KTM 390 Duke vs Kawasaki Z250 Comparison Review

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  • Dec 30, 2014
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Hooligan single or a disciplined twin, KTM 390 Duke or the Kawasaki Z250? We help you make the choice


Kawasaki Z250 and the KTM 390 Duke in action


In the ring today, we have the aggressive, the lean and the ruthless KTM 390 Duke – a machine that has touched the right spot for a lot of motorcycling enthusiasts in India. In the past the KTM 390 Duke has taken the fight to a lot of motorcycles in and beyond its class and yet emerged dominant in each of these battles. And it will now try to hold its own against the latest challenger from the Kawasaki stables, the muscular and composed Z250. ZigWheels plays commentator as these two machines take the rumble to the ghats of Lavassa 


Kawasaki Z250 and the KTM 390 Duke


Design and Features:

KTM 390 Duke: rating_3.0_rating

Kawasaki Z250: rating_4.0_rating

For a motorcycle to establish itself on the sales charts, design is one factor that makes a strong contribution. And while the Kawasaki Z250 as well as the KTM 390 Duke bears strong resemblance with their respective siblings the Z800/Z1000 and the 200 Duke, it is the Japanese offering that wins the beauty pageant. 


The Kawasaki Z250 sports an imposing stance thanks to its sharp and muscular styling. The Spidey-eyes like headlights, the well chiselled rear and the large 17-litre tank unite well to give it the aggression that you expect out of a naked performance bike. Kawasaki has paid immense attention to detail and it shows. The z-shaped fuel tank extensions that blend with the underbelly are a neat touch to the Z250’s design. Although it borrows a lot of parts from the Ninja 300, like the exhaust, semi-digital instrument cluster and the seats, it does have its own personality which sadly isn’t the case with the KTM 390 Duke. 


KTM 390 Duke ABS brakes


There isn’t much to differentiate the Duke twins from each other aside from its paint job and the knuckle protectors on the bigger 390 Duke. In fact, the view from the saddle too remains the same. That said, no points can be taken away from the fact that the 390 Duke’s design is in fact an extension of its temperament. Minimal body panels and the exposed orange tubular space frame lays emphasis on the fact that it has been built to deliver performance, but more on that later. 


With regards to features, the Duke 390 sports a fully digital instrument cluster as opposed to the Z250’s semi-digital one. The Austrian offering also comes equipped with Anti-lock Braking system but the Z250 doesn't. 



KTM 390 Duke engine


Engine and Performance:

KTM 390 Duke: rating_4.5_rating

Kawasaki Z250: rating_4.0_rating

Now, this one is intense. The KTM 390 Duke sports a 373cc (it is called 390 Duke to follow the brand’s naming nomenclature) single-cylinder engine while the Kawasaki Z250 has a twin-cylinder 249cc heart. They sure are poles apart with regards to construction and each of the two make a curious case for itself, but based on sheer performance and engine responsiveness it is the 390 Duke’s engine that stands tall here. 


At 44PS and 35Nm the KTM 390 Duke makes almost 1.5 times as much power and torque as the Z250 (32PS and 21Nm), and that can be attributed to the fact that the Duke boasts of a significantly larger bore and stroke. Thumb the starter on the 390 Duke and the engine comes to life with a throaty note but it does feel a little gruff especially after riding the Z250. Power is readily available and it would be an understatement to say that the 390 Duke feels extremely energetic. The throttle is light and the bike is quick to climb up the rev range to hit the ton in an impressive 5.6 seconds. Needless to say the light 139kg kerb weight has a part to play in it. The six-speed gearbox is precise but notchy. 


Kawasaki Z250 engine


Swing a leg on the Z250 and it feels a lot more refined and poised than the KTM. The Z250 doesn't feel as quick mainly for the reason that its peak power comes a higher up the rev range. And it is thanks to this nature, we had to work a lot harder to be quick on the ghats and also while making some quick overtaking manoeuvres. Moreover, while it doesn't quite beat the 390 Duke in outright acceleration, the fact that the engine is a lot more refined makes it easier to maintain good speeds over long distances. Even as the tachometre needle stirs towards the 13,000rpm redline, the bike lets out a sweet exhaust note not showing any signs of coarseness. 



KTM 390 Duke in action



Ride, Handling & Braking:

KTM 390 Duke: rating_4.5_rating

Kawasaki Z250: rating_3.5_rating 

Let’s face it; with both motorcycles focused on sheer performance, they have been installed with stiffly sprung suspensions that don't quite handle bad roads without expressing their discomfort. But the other side of the coin, and may I say the more fun side, is that both the motorcycles are endowed with spirited handling dynamics. That said, the close to 30kg difference in kerb weight between the 390 Duke and the Z250 doesn't quite go unnoticed. The light weight of the KTM makes it absolutely corner happy while it does take a little more effort on the Kawasaki. What is more, the Metzelers on the Duke do a much better job of road holding than the IRCs on the Z250. Not just that, this difference comes to light in both the motorcycles’ braking prowess too. While the Z250 too has enough bite, once again it is the weight that lets it down. 



KTM 390 Duke and Kawasaki Z250 in action


Fuel Efficiency & Pricing:

KTM 390 Duke: rating_4.5_rating

Kawasaki Z250: rating_3.0_rating 

At Rs 1.87 lakh and Rs 2.99 lakh (ex-Delhi) there is a massive difference between the KTM 390 Duke and the Kawasaki Z250 respectively. Yes, for the premium price that you pay for the Z250, you do get superior quality and a much more refined engine but consider into your calculation that the KTM offers a lot better power-to-weight-to-price ratio and the Austrian offering suddenly starts to make a better proposition. Both motorcycles don’t really have a efficiency worth flaunting and should return around 30kmpl if ridden serenely. 



KTM 390 Duke



KTM 390 Duke: rating_4.0_rating

Kawasaki Z250: rating_3.5_rating 

Going by the overall package, the KTM 390 Duke is a clear winner here. It is quicker, has much better handling dynamics and despite being identical to its smaller sibling, it does look pretty lean. That said, the Kawasaki Z250 does put up a pretty strong fight thanks to its butch looks, refined engine and superior build quality. And for those looking to go long distance, it is a lot more comfortable and has a larger fuel tank capacity too. It is not a bike that you won’t consider buying, we will give it that. But when you consider the amount that goes on your cheque when making that purchase, the KTM 390 Duke has the upper hand.