KTM RC 390 Review
The KTM RC 390 has carved a niche for itself for being the most performance-focused supersport in its segment. Over the years, it received a few feature additions along with the model year updates, but nothing significant. That, however, has changed with the introduction of the new-generation 2022 RC 390. So, how does it perform in the real-world, and should you consider buying it? We tell you that and more in this road test review.
Why to buy it?
- Performance-packed motor
- Excellent handling
- Feature loaded
Why to avoid it?
- Aggressive riding position
- Significantly expensive now
- Tall saddle height
The KTM RC 390 has carved a niche for itself by being the most performance-focused supersport in its segment. Over the years, it has received a few feature additions along with the model year updates, but nothing significant. That, however, has changed with the introduction of the new-generation 2022 RC 390. So, how does it perform in real world conditions, and should you consider buying it? We tell you that and more in this road test review.
Styling & Quality
KTM has given a significant overhaul to the RC 390, complete with an updated design, revised chassis, and reworked mechanicals. The design is inspired by KTM’s MotoGP machine, and that’s a good thing. There’s a good mass upfront, and the layered fairing adds to the visual appeal. KTM claims the new design offers better aerodynamics. And it works, with the windscreen helping in deflecting wind over your helmet.
Then, the exhaust canister gets a mesh pattern near its tip, which gives that unmistakable MotoGP feels to the bike. What I’d have liked though, is more visual bulk around the tail section, which looks a bit too slender for my liking. I also liked the KTM Factory Racing Blue paint scheme. It is tastefully done, and the paint quality in itself is quite good.
As for the build quality, it is good for the most part. The quality of plastics is good too, if not excellent, and everything is well put together. Even the switchgear feels premium and offers a tactile feel. The only grouse I have are the inconsistent panel gaps where the fairing merges with the fuel tank.
Ergonomics & Comfort
The new RC 390 gets a split-type chassis, with a raked bolt-on sub-frame. So, swinging a leg over takes some effort. Then, at 824mm, the seat height is on the taller side for anyone below 5ft 8in, and I had to tip-toe the motorcycle. Once seated, the rider’s triangle, although not as committed as the older model, is still aggressive and you will have to crouch a bit to reach the handlebars. Speaking of which, the clip-on bars are height adjustable and can be lowered by 10mm, when you wish to tuck in and go full send on a race track.
As for the seats, the rider seat is longer, wider, and well-cushioned, and offers enough space to move around. Even after a couple of hours of riding, my bottom didn’t hurt, which speaks volumes about its comfort. The rear seat, although well-padded, is slightly narrow and placed quite high, so the pillion riders won’t be too comfortable spending a lot of time on the saddle. That said, pushing the bike around in parking or in tight spaces is not an issue, thanks to its 172kg kerb weight.
Another thing that impressed us about the new RC 390 is its ride quality. It isn’t overly stiff or jarring anymore, especially over road joints and undulations. Sure, the suspension has a firm edge to it, but it doesn’t crash into potholes. However, you will feel the suspension sending mild jolts over large square-edged potholes, and the rear kicks you off the bike over rumblers and tall speed breakers.
Performance & Handling
The 2022 RC 390 now gets a 40 per cent larger airbox and a new engine mapping for better torque delivery. The 373cc liquid-cooled motor continues to make 42.9bhp of maximum power, but the torque has been bumped by 1Nm to 37Nm. And the engine is suspended on a stiffer and lighter (1.5kg) chassis, which offers better rigidity as KTM claims.
The engine feels refined for the most part, but there’s a mechanical clatter, which gives it some character. You will feel some vibration on the tank at a standstill and even over 7,000rpm, but nothing that will put you off. Straight off the line, the motor builds a healthy pace and there’s a linear build-up of power all the way towards its 10,000rpm redline. However, there’s no sudden burst of power anywhere in the rev-band, which is what tells you about it not being the hooligan it once was. Now that’s not a bad thing at all, as you’d never feel the engine being sluggish or out of breath. Moreover, the engine heat management is commendable, courtesy of the two fans that work overtime to keep the motor cool. Even after hooning the motorcycle to its redline, and ambling around in city traffic, the temperature gauge never went past the halfway mark.
There's dollops of torque available past the 3,000rpm mark, and the engine comes into its own after 6,000rpm. The improved mid-range allows you to run a gear higher, and you wouldn’t have to downshift to complete an overtake on the highway. The new engine mapping has also improved its tractability. You can putter around at 50kmph in sixth gear, without any shudder, and even in stop-go traffic, you can easily ride in second gear at as low as 15kmph.
The six-speed gearbox is slick-shifting and the slip and assist clutch is light to operate. Even the updated quickshifter works well for the most part anywhere over 3,000rpm. While I didn’t face any issues with the clutchless downshifts, the upshifts did misbehave in the higher revs around the redline.
Coming to the handling characteristics, the chassis continues to be ever so communicative and instils a sense of confidence around twisties. Switching sides is like second nature for the bike, and you can do it with utmost precision, and with the slightest of inputs. It feels almost telepathic to tip it into corners and holding the desired line isn’t an issue at all. This is majorly contributed by the weight saving achieved by reducing the unsprung mass from the chassis, wheels, and brakes.
For the record, the new bionic alloy wheels are 3.4kg lighter, while the disc brakes are 1kg lighter, and the chassis now weighs 1.5kg lesser.
Features & Technology
Coming to the features, the new KTM RC 390 comes loaded with equipment to its gills. We are talking about full-TFT colour instrumentation complete with Bluetooth connectivity for music and telephone controls, full-LED lighting, adjustable brake and clutch levers, and more.
And then, there’s a full suite of electronics rider aids for added safety which includes a motorcycle traction control (MTC) system, a bi-directional quickshifter+, lean-sensitive cornering ABS, and switchable dual-channel ABS with Supermoto mode.
Further, you can use the toggle switch on the handlebar to tweak the various settings like switching off the traction control or changing the ABS intervention between Road and Supermoto settings.
On our test route, which includes a mix of city traffic and moderately open stretches, the RC 390 returned a fuel economy of 26.6kmpl, which isn’t bad for a 43bhp performance-focused machine. And coupled with a fuel tank capacity of 13.5-litres, the 2022 KTM RC 390 offers a tank range of over 350km on a full tank. This should also make for a decent tourer, if you want to.
Should you buy it?
All said and done, the 2022 KTM RC 390 is an extremely fun motorcycle to buy. Sure, the engine isn’t as hooligan as before, but it packs enough and more performance to keep the enthusiasts happy. Moreover, the engine is refined and offers better tractability in urban confines.
Furthermore, the addition of new features like the colour TFT instrumentation, traction control system and quickshifter+ has made it an even better package overall. If anything, we wish KTM had offered adjustable front suspension at least as an option, and stickier W-rated tyres. Not to mention, at Rs 3.14 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), the RC 390 is substantially more expensive than the TVS Apache RR310, and KTM could have priced it more competitively. That said, experts will appreciate how communicative the new RC 390 is, while novice riders will enjoy its forgiving nature.
Photography by Kapil Angane
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