The ultimate battle of entry level performance motorcycles

The premium end of the quarter liter motorcycle segment has recently witnessed a lot of action like never before. A segment which was alive only due to the sole presence of Kawasaki Ninja 300 has hit a storm with the arrival of two very potent motorcycles, the KTM RC 390 and the Yamaha YZF R3.

The KTM RC 390, when launched in 2014, rewrote the rules of the segment, by offering a mind boggling package and spectacular performance to price ratio. Without any doubts, the motorcycle went on becoming an overnight success, making the brand as new as KTM a popular nameplate. However, for more seasoned riders, who look for a more mature twin cylinder motorcycle to upgrade from their single cylinder motorcycles, the RC 390 is out of equation

The excitement of the motorcycling enthusiasts reached an all new height when Yamaha unveiled its all new quarter liter sportsbike, the YZF R3, before the end of 2014. And when it announced that the R3 will be subsequently launched in the emerging markets, which happened in the Indian market in 2015 the potential buyers and fans were left with one viable option against the Ninja 300 from the land of the rising sun.

And now, the Italian marquee Benelli, which after raking in some interesting numbers with its range of naked streetfighters, is now coming up with its first fully faired motorcycle in the Indian market, the Tornado 302. The motorcycle will also have to face the rivalry from the motorcycle which started it all – the first twin cylinder 250cc motorcycle of India, Hyosung GT 250 R. Following is a comprehensive comparison of all these four motorcycles – Hyosung GT 250 R, Kawasaki Ninja 300, Benelli Tornado 302 and Yamaha YZF R3 – based on various parameters:-

STYLING

Comparison – Benelli Tornado 302 vs Yamaha YZF R3 vs Kawasaki Ninja 300 vs Hyosung GT 250R Exterior
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Comparison – Benelli Tornado 302 vs Yamaha YZF R3 vs Kawasaki Ninja 300 vs Hyosung GT 250R Exterior
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Comparison – Benelli Tornado 302 vs Yamaha YZF R3 vs Kawasaki Ninja 300 vs Hyosung GT 250R Exterior
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This is one purely subjective matter, as all the motorcycles have their respective trademark design cues which may be liked by one, but may be overlooked by the other. Nevertheless, all the motorcycles do have a tremendous road presence and size to boast of.

The latest kid on the block, the Tornado 302, may not be as outrageous and futuristic looking like the high end Benellis, the TNT 899 and TNT R, but still, it has got a sense of handsomeness and proportionality which may go well with the seasoned riders looking for a motorcycle in this space. The twin headlamps, ergonomically placed rear view mirrors, sizeable full fairing, nicely styled bulbous fuel tank and TNT 300 inspired rear section lend it a modern design.

Meanwhile, both the Yamaha YZF R3 as well as Kawasaki Ninja 300 are typical Japanese sportsbikes. Both of them share a lot of design cues from the rest of their respective lineages, i.e., the YZF-R series and Ninja series respectively, and look like the scaled down versions of their respective flagship supersport counterparts. The proportional body panels, horizontal and angular layout for twin headlamps, substantial full fairing and beefy body panels mean pure business, and give the bikes the much required big bike stance.

On the other hand, the Hyosung GT 250R looks very dated and low profile motorcycle in this lot. It has an unmistakable big bike appeal, but the fact that its original design is in existence since past eight to ten years without any substantial design change makes a dent in its overall appeal. The Hyosung GT 250R tries to make a strong case for itself by providing vertical twin headlamps with a projector unit for low beam, inverted front forks and front dual discs, but the part digital instrument console looks extremely dated and out of place now on this motorcycle.

When it comes to features, all the four motorcycles in this company closely match with each other, having their own set of exclusive features. The Kawasaki Ninja 300 is the only motorcycle here to come equipped with a slipper clutch. On the other hand, the Benelli Tornado 302 and Hyosung GT 250 R come equipped with upside down front forks and petal disc brakes, things which are absent on the other two Japanese machines here. In terms of fit and finish and a premium feel, the Yamaha R3 feels most solidly built out of the four motorcycles here.

It’s almost clear – if you want a neat looking motorcycle which means business without being overboard, the Yamaha YZF R3, Benelli Tornado 302 or the Kawasaki Ninja 300 will cater to your needs, having more or less equally tempting designs. However, the Ninja 300 may be out of your books as its design, even though after being a nice one, is now a bit long in the tooth. The Hyosung GT 250R, meanwhile, looks out of place now, and seriously needs a thorough makeover to overcome its shortcomings of being a dated motorcycle.

