We have already told you everything you need to know about the all-new KTM 390 Duke, having tested it on the track and out on the road as well. And I came back extremely impressed with that motorcycle. Today, we have with us its smaller sibling, the 250 Duke, that has also received a generational update in 2023. While the changes are not as comprehensive as the 390, the 250 Duke is somewhat new, and more importantly, costs the same!
What are the changes? Is it a worthy update if you are coming from a 150cc motorcycle? To find answers to these questions, we rode the 2023 KTM 250 Duke for a few days and here is what we came back with.
It is obvious that the 250 Duke takes its inspiration from the 390 Duke. You have the same 1290 SuperDuke-like design with muscular tank shrouds and an upswept tail section with this two-piece seat that has been changed from the previous version. The fuel tank is bigger too and comes with a 15-litre capacity just like the 390.
However, there are two elements that would give the 250 Duke away. First is the colour schemes. Apart from the orange and grey combination you see here, the motorcycle is also offered in a white and orange combination with orange wheels. The second visible difference between the 250 Duke and 390 Duke is in the headlamp. While it gets a full-LED setup, the 250 does not get the LED DRLs like the 390 and the whole unit looks smaller too.
The rest of the motorcycle is surely a task to set apart from its bigger sibling and pays in favour of the 250 Duke. That said, the motorcycle comes with a premium build quality. Everything from the paint and panels to the switchgear seems top-notch. However again, the only gripe would be the quality of the stitching on the new seat.
The 250 Duke is now feature-laden and comes with a list that you might not even use! Ironically, that is a compliment these days. To begin with, it comes with a five-inch LCD display that is a setup from the plain Jane console it previously got. This unit is Bluetooth-enabled and can be paired with a smartphone using the KTM app. It then gives you the accessibility of using navigation and toggling audio on the screen itself. The layout of the screen utilities is similar to what you see on the 390 Duke and offers the user the ability to customise the display and tweak other controls.
These other controls include a new Quickshifter+ that is a bi-directional unit similar to what the new 390 gets and is highly addictive to use. This can be turned off if required, and so can the ABS to the rear wheel in the ‘Supermoto’ mode that the 250 Duke comes with.
Other than that, the 2023 KTM 250 Duke comes with a hazard light switch and ride-by-wire throttle as standard. Along with changing the frame and sub-frame, KTM has also dropped the seat height to a very accessible 800mm which would appeal to shorter riders as well. Overall, the riding triangle is much more relaxed with you sitting in the seat than being slightly bent over the handlebars like the previous generation model.
Let’s begin with what powers the 250 Duke. Well, you might be thinking, isn’t this the same 248cc engine as before with a slight increase in power? Well, not really. Unlike the previous gen which used a de-tuned version of the 390 Duke’s 373cc motor, the 2023 motor, as KTM says is all-new. One of the biggest differences is that this is a SOHC or Single Overhead Camshaft engine while the earlier model had a DOHC or Dual Overhead Camshaft- similar to the 390. Hence, the internals on the 250 Duke’s engine is new.
Now, why the need for a ‘new’ engine, you ask? Engineering the 373cc engine to make it smaller, frugal and fit in the performance bracket of the 250 Duke would have proved to be costly challenge for KTM. This new LC4C motor is cost-effective, built specifically for the 250 Duke and is also used on the 125 Duke and will soon be seen on the 200 Duke as well.
However, power figures have not changed exponentially. The 250 Duke now offers 31bhp which is a bhp more than before and 25N which is also 1Nm more. Although, the torque comes in slightly earlier in the rev range. KTM has also changed the sprocketing on the bike, by reducing a few teeth on the rear sprocket and achieving taller gear ratios.
This has resulted in a significant increase in mid-range punch between 4-6000rpm. For reference, the old 250 Duke felt slightly sluggish thanks to its rather linear power curve. The 2023 250 Duke is quite the opposite. It feels sprightly and enthusiastic and proper fun when filtering through traffic. What makes it even more thrilling is the light clutch feel and the butter-smooth shifts from the new bi-directional quickshifter.
Manovering through tight spaces feels effortless with the new 250 Duke feeling comparatively more agile. Even the new MRF Brace tyres have made a world of a difference to the 250 Duke’s handling. The W-rated set offers good grip and seems like a proper upgrade from the previous set of MRFs.
The new Duke also comes with an updated suspension setup that includes an off-set pre-load adjustable rear shock. The ride felt decently plush, absorbing the undulations and bumps in the tarmac well. However, on the larger bumps and bridge joints, the 250 Duke’s steup felt slightly stiff. Riding with a pillion made things comfier though and the 250 Duke was able to mask the broken bits even better.
Now, the sole aching point in the ride experience were the brakes. The feedback from the setup wasn’t fully crisp and felt spongy after a while of riding and seemed unable to match up to the new-found, exciting character of the 250 Duke. In addition to that, you would also find yourself nagging about the constant buzz of vibrations on the footpegs all through the rev band which only gets prominent as speeds increase.
Should you buy it?
So, is the new 250 Duke worth your money? In our opinion, it is worth every penny. At Rs 2.39 lakh, ex-showroom, KTM has not increased the price of the motorcycle over the previous variant despite the changes.
it plays the perfect balance between the 200 Duke and the 390 Duke not only in terms of pricing but also in its performance and features. Of course, with the changes, it has become even more useable- the low seat height would appeal to a wider range of audience while the engine has good enough punch to keep you engaged. Even its list of features is commendable and just about right. You won’t ever feel the need for more than what this offers. And to top it off, it now looks bigger and better.
Moreover, it serves as a good upgrade from a 150-160cc motorcycle thanks to its accessible nature. While we are yet to test its mileage, with a larger tank and revised internals, it is likely to be frugal too. Well, with that said, the only other options are the BMW G310 R which is priced at Rs 2.90 lakh and the Honda CB300R priced at Rs 2.40 lakh. In comparison, the BMW is pricier and has fewer features, but offers slightly more power. On the other hand, the CB300R is available only through Honda’s BigWing showrooms which are rare compared to KTM’s presence in the country.
Photography by Kapil Angane