You could hardly accuse Suzuki of being at the forefront of Indian motorcycling. Since they opened shop, their product roll-outs have been few and far between, and while the scooters have worked, the motorcycles not so much.
Now, Suzuki are finally making some moves on the motorcycle front and their first launch is this, the new GW250 Inazuma. The 250 is a naked option in a sea of entry-level sportsbikes abroad and is well-regarded as a beginner’s motorcycle abroad. The backstory is that the motorcycle was designed for the A2 license class in Europe from scratch and is built by Suzuki’s Chinese operation to control costs. In fact, in the UK, the Inazuma is £1,100 (Rs 1,13,977) cheaper than the KTM 390 Duke, and in the US, about $350 (Rs 21,728) under the Honda CBR250R and about $700 (Rs 43,424) below the Kawasaki Ninja 300.
However, the fact that it is made in China hurts the Inazuma no end in India. You see the Ninja 300 comes to us from Thailand with whom we have a free trade agreement that has a serious implication on the import duty for the CKD kits. Meanwhile, Honda and KTM (Bajaj) — both larger operations in India — have the CBR and the Duke in production here, which is the ultimate solution to lower costs.
What that means is that no matter how good the GW250 Inazuma actually is, the ground ahead of the new Suzuki is steeply uphill and Suzuki India have no real options to cut the price down. You might think they could just produce it here, but the reality is (a long story for another time), that it cannot be made financially viable with a twin-cylinder engine. This also has implications on Yamaha’s YZF-R25, and I will let you draw your own conclusions.
Styling, build & finish
As it is with all Suzukis in India, the GW250 — their first CKD product here — is extremely well built and finished. Hard testing failed to produce any rattles and shakes and the finish levels, whether it is metal bits or painted surfaces is extremely good. Not really a surprise given that one of the things the GW250 brings to the A2 class abroad is exactly this — big bike finish and quality.
That brings us to the Inazuma’s styling. I am not a fan, there I said it. The Inazuma is based on the B-King and that causes lots of quirky design elements. From some angles, especially the rear three-quarter, it looks almost ungainly because the massive swoop of the manga’d tank cowls and the overtly large tail piece don’t resolve into a pleasing picture. If you look at just the shape of the tank or the sweeping line of the tail piece, there’s a nice looking motorcycle in there. But all dressed and ready to ride, it’s sort of like a player from American football. You’re impressed by the size and can’t resist the urge to point and say rude things. Amongst the offenders is that giant front fender and between it and the tank cowls, they dwarf the headlamp. This looks interesting on the B-King, but on the Wee-King, it just makes the skinny tyres stand out and makes the whole styling a bit muddled. A design classic, the Inazuma will never be.
Powertrain, performance and economy
The engine for the Inazuma was created from scratch. And with its role (remember the A2 class again here), Suzuki gave it a long stroke (just over 55mm) which makes this an undersquare motor, probably the only one in its class. Keeping things simple, this a fuel injected, liquid cooled parallel twin that displaces 248cc and breathes through two valves per cylinder operated by a single overhead camshaft. To quell the vibration inherent to parallel twins, the Suzuki also gets a gear-driven balancer shaft. The final piece of the powertrain puzzle is the six-speed gearbox.
Given the design and intent, the power output is a modest 24PS at 8500rpm, though torque peaks at 22Nm at just 6500rpm. For reference, the Ninja 300 makes 5Nm more, but at 10,000rpm and the Hyosung GT250R makes 22Nm also, but at 8,000rpm. What that means in the real world is that we have good news and we have not-so-good news. The latter first. The ‘Zuma isn’t a zoomer. 100kmph takes 10.73 seconds while top speed is 131.6kmph. But that is the extent of it. The rest is all on the up and up.
From the time you let the light clutch out, the ‘Zuma proves responsive and never, ever, stressed or strained in feel. Rolling on the throttle at any time, produces acceleration, though you can distinctly feel greater urgency past 6,000rpm. The bike is redlined at 11,000rpm and once you pass 8500rpm, the peak power point, the power tails off gracefully and that makes the full rev band pretty useful.
But the real story is how the Inazuma feels. And it feels pretty darn good. The clutch requires no effort at all and the balancer shaft does an epic job of quelling the vibes. There’re some tingles at really high revs, but but do not ever get in the way of riding. What the Inazuma lives for is cruising between 6- and 9,000rpm where the engine is near-silent and utterly vibe free. It’s a sort of calm that nothing in the segment offers at the moment. And ridden like this, the Inazuma also manages 30kmpl in the city and 35.3kmpl on the highway, some of the segment’s best economy numbers. What that means is a motorcycle that will cruise with great elegance at 80-110kmph all day while giving you nearly 450-500km of range on a tankful.