Feature Benelli Tornado 302 Yamaha YZF R3 Kawasaki Ninja 300 Hyosung GT 250R
Projector headlamps No No No Yes
Pilot lamps Yes Yes Yes No
Digital instrument console Yes Yes Yes Yes
Upside down front forks Yes No No Yes
Split seats Yes Yes Yes Yes
LED tail lamp Yes Yes Yes Yes

POWERTRAIN

Comparison – Benelli Tornado 302 vs Yamaha YZF R3 vs Kawasaki Ninja 300 vs Hyosung GT 250R Exterior
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All the four motorcycles in this comparison have got four stroke, liquid cooled, parallel twin motors, except the Tornado 302, which has got an inline twin motor. One thing which remains common to all the four motorcycles here is the amount of thrills and performance which each of them gives to the rider.

Let’s start with the oldest of the bunch, the Hyosung GT 250R. The GT 250R had the advantage of being the first mover, but now feels the least powerful of the lot, as the engine displaces only 249cc and produces 28.5 PS of power. In terms of refinement too, the GT 250R fails to impress, considering the Japanese rivals, which it has got in front of it, have butter smooth motors which remain composed and stress free even in higher revs. Given the fact that the competition has upped the ante by providing engines of capacity of 300cc and above, Hyosung needs to either bump up the power figures of the existing engine or more favorably, introduce a new engine at all.

The Yamaha R3’s 320cc engine produces 42 PS of power, which makes it the most powerful twin cylinder engine of the lot. Like the other Yamaha mills of the past, this motor loves to be revved, without giving up at peak rpms. The refinement levels which this engine offers are simply the best in class. The motor feels smooth and responsive across the entire rev range, making it a very tractable motor.

The Kawasaki Ninja 300 too matches the credentials of the Yamaha R3, when it comes to sheer power delivery and engine refinement. The 296cc engine of the Ninja 300 produces 39 PS, which is lesser than the figures of R3 as well as the RC 390. However, when it comes to refinement in higher rpms, it is the Ninja 300 which is easily the most poised one in the company.

The Benelli Tornado 302 comes bolstered with a inline twin, liquid cooled, 300cc engine, which is good enough for pumping out 37 PS of power and 26.5 Nm of torque. Mated to a six speed gearbox and shared with the TNT 300, this engine has the loveliest exhaust note among the four motorcycles in comparison here. Like all the other engines here, the 300cc engine of the Tornado 302 is quite subtle and calm, but give the throttle a blip, and it shows its wild side. However, the refinement of the engine of the Tornado 302, particularly in higher revs, is not in the league of the R3 or the Ninja 300, which are one-ups in this department.

So, if you want a motorcycle which scores equally brilliant in terms of engine performance and refinement, except the Hyosung GT 250R. However, on nitpicking, the R3’s engine is the best performer in terms of numbers, the Ninja 300’s engine is the most refined one and the engine of the Tornado 302 sounds the best.

Figures Benelli Tornado 302 Yamaha YZF R3 Kawasaki Ninja 300 Hyosung GT 250R
Power 37 PS 42 PS 39 PS 28.5 PS
Torque 27.4Nm 29 Nm 27 Nm 22 Nm
Gearbox 6-speed 6-speed 6-speed 6-speed

RIDE AND HANDLING

Comparison – Benelli Tornado 302 vs Yamaha YZF R3 vs Kawasaki Ninja 300 vs Hyosung GT 250R Exterior
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Comparison – Benelli Tornado 302 vs Yamaha YZF R3 vs Kawasaki Ninja 300 vs Hyosung GT 250R Exterior
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Comparison – Benelli Tornado 302 vs Yamaha YZF R3 vs Kawasaki Ninja 300 vs Hyosung GT 250R Exterior
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The fully faired sportsbikes in this quarter liter segment are viewed as both sport tourers as well as track tools and corner munchers, and in this aspect, the Tornado 302 has the best combination of hardware. Having a rugged trellis frame under its skin, upside down telescopic forks at the front, Pirelli rubber at both the ends and weighing even lesser than its naked sibling, the TNT 300, the Tornado 302 is easily the most dynamically rich motorcycle out of the entire Benelli stable.

The Yamaha YZF R3 as well as Kawasaki Ninja 300 offer the perfect balance between aggressive riding on tracks as well as tamed riding on city streets. Both theses bikes are equally in home at both the kinds of ride experience, and the reason for this well mixed nature goes to the well balance chassis and dynamics. Like on the Tornado 302, the suspension is neither too soft nor too hard, and will succeed in delivering you a plush ride, but not at the expense of the purpose for which they have been made – pure sportsbiking experience. However, the MRFs on the R3 and IRCs on the Ninja 300 lack the stupendous grip of the RC 390’s Metzelers.

