Suzuki V-Strom SX first ride review | The best quarter-litre ADV?
ADVs are where it’s at. They make the most sense to tackle the beautiful (not!) condition of roads that our country offers. Over the last few years, manufacturers have started to take notice of this fact and the market in India is populated with a bunch of ADVs, big and small. Suzuki is the latest to enter the market on the smaller displacement side with the V-Strom SX. With the V-Strom title, I headed to Bhubhaneshwar with high hopes. How does the Suzuki V-Strom SX stack up and does it have what it takes to carve a place for itself in a rather competitive market? Read this review to find out.
Suzuki V-Strom SX design
The Suzuki V-Strom SX looks like a proper ADV. It has all the dimensions and characteristics required to be classified as a bike meant for the long haul, be it on the road or off it. Take one glance and you’re immediately reminded of its bigger siblings, the V-Strom 650 XT and the bigger 1050 albeit in a significantly smaller package. Look closer and you will start to see elements of the bike that it is based on — the Gixxer 250. The headlight, the engine, the brake setup. The tail light of the bike and the majority of the tail section resemble that of the previous generation of the Gixxer 150. Coming back to the ADV bit, the bike has a proper front fairing with a relatively tall non-adjustable windscreen that does a good job of deflecting wind away from the rider. There’s a wide handlebar which gets plastic knuckle guards, a comfortable, roomy seat and crucially for the ADV formula a 19-inch front wheel and a 17-inch rear wheel. In terms of colour schemes, you have three to choose from. Black, the orange that I tested and the yellow, which makes the bike look the most like a bonafide V-Strom.
Suzuki V-Strom SX chassis
The Suzuki V-Strom SX uses a frame largely identical to that of the Gixxer 250 and it uses the same suspension setup as well. Another major change is the 19-inch front wheel and 17-inch rear wheel combination. What does all this translate to? The suspension setup is a little on the plush side but does an adequate job of ironing out minor undulations without unsettling the bike too much. Bigger speed breakers, potholes and especially the larger rumble strips unsettle the bike a fair bit. Now, this bike is marketed as an adventure bike its tagline is ‘The Master of Adventure’. This means that in theory, it should be a bike with which you should be able to munch many miles without stress and even handle a bit of off-roading. The prerequisite to being able to do this is the rider's triangle being a certain way— a tall wide handlebar, a comfortable, upright seat and a relaxed non-sporty footpeg placement. The V-Strom SX gets the first two of the three things right but the footpegs are placed in a rather sport-naked like position, high and slightly rearset. Now, at five foot ten inches, I am not an extremely tall rider, but my legs still felt cramped on it after a 120-odd km stint riding the bike on the highway. To make matters worse, the riding position while standing is extremely compromised because of the way the footpegs are placed. When you try to stand you feel like you’re hunched over the bike and despite the handlebar being fairly high, they feel like they are too far away from you. This means that you simply cannot put the 205mm of ground clearance to good use by taking the bike off-road. On the other hand, this translates to a fun bike in the twisties. Despite the front now being a 19-incher, the bike doesn’t feel extremely lazy or heavy to steer and the bike changes direction with ease. The MRF Mogrip Meteor tyres offer good grip on both good and bad roads. The bike handles its 167kg wet weight rather wel. The braking setup has been lifted off the Gixxers and has enough feedback and does an adequate job of shedding speed but it feels more progressive than sharp. All in all the V-Strom has a solid chassis setup but the poorly placed (for ADV purpose) footpegs play a fly in an otherwise effective ointment.
Suzuki V-Strom SX engine and performance
The Suzuki V-Strom SX is powered by the same 249cc single-cylinder, oil-cooled engine as found on the Gixxer 250. This can only mean good news and for the most part, it is. A glance at the spec sheet reveals that it makes 26.1bhp at 9300rpm and 22.2Nm at 7300rpm meaning it is in an identical state of tune as the Gixxers. The bike feels extremely friendly and has enough power to keep beginners entertained. The engine is extremely tractable and you can always be a gear or two higher than you should and get away with it without consequence. If you do manage to take the bike off-road, the engine has enough grunt, down-low to be able to handle slow-speed stuff without needing to feather the clutch or work the gearbox too much. The mill is also pretty refined for the most part unless you're wringing it. Comfortable cruising comes in between 90-100kmph and at this point, you'll see around 6000rpm on the tachometer. At these speeds, the engine sounds very busy but there aren't any vibrations to talk about. This is the perfect speed to stay at while having headroom to make quick overtakes as long as you come back to 90-100kmph. After 102-105kmph you're greeted by unpleasant vibrations at the 'pegs and the seat. The six-speed gearbox is nice and slick and the clutch action is light.
Suzuki V-Strom SX features
In terms of features, you get all-LED lighting at both ends, a windscreen, knuckle guards, a tail rack rated for up to 6kg of luggage and a USB charger. As far as the USB charger is concerned, its design feels like an afterthought. It is placed on the left side of the instrument cluster and the flap opens towards the rider which feels inconvenient. The instrument cluster is a fully digital LCD unit which showcases all the necessary information and can also be paired to your smartphone for turn-by-turn navigation. Now unless you pair your phone, the cluster seems very barren, something that could have been better designed. In terms of safety, you get a well-calibrated dual-channel ABS.
Suzuki V-Strom SX verdict
Has Suzuki made a contender that can dethrone its rivals? The short answer is perhaps not. Don’t get me wrong, it is a good motorcycle. There is a lot that Suzuki has done right with the V-Strom SX. The ADV design, the creamy engine, the comfortable seat and so on. Were the ergonomics better, it would have made the bike significantly better and an instant recommendation. At Rs 2.11 lakh ex-showroom Delhi you have the Royal Enfield Himalayan 411, the Scram 411 with a similar chassis setup, the Yezdi Adventure and for significantly less money the star of the segment, the Hero Xpulse 200. All these bikes have proven to be capable both on-road and off it. What Suzuki has done is made a naked bike a lot more comfortable and endowed it with a lot of potential but we’ll give you a more in-depth verdict once we ride it back to back with its rivals.