this isn’t actually the case. The front forks have only 120mm of travel and if you compare this to the Himalayan, it’s 80mm less! And that means there’s a good chance of the V-Strom quickly running out of travel and bottoming out while doing jumps or going over big rocks. Secondly, the riding position is not suited for off-road riding – the bars are placed too low, and the exhaust constantly rubs against your heel when you’re standing up on pegs. This means you can’t really ride it like that for a very long time.
It’s also got a seat height of 835mm, which makes it substantially taller than the Himalayan’s saddle at 800mm. Then, there’s the ABS, it’s not switchable and the system kicks in rather aggressively when it detects slip, which again isn’t that great when you’re on loose surfaces. Lastly, the brakes have a very wooden feel, and there’s no initial bite. This is something that you notice on the tarmac as well. So, overall, the Vstrom SX is not an outright off-roader or as rugged as a Himalayan, that’s for sure.
That said, there are a couple of things that are very likeable about the V-Strom when you take it off-road. First off, it’s a lightweight motorcycle. It weighs just 167 kilograms – which makes it more than 30 kilograms lighter than the Himalayan. This is quite evident on the move as the Suzuki is much lighter and easier to handle off-road. Next up is the ground clearance of 205mm, which is more than adequate for light-off roading. As for the suspension, it may not have a lot of travel, but it’s taut and firm and this results in a communicative and planted front-end feel when you’re riding over uneven surfaces. The tyres are very grippy, too. And the best part is the engine’s tractability. Even at speeds below 30km/h, it pulls effortlessly in 2nd gear and the low-end grunt is strong. On the whole, with a couple of modifications, I feel the V-Strom can be turned into a very capable and enjoyable off-roader.
Before jumping to conclusions, let’s be very clear that the V-Strom SX is not a hardcore adventure motorcycle – neither is it promoted like that. What it actually is, well, it’s a relaxed sports tourer that’s inspired by the company’s premium V-Strom range of adventure motorcycles.
If I had to sum it up, I’d say that I wasn’t particularly blown away by the V-Strom SX, but it was rather pleasantly surprising. It’s not a thrilling ADV, but one that’s balanced in virtually all departments. And the icing on the cake is its pricing – at Rs 2.11 lakh (ex-showroom), it’s a pretty tempting proposition. Yes, it’s a make-shift arrangement (lollipop, remember?) instead of an actual ADV, but at the same time, it’s got plenty of flavours to keep you entertained before you’re ready to upgrade to an actual V-Strom.
- Suzuki V-Strom SX 250
Engine: 249cc / Single-Cylinder / Oil-Cooled
Power: 26.3bhp @ 9,300rpm
Torque: 22.2Nm @ 7,300rpm
Price: ₹2.11 Lakh (Ex-Showroom)
X-Factor: The Suzuki V-Strom SX is more than the sum of its parts, for it is a very well-rounded ADV than can do-it-all.