• 2017 KTM Duke 390 vs Yamaha YZF-R3 vs Kawasaki Ninja 300

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2017 will run hot on the 300cc category

Buckle up because it is going to be a wild ride. 2017 will see the launch of the brand new KTM Duke 390 that is said to wipe out the competition. The Australian company decided to give the already successful KTM Duke 390 a revamp and what we’ve noticed is that the naked version is up for a spotlight rather than the full faired RC edition. It made its global debut at the EICMA Milan Motorcycle Show in Italy and post its debut, will make way into the Indian market in 2017.

The Yamaha YZF-R3 was released in 2016 and it made the rest of the 300cc line-up shake by winning the coveted Bike of the year for 2016 and it threatened the rule of the RC 390 as well because of its all-round package. Then there was the Kawasaki Ninja 300 which although it was trumped by the other two in many categories it has earned the reputation of being a reliable, well built, and refined offering in this class.

All the three motorcycles have had a condescending effect on the Indian 2 wheeler market and they got in the fresh breed of entry level fully flaired performance motorcycles to blaze the much needed thrilling experience to enthusiasts and purists. Now with speculations running high of the Duke 390 Facelift, it will definitely try to bring havoc in the sales of its competition and make motorcyclist get into a realm of more content and less bitter.

STYLING

If we had the RC390, we might have had a clear winner (or maybe not!). But this facelifted Duke 390 is still a naked streetfighter whereas the Ninja and the R3 are a fully flaired story from their inception.

The Duke gets styling cues from the 1290 SuperDuke featuring a split multi-beam headlight and high-mounted LED blinkers. The new gen Duke will have an aggressive looking tank build, redesigned handlebars, fenders that extend to cover the USD forks, exposed trellis sub-frame, smaller rear section; everything will remind you of the Superduke R. Apart from this, the rest of the design elements like the Michelin pilot tyres, clear lens indicators, adjustable handlebar levers, black-coloured rear view mirrors, split seats and LED tail light will be carried forward from the existing model. The new instrument panel will allow for smartphone integration, show GPS data and change its colour as the rev count goes higher. Fancy.

Yamaha might be the first manufacturer who has borrowed their design elements from a lower power segment bike. Yes, aI am talking about the YZF R25. Launched in Indonesia, the R25 attracted a lot of attention and Yamaha wants to give the same space for this R3. It gets attributed with the twin headlamp tucked under the neatly sculpted windscreen. To give the big bike feeling, the tank carries the edgy design and subtle knee recess. The R3 is built around the diamond type trellis frame that sports a two-into-one exhaust system with a stubby muffler, split seats and Y-spoke wheels. The instrument cluster houses an analogue tachometer and an LCD screen which also features a shift light.

The Kawasaki on the other hand completely replaced the Ninja 250 and got itself remodelled to keep up to date with modern sports bikes. Inspired by the ZX-10R, the front houses a twin headlamp unit and the short front fender adds flavour to its front design. It comes alive from the side view where its integrated engine cowl and side fairing adds motion to this bike. Towards the rear, the bike houses split seats and the LED cluster is placed within the rear cowl. It also gets an analog-digital meter, fuel gauge and pass light switch which was missing in the Ninja 250R.

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Overall Dimension

Make Model 2017 KTM Duke 390 Yamaha YZF-R3 Kawasaki Ninja 300
Length 2002mm 2091mm 2014mm
Width 873mm 719mm 715mm
Height 1274mm 1135mm 1110mm
Wheelbase 1367mm 1379mm 1405mm
Seat height 800mm 780mm 785mm
Wet weight 164kg 167kg 175kg

POWERTRAIN

Now, we are getting to the business end of these motorcycles. All the bikes under conversation have the state of the art machines that have proved their worth.

Power source on the KTM is believed to be carried over from the previous generation which will share this feature in the upcoming Bajaj Pulsar VS400 but will, of course, carry a differently tuned engine. The same 373.2cc, single cylinder, liquid-cooled engine might churn out an impressive 44bhp – 49 bhp and 35 Nm torque. Thanks to the new tech that includes a drive-by-wire system, a slipper clutch, ECU update, improved cooling system, a second balancer shaft to the engine’s cylinder head to reduce vibration and an aluminium side mounted exhaust to match Euro IV standards playing their part. Trumps the other two hands down with regards to performance figures.

The R3’s power mill is a 321cc, 2-cylinder, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC, 4-valves engine with fuel injection and returns 41.4 bhp at 10750 rpm with 29.6 Nm at 9000 rpm. A 6-speed constant mesh gearbox delivers power to the rear wheel through a chain. This motorcycle also has electronic fuel injected engine which will send the exact amount of oil to the engine making sure that the motorcycle receives the right amount of power and without any wastage of oil.

The Ninja runs with a 296cc parallel twin engine and produces 39bhp of power at 11,000 rpm and 27 Nm of torque at 10,000 rpm. It is paired to a 6-speed gearbox with a slipper clutch, a segment first. The engine has been tuned for excellent readability and offers ample low and mid-range performance. The engine weight has been reduced using sleeveless cylinders, lighter pistons and redesigned head, crankcase and oil pan. The lesser known performer.

