Bajaj and Hero Motocorp (Hero Honda previously), are the two pure Indian make motorcycles who have been at loggerheads continuously after Bajaj came out with its extraordinary concept, the powerful “Pulsar”. Hero Honda was no meek player either who went on to create a biking tradition with its charismatic Karizma. However, due credit does go to Hero Honda for venturing into the virgin territory of 200+ cubic capacity displacement when Bajaj was happy making the favourite “Hamara Bajaj” scooters and trying to give competition to the already established hugely successful 100cc bikes from the Hero Honda stable.
However, Bajaj is a quick learner and soon came up with a strong contender for the tall standing Karizma, the Pulsar 220. Since then, it has always been a boggling question for many as to which one is better. Which one should you buy if you want the ultimate performance motorcycle? We thought it’s time we take both and make them face head to head and see who eventually comes out victorious!
To start, I take up the aspect of the styling since that is the first thing anyone is going to notice about any motorcycle. Add to it the 220cc class and any motorcycle lover is bound to demand fabulous styling that should make him look apart from the crowd and also make heads turn when he/she rides past! The two motorcycles I am comparing here have very different design languages. Each one has been distinctively designed to appeal to a specific sensory perception of the consumer.
The Pulsar 220 with its “wolf” like headlights looks really stylish while the Karizma ZMR with its GSX1000R inspired headlamps look menacing. Coming to the tail lights, the twin LED lights on the Pulsar 220 are the coolest ones ever seen. On the Karizma ZMR, you get one “inverted pentagon” shaped light which is LED stripped. Coming to the side stance, the Pulsar 220 has got a horizontal fairing extending from the headlights to the fuel tank. It also has a netted slot providing air flow.
The small fairing gives the bike a “naked bike” look and adds dynamism to it. The contour line on the fairing extends all the way upto the fuel tank too. The Karizma ZMR on the other hand, has got a full fairing that on which the ZMR is inscribed in a Japanese script style (inspired from the Suzuki Hayabusa). The fairing is styled excellently with the front end of it following the curve of the front wheel while the rear sporting a Z shaped design.
The ZMR with its full fairing looks mighty muscular, big and more like a “speed goddess”. Both the bikes have got a single exhaust. The exhaust tail pipe on the Pulsar 220 looks not much different from its younger siblings and has no colour which looks a bit out of place. On the other hand, the Karizma ZMR gets golden finish tail pipe which blends along well with the design. The engine, the front shockers and the inner circle of the front and the rear discs are gold painted. Both the bikes get split rear handle grips. The Karizma ZMR offers those as body coloured while they are black on the Pulsar 220.
Pulsar 220: 3
Karizma ZMR: 4
Now let us come to the performance factor. The Pulsar 220, as evident from its name is powered by a 220 cc motor that delivers a power figure of 21.04 PS @ 8500 RPM and a healty torque figure of 19.12 Nm @ 7000 RPM. On the other hand, the Karizma ZMR is powered by the same 223 cc engine that powered the old Karizma. The 223 cc engine delivers a power of 17.6 BHP @ 7000 RPM and a torque of 18.35 Nm @ 6000 RPM.
Going by the figures alone, the Pulsar 220 is definitely way powerful than the ZMR in terms of power and in terms of torque. The Karizma ZMR may look like a speed goddess, but it is the Pulsar 220, in which the speed beast is hiding, waiting to be unleashed. Just twist the throttle and the 220’s thrust will make you go backwards in awe and surprise. The Pulsar 220 wants it to be taken seriously.
Gently input the throttle, and all will be well. On the Karizma ZMR, it is a bit more relaxed. Though it is about 1 Nm short in torque than the 220, yet the delivery is quick at the low RPM (6000 on the ZMR as compared to the 7000 on the 220) which makes it fun to drive. One of the big things separating these bikes is the kerb weight. The Pulsar 220 with its small fairing weighs 150 kg while the Karizma ZMR with all its fairings tips the scales at 159 kg making it 9kgs heavier than the Pulsar! The Pulsar outperforms the ZMR in power-to-weight ratio.
The 220 offers one of the best power-to-weight ratios because of which it gets the tag of “the fastest Indian”. Fuel delivery to the 220’s engine is through the carburettor while on the ZMR a fuel injection does that duty. The fuel delivery feels smoother in the ZMR across all rev ranges. On the 220 however, you twist the throttle suddenly and there is a lag. It is like the lull before the storm to come.
You can witness the speedometer needle surging very fast in the post-lag period. The Pulsar 220 can do the 0 to 60 kmph sprint in just about 4 seconds while the Karizma ZMR takes a bit more to about 4.7 seconds. A top speed test wasn’t possible because of too much traffic. On road, the Pulsar 220 returns a good fuel economy of 38 kmpl under mixed driving conditions while the Karizma ZMR returns about 40 kmpl.
