Hero Honda-Karizma :
Test date: 7/1/2003
For years, you’ve cribbed about the lack of power and performance from Made-in-India four-strokes. You’ve been cribbing about how you didn’t give a damn about fuel efficiency, as long as you could fulfil your Need for Speed. Gentlemen, the cribbing stops today. Hero Honda is better known as maker of large selling commuter models, than for powerful or stylish bikes. The company surprised everyone early in 1999 by announcing a new, sharply styled performance bike, the CBZ. Now, a couple of years down the line, Hero Honda has everyone again sitting up. The recently launched Karizma is a motorcycle made for that niche market, which selects performance over economy. Its aggressive styling looks the piece. :
Hero Honda has taken a lot of styling cues for this bike from Honda’s old model VFR 800, the Japanese giant’s legendary and largest selling superbike. Similarities are visible in the alloy die-cast wheels, the tailpiece, the front indicators, the fairing, the silencer unit, seat, panel shapes and instrument binnacle. Even the way Hero Honda has painted parts of the side panels silver to look like exposed aluminium frame sections, reminds one of the genuine thing on the VFR. One cannot help but think that the steering column section of the bike looks crude and empty just below the handlebar mounts. Fit and finish is excellent and no less than the high standards we have come to respect Hero Honda for. The company has kept with the times, and grafted an aircraft-type fuel filler cap onto the tank. The tank recesses easily accommodated the legs of our tallest testers. The amber backlighting for instruments is exciting. Being connected directly to the battery, all lights and instruments work independently of the rpm of the engine, and are a boon at night.
A large 223cc single cylinder, air-cooled and inclined 15 degrees forwards from the vertical does duty on the Karizma. A paper-pleated element is employed to help purify breathing, and we noticed a small resonator working on the hose leading from the airbox to the carburetor. The carburettor also runs a throttle sensor to help adjust rate of fuel delivery in relation to the throttle position. All this adds up to 17bhp at 7000rpm and a prodigious 1.87kgm of torque at 6000rpm. However, bhp is only two more than the Pulsar 180. Five cogs shift through a sporty toe-shifter. The gearbox employs a tall close ratio fourth and fifth gear with lower gearing for the first three gears. This works out well giving one sufficient power out on the highway, yet not making the bike tough to ride around town. A wet multi-plate clutch is employed and feels perfect, with just the correct amount of feedback. Thumb the starter and the first thing you will notice is the refinement of the engine. We feel the Karizma is surely capable of even faster times. This bike simply begs you to ride hard, on any empty road. It managed a top whack of 125kph. What is impressive is the manner in which the Karizma performs at speeds around 100kph. The riding position is very sporty and similar to that on the CBZ, with just a hint of the feel imparted by the infamous BMW F650. When you mount the 795mm-high seat, you feel in a commanding position. Though the riding position is very sporty and similar to that on the older CBZ, it feels different. The long wheelbase at 1355mm helps stability. Gripping the wide bars, the rush of pleasure with its linear torque is a feeling difficult to put in words. Stability at any and every speed is top class. Turn-in is excellent and cornering is admirable. The way the suspension is set up and mated with the single downtube conventional frame is excellent. Braking on the Karizma is superb and we managed to bring this bulky 150kg-bike and rider to rest from 60kph in a scant 18.36 metres. Equipped with a larger capacity engine, the Karizma’s mileage figures depend on how it is ridden. Under city riding conditions, the bike returned 30kpl and on the highway testing runs surprised with an impressive 45kpl at a speed of 70kph.
This is the bike for the jeans-and-leather-clad youngsters, who want to feel the wind in their hair and indulge in the finer pleasures of biking. Refinement, comfort, great handling and that much-sought-after big bike feel are all available on the Karizma. Until the competition pulls out something as good from their bag, we’re hooked. Karizma sure grabs our imagination. How we wish we could afford one. A highly capable, stylish bike, but high price puts it out of reach for many.