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Bajaj Dominar 250 Road Test


Do good things really come in small packages? Well, the Dominar 250’s smaller motor might just convince you of that

 

What’s the first bike that comes to your mind when someone says ‘Bajaj’? ‘Pulsar’, right? You rarely think ‘Dominar’ -- an oddity, considering it’s the company’s flagship motorcycle and was quite impressive in its concept form at Auto Expo 2016. Maybe it’s the wayward marketing campaign, maybe it’s just that the Pulsar has been around way longer. Or maybe it’s just the bike. The Dominar 400 checks a lot of boxes -- great looks, top-notch hardware and oodles of performance, but it’s never made a lasting impression on the Indian biker. Something had to be done and Bajaj delivered -- they decided to go small in a big way -- a 250cc iteration of the Dominar that duplicates almost everything that the 400 does, except for the engine!

What’s Different?

It might come as a surprise but the Dominar 250 feels more special than the Dominar 400, especially when you can barely tell the two bikes apart. They have identical body panels, that super bright LED headlight, the same tail lights, split seats and even the tall handlebars. On the surface level, you’ll notice that the 250 is running the tank-mounted console from the first-gen Dominar 400, so it just gets the tell-tale lights. There’s no secondary display with a gear position indicator.

You have to look a little deeper to see the real differences. Most of its 248.7cc single-cylinder liquid-cooled motor has been borrowed from the KTM 250 Duke. Just like Bajaj did with the Dominar 400, this Dominar 250’s cylinder head is its own, although this time it’s running a twin-spark setup -- no triple spark here. The 400’s cast aluminium swingarm too has been dropped in favour of a box section unit and the upside down front fork is slimmer at 37mm -- all in the name of cost saving. This continues with the tyres as well with the Dominar 250 running on slimmer bias-ply MRF Zappers, as opposed to the 400’s fatter radials. Apart from making the 250 more affordable, all these changes have resulted in a drop of seven kilos… and actually made it better than the 400.

What Makes It Better?

 

Dominar 250

Dominar 400 UG

KTM 250 Duke

Suzuki Gixxer 250

Yamaha FZ25

Power

27PS @ 8500rpm

40PS @ 8650rpm

30PS @ 9000rpm

26.5PS @ 9000rpm

20.9PS @ 8000rpm

Torque

23.5 @ 6500rpm

35Nm @ 7000rpm

24Nm @ 7000rpm

22.6Nm @ 7500rpm

20Nm @ 6000rpm

Kerb Weight

180kg

187kg

169kg

156kg

152kg

How can a bike that makes 13PS and 11.5Nm less than the 400 be better? Heck, it makes less power than the KTM 250 Duke as well, although it’s pretty much on par with the rest of the segment. However, it is the heaviest bike in this class and by a huge margin -- 11kg heavier than the 250 Duke and a whopping 24kg heavier than the Gixxer 250. And that, combined with the motor’s peaky power delivery, makes it the slowest accelerating bike in its class, both in outright as well as in-gear acceleration.

Acceleration

Bajaj Dominar 250

0-60kmph

4.18 seconds

0-100kmph

10.92 seconds

30-70kmph (3rd gear)

5.60 seconds

40-80kmph (4th gear)

7.92 seconds

But where this motor will totally win you over is with its refinement. This motor already felt rather smooth on the Duke, but since the Dominar 250 is running a lower compression ratio of 11.9:1 (vs 12.5:1), it feels even more unstressed. It manages 100kmph in 6th gear with the engine ticking a little over 6000rpm and at this speed, it’s absolutely butter smooth. Even speeds of 120 feel really smooth, although it takes a little time to get there. Vibes only creep in past 8000rpm, and that too in the form of a mild buzz in the footpegs. Honestly, if long-distance riding is on your mind, forget ‘Hyperriding’; the Dominar 250 is all about ‘Zenriding’ without sacrificing any speed.