Engine Specification

Make Model 2017 KTM Duke 390 Yamaha YZF-R3 Kawasaki Ninja 300
Capacity cc 373.2 321 296
Bore/ Stroke mm 89/60 68/44.1 62/49
Output 48-49 bhp (Est) 41.4 Bhp @ 10750 rpm 39 bhp @ 11,000 rpm
Torque 35-36 rpm (Est) 29.6 Nm @ 9000 rpm 27 Nm @ 10,000 rpm
Type single cylinder, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke 2-cylinder, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC, 4-valves parallel twin engine, liquid-cooled, DOHC
Clutch type Wet- Multiplate with slipper Multi-plate wet slipper multi-plate wet
Transmission 6-speed 6-speed 6-speed

RIDE AND HANDLING

The 390 has not had any sort of updates to its chassis and thus it still uses the light steel grade frame which optimises handling and precision. The flat handlebar position and higher saddle will help it swish from side to side without much trouble. What will make the KTM apart will be the option of having riding modes. We expect at least three riding modes on offer – Track, City and Sport which can be selected with switches on the handlebar. It will also come with larger disc brakes up front with dual channel ABS along with 17-inch alloy wheels and dual-function forks – one for damping and the other for handling the rebound. Besides that, the direct spring-loaded WP spring strut also is extremely stiff and provides impressive traction stability. All this will make the Duke a better handling machine.

With respect to the R3, it is equipped with a diamond shape chassis which according to the manufacturer improves handling dynamics and helps in reducing the weight of the frame. It commands a sporty stance due to its clip-on handlebar position and the footpegs are aligned more towards a commuting posture more than an aggressive one. It has the shortest seat height out of the three and hence makes it more accessible to shorter riders. Suspension duties are taken care of by meaty looking 41mm telescopic forks at the front and a mono-shock setup at the back. Yamaha spent a considerable amount of time making the R3 comfortable and accessible yet still sporty. One thing missing is the provision of ABS, to cut down costs apparently.

Similar to the R3, the Ninja also adorns the diamond frame for lightweight and improved balance. The saddle and handlebar position remains similar to the 250 it replaces. Hence, the riding position still features an aggressive and sporty feel with tucked knee for that required commitment. It sure feels more sporty than the R3’s commuter friendly position. The longer wheelbase and high ground clearance offer better stability and turning abilities.The rear suspension has been fitted with a linked 5-way preload adjustable mono shock making the ride more comfortable than its predecessor. Overall, suspension and chassis are well sorted out enabling dynamic handling characteristics which make you want to twist your throttle again and again.

Chassis Specifications

Make Model 2017 KTM Duke 390 Yamaha YZF-R3 Kawasaki Ninja 300
Suspesion / Front 43mm WP upside-down; 150mm travel 41mm KYB telescopic fork; 130 mm travel 37mm hydraulic telescopic fork; 119 mm
Suspension / Rear WP monoshcok; 150 mm travel KYB single shock; 124 mm travel Uni-Trak 5-way adjustable preload; 132
Brakes / Front 300mm Disc 4-piston radial fixed calliper Bosch two-channel ABS 290mm petal-type disc with 2-piston hydraulic caliper, ABS 298mm hydraulic disc
Brakes / Rear 230 mm Single-piston floating calliper 220mm hydraulic disc 220mm petal-type disc with 2-piston hydraulic caliper, ABS
Tyres / Front 110/70 R17 110/70 R17 110/70 R17
Tyres / Rear 150/60 R17 140/70 R17 140/70 R17

PRICING

The pricing of the KTM has not been released but we speculate it to be slightly more than the previous edition but should win the battle here at less than ₹ 3 lakhs (ex-showroom). It will be made available at a showroom near you only in the first quarter of 2017 though.

Yamaha launched the YZF-R3 in India priced at ₹ 3.25 Lakhs (ex-showroom). Unfortunately, it does not gets ABS and is available only in Racing Blue (white with blue) and Black Lightning (black with red) colours.

The Kawasaki Ninja 300R has been priced at ₹ 3.5 Lakh (ex-showroom) and will be available in only the Kawasaki Green, white and black colour.

VERDICT

It will not be fair on my part if I end up picking a winner here without having the bike on roads and ridden considerably. Yet on paper, the Duke 390 is better off in gaining on the other two rivals probably in every department. The blokes at KTM have managed to design and engineer something better of the already superb performer in an attempt to smack the competition out of the ballpark.

It is aggressively priced lower than the rest, but by no means cheap. It has better performance figures, nimble riding dynamics and packed with tech to clear the long-standing ordeal left by the R3 and the Ninja. The R3 is a much more commuter friendly motorcycle compared to the other two juggernauts but loses out on the most important ABS. And the Ninja just loses out on almost all the benchmarks put by the other two competitors.

The 2017 KTM Duke, however, will also have to face the heat from new entries to the 300cc category like the Honda CB300F, Kawasaki Z300, Benelli TNT 302, TVS Akula and BMW G310R that will roll on Indian roads in 2017 as well. Time will be the only mountain for us to cross until we are loaded with more information to crack this case and judge one to be a 300cc lord.

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