Is this the spark required to revive the magic of the 250cc segment?
In the past couple of years, the 250cc segment has seen very little activity. Riders either opted for a cost-conscious 200cc or would scale up to a 300-400cc motorcycle. Suzuki thinks there is still life in the segment as it has ridden into battle with the new Gixxer SF 250. And this is no half-hearted attempt either. Suzuki has spent over four years developing the bike and now we are set to test it out at the Buddh International Circuit. Was it wise for Suzuki to dip its toes into the 250cc segment then?
- Free revving and torquey motor.
- Radial tyres at both ends.
- Riding posture is not too aggressive.
- Small windscreen does not seem fit for the job.
- Brake feel could be better with better ABS calibration.
- Small 12-litre fuel tank could limit its touring capabilities.
Suzuki has reiterated that the new Gixxer SF series bikes do not draw inspiration from any of its larger full-faired siblings. We are inclined to agree with that statement as the new Gixxer SFs look nothing like the GSX-Rs or even the Gixxer SF of the past. It now sports a mature yet sharp design that looks clean. The silver and black colour options are not flattering enough but Suzuki has confirmed that there will be a MotoGP livery option coming soon, which should help the design look youthful.
Those LED headlights do split opinions but the overall front end design is quite pleasing. The rear section does look like an evolution of the old Gixxer SF. However, the split seat configuration lends the bike a sporty vibe. Plus the LED tail-lamp flows neatly with the new design philosophy. The fork legs are chunkier on the SF 250 and the diamond-cut alloys shod with wide profile MRF radials just make the bike look larger than its 150cc sibling.
Suzuki has kept the iconic dual-barrel end-can from the old Gixxer SF intact on the Gixxer SF 250 but it appears in a slightly modern packaging.
Swing a leg over the saddle of the Gixxer SF 250 and you will not feel that the saddle height of 800mm to be cumbersome. It has the tallest seat height amongst its 250cc full-faired brethren but even 5’6” riders can flat foot the bike. The lean forward to reach the clip-on bars is not too aggressive and the rider’s footpegs are positioned in a neutral manner. Overall, the stance is quite comfortable with just a hint of sportiness.
We could not check out the pillion comfort but the pillion seat does look wide and has sufficient cushioning to please your riding partner. We will address this point in detail once we get the bike for a road test review.
Technology & Features
Suzuki has spent years on making this bike a reality and much of it has got to do with the engine. Unlike other air/oil-cooled motorcycles, this 249cc mill is purely oil-cooled. Look carefully at this new mill and you will notice the absence of air-cooling fins. Suzuki claims that the oil-cooling mechanism is so effective that it does not need these fins at all, which is really commendable for a full-faired motorcycle. The engine has been specifically designed for India and will be exported to foreign markets soon enough.
The older Gixxer SF did get an all-digital instrument cluster but the one on the 250 sports a different layout with enough data to keep you covered on all fronts. Plus it has a negative LCD design which does look cool.
Hitting a speedometer-indicated top speed of 154kmph was no problem for the short-stroke 249cc mill. The engine has a strong mid-range and does not show signs of running out of breath at higher revs. It does rev fairly freely but not as quickly as a KTM does. This is more of a mature approach to the fun than just scaring yourself silly. The slick 6-speed transmission never skipped a gear as every input was met with precise shift after precise shift.
The matured approach continues even in the way one takes the bends. The Gixxer SF was like a point-and-shoot motorcycle while this SF 250 requires a methodical approach. It is by no means slow. But having tasted the super-light and flickable SF already, the SF 250 does show its weight. But where it misses out of the utter nimbleness of the 155, it makes up for it by felling planted through the corners. If you are on the heavier side, you will end up scraping those pegs too. Since we rode the bike only at the BIC, ride quality was hard to determine over the lovely smooth racetrack tarmac.
The brakes did exhibit decent stopping power, but we would have liked a bit more feedback from them. Also, the ABS intervention was a bit too unpredictable for hard track use.
The Gixxer SF 250 arrives in just a single variant. There will be a MotoGP edition launching later this year which will come bearing the race livery from Suzuki’s MotoGP racer.
While the Gixxer SF 250 offers a sporty riding experience, it isn’t an out-and-out sportbike. It lacks the agility of its smaller sibling, or the manic performance of something like the KTM RC390. However, whatever little time we got to spend with it at the track made one thing clear - that it has all the makings of a great little sports-tourer, much on the lines of the Honda CBR250. And while at Rs 1.70 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) it’s a little too expensive to lure potential 200cc buyers to the 250cc class, it does offer an affordable, and potentially more fun, alternative to the Honda, making it a great option for more mature riders.