2020 Yamaha MT-03 vs KTM 390 Duke: Spec Comparison
How do the two sub-400cc nakeds fare against each other on paper? Let’s find out
Yamaha has updated the MT-03, its protagonist in the competitive sub-400cc motorcycles space, and boy does it look like a delightful proposition. It borrows design cues from the legendary MT-09 and is said to be sportier than before thanks to a revised suspension setup. But is it enough to take on the likes of the manic KTM 390 Duke when it arrives on our streets? To find out, we compared the two on paper and here’s what the numbers had to say.
Both bikes are powered by rev-happy motors and stand almost neck-and-neck in terms of power. What works in favour of the 390 Duke is the abundance of torque that the single-cylinder mill is able to churn out.
While we haven't ridden the MT-03 yet, we have sampled its faired sibling, the YZF-R3, which is powered by the same motor. And we are happy to report that the bike holds up pretty well against the RC 390, trailing by just a whisker in our acceleration tests. The Yammie’s parallel-twin setup also runs smoother and cooler than the Duke. It’s perfect for highway touring and sustains high speeds without breaking a sweat. In similar situations, the Duke, with its single-cylinder engine, feels a bit strained.
Put the two engines through tedious city runs and you’ll notice just how tractable the parallel-twin engine is. To put things into perspective, the R3 puttered around at 30kmph in sixth gear without ever stalling. These characteristics are likely to be found on the MT-03 as well since Yamaha has not tweaked the motor in any manner whatsoever. The Duke, on the other hand, is the happiest when kept in its powerband. Anything below 45kmph in sixth gear and the bike starts throwing a fit.
Overall, the MT-03 is longer, taller but narrower compared to the 390 Duke. While the specs suggest a good handling bike, the 390 is just sharper in most situations. In other words, the Duke with its wide handlebars offers more leverage, which makes turning into corners a lot easier. As a result, it’s also a lot easier to zip through city traffic. Dial in its shorter wheelbase and its potent trellis frame and you have one heck of a handler! And unlike the MT, the bike has enough ground clearance to tackle our roads which are riddled with potholes and massive speed humps.
But that’s not to say the MT isn’t any good, heck it’s far from it. To put things into perspective, the MT-03 is lighter and has an accommodating seat height, which is perfect for shorter riders and holds slightly more fuel compared to the KTM. It should handle just as well, given that the chassis is borrowed from the R3. All-in-all, the new MT-03 promises to be a good all-rounder with Yamaha’s racing pedigree.
Yamaha says it has reworked the MT-03’s suspension for a sportier ride. The front end is all-new while the rear monoshock has been tweaked to be a little stiffer than before. So we could expect performance levels to be on par with KTM. However, we just cannot envisage anything being more adept at being racy in this segment than the 390 Duke. The WP USD separate function fork (SFF) and rear monoshock setup enable it to turn in with pinpoint precision with the slightest of inputs.
The 390 also has the upper hand when it comes to braking as it packs bigger disc brakes clamped by radially mounted calipers. You also have the Supermoto mode for those who love some sideways shenanigans. The MT-03, on the contrary, carries over the same braking setup as before which offered good amount of bite as well as feedback but lacked the ferocity of the 390’s Bybre units.
The 2020 MT-03 is likely to be offered with the same Metzeler Sportec M5 W-rated tyres that are seen on the current India-spec YZF-R3. Although the 390 Duke also runs with Metzeler tyres, its H-rated tyres lack the outright grippiness of its W-rated counterpart. This switch between the two compounds took place when the new-gen 390 was launched in 2017 as the H-rated tyres would not sacrifice a lot when it came to grip levels offered. However, the extra longevity was definitely welcomed by most owners.
Price and Verdict:
Simply put, the KTM 390 Duke still continues to be the best value for money proposition in its segment. It offers a thrilling ride, premium components and a host of features at an unbeatable price.
There’s no way the Yamaha can match up to the Duke in terms of affordability and value. However, what the MT-03 promises a more refined experience thanks to its creamy parallel-twin and a well-rounded performance package. So what's your poison - the KTM 390 Duke or the Yamaha MT-03? Let us know in the comment section.
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