Husqvarna Svartpilen 250: Road Test Review
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Is the Svartpilen 250 a better alternative to the KTM 250 Duke?
Words by Benjamin Gracias
Photography by Vikrant Date
KTM has brought the Swedish brand Husqvarna to India in the form of the Svartpilen 250 and Vitpilen 250. These stylish motorcycles are lifestyle alternatives to KTM’s very capable 250 Duke BS6 and undercut the Austrian bike by around Rs 25,000. The Svartpilen 250 shares the 250 Duke’s motor and underpinnings. So on paper, you get the same performance and dynamics as the Duke but at a lower price. It also gets dual-purpose tyres and unusual but practical bits like a tank rack. So does the Svartpilen 250 offer better value for money and is it a better alternative to the 250 Duke? We got our hands on the Svartpilen 250 to find the answers.
Headlamp low beam offers a strong and wide spread.
Scrambler styling makes it look distinct.
Sharp front end and compact package make it fun to ride in the city.
Strong brake bite.
842mm seat height is difficult to access for short riders.
Tiny pillion seat.
Small 9.5-litre fuel tank and low fuel efficiency limits range.
Dual-purpose MRF Revz FD tyres offers surprisingly good grip in the wet.
Tank rack is a useful addition to strap on a small bag.
Gets supermoto mode that deactivates rear brake ABS for better off-road control.
Husqvarna first revealed the Svartpilen scrambler and Vitpilen cafe racer in 2014 at the EICMA motor show. The design has remained largely unchanged since then and we believe it will continue to be so with a few tweaks for the next few years. The minimalistic consists of a slim tank that flows into the seat and blends into the tailpiece.
The round headlamp is brimming with details and the LED turn indicators add to the minimalist appeal. The round theme has been carried forward to the instrument console as well. We loved the tank rack that not only looks cool but has provisions to secure a small bag with the help of a bungee net. One sore point in the design is the tail lamp that looks like it was ordered from a Chinese e-commerce website. The India-spec Svartpilen 250 gets an ugly looking grab rail which Husqvarna claims is a necessary evil.
The KTM Duke sourced switchgear ranks high on quality with a tactile feel and the paint finish is impressive as well. Svartpilen in Swedish means Black Arrow. Surprisingly, the motorcycle does not come in black, rather a matte greenish shade instead. The Svartpilen 250 comes in just one shade which does not even stand out like the Vitpilen 250’s colour scheme. The neon accents on the radiator shroud is a nice touch, though. However, there are a few sore points. The exposed wiring above and around the engine looks messy. On the KTM, they are covered due to the larger bodywork, but here it takes your attention away from the lovely looking panels.
The Svartpilen 250 is a compact motorcycle. Thanks to the lack of bodywork and smaller fuel tank, it is 4.6kg lighter than the already light 250 Duke BS6. The Svartpilen has a lower ground clearance due to a metal bash plate and lowered rear suspension, so you have to be careful while tackling the odd speedbreaker. Thankfully the metal bash plate extends from below the radiator to the back of the motor.
The Svartpilen 250 has an upright, almost supermoto-like riding position. You are perched on a narrow seat and have wide and braced handlebars mounted closer to the rider. Coupled with the low and slightly forward set footpegs compared to the Vitpilen 250, it is a comfortable riding stance. It will not tire you even after riding the motorcycle for a couple of hours.
Despite being narrow, the seat is comfortable on long-distance stints thanks to a firmer foam padding. For some weird reason, the Svartpilen 250 gets a split seat unlike the Vitpilen’s single-piece unit. The compact seat has you sitting partially over the seat divide and you can feel the pillion seat edge digging in. It isn't that uncomfortable to be a deal-breaker but is definitely an odd sensation.
The side panels, though, dig in at the seat edges and feel mildly uncomfortable. A bigger issue is the 842mm seat height that is 12mm taller than the already tall 250 Duke’s seat. The seat’s narrowness and the bike’s overall lighter weight helps to a certain degree while moving the bike around in a parking lot. But riders below 5ft 6in height will have a problem. When it comes to tackling tight spaces, the Svartpilen offers a shorter turning radius than the Vitpilen 250 and KTM 250 Duke.
The pillion seat, despite being well padded, is tiny. So tiny that the pillion will be thankful for the ugly looking grab rail that not only gives him/her something to hold on to but also prevents them from slipping off. A neat touch is the more rugged seat texture compared to the Vitpilen’s smooth finished seat. Its 8-spoke alloy wheels are also lighter and offer better shock resistance. The round mirrors offer limited rear view visibility and we feel that square mirrors could offer better visibility and look cooler as well.
