When Hero Honda launched the Karizma back in June 2003, the bike won accolades for its big-bike styling, refined and reliable 223cc engine, soft feel, confident handling and enjoyable touring ability. The Karizma heralded a new performance bike segment at the time and had little competition to contend with, barring Bajaj’s smaller-capacity Pulsar 180.

Fast forward to 2009, with Yamaha’s mini-sportsbike — the YZF-R15, Bajaj’s reworked flagship — the Pulsar 220, and TVS’ racy and exciting — RTR 180, quite frankly, the Karizma looked a bit jaded.

But Hero Honda has now rolled up its sleeves and got working on the next-generation product — the Karizma ZMR. Here’s our first impression.

Styling changes are smartly executed and there’s a new front fairing, along with a neat DC-powered headlight nestling within, and functional mirrors. The ZMR comes with chrome-surrounded indicators and catchy new digital instruments. The dual-colour back-lit unit scrolls out a message prompting riders to put on their helmets the moment the ignition key is activated. A white back-lit rpm gauge takes centrestage and is flanked by an accurate, contact-free, amber-set speedometer, odometer, twin trip gauges, fuel gauge, RTMI (Real Time Mileage Indicator) and clock, apart from the regulars. A highlight to the new model is its snazzy-looking alloy clip-on handlebars,comfortable grips and well-sculpted control levers.

Black and gold

A slim tank and familiar mid-section are apparent, with the lightly stepped riding seat comfortably padded. The bike rides on smart five-spoke alloy rims, tubeless tyres and comes with a completely enclosed drive chain. The silencer now comes in black, while the engine and suspension bear a rich gold shade.

The ZMR houses Hero Honda’s trusty and time-tested 223cc, four-stroke, air-cooled power plant, adding on an oil cooler, with the big change being the introduction of a PGM-FI (Programmed Fuel Injection) system, with a 12-hole injector ensuring the right air-fuel mixture. The injection system takes readings from six sensors that feed intake air temperature, atmospheric oxygen levels, manifold absolute pressure, throttle position, engine oil temperature and crank position data to a 16-bit ECU before adjusting mixture for perfect engine behaviour in various riding conditions. The new Karizma now uses higher-grade 10W30 SJ engine oil with a longer drain period, and comes with a three-way HECS 3 (Honda Evolutional Catalysing System) that keeps emissions at bay.

The new bike sticks to the old five-speed box shift with support from an improved clutch. Power output is marginally upped — the bike making 17.6bhp at 7000rpm as compared to the earlier 17bhp. And maximum torque available remains 1.87kgm at 6000rpm.

The new Karizma feels more refined, is still relaxed at high speed, with throttle response now a little crisper as expected from a fuel-injected bike. The single-cylinder engine retains its refined, smooth, vibe-free and soft nature but the performance feels similar to its carburetted sibling. The Karizma retains its perfectly sorted riding position, typical of every Hero Honda. The front tyre is now 80/100 x 18 in size, while at the rear the suspension has been uprated to dual, adjustable, gas-charged struts. And the ZMR also adopts a rear disc brake.

Handling is light, yet stable. The new Karizma tackles corners with aplomb and its improved suspension helps the motorcycle humble potholes with superior control. Brake feel is good, with the rear disc allowing for better stops.

You will end up shelling out close to Rs. 15,000 more than the carburetted Karizma model, but it’s definitely worth it.

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