The GT 250R feels like a mixed bag of all the other three bikes, as it has the straight line stability required for a bike in this space. But its heavy weight surely takes a toll in its overall dynamics. The chassis of the GT 250R too hasn’t received any major upgrade in all these years, which is the reason why it lacks the capability of those of its rivals when it comes to focused dynamics.

When it comes to brakes, all the bikes here offer disc brakes at both the ends, with the Hyosung GT 250 R and Tornado 302 offering twin discs at the front. The Tornado 302 on the other hand, offers petal disc brakes at both the ends. No motorcycle in this comparison comes with ABS even as an option, which is a schocker, considering the fact that the lower-spec motorcycles like the KTM RC 390 and Honda CBR 250R come equipped with ABS.

Figures Benelli Tornado 302 Yamaha YZF R3 Kawasaki Ninja 300 Hyosung GT 250R
Front suspension Upside down telescopic Telescopic Telescopic Upside down telescopic
Rear suspension Hydraulic monoshock Hydraulic monoshock Hydraulic monoshock Hydraulic monoshock
Front brake Dual 260mm discs 298mm disc 290mm disc Dual 290mm discs
Rear brake 220mm disc 220mm disc 220mm disc 220mm disc

PRICE AND COLORS

All the twin cylinder motorcycles are sadly priced above the expectations of the riders here in India. All the four motorcycles here are priced upwards of Rs. 3 lakh, with the Hyosung GT 250R being the most affordable motorcycle at Rs. 3.05 lakh. However, it comes with limited equipment and novelty when compared to the other three motorcycles.

Being the oldest manufacturer in this competition in the Indian context, Yamaha understands the price sensitiveness of the Indian two wheeler market, which is why it has launched the YZF R3 at a very attractive price tag of Rs. 3.25 lakh. For most of the buyers, this price tag may seem a way too optimistic, but considering the facts that it has the biggest parallel twin engine here, the excellent build quality and the motorcycle is assembled in India through CKD route, the R3 is very close to being a value for money motorcycle. Same goes for the Tordano 302 as well, as it is expected to carry a similar price as that of the R3, and is going to follow the CKD route as well. The Ninja 300, on the other hand, is the most expensive motorcycle in this competition at Rs. 3.70 lakh, and like the R3 and Tornado 302, is brought to India through the CKD route.

CONCLUSION

Comparison – Benelli Tornado 302 vs Yamaha YZF R3 vs Kawasaki Ninja 300 vs Hyosung GT 250R Exterior
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It’s a very tough call to select the best motorcycle in this competition. But out of the four motorcycles here, the Hyosung GT 250R takes the last spot easily for being the least powerful and most dated motorcycle. It is not a foul motorcycle, but considering the well heeled and up-to-date competition in front of it, Hyosung needs to revamp the motorcycle properly.

Third comes the Kawasaki Ninja 300. The motorcycle had been the benchmark in this category for a long time, and it had a couple of reasons to justify its reign. The motorcycle feels premium, has an excellent engine, the slipper clutch aids in its stability and the dynamics are well heeled too. It is only the steep pricing and the lack of special features like inverted front forks and ABS, which were, and still are, the kinks in its armor. Also, the motorcycle is now due for a substantial update, as the segment to which it belongs is seeing a steady growth with arrival of new products.

The second motorcycle in this comparison, Benelli Tornado 302, is the latest motorcycle in this segment, which has given enough opportunity to Benelli to study the segment and come with the best possible machine. In this attempt, Benelli has given a handsome looking motorcycle with an engine which performs good, and sounds even better. The ride quality is just what the Indians want – neither too stiff, nor too soft – and with the most advanced hardware in this segment like the upside down front forks, petal disc brakes and trellis frame, the Tornado 302 has the edge in terms of chassis.

The Yamaha YZF R3 is the most talked about motorcycle in this segment, and in a typical Yamaha fashion, is a very well built motorcycle with an unmatched technical prowess. The motorcycle borrows a lot of qualities from the flagship supersport, the R1, which is the reason why it feels the most special motorcycle in this company. The parallel twin engine has the dual characters of being fierce as well as calm, depending on your riding preference. It is not as wild as the RC 390, but offers you the best of both the worlds, which makes it the most likeable motorcycle and winner of this comparison.

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