The Hero Splendor and Maruti Suzuki Alto — two humble modes of commute for the masses that are doing some work across the country. Be it the open lands of Rajasthan, or the Himalayas, these workhorses have conquered it all. Both the brands known for their cost-effective, mass-market products also have something that will cater to the inner dirt-sniffing junkie in you — the XPulse 200 4V Pro and the Jimny. And just like how most of us honed the basics of road riding/driving on a Hero or Maruti, can these two teach us the basics of off-roading? That’s the quest I embarked upon.
Looking at both of them, parked side-by-side, I was dumbfounded. This was the first time I was seeing the Jimny in the flesh as well as this new Pro variant of the XPulse. The mirrors of the ADV were the same height as the Jimny’s roof. This was hilarious, but at the same time, could be unnerving for novices. The XPulse Pro looks intimidating if you let the mind play its tricks. Nevertheless, I swung my leg over the towering 891-mm seat and suddenly things didn’t feel half as bad. With my 5’11 frame, tiptoeing was the best I could do. Well, thanks XPulse for reminding me I am not a 6-footer.
But things were quite the opposite with the Jimny. The moment I opened the door to step in the Jimny’s cabin, the mind started sticking my shattered ego back. This car made me realise I am not really the short person that the XPulse made me feel. The Jimny was welcoming in that sense, but only till I sat in the driver’s seat. I couldn’t adjust the height of my seat nor could I fiddle with the steering reach. But what was equally impressive on either of these was how they sorted out the first and most crucial bit of off-roading — visibility. The Jimny’s upright windshield area, flat bonnet and the dashboard’s design gave me an unrestricted view of what lies ahead. Of course, with the XPulse’s seat height, visibility was never going to be a problem but once I began straddling, it just amplified. I could look further than I ever could on most motorcycles, and that meant I could carry more speeds, but did I?
The XPulse’s 199.6cc engine may not be the quickest, but it’s just right to get the basics in place. Its linear power delivery won’t frazzle you, but at the same time, it has enough grunt to keep you trundling through almost any and every obstacle. With almost no chance of the performance overwhelming me, I could focus on understanding other nuances of off-roading, just like the Jimny. Yeah, I was cocooned in a metal cage, strapped safely to my seat, but that doesn’t mean things can’t go awry in a car. But just like the ADV, this SUV’s engine proved to
be great for learners. The 1.5-litre K15B engine is not something that would appease performance seekers, but then again, off-roading is more than sheer performance, and that’s where the Jimny excels.
Just like the XPulse, the power delivery is linear, but it has a good low-end punch to haul itself through almost anything. The 4-speed automatic transmission made things all the more simpler. And the ease of switching between the ‘2WD High’, ‘4WD Low’, and ‘4WD High’ meant I just had to focus on understanding the chassis’ behaviour. And that’s what spoiled my experience with the XPulse. The company took care of little things like the new raised and longer gear shifter that can accommodate thick enduro boots, and the pass switch that is the most intuitive that I have ever experienced on a motorcycle so far. But switching through the ‘Road’, ‘Off-road’, and ‘Rally’ meant I had to stop and toggle through the modes from the buttons on the console. Nonetheless, the motto was to see if one could learn, and for that, one need not bother with these, at least for a motorcycle.
What would make the learning easier, and fun is the chassis itself, and the XPulse gets all the praise for that. Though the seat height felt daunting initially, the 161 kg kerb weight made everything a notch easier… perhaps too easy sometimes. Air time? Well, all it took was a steady (and generous) hand on the throttle, and a good enough ramp to make me feel like Evel Knievel. And the only reason I could do that was because of the rally-spec suspension on this bike. The 250 mm and 220 mm suspension travel at the front and back respectively meant there was no chance of bottoming out. With the option to adjust the rebound, compression and preload to my liking, I could get to behave just the way I wanted. Not familiar with suspension settings? Well, the learning curve for you just got steeper… and better!
Now, the XPulse set the benchmark quite high, and the Jimny didn’t disappoint. The 36-degree approach and 50-degree clearance meant I could get through the same ramps as I did with the XPulse, and of course, that meant air time. And despite all that bashing around, the Jimny held its own. Broken tarmac, gravel patches, rocky terrain or just mud, the Jimny pulled through everything, without a protest. The 3-link rigid axle off-road suspension took everything in its stride and the chassis maintained its composure. In fact, both the XPulse and the Jimny made things so easy that it didn’t take me long to go sideways. But this has also got to do with the stock tyres on these machines.
The next step towards getting better at off-roading would definitely involve slapping on better tyres. And getting better also means going harder through the same terrain, and that also means eating dirt. Thankfully, the affordable Rs 1.52 lakh price tag of the XPulse, and cheap spare parts won’t come in the way of honing the sport. Spare parts cost is something that even Maruti Suzuki doesn’t disappoint with, but the Rs 14.89 lakh price tag definitely made me reconsider my antics with the Jimny. Surprising how the same brands that make the Splendor and the Alto, made the XPulse and the Jimny, right? But not so surprising when you realise that one has been making it big in the Dakar rally, while the other has played a pivotal role in shaping the car rally culture in India.