Hero Xpulse 200 BS6 review
The Hero Xpulse 200 is the 2020 Indian Motorcycle of the Year. It justifies this accolade with its brilliant chassis, excellent off-roading capabilities and its versatility around regular riding conditions. In fact, our resident adventure junkie and principal correspondent Abhishek even put his own money on the Xpulse 200. We also ran multiple tests, pitting it against the larger and more expensive Royal Enfield Himalayan and more recently, even the KTM 390 Adventure. The Xpulse 200 emerged as an excellent value for money offering, scored high on the fun factor and thoroughly proved its off-roading mettle.
But the BS4 version wasn’t perfect. Flaws included an engine that felt stressed at higher rpms, some rogue vibrations and a motorcycle that felt less refined overall. For 2020, Hero has launched the Xpulse 200 with a BS6 engine and tried to address the issues with some mechanical tweaks. The carb variants are no longer on sale and the Xpulse 200 is now only available with fuel injection. At Rs 1.12 lakh, ex-showroom, Hero’s entry-level ADV demands a premium of Rs 7000 over the outgoing model. Is the higher price tag an acceptable trade off to what you get in return? Let’s find out.
What’s new on the Hero Xpulse 200 BS6?
Visually the Xpulse 200 BS6 remains unchanged. But ogle at the flanks with a keen eye and you will notice that the exhaust header has now been rerouted from under the crankcase to accommodate the larger catalytic converter. With that comes a newly designed bash plate that’s more chunky than before. Thankfully it doesn’t hamper the ground clearance that still remains identical at 220mm. Overall, it feels better put together and it feels like it can survive some really harsh treatment. The most significant addition is that of the oil-cooler. With the BS6 trickery, power from the 199.6cc engine has gone down by 0.2bhp (bringing it down to 17.8bhp) while torque has been reduced by 0.65Nm (16.45Nm). Weight has increased by 4kg and the Xpulse 200 BS6 now tips scales at 157kg. Now I know what you’re thinking, with less power, less torque and additional weight, has performance been compromised?
The first thing you notice is the smooth and progressive the throttle. There are no irregularities in the way this throttle behaves, getting quick reactions out of the engine, progressing linearly. Thanks to this, in tricky off-road situations where you need a quick move on, the Xpulse 2020 now reacts more proactively.
The BS4 engine felt stressed at higher rpms but that is now history and what you have is an engine that feels much more refined at higher speeds. Peak power of 17.8bhp now comes in at 8500rpm (8000rpm in the older version) while peak torque still kicks in at 6500rpm, making the mid-range very punchy, just like before. There’s better power delivery lower down the revs but the top-end has been compromised. We are still waiting for the reason for this from Hero but it seems to be on a different final drive. It also feels slower to 80 and 100kmph than earlier.
The tractability of this engine though has been improved, with the Xpulse 200 now pulling in cleanly from 25kmph in the third gear from as low as 2500rpm. You can even cruise comfortably at 40kmph in the fifth gear. The bottom end grunt is still not as good as the Royal Enfield Himalayan but it feels more comfortable at lower rpms than before. The addition of oil-cooler was mainly done considering that the Xpulse 200 now comes with a Rally kit that tends to put a strain on the engine, especially after altering the final drive for better bottom end grunt.
Vibrations were an issue on the Xpulse 200 BS4 and there are noticeable improvements on this front as well. Through the tank, vibrations are little to none. You do feel some vibes through the handlebar and the footpegs, but it’s not at all bothersome. It feels natural.
Ride and handling
Even though the weight has gone up, at 157kg, it still feels very light and nimble. The balance of the chassis is sublime and when you’re off the beaten path, the Hero will put a smile on your face. It takes everything in its stride and its off-road credentials come to the fore when you push it through tricky situations. The knobby Ceat tyres, 190mm front suspension travel and 220m ground clearance do a great job at getting you to the far end of the trails.
On regular roads this set-up remains outstanding. The Xpulse 200 tackles potholes and undulations with sheer poise. The early ABS intervention from the BS4 Xpulse 200 has largely been solved. The ABS used to be super intrusive especially at slow speeds, but now it’s not.
The Xpulse 200 BS6 does not merely improve on emissions. Hero has taken this opportunity to also address the flaws of the outgoing model and it delivers. The Xpulse 200 retains its fun and playful characteristics and the upgrades make a sizable difference on the performance. And hence, the Rs 7000 premium that it demands over the outgoing model seems well justified. The Royal Enfield Himalayan costs Rs 72000 more and is roughly 40kg heavier. And that puts the Hero in a league of its own, continuing to be a value for money off-road weapon unlike any other.