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Meet Raj, the young IT professional who has landed a dream job with a billion-dollar multinational organisation. All through his college life, he rode a Hero Honda Karizma. Now, with a well-paying job, he is looking to upgrade to a new bike. He wants something that is premium, looks sporty and is powerful, yet efficient.

What’s with the Raj example, you ask? Well, that’s the first thought that came to my mind when I rode Hero’s new Karizma ZMR. It feels like the bike was conceived in a boardroom, where a bunch of MBAs were looking at elaborate PowerPoint presentations, looking to build a bike that’d satisfy Raj’s needs, as opposed to a bunch of engineers scribbling down radical ideas during coffee breaks.

People who are familiar with the older Karizma will feel right at home on this bike. Sure, there may be an extra millimetre or two here and there, but from the riding seat, it’s a familiar story.

For starters, the all-digital instrument cluster is a direct lift from the older bike. It displays revs, speed, time, and not to forget, the long ‘Hello’ dialogue that greets you at start-up.

The new ZMR shares switchgear with other Hero bikes. Sadly, there’s still no engine kill switch, which can be a bit irritating when you want to shut the engine at a red light. The clip-on handlebars are raised high enough to ensure the rider doesn’t have to crouch. The foot pegs complement the overall relaxed riding position. Add to that a well-padded seat, and you know the ZMR sticks to its original formula of being an able tourer rather than a street-scorcher.

What distinguishes the new ZMR from the outgoing one is the styling. The front headlights are stacked on top of each other, and the indicators are integrated into the fairing, just like the tail-light, which is also mounted on the mudguard. Yes, the ZMR screams ‘EBR 1190RS’. Looks are always a subjective matter, and while some might like it, we weren’t amazed.

The styling is a departure from the older bike, but it certainly isn’t progressive or all-new in any way. Truth be told, we’re glad that Hero has actually extensively revised the bodywork, instead of pasting some new stickers. Fit and finish isn’t quite up to the mark, but the build quality is reasonably good.

The rest of the package remains more or less the same. It’s the same Honda-engineered, single-cylinder, fuel-injected 223cc motor that has been powering the bike for over a decade. The engine gets a few tweaks, and can now rev to 8,000rpm. Power has gone up: the motor now pumps out 19.5bhp and 19.7Nm of torque. It comes with a 5-speed transmission, which feels slick, though we did often have trouble slotting into neutral.

The bike is a breeze to ride in the city, with more torque than a Bajaj Pulsar 200NS. The gearing is tall to extract more kilometers per litre, and the motor is at its best between 4000-6000rpm. Even riding at triple-digit speeds in a higher gear, the engine hardly feels like it’s running out of breath.

That is until you cane it and take it all the way up to the 8000rpm redline. The bike managed a top speed of 124kph on our test runs, which is around 5kph lower than what Hero claims. Though it did get close, the engine, at that speed, feels out of its comfort zone. The ZMR does not like to be revved hard like, say, a Yamaha R15. It’s best to keep the engine ticking around 5000rpm and enjoy those long rides.

Speaking of the ride, we’ve always liked the ZMR’s soft suspension setup that filters out most of the bumps that the Municipal Corporation’s well-maintained roads could throw at us. At the same time, it is stable enough to keep the bike steady at triple-digit speeds. Hero knows exactly what its core customers want, and they’ve decided to not mess with a winning formula. On the handling front, it changes direction with ease, but it’s no corner-carver.

The ZMR weighs 157 kilos, but it’s quite manageable in city traffic. Unlike the semi-faired Karizma, the ZMR gets front and rear disc brakes. They are confidence-inspiring, and like most other bits on the bike, do a fairly satisfactory job.

The one count on which we feel the ZMR truly shines is the all-important fuel efficiency. On our fuel run, which include a mix of highway and city riding, the ZMR returned 38.6kpl. Which we think is just what the customer clinic would’ve asked for, actually.

To sum it up, the Karizma ZMR is more of an everyday bike, and it feels like styling is the top-most priority. Enthusiasts, who wanted a ZMR that’d go head-to-head with the Honda CBR250R, will be disappointed. Hero has not moved the bar. Instead, it has kept the ZMR’s core values intact. Problem is, it now feels stale. Hero has done its best to ensure the cash counters continue to ring, tailoring the ZMR to meet market demands. Add to that the 38.6kpl figure, and that’d be enough to convince most customers to book a ZMR immediately.

The numbers
1cyl, 223cc, fuel-injected, air-cooled, 19.5bhp, 19.7Nm, 38.6kpl, 157kg (kerb), ?1.17 lakh (on-road, Mumbai)

The verdict
Retains most of the older motorcycle’s pluses, but fails to raise the bar.


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