Husqvarna Vitpilen: Road Test Review
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Is the Vitpilen 250's gorgeous styling a worthy trade-off for the lack of practicality over the Svartpilen?
Words by Benjamin Gracias
Photography by Vikrant Date
Swedish bikemaker Husqvarna has entered India with two new products: the Vitpilen 250 and Svartpilen 250. These two motorcycles are based on the highly capable KTM 250 Duke but offer different styles of motoring - the Vitpilen 250 is a cafe racer while the Svartpilen 250 is a scrambler. Now both the Huskies are priced identical, so which one would make you happier? Also does it impress enough for us to overlook the more practical but more expensive KTM 250 Duke. We’ve ridden both the Svartpilen 250 (Read road test review here) and Vitpilen 250 extensively. Here are our thoughts on the cafe racer.
KISKA styling is eye-catching.
Powerful and refined motor.
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.
Committed riding position won’t please all.
Headlamp low beam offers a strong and wide spread.
Lack of fairing and a minimalistic instrument console makes it feel like you are riding a batpod.
Gets supermoto mode that deactivates rear wheel ABS.
Of the two Husqvarnas, it is the Vitpilen 250 that instantly draws one’s eyes, the shiny silver paint gleaming even in the darkest settings. The Vitpilen’s minimalist bodywork has largely remained unchanged since the concept shown at EICMA 2014. The production-spec models came in two years later in the form of the 401s and the 250s were introduced just last year, at India Bike Week 2019.
It is not just the bodywork, other design elements like the round digital instrument console and turn indicators feature a minimalist design as well. There are interesting tidbits to find if you observe the bike closely. For instance, the round headlamp gets a circular LED ring and the Husqvarna badging inside. Then, there’s the embossed Husqvarna badging on the winged-fuel tank. Even the fuel filler cap is finished in bronze with a neat flip up cover.
Husqvarna’s Swedish coolness is evident, with the paint finish and quality of plastics used being amongst the best on any motorcycle to roll out from the Chakan plant. The switchgear might be KTM-sourced but the bar grips have this lovely concentric oval design with Husqvarna slapped in the middle.
But all's not well with the Vitpilen. It seems KISKA did a great job of designing the bike but not really helped out a lot with the packaging. The unkempt wiring harness is an eyesore on such a beauty. You couldn’t quite notice the same on the 250 Duke as its streetfighter styling would hide the hideousness. But on a motorcycle that prides on being fashionable, this just feels a bit sloppy.
The subframe, which is longer on the 250 than the older-gen 401 (the 2020 model of the 401 gets the update too), was sinfully beautiful as it had that abrupt ending. But due to the grab rail, a mandatory fitment for Indian homologation, it seems more of an afterthought and doesn’t flow well with the design. We cannot wrap our head around why Husqvarna didn’t get around slapping on bar-end mirrors for the Vitpilen. It would have just amped up its coolness.
Like the Svartpilen, the Vitpilen 250 too is a compact motorcycle. It weighs 4.6kg less than the 250 Duke which it is based on. The weight reduction is on account of the minimalist bodywork and the tiny fuel tank.
The quintessential cafe racer layout means it gets quite a sporty riding position on the Vitpilen 250. Compared to its scrambler sibling, the Vitpilen 250 has flat clip-on handlebars and slightly raised and rear set footpegs. You are perched on a tall and narrow seat offering an almost supersport like riding position. Almost KTM RC-like but without the fairing to give you that racy feel. Unlike the RC though, you can't really hug the fuel tank with your legs and that adds more load on your arms and shoulders. Needless to say, the riding position is not something you will enjoy when negotiating traffic or while spending hours on the highway. It is best savoured on your favourite curves.
Instead of a split flattish seat like the Svartpilen, the Vitpilen 250 gets a one-piece contoured seat. It has a smooth, more premium texture than its scrambler sibling. Despite the narrowness, the seat cushioning is firm enough to be comfortable for hour-long stints on the motorcycle. The 842mm seat height is quite tall, 12mm more than the KTM 250 Duke’s already lofty seat height. Riders below 5ft 6in will have trouble moving the bike around whilst seated on it.
When it comes to tight spaces, the Vitpilen 250 has a larger turning radius than the Svartpilen 250 and 250 Duke BS6 but lower than the KTM RC models. You do have to be careful while executing tight turns as the tall seat has you tip toeing most of the time, making it quite easy to drop the bike. The round mirrors offer limited visibility and we feel square ones would be a better fit here both in terms of aesthetics and functionality.
Pillion riders will appreciate the padded seat but grumble about how little there is of it. They will definitely appreciate the outwardly-jutting grab rail that not only gives them something to hold on to but prevent them from falling off the tiny seat.
