A heavy dose of cosmetic as well as engine updates mark the birth of the new Karizma ZMR. Bunny Punia gives it the stick to see if the bike has been worth the wait
Bunny Punia, Photography Sanjay Raikar
The previous night had been very interesting with a live band and an open bar taking care of a select few journalists who had been flown in for an exclusive first ride of the new Karizma. No matter how much I pestered the Hero Honda guys to divulge some dope on the new bike, it was futile. It was half past six in the morning the next day when I was about to finish my second cup of hot tea in order to awaken my half sleepy brain that I happened to hear a rather familiar exhaust note. Minutes later, the first look of one of the most awaited upgrade in the Indian two-wheeler industry more than livened up the lazy bum in me. A full body kit, exciting graphics and tweaks here and there – the wait for the new Karizma, or the ZMR as the company puts it, seemed worth it.
The sharply designed front headlamp looks great and seems to have been inspired by the Suzuki GSX-R and the Triumph Sprint. The slot for the pilot lamps is swept back giving a sporty look. The black visor is probably the biggest on any Indian bike and the fairing mounted rear view mirrors not only look good, but as I found out on the ride, serve their purpose well. The same air-intakes on either side of the lamp and the “oil-cooled” stickers hinted at a more powerful engine. Side on, the indicators are integrated into the panels like the current bike and the fairing ends near the brake lever like commonly seen aftermarket jobs. The difference here, however, is the quality – the plastics seem durable with an up market fit and finish. The side panels are the same with a slight bulging rear and the new split grab rail along with the striking LED tail lamp assembly give the rear a pleasing look.
The spoilsport here is the skinny rear tyre. This will be the first modification most owners will end up doing, I reckon. With a rather muscular and big fairing, fitting a wider, say 120mm rear tyre would have added more muscle to the overall look in my opinion. You can’t help but notice the rear disc brake and the GRS equipped rear shock absorbers. The changes don’t stop here. Swing a leg over the bike and once seated in the comfortable well padded seat, you will notice the forged aluminum clip-ons. As with Hero Honda, the execution is superb but what really strikes you is the complete digital display unit. A la Hunk styled chromed counter in the middle serves as a tachometer with a display for speed (ourtesy the contact less magnetic sensor, the speedometer is very accurate) on the left, fuel in the middle and trip meter and a real time fuel economy display on the right. There is also a programmable welcome display which can be altered as per the owner’s requirement. Want to impress your girl? You can get her name to be displayed each time the ignition is switched on!
Thumb the starter and the engine fires into life. The Karizma has always been a smooth operator and with Honda’s famed PGM-FI finding its way in here, the 223cc engine feels a touch more refined. Yes the engine capacity remains the same, however, there are a lot of changes to the motor. The idle air control valve ensures automatic stabilization of rpm over all terrain (a boost for tourers), the FI unit eliminates the need for a choke and the twelve Orific injector nozzles ensure a highly atomized air-fuel mixture for better combustion and efficiency. All this along with other high tech features in addition to a slight retuning sees the maximum power go up marginally to 17.6bhp or 17.84PS at the same rpm. The maximum torque remains the same though. These figures might be disappointing for those seeking more juice from the Karizma. The ECU unit also has six sensors for various functions including intake air temperature, oxygen sensor, etc.
The Karizma’s motor has always been in a relatively soft state of tune. This one too feels the same. The throttle response isn’t very sharp or jerky, the way it gains speeds in any gear is seamless and the engine seems to be barely bothered even when pushed near the redline. The slight increase in power can hardly be felt and this is reflected in the performance figures that I managed. A 4.9 second 0-60km/h timing with me on board is more or less the same as the previous bike’s 4.7 second timing with a 70kg rider. What has changed though is the way the bike reaches high speeds and its ability to maintain the same for prolonged distances. The icing on the cake comes in the form of better efficiency and we won’t be surprised if the ZMR manages 45kmpl in the city with ease. This bike remains a stunter’s delight – wheelies, stoppies and rolling burnouts – it delivers when given the stick as is evident from the pictures on these pages.
The handling remains as sweet as ever, though in the wake of increased competition, the front seems a tad too soft for serious riding around the twisties or on the track. However, the suspension shines when ridden on broken roads and the bike’s ability to dismiss such patches with ease is hard to match by the competition even today. The rear now gets the GRS suspension from the Hunk and is a step in the right direction. The rear disc brake, a Nissin unit, works well and the feedback is great. The front tyre has been made slightly wider (80mm against the older 70mm) and the ZMR runs on tubeless tyres. The bike now sports a louder dual horn for keeping away heavy traffic on the highway.
With all these changes in place, we expect a premium of around Rs 15,000 to Rs 18,000 over the current Karizma that will continue to sell alongside the ZMR. This will make the bike close to a lakh on the road. Perhaps the enthusiasts who have been waiting for something powerful might not feel the price tag to be well justified. Nonetheless, visually and technologically, the ZMR is a huge step forward. The list of standard features is impressive too.
Watch out for an exhaustive road test in our next issue. Visit www.youtube.com/bikeindia for videos of the ZMR.