In the last year, motorcycle enthusiasts across India have been spoilt for choice, especially when it comes to deciding on affordable, yet sporty motorcycles. Much of this is thanks to Pune-based Bajaj Auto, a company that has brought Indians two high performance motorcycles, the KTM 390 Duke and Kawasaki Ninja 300. This duo is among the best lightweight sportsbikes money can buy today, bringing to the table a heady mix of up-to-date style, top-notch specifications and really strong performance for the class.
The 390 Duke and Ninja 300 fit their parts as modern day sportsbikes viewed from any angle. However, their basic philosophies are more akin to chalk and cheese. The butch 390 is a naked sporty streetbike, where the mean 300 is a sleeker, fully-faired and unabashedly track-focussed motorcycle.
In terms of engines, the 390 Duke and Ninja 300 once again stand poles apart. The KTM uses a 373.3cc, single-cylinder engine, while the Ninja 300 houses a 296cc, parallel-twin. Both motorcycles run liquid-cooled, with fuel-injection offered as standard. The KTM is the more powerful motorcycle, generating 43.5bhp at 9000rpm, while peak torque is 3.57kgm at 7000rpm. The Kawasaki engine revs higher, as is more fitting, and produces maximum power of 38.5bhp at 11000 rpm, with 2.8kgm of torque on supply at 10000rpm. Both engines are built to perform.
The 390 Duke comes with a forged piston and Nikasil-coated cylinder bore, along with an enhanced cooling system in India. Meanwhile, the Ninja 300 uses wide intake ports and valves, pistons with flat crowns and lightweight cylinders. The KTM and Kawasaki bikes both deploy close-ratio, six-speed gearboxes that shift in one-down, five-up patterns. The KTM is easier to pilot in the city, thanks to a relatively stronger bottom-end, while the Kawasaki needs to be wound up a bit more and performs best when pushed to high revs. The Duke and Ninja both provide robust mid and top-end performance.
It’s all about acceleration and speed. The 390 Duke is capable of dashing to 60kph from standstill in a scant 2.47 seconds, surpassing 100kph in 5.70sec, and 150kph in 16.14sec. The Kawasaki isn’t as snappy initially, getting past 60kph in 2.89sec, 100kph in 6.50sec, but pulling much of that back to bag a more favourable 16.51sec at 150kph. The KTM’s third gear gets the bike to 102kph, while fourth is good for 126kph, and fifth, 151kph. The Kawasaki does 112kph in third, while fourth goes up to 136kph and fifth 150kph. The 390 Duke and Ninja 300 are potent bikes that both breach 160kph. The KTM nudges 162kph when flat-out in top gear, while the faired-in Kawasaki manages a higher, true 168kph.
It’s evident the KTM 390 Duke and Kawasaki Ninja 300 are top of their game, with few rivals to speak of in their class.
Hard on the brakes, we found both bikes perform closely, the 390 (47.59m) being quicker than the 300 (50.28m) to stop from 100kph. The Kawasaki however does better slowing down from 60kph, to halt in 16.06m, where the 390 takes 16.56m.
At the end of the day, both bikes here offer evenly matched and top scores across parameters, except for their pricing. The KTM 390 Duke retails at a smashing, value-for-money Rs 1.80 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), where the Kawasaki Ninja 300 sets you back a whopping Rs 3.50 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), which cements the odds in favour of team Orange over team Green. The 390 in fact, makes a solid case for itself in providing riders more performance for this much money than any other motorcycle made in this class.