Technology & Features:
The round LED headlamp looks fantastic and offers good illumination. Its low beam offers a strong and wide spread while the high beam offers a longer and focussed throw. The high beam, in our opinion, could have had better intensity. Along with all-LED lighting, the Svartpilen 250 gets a circular digital instrument console. Like the KTM 250 Duke, it gets additional information like engine temperature, fuel range, side stand indicator and braking modes. Yes, the Svartpilen 250 gets a Supermoto mode similar to the 250 Duke that allows you to switch off rear wheel ABS for better brake control off road. The tiny display though is difficult to read on the move. We would have liked a larger negative LCD display with larger fonts that would have looked premium and easier to read on the move.
Engine & Performance:
The Svartpilen 250 shares its motor with the KTM 250 Duke BS6 right down to the same state of tune. Its 250cc 4-valve liquid cooled motor offers one of the highest power outputs in the 250cc segment and is one of the quickest as well. It still retains the characteristic un-KTM like linear power delivery of the 250 Duke and has most of its power concentrated at the top end. Refinement is excellent as well with a buzz felt at the footpegs post 8000rpm. This is a quick revving motor and does not have much in terms of low end power delivery. It wakes up post 7000rpm and performance feels strongest around 9000rpm, post which it tapers off till its 11,000rpm redline.
The motor isn't strong on tractability and you need to shift down a gear to make quicker progress in city traffic. This affects city fuel efficiency. Out on the highway, the Svartpilen 250 sits comfortably at speeds of 90-95kmph thanks to the taller gearing. However, it isn't fuel-efficient at high speeds either. With a 9.5-litre fuel tank, you are looking at a theoretical range of around 295km.
*- Test figures are for BS4 bikes.
The 6-speed gearbox isn't as slick as other Japanese 250cc motorcycles but has positive shifts. Overall, the motor impresses with its refinement and performance but loses out on fuel efficiency.
Ride & Handling:
The Svartpilen 250 has the same trellis frame as the 250 Duke but gets a different subframe to accommodate a flat seat. It gets upside down WP forks and WP monoshock with the rear getting 4mm less suspension stroke than the 250 Duke for added stiffness. This was done to compensate for the additional unsprung mass of the swingarm-mounted number plate holder. Despite the lesser suspension stroke, the ride quality is quite comfortable and composed over rough roads. Only sharp edges or the occasional small speedbreaker will have the rear bottom out. Even then you are well insulated from the road. Like the 250 Duke, the Svartpilen 250 feels light and agile on its feet. It is easy to cut through traffic owing to its compact dimensions and quick steering.
The Svartpilen 250 feels composed in a series of corners partly due to the grip offered by the excellent MRF Revz FD dual-purpose tyres. Despite their dual-purpose nature, the FD’s were surprisingly grippier and more confidence inspiring than the road-biased MRF’s on the Vitpilen 250. Even while braking hard in the pouring rain, the tyres offered excellent composure. It gets a large 320mm front disc with ByBre radial calipers and a 230mm rear disc. The dual-channel ABS offers the least amount of intervention leading to better feedback from the levers. In fact, the Svartpilen 250 brakes better than most other 250cc motorcycles.
Off-road, the Svartpilen 250 is held back by its limited suspension travel and 17-inch alloy wheels. We feel a larger front tyre, longer travel suspension, spoke wheels and higher handlebar could help the Svartpilen 250 perform better off-road. Overall, the Svartpilen 250 offers a good balance between ride and handling and is better suited for the road than the off-beaten path.
The Svartpilen 250 comes in just one colour variant the same way as the Vitpilen 250. Both motorcycles are also priced the same Rs 1,84,768 (ex-showroom Delhi).
The Husqvarna Svartpilen 250 looks good, is quick, and rides and handles well. However, the KTM 250 Duke offers the same traits with the added benefits of a spacious rider and pillion seat and a larger fuel tank. If you are less inclined towards practicality but lean more towards design, the Vitpilen 250 looks more eye-catching and is more engaging to ride. So effectively, the Svartpilen 250 is in no man’s land.
We feel that KTM/Husqvarna should have capitalised on the Svartpilen’s scrambler appeal. They could raid the KTM parts bin and use the 390 Adventure’s longer travel suspension, larger 19-inch front tyre, serrated footpegs and turn the Svartpilen 250 into a proper scrambler. With these updates, even a price hike of Rs 20,000 would put it at par with the KTM 250 Duke’s pricing, but then you would have a more capable Svartpilen 250 pointing in the right direction -- off-road. As things stand, you have better alternatives to the Svartpilen 250 from its own family and another capable 250cc motorcycle, the Suzuki Gixxer 250.