Quick, sharp, frenetic, frantic, urgent and all the Inazuma isn’t. But here is a dramatically different, calmer motorcycle that’s easy to love with, easy to ride and that is an utterly valid alternative to its peers. And before you ask, there’s enough torque to make short work of fast passes on the highway and the ‘Zuma only starts to draw out acceleration past the 125kmph mark. And lest we forget, the gearbox is marvelous – effortless, slick and absolutely lovely to use.
Ride, handling and braking
Given the massive wheelbase it sits on (25mm longer than the Ninja 300 and almost 60mm, holy cow, longer than the 390 Duke), the handling is as you expect it. The Inazuma responds to inputs smartly but a sportsbike it is not. What it is, though, is stable. At any speed and in nearly every situation, the Inazuma is unshakeable. So good is the steel single downtube cradle frame, telescopic fork and 7-way adjustable preload rear monoshock combination that it almost makes the IRC Road Winner tyres (remember them from the Ninja 250) look like heroes when they really are just a bit above average in tyre performance.
What really shines though, as brightly as the whole Milky Way on dark night, is the ride quality. Suzuki have gone all out to create a comfortable motorcycle and boy have they nailed it. The Inazuma absorbs some alarmingly big bumps with such unflappable grace you’d think Queen Elizabeth was the inspiration for the ride quality. And it isn’t a soggy, plush mess either. The body floats steadily and smoothly above wheels blurring out from the up down action as a bad stretch of roads pummels the suspension. When you load the bike up, even on stock settings, bottoming the ‘Zuma out takes a bit of work, but generally speaking, this is a level of ride quality that we haven’t seen before in this segment. Hell, in our market. The Impulse is our previous pick of the ride quality stakes but the ‘Zuma makes the Impulse looks like a plush, soggy mess. This is world-class benchmark setting stuff.
Suzuki like to say that the ‘Zuma shares brake components with the ‘Busa and if you think about it, the front brake is exactly one-half of the big bike’s braking kit. Thankfully, this doesn’t mean alarmingly hair trigger anchors. The ‘Zuma, like the rest of the chassis, brakes sharply but without an alarming amount of bite and without any drama. At full braking though, you’ll hear the IRCs squealing away like hungry piglets. It’s more annoying than worrisome though.
Let’s not beat about the bush. Rs 3.1 lakh ex-showroom Delhi and just to put a fine point on it, Rs 3.61 lakhs on-road in Mumbai is bonkers pricing. That’s a lot of money to ask for the Inazuma and I can tell you right now that Suzuki are not going to sell a truckload of this in India.
It isn’t just the price either. We are a young market, full of aggressive young riders enamoured of performance as well as the plastic that wraps around the performance and the ‘Zuma, arguably has little of the former and none of the latter. And then there is the gentle, graceful nature of the performance. Which feels amazing in the eleventh hour of a long ride, or when wafting through the umpteeth monsoon-shattered stretch of road on your commute. But exciting in that visceral manner of the Ninja 300 or the Duke the Inazuma is not. Most riders, especially those of young age or, er, youthful disposition, will find the Inazuma a bit to stodgy, a bit to laid back and not thrilling enough to ride.
But don’t discount the motorcycle wholly. Within the extended friends circle of Team OVERDRIVE, we ourselves know a number of people who own machines big and small who ride them at steady, studied speed. Who prefer the reassuring continuum to the frantic event horizon. People who love the torque and effortless cruising abilities of their Unicorns and GS150Rs. These people find it hard to to upgrade to the brasher, more aggressive motorcycles that dot the 250-300cc motorcyclescape right now. The Inazuma may be expensive in India, but it is the only motorcycle that this lot can upgrade do. And in that sense, Suzuki have managed to get one teeny-tiny toe-hold at the forefront of Indian motorcycling with the GW250 Inazuma.
Here is the image gallery of the Suzuki Inazuma GW250
Photos by Suresh Narayanan
Update: Suzuki has just slashed prices of the Inazuma in India by 30 per cent. The new on-road price in Mumbai is Rs 2.43 lakh. This pricing though doesn’t change anything in the test except that the Inazuma is now more affordable and is in fact the most affordable twin cylinder motorcycle in the country today.