Hero Xpulse 200 Review | Big on Adventure, Small on Price
It’s been a few years since the Xpulse concept was first unveiled at EICMA 2017. The motorcycle later made its India debut at the 2018 Auto Expo, and has now been launched, much to the delight of off-roading aficionados. The Xpulse boasts proper off-road gear, and with a very lucrative price tag of INR 97,000 ex-showroom Delhi for the carb variant and INR 1.05 lakh for the FI variant, it has been priced quite aggressively as well. In this detailed review, which also contains a detailed video review of the motorcycle, we will tell you all you need to know about this adventure machine is a simple to read, question and answer format. Let’s get going with this.
What are the key design elements that make the Xpulse 200 a proper off-roader?
The Xpulse 200 comes with 21-inch front wheels to go over obstacles with ease. The rear too is bigger than usual 18 inches, and both front and rear wheels are spoked units to tackle rough terrains better. The wheels are shod with proper off-road knobby CEAT tyres, with the front being a 90/90 section unit, and the rear being a 20 section tyre. The ground clearance too is a generous 220mm. Thanks to a longer swingarm and a different trail the wheelbase at 1410mm is 17 mm longer than the Xpulse 200T. The swing-arm too is made of a stronger material to take the abuse of unpaved surfaces better. Also, the front suspension is a long travel unit with 190mm and the componentry is different to ensure that the harsh landings after airtime don’t lead to a busted fork. At the rear, the monoshock unit is different too with a longer 170mm stroke as compared to the 200T’s 130mm. The spring ratings and construction too of this 7 step adjustable unit is sturdier to make it suitable for rough use.
The vertically shaped fuel tank has scooped out, rather flat knee recesses to allow for grip by the knees while riding the pegs. The footpegs themselves are more solid, with steel teeth filled in by removable rubber pegs to allow for more grip while stand-up riding off the road. The engine comes with the option of FI to cope with changing altitude better and there’s a solid metal bash plate underneath the engine to protect it from flying stones as well as to provide a shield when the obstacle is bigger than the break over angle. There’s also this grab rail cum carrier which has rubber knobs on it to rest stuff that you may wish to carry. It also has these two little notches on either side to tie stuff with bungee cords.
The exhaust pipe is turned back right after it leaves the engine and kept higher than the 200T, with the end can and outlet being kept at a very high level to ensure water wading is never a concern. You also get plastic knuckle guards and a small flyscreen ahead of the instrument console.
One complaint I have is that the handlebars could have been slightly higher on the Xpulse 200. Unlike the 200T it could have done with risers and braces for better accessibility while stand-up riding and more strength to protect the bar from getting twisted in case of a fall, which happens rather often with motorcycles.
But overall, the XPulse 200 has been geared rather well to cope with bad terrain in a competent manner, and it can go with great confidence to areas where you regulation bike will simply fail.
What are the design highlights of the Xpulse 200 from an aesthetic standpoint?
Aesthetically, the Xpulse 200 looks like a proper off-roader with a tall stance and those big spoked wheels. The beak fender up front has been placed high to allow for the long suspension travel, and the Xpulse badging on the tank also represents the rugged character of the machine. The curvy, short seat adds to the style but isn’t the most comfortable units around. Headlight up front is a vertically stacked round unit with vertically stacked twin LED elements and is somewhat reminiscent of the Ducati Scrambler. It’s finished in a grey chrome tone and is held by a grey mount. The tail lamp is an LED unit as well and has a minimalistic, wide design. The blinkers are all bulbs though. Perforations on the bash plate, brake pedal and on an element on the exhaust is a design element which is there on both the 200T and the 200. Rubber gaiters on forks, petal discs up front and at the rear and a small flyscreen are a few other elements which are visual distinguishers and functional as well.
What are the engine specs?
The Xpulse 200 comes with a 199.6cc single cylinder, 4-stroke, 2 valve OHC unit which is air cooled. It’s a simple construction which means reliability won’t be an issue. Power output is 18.1 hp @8000 rpm and peak torque output is rated at 17.1 Nm @ 6500 rpm. Those numbers are lesser than other motorcycles in the segment like the RTR200 and the NS200, but then those motorcycles are more expensive and have features such as 4Valves and liquid cooling depending on model and variants. The gearbox on the 200 is a five-speed unit and while some argue that it should have had a sixth gear, we don’t think there’s a need for it looking at those power and torque figures. The Xpulse comes with both carburetted and FI versions
What is the mileage or fuel efficiency of the Xpulse 200?
While the official ARAI fuel efficiency of the Xpulse 200 has not been mentioned in the spec sheet, we were told that it’s around 40 kmpl. The real world fuel efficiency of the Xpulse, then, should be between 30 to 35 kmpl depending on your riding style. With a fuel tank of 13 litres, this should endow the Xpulse 200 a range of 400+ km which is pretty good.
What is the acceleration, top speed and performance of the Xpulse 200 like?
