2024 KTM 250 Duke review: 31hp never felt this good
Published on Nov 03, 2023 10:00:00 AM
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Once you ride a 390 Duke, your perception of affordable performance changes forever. Speaking as an extremely satisfied owner of a 2017 390 Duke, no small bike can match up with that particular recipe of madness. As for its smaller sibling, I’ve spent a lot of time aboard a BS6 250 Duke and to be honest, it didn’t have that same zing as the 390. This new 250 Duke however, in just 24 hours, has left me wanting for more! Allow me to explain.
When you’re leaving a long skid mark before coming to a halt at the very first signal after picking the bike up (supermoto ABS can be activated while on the move now), you know it's a machine that prioritises fun. Soon as the light turned green, I let the revs build and popped the clutch and the front happily came up. Some would say, the old 250 Duke does all of that too. To which I’ll reply, of course but you had to really coax it into misbehaving. This one’s naturally rowdy!
KTM 250 Duke performance, refinement
A big part of that wayward fun is courtesy of this new LC4C mill. Power and torque have both risen by 1 unit each, to 31hp and 25Nm. KTM claims the engine on the 2024 Duke 250 is completely new and doesn’t share anything with either the Gen 3 390 Duke mill or the erstwhile 250 Duke motor. However, the engine casings are nearly identical to the new 390’s mill and its bore and stroke figures are identical to the earlier 250cc mill. That new underbelly exhaust also looks and sounds quite similar to the new 390’s unit - somewhere halfway between the Gen 1 and Gen 2 390s.
0-100kph comes up in 7.89s which is just 0.5s slower than the lighter Honda CB300R and more powerful BMW G 310 R. This motor feels a little docile below 5,000rpm and you want to stay above that mark if you want to have fun. Above 6,000rpm it really comes alive and 7,000rpm to 9,500rpm is an addictive rush.
While the performance definitely left me grinning, it's how much more usable and friendly this engine has gotten at low rpms that's the bigger story here. Okay it's no Triumph Speed 400 when it comes to city mannerisms but its now a little smoother and more tractable if you let the tacho drop below the 3,000rpm mark. On-off throttle transitions are smoother as well although if you let the revs drop below 2,000rpm, there is still some protest.
Something that’s brand-new on the 250 Duke (and the 250cc segment itself) is the bidirectional quickshifter, which is the same unit as on the Gen 3 390. By and large it works well although like on the 390, it works best above 4,000rpm.
Both internal gearing and the final drive ratio are now different and the new 250 Duke can sustain a 100kph cruise vibe-free, where the earlier model would start to get buzzy around 95kph. Out on the highway, this new bike remains smooth up till 110kph. Even at 120kph, you’ve only got a mild tingle and that’s quite impressive for an engine of this size.
In general, there are some vibrations to be felt, but they move around between the seat, footpegs and handlebar at different revs. This means you won’t constantly be hit with vibrations at one particular spot and this makes them easier to ignore. It’s sweet spot is between 90-110kph but surprisingly there’s a noticeable buzz at 70/75kph (around 5,000rpm in sixth) although it smoothens out as the tacho climbs.
It's also quite an efficient engine and in our tests, we got an impressive 37kpl (overall). Couple that with the larger 15 litre tank now, and you’ve got a range of over 400km on a single tankful even at real world speeds.
KTM 250 Duke handling, ride comfort
This willing engine is the perfect companion to the new chassis and the 250 Duke is an absolute riot when the road turns twisty. Direction changes are telepathic thanks to those lighter RC-derived wheels and brakes, and the sticky MRF Steel Brace rubber. When pushed hard, the suspension does feel a little soft and it lacks the same composure as the adjustable units on the 390, but for the most part, handling is typically KTM fun.
Overall, this 2024 250 Duke is a whole 8kg lighter than the outgoing bike but it's so nimble that it feels even lighter. Braking hardware too is from the new-gen 390s and despite the use of organic brake pads here, not sintered ones like on the 390, there’s lots of power and feel available.
Suspension continues to be typical modern-day KTM with a stiff but absorbent setup that filters out all but the absolute worst bumps on our less-than-perfect roads. And thanks to the generous 176mm of ground clearance on offer, you can explore a gravelly trail without too much fuss. The new seats are still very much on the firm end, but they do seem a tad more comfortable to me than the Gen 2 bikes.
Speaking of ergonomics, the one bone I have to pick with the 250 Duke, is the seat-to-footpeg distance. I’m 5’11 and my knees started to hurt after an hour in the saddle. This can be improved as KTM will sell you a taller seat, which raises the seat height to 820mm from the stock 800mm. We don’t have an exact price for it yet but we’ve been told it should cost somewhere around Rs 3,500. On the plus side, the new 800mm seat height makes this bike more approachable to shorter riders.
KTM 250 Duke features
The 250 Duke’s Bluetooth system is very user-friendly and I was able to hook up my phone within a minute and receive call alerts as well as control my music playback seamlessly. KTM’s app will also bring turn-by-turn navigation to the dash itself, although that is still a little time away, we’ve been told.
Speaking of the dash, it's an LCD unit that packs in everything you want and need, although it doesn’t fall naturally into a taller rider's field of view. The new switchgear looks and feels like it's off a much more expensive bike which is a really nice touch (see what I did there?). Like all new KTM designs, I’ve found myself coming around to it once some time has passed. A few differences to the 390 include shorter tank extensions and the plastic ‘eyebrows’ surrounding the LED headlight instead of the DRLs from the 390.
The 250 is available in two colours – Electronic Orange and Ceramic White and surprisingly, it's the latter that has more orange parts on it. The matte white side panels were already showing stains after just 1 day of riding so the gloss finish on the other paint scheme should be easier to live with.
KTM 250 Duke verdict
Make no mistake, the 250 Duke is no longer the unremarkable younger sibling to the 390 Duke. It is a fun, fast, capable and feature-rich machine in its own right and in fact, for someone upgrading from a 150cc bike, this would be a great option. There are precious few chinks in its armour and when you take into account the Rs 2.39 lakh price tag, which is virtually the same as before (less than a Rs 1,000 increase), it further sweetens the deal. It won’t be as quick as the G 310 R, CB300R and Speed 400, but it certainly packs more sporting character and aggression. For all those of you who can’t quite afford the new 390’s asking price, this might be just what you’re looking for.
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