A budget of Rs 2-4 lakh presents an interesting selection. This is where you start seeing the first multi-cylinder offerings and, while this segment was rather restricted a few years ago, of late, we’ve seen some fantastic offerings from a bevy of manufacturers. While this segment might still be considered a bit out of reach by many, there’s no denying that the motorcycles in this price bracket are exceptional and can even give those that cost a few lakh more a run for their money. And, as always, like with all our lists, we’ve considered only ex-showroom, Delhi, prices for consistency.
Note: All the prices mentioned here are post-GST.
Kawasaki Ninja 300
While other manufacturers dabbled in this space in the past, it was Kawasaki that kicked things off in this segment in recent times when it started assembling the Ninja 250 in 2009. In 2013, the updated version of the bike, the Ninja 300, hit our shores and this year we got the 2017 edition of the bike. The Ninja 300 houses a 296cc, four-stroke, parallel-twin, liquid-cooled engine. This fuel-injected motor generates 39hp of maximum power with a peak torque figure of 27Nm. The motor has dual-throttle valves similar to what you see on the company’s top-spec litre-class sports bike, the ZX-10R, and these deliver smooth throttle response throughout the rev range. The motor is peaky though, and one really needs to rev the nuts off it to get the most out of it. Its six-speed transmission gets a slip and assist clutch, which makes for a light lever feel and prevents rear-wheel hop under rapid downshifts. While it does get petal discs at both ends and has good braking potential, it’s slightly hindered by the fact that it doesn’t have ABS. That said, the Ninja 300 is a great riding experience.
Price: Rs 3.60 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)
Power: 39hp at 11,000rpm
Torque: 27Nm at 10,000rpm
Also read: New Kawasaki Z900, Z650, Ninja 650 and Ninja 300 launched
The R3 is probably the most direct rival to the Kawasaki Ninja 300 and can be described as Yamaha’s take on the quarter-litre (slightly higher) twin-cylinder sports bike. Its 321cc, parallel-twin motor gets four valves per cylinder and puts out a healthy 42hp of peak power, while peak torque is 29.6Nm. But, unlike the Ninja, this has been geared for great pull even at mid-range rpm and doesn’t need to be constantly revved high to make it really go. On top of that, the R3 hasn’t been designed to be an out-and-out track-attack machine like the KTM RC 390 and sports a comfortable seating position as well as a softer suspension. These factors make it a great bike, whether you’re riding in the city, cruising on the highway or even carving up some corners in the twisties. What lets down an otherwise fabulous machine are the lack of ABS and a selection of rather mediocre MRF tyres which don’t do justice to the bike’s handling characteristics.
Note: The YZF-R3 has been pulled from Yamaha showrooms temporarily, but will be going back on sale shortly once the BS-IV version is launched.
Price: Rs 3.25 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)
Power: 42hp at 10,750rpm
Torque: 29.6Nm at 9,000rpm
Also read: Yamaha YZF-R3 road test
DSK Benelli TNT 300
The TNT 300 perfectly represents what a scaled-down streetfighter from the likes of legendary Italian motorcycle maker, Benelli, should be like – good looking, well-equipped and able to create one hell of a ruckus. On paper, it has everything going for itself in the performance department. Its 300cc, DOHC, eight-valve, parallel-twin motor makes 38.26hp of peak power and 26.5Nm of peak torque. However, those numbers don’t translate into very high acceleration figures in the real world, and a lot of it is down to its rather portly kerb mass of 185kg. That said, the motor is very smooth and ridiculously tractable, meaning that you can easily ride the bike at crawling speeds in one or two gears higher than you would expect. Even though it’s not the quickest bike here, its comfortable ergonomics and supple suspension are very easy to appreciate on Indian roads. And again, while the brakes are great, ABS is still not on offer. One aspect of the TNT300 that we absolutely adore is the way it sounds. DSK Benelli has tuned the exhaust to make it sound like a much larger motorcycle and the note is not just sonorous, but sweet at the same time.
Price: Rs 3.08 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)
Power: 38.25hp at 11,500rpm
Torque: 26.5Nm at 10,000rpm
Also read: Benelli TNT 300 road test
KTM 390 Duke
The 390 Duke completely changed the way small(er) capacity performance motorcycles were perceived in India. And its 2017 avatar takes the game several notches higher. Powered by a 373cc, single-cylinder motor that makes a whopping 43.5hp and a massive 37Nm of torque, the 390 Duke can accelerate from zero to 100kph in a little over five seconds – that’s nearly as quick as bikes with almost twice the engine capacity! Chalk this down to an impressive power to weight ratio thanks to a featherweight dry mass of just 149kg. It stops extremely well too, as it now gets a bigger 320mm front disc with a radially mounted 4-pot caliper, which is supplemented by switchable dual-channel ABS as standard. With a separate function and beefy upside-down forks at the front, when it comes to handling, the KTM 390 Duke is pretty much unbeatable, with only its stablemate, the very sporty RC390, outdoing it in this segment. It’s absolutely loaded to the gills with equipment as well – a ride-by-wire throttle, adjustable levers and a full-colour TFT instrument panel that can be hooked up to your smartphone for controlling music and answering calls.
Price: Rs 2.29 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)
Power: 43.5hp at 9,000rpm
Torque: 37Nm at 7,000rpm
Also read: KTM 390 Duke review
KTM RC 390
Okay, many might think that the RC 390 is just a faired version of the 390 Duke. And while that might seem to be the case on paper, in reality, the two bikes offer vastly different riding experiences. Now the 2017 RC 390 has gone BS-IV, and has now been equipped with a ride-by-wire throttle, the new side-slung exhaust and even the slipper clutch, but it hasn’t got any of the fancy equipment that we see on the 390 Duke such as the TFT instrument cluster of the separate-function forks. However, it does pack a steering geometry that’s a little more raked in as compared to the Duke and is even a couple of kilos lighter. Combine that with stiffer and lower travel, front suspension and ergonomics taken straight from a supersport bike, and you have a machine that was designed with just one thing in mind – attacking corners! The RC 390 is the perfect bike to take to the racetrack and on smaller Indian circuits such as Chennai or Coimbatore, it feels right at home. You can even find a lot of upgrades for the suspension and brakes in the international market to make the RC 390 an even better track weapon than it already is. Frankly, there really is nothing better than the RC 390 for that true supersport experience at an affordable price.