As you would expect, the Xpulse 200 is not exactly a thrill monger. The engine is refined and has a strong low end as its highlight. Mid-range is strong too, though the performance at the top of the rev range isn’t all that impressive. The low-end torque on the motorcycle allows it to be very tractable and you can pull from as low as 30km/h in fifth gear. There is no knocking below 2000 rpm and the bike pulls cleanly at the low end of its rev range.
Top speeds in every gear are provided below
1st gear : 40 km/h
2nd gear : 67 km/h
3rd gear: 91 km/h
4th gear: 109 km/h
5th gear: 121 km/h (124 on a gentle slope)
Acceleration is reasonable and the bike can maintain 90-95 km/h without trying too hard. To sustain speeds above 100km/h is a bit of an effort though. The refinement on the motorcycle is pretty good and there are very minor vibes after 7000 revs, which are negligible and not a matter of concern.
Overall, it’s not a very brisk motorcycle, and not suited if you wish to travel very long distances very fast. Acceleration and top speed is a bit of a bottleneck here, but if you are amongst those who wish to travel distances at a steady pace, then the Xpulse will not disappoint.
How’s the ride quality and seat comfort?
The suspension on the Xpulse 200 is softer than the 200T owing to the longer stroke at both ends. The 200Ts ride is rather stiff, and despite having a longer travel suspension, the 200 isn’t exactly a very supple motorcycle to ride. The front suspension is tuned beautifully offering a very nice balance between absorption and firmness for stability, the rear monoshocks unit is rather firmly sprung. Of the seven steps available for preload, our motorcycle was set on the 4th setting which is exactly midway. I found the rear suspension to be on the stiffer side, which helps when you’re doing some serious riding – be it around bends or while landing after a jump, but on the road, while seated, it does have its bearings on comfort. It’s not the most comfortable suspension.
The seat too while better padded and textured than the 200T is not very ergonomically contoured and causes discomfort over longer distances. This seat should have been flatter, wider and better padded, for both the rider and pillion.
How about the off-road capability?
This is one area where the Xpulse 200 totally shines. It is a proper off-road machine and Hero didn’t want us to test it out in the most demanding conditions possible. While we rode 120km one-way to Big Rock Dirt Park, on the road to test the Xpulse 200’s on-road capabilities, we were given an opportunity to test the motorcycle out to its fullest at the dirt track at the park. Not just that, we were taken out for a generous trail ride session out in the wild littered with stones, dust, dirt gravel, and some really challenging elevational challenges. Hero Motorsport’s CS Santosh and Nelly led our way and showed us what this humble 200cc machine was capable of.
I personally rode the Xpulse for a good 2 hours at the dirt track, as well as on the trails and the Xpulse exceeded our expectations. The reinforced chassis and suspension, along with its generous clearance and off-road biased geometry makes even the most challenging terrains easy to navigate on. I wish there was more juice in the second gear at times, as for some of the challenges where an instant thrust was required after braking, the second gear sometimes felt slightly weak, while the first gear induced too much wheelspin. It is at the end of it a small engine, but it really shines with what it has, in terms of what it can do with that power. A lightweight off-roader which is easy to manoeuvre, friendly to ride and extremely capable when it comes to tackling treacherous terrain – the Xpulse won us over. The fact that the rear disc doesn’t have ABS only helped to turn in hard on soft surfaces, sliding sideways.
Lift offs and landings over humps and other obstacles is effortless and the Xpulse inspires great confidence during airtime. It feels built to last and not for one moment did I feel underwhelmed by the motorcycle, despite having tried it on some of the most demanding off-road conditions.
As a side note, I would still like to think that the Himalayan, purely as an off-road tool is slightly more capable owing to its stronger engine, strong low-end torque and a more solid feel, at least while it’s working. The Xpulse, however, at 150 kg is a full 40 kg lighter and that makes it much easier for the beginner rider to work with. The Xpulse also feels like a product which is built to last, and its on-road manners are slightly better than the Himalayan. Its braking is better too. Finally, the Himalayan would set you poorer by almost Rs 90k and that’s a lot of money.
How’s the on-road behaviour of the Xpulse 200T?
Quite impressive. The Xpulse 200 has fine road manners and even at the top of its performance limit, it doesn’t show any signs of nervousness on the road. Sure it doesn’t feel as connected as the 200T, the front suspension feels a tad too soft, the higher centre of gravity is more perceptible around bends, but overall, it feels solid and planted for an off-roader. Braking too, thanks to those petal rotors up front and at the rear feels reliable and the ABS works like a charm. Nothing to complain, except, maybe, that suspension could have been more softly sprung for road use, at the rear.
What’s the price of the Xpulse 200?
The Xpulse 200 is priced at INR 97,000 ex-showroom Delhi for the carburetted version and INR 1.05 lakh for the FI variant.
It’s quite simple, actually. If you want an off-road motorcycle, go ahead and take a test ride. Even if budget is not a constraint. If very quick on-road acceleration and very fast top speeds aren’t something you’re after, this charming little thing with its friendly ways and surprising skills will win you over. As for the price, I really think Hero have pulled a proverbial rabbit out of their hat this time.