Technology & Features:
The Vitpilen 250 gets all-LED lighting and a digital instrument console. Its round LED headlamp impresses with its design as well as illumination. The low beam has a bright and wide spread while the high beam offers a longer and focussed throw. That said we feel the high beam could do with more intensity.
The circular digital instrument console, like the 250 Duke, features additional information like engine temperature, fuel range, side stand indicator and braking modes. It gets a Supermoto mode that deactivates rear wheel ABS, something that's best left for experienced riders to explore. The instrument console like the Duke gets small readouts that are difficult to read on the move. If we were to nitpick, we would have loved a negative backlit LCD with larger fonts that would have looked more premium and be easier to read as well.
Engine & Performance:
The Vitpilen 250 shares its 250cc 4-valve liquid cooled motor with the KTM 250 Duke. It gets the same state of tune as well and that's a good thing. The motor delivers the highest output in the 250cc segment and also makes the Vitpilen 250 one of the quickest motorcycles in its class. It is a refined motor and feels very un-KTM like owing to its lack of franticness and linear power delivery. While there are no vibrations to speak of, you do feel a slight buzz at the footpegs, handlebars and around the fuel tank at around 8000rpm.
The Vitpilen 250’s motor makes most of its performance at the top end of its power band. While it does not offer much in terms of low end performance, its quick revving nature allows you to get to high revs faster. The motor wakes up post 7000rpm and offers the most performance at around 9000rpm thereafter which the performance tapers off till its 11,000rpm redline.
*- Test figures are for BS4 bikes.
Owing to the lack of bottom end punch and taller gearing, the motor isn't strong on tractability and you do need to downshift to be quicker in city traffic. The taller gearing helps during highway runs where the motor feels unstressed at speed of 90-95kmph. Going by the Svartpilen 250's fuel efficiency test figures, the shared motor isn't high on mileage and with the tiny 9.5-litre fuel tank, expect a range of around 295km on a tankful.
Its KTM derived 6-speed gearbox is not as slick as its Japanese rivals but offers positive shifts. The clutch actuation is light as well and feels effortless to use in traffic while the slipper clutch ensures that the rear wheel does not lock up while downshifting at high speeds.
Ride & Handling:
Like the powertrain, the Vitpilen 250 shares its trellis frame with the 250 Duke. It, however, gets a different subframe to accommodate the flattish seat. While the WP suspension setup is similar to the Duke as well, the rear monoshock has 4mm lesser suspension stroke to compensate for the additional unsprung weight of the swingarm mounted number plate holder. While both Husqvarnas share the same suspension tune, ride quality on the Vitpilen feels plusher. We reckon it could be due to more load on the front end owing to the sporty riding position. It soaks up potholes and road undulations surprisingly well. Its lowered suspension and bash plate affects ground clearance so you have to be careful tackling speed breakers. In case you miss a speedbreaker, the metal bash plate extends from below the radiator to the back of the motor and is sturdy enough to take a beating.
The extra supple ride (compared to the Svartpilen) helps in handling as well especially when you are tackling bumpy corners. It feels more stable and inspires confidence while taking corners at speed. The MRF Revz tyres hold ground well on dry tarmac but do not feel as grippy in the wet as the dual-purpose MRF Revz FD’s on the Svartpilen 250.
The Vitpilen 250 gets a large 320mm front disc with ByBre radial calipers and a 230mm rear disc. Its dual-channel ABS offers minimal intervention during hard braking, which means better feedback from the levers. The Vitpilen 250 offers the best braking times among the 250cc motorcycles we have tested so far.
The lack of fairing and minimalistic instrument console with the body forward riding position makes it feel like you are riding something unique, like a Batpod. It is further intensified with the sharp and precise steering. All these make the Vitpilen an enjoyable and highly rewarding riding experience.
Like the Svartpilen 250, the Vitpilen 250 comes in just one colour variant and is priced at Rs 1,84,768 (ex-showroom Delhi).
The Husqvarna Vitpilen 250 comes with its set of compromises like a committed riding position, wide turning radius, tall seat and limited pillion seat. It, however, hits a spot when it comes to riding experience. The Vitpilen 250 is engaging to ride, is refined and offers as much practicality and a bit more performance than the similarly priced KTM RC 200. The Swedish cafe racer tugs at your heartstrings more than the Svartpilen 250. It is the best looking of the trio and the one to go for if you are willing to overlook the 250 Duke’s practicality for a more engaging riding experience. The fact that it costs almost Rs 25,000 less than the orange bike is the icing on the cake. It isn’t a perfect bike by any means, but if you want to stand out and make a statement, the Vitpilen is your best under Rs 2 lakh.