Pulsar 220: 4.5
Karizma ZMR: 3.5
One of the key aspects any sports bike deserves to be talked about is its handling. Sit on the bike, and you feel more close to the ground on the Pulsar 220 than on the Karizma ZMR. The Karizma ZMR will not be an ideal bike for the short people. Also, the ZMR feels wider than the 220 because of its broad fairings. The Pulsar 220 features a split-seat design which provides you with good support and makes you prepared to race anytime.
On the other hand, the Karizma ZMR features a single piece providing a comfortable seating for you as well as your pillion. On straight lines, both the bikes feel planted to the ground, but relatively the Karizma feels more planted because of its higher kerb weight. The Pulsar 220 despite its raw power feels planted because of its thicker tires. The 220 rides on 90/90 section (Tubeless) at the front and 120/80 section (Tubeless) at the rear. They are fitted to 17inch alloy wheels both at the front and back.
The ZMR rides on thinner sections, 80/100 on the front and 100/90 on the rear. However, the ZMR rides on bigger 18 inch alloy wheels. On the corners, the two show up different dynamics. The Karizma ZMR with its bulk and bigger dimensions is slightly difficult to manoeuvre with a considerable lean angle. However, the bulk coupled with the smooth power delivery gives you a confidence of solid grip that the bike maintains with the road. The 220, while is smaller in dimensions and with low kerb weight is very quick around corners.
The rev-friendly engine always entices you to throttle hard while you are exiting the corner but a slight mistake and you can lose control. The bike packs in so much power at the top-end that you need to have considerable amount of experience to master it. The ZMR uses Telescopic hydraulic shock absorbers at the front and a Swing arm with 5 step adjustable IGRS system at the rear. While on the 220, you get telescopic shocks at the front and 5 way adjustable Nitrox shock absorbers at the rear.
The suspension at the front and the back does a good job of taking care of potholes in both the bikes. However, the Karizma ZMR has got a slightly softer suspension making it good for long tours as well. The Pulsar 220 on the other hand, has a stiffer suspension which makes it not so good for long journeys but great for fast cornering. However, take both the bikes to whatever speed you like, both offer equally good stopping power according to their stature. The Pulsar 220 gets 260 mm disc brakes at the front and 230 mm ones at the rear while the Karizma ZMR gets 276 mm disc at the front and 240 mm discs at the rear.
Pulsar 220: 4.5
Karizma ZMR: 3.5
Coming to the instrument cluster, both the bikes offer good looking digital consoles. The Pulsar 220 offers an analog tachometer and a digital speedometer. The round tachometer is on the left while the digital speedometer is on the right of it. The speedo console also shows other information like the fuel level by the left side of the speed, the odometer and the trip meter at the bottom and battery, oil temperature etc at the top.
Below the speedo console are 4 round lights; the turn indicators, the neutral gear position, the hi-beam and the side stand engage respectively from the left. At the extreme right of the console, is the RESET switch. Coming to the Karizma ZMR, it sports a trapezoidal console with the analog tachometer at the bottom centre of the console. On the left is the digital speedometer below which it also shows the time. On the right is the fuel level, odo and trip meter and the alphabetic display.
On the top centre it has small 4 lamps; the engine malfunction light, the neutral gear indicator, the hi-beam and the direction indicators from the left respectively. Both the consoles are equally good, but somehow I feel that the console of the Pulsar 220 has been designed keeping the “racer rider” in mind. The large speedo and the large tacho ensure that you get to know your state without have to look closely which is not the case in the Karizma ZMR. Also the Pulsar indicates if you have the side stand engaged or not which is a good thing for many in India.
Pulsar 220: 4
Karizma ZMR: 3.5
The Karizma ZMR will cost you Rs. 1,02,939/- (On Road, Gurgaon) while the Pulsar 220 is Rs. 86,250/- (On Road, Gurgaon). Over such a price difference anyone will de definitely inclined to go for the cheaper alternative. However, you cannot buy a bike of this segment just by the price. Anyone should also look into what kind of usage he is going to have. If you are a ride daily for long distances then the Pulsar 220 is not a good choice for you, the Karizma ZMR definitely is! If you are a person who loves corners, then the Karizma ZMR is not the right bike for you, the Pulsar 220 is! Overall, the bikes come very close in this heated competition with Pulsar 220 gaining marginally due to its sheer focused nature on speed and handling, the two basic necessities of a sports bike and nevertheless, a bike lover!