Then there’s the tractability. While the gearbox ratios and sprockets are the same as those on the 250 Duke, the Dominar is far more usable at low- to mid-range rpm. And that’s because Bajaj is running different camshaft profiles and valve timing for the Dominar. This motor is happily willing to chug along at 40-45kmph in 6th gear! In fact, keep the bike just between 2,000 and 3,000rpm in any gear, and it will move along without any complaints. And when you ride at easy speeds, at low rpm, the exhaust note actually sounds… thumpy! Like a certain bike Bajaj was trying to take on with the Dominar 400’s marketing campaign.

Comfy Through and Through

It’s not just the motor that makes the Dominar 250 so good on the highway. It’s the ergonomics too, which have been carried over directly from the 400. The seating stance is nearly upright with only a slight forward slant, the 800mm seat height makes for an easy reach, the wide handlebars are set fairly high and even the footpegs aren’t too rear set, making for a comfortable riding position. The seat padding too is of the right firmness for long hours in the saddle. Even the pillion seat is quite comfortable.

Efficiency Matters
This is one area where the Dominar 250 fell a little short. Since it’s hauling all that extra weight, it could only do 35kmpl in the city and 34kmpl on the highway. These are the lowest efficiency figures we’ve tested in the 250cc segment, although we’re yet to test the BS6 versions of all the Dominar’s competitors. That said, the Dominar will still have decent range thanks to a 13-litre fuel tank.

Magic Carpet Ride

The other really impressive aspect of this D250 is its ride quality. Both front and rear suspension are running a softer tune compared to the 400. When riding solo, the rear can feel a little bouncy over really sharp bumps. But get a pillion on board and the ride becomes amazing. It just feels really plush over pretty much everything the road can throw at it. The only thing you have to watch out for is braking when going over those sharp bumps, as it can cause the front end to bottom out. But apart from that, the Dominar 250’s ride quality is nothing short of wonderful.

Easy Handler

Now the Dominar 400 has never been marketed as a corner carver. It’s more of a straight line tourer. The 250 can be considered a little better in that regard, as the slimmer tyres -- 100/80x17 at the front and 130/70x17 at the rear -- make it a little lighter on its feet. These are the same size tyres as those on the Pulsar RS 200, but they’re composed of a different, softer compound that is more suited to the Dominar 250. Although these tyres won’t give you the same confidence once leaned over into turns as the 400’s radials, the 250 does turn in easier, which makes it lighter to steer into corners. This lightness is apparent at city speeds and even when you move the bike around in the parking lot.

Showstopper

In our tests, the Dominar 400 was a ferocious braker. Now this 250 isn’t running the same hardware. It’s got the smaller 300mm front disc with a radial caliper and a 230mm rear disc. But surprisingly, even with all its weight, it managed incredibly short braking distances -- just 31.53 metres from 80kmph to a standstill and 18.50 metres from 60kmph. These are the best in class numbers after the Yamaha FZ25, but that’s expected considering the Yamaha is a featherweight compared to the Dominar. On top of that, brake lever feel on the Dominar is quite commendable too.

Our Take

At Rs 1.60 lakh ex-showroom Delhi, the Dominar 250 costs as much as the 400 did when it was first launched in 2017. Since then, its price has gone up and as things stand today, the BS6 Dominar 400 is nearly Rs 40,000 more expensive than the 250. If that wasn’t enough to convince you of the Dominar 250’s value proposition, it even undercuts the Gixxer 250 BS6 by a few thousand rupees. In terms of pricing, Bajaj has nailed it.

But money aside, as a motorcycle, the Dominar 250 does one thing right -- it is fit to purpose. The Dominar 400, for example, always felt like a confused motorcycle as the 390’s motor is too manic to make for a great sports tourer. It gets the job done, but just about. On the other hand, the Dominar 250’s motor felt boring on the KTM, but combined with the comfortable tourer the Dominar is, it works beautifully. It truly feels like it deserves the ‘sports tourer’ tag. So while Bajaj might pitch it as the entry-level Dominar, we think the 250 is the Dominar in its perfect form.

Bajaj Dominar 250Video Review

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