Shootout: KTM RC 200 vs Honda CBR250R
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 1.86 lakhs (KTM RC 200), Rs. 1.86 – 2.20 lakhs (Honda CBR250R)
Both bikes are quick but differ a lot, KTM has more appeal while CBR250 is more practical
Orange meets Orange (technically Honda can be Orange because of their Repsol livery) this time around in a battle which is more closely knitted. However, with the current CBR250R on its way out, does a shootout between the KTM RC 200 and the Honda CBR250R make much sense? Well it does for quite a few reasons. Firstly, the upcoming 2015 Honda CBR250R is going to retain the characteristics of its predecessor so we do know what to expect from the upcoming model. Secondly and most importantly, the new quarter-litre Honda is still a few months away, so should you wait or opt for the Austrian machine instead. This review will help you decide just that.
Motor Quest: Honda was the first mover in the small capacity performance segment with the launch of the CBR250R in India in 2011 (the first locally manufactured quarter-litre in the country). KTM soon followed with the Duke 200 in early 2012 while the RC 200 arrived in the second half of last year.
Styling – The launch of the KTM RC 200 has meant that this is the first time since the arrival of the CBR250R that this Honda has got some direct competition. Both these motorcycles are full-faired machines but the Honda loses out big time in the design department because of the VFR inspiration on the baby CBR. The 250R simply looks dated which gets amplified in front of the newly baked Katoom. Being in the market for close to four years now, the CBR250R doesn’t come across as fresh, something the KTM manages to do very well with its quirky yet appealing styling. The KTM is available in just one colour and variant while Honda offers multiple colours and two variants on the CBR250R.
While our test bike was a old CBR250R, Honda did update the colours and gave the CBR250R black wheels not so long ago but even with that finish, the Japanese machine doesn’t look as exciting. Sure the CBR250R is bigger in dimensions than the RC 200 but it looks too conventional while the KTM comes with projector headlights, parking lights that look like DRLs, indicators on rearview mirrors, underbelly exhaust, orange-coloured wheels, orange colour frame (exposed), LED indicators, LED tail light (not present on the CBR which shows its age), unconventional grab rails and a rear seat that looks like a cowl. We all know which bike looks the more attractive here and the upcoming Fireblade inspired CBR250R could give a tough fight to the Race Competition machine in the styling department.
Instrument Cluster and Switchgear – The console on the upcoming CBR250R is more or less the same as that of the current model (with changes in colours). The analogue tachometer makes it easy to read but the KTM has so much more to offer with its multi-information display showing a plethora of features. With an insane amount of data being on your finger tips, the RC 200 easily has the better instrument cluster, telling you crucial things like range, service indicator, side stand warning, mileage and a lot more. This is a rare time when we won’t be seen complaining about the switchgear of a Honda bike, the CBR250R being the only locally manufactured model to get an engine kill switch but KTM’s unit is backlit.
Ergonomics – This is where there is a vast difference between these motorcycles, the KTM RC 200 has a more committed riding position than the Honda CBR250R, thus the latter is more comfortable when you ride for long distances. The RC 200 tires you out after sometime because of its slightly aggressive riding position, which although not extremely dedicated, still takes a toll on you. The CBR250R isn’t upright but its slightly sporty riding position makes it at home for touring, it also has the softer seat of the two. The Honda also has a more comfortable pillion seat and you can open it quite easily, unlike the one on the RC which requires some effort.
Performance – Both these bikes are powered by single-cylinder DOHC engines, having 4-valves and liquid-cooling. The Honda CBR250R has the displacement advantage and that also results in output being superior. The 249cc Japanese mill generates 26 HP of power at 8500 RPM and 22.9 Nm of torque at 7000 RPM. Meanwhile the KTM RC 200’s 199.5cc motor generates 25 HP at 10,000 RPM and 19.2 Nm of torque at 8000 RPM. The KTM is short-geared while the Honda is tall-geared, the RC 200 being more fun because the motor is always on the prowl and rushes to the 10,500 RPM redline very quickly. The CBR250R redlines at the same RPM but doesn’t run into the rev limiter like the KTM.
In spite of its lighter weight and screaming engine, the RC 200 isn’t faster than the CBR250R
The important question, which motorcycle is faster. While most would believe that the KTM would show its neat rear in a quarter-mile drag, the truth is far from it. The Honda CBR250R requires one upshift less to reach 100 km/hr (does it in third while the KTM does it in fourth) and the fact that it has more power and torque, makes it beat the RC 200 in the 0-100 km/hr sprint. The Japanese bike takes 9.17 seconds to do the sprint to the ton while the Austrian machine isn’t far, taking 9.31 seconds. In fact these bikes are almost neck and neck till 60 km/hr, the extra gearshift causing the RC some time loss in the crucial 0-100 km/hr sprint. The CBR250R does 50, 80 and 106 km/hr in first three gears, the RC 200 doing 45, 53 and 83 km/hr in the first three gears. Top speed of the CBR250R is higher, reaching 149 km/hr while the KTM maxes out at 136 km/hr (all speeds are VBOX tested).
Numbers aside, the KTM RC 200 is the more fun bike to ride although running into the limiter is quite irritating, it does keep you attentive though, your eyes set on the shift light most of the time. The Honda CBR250R doesn’t make it very obvious that it is fast but it’s the more refined bike here and sounds better than the KTM too. There are no heating issues on either bikes but the CBR250R is more calm in this matter. Both bikes come with good clutch and gearbox combo but the Honda’s is slightly better. Being less frantic, the CBR250R is more at home in the city than the KTM and with taller gearing and a higher top speed, it also has the better engine for highway duties. Both machines will return 30 km/l but the Honda is slightly more frugal, returning at least 2 km/l more. Just imagine, with the 2015 CBR250R (29 PS, 23 Nm), Honda will stretch its powertrain advantage even further.
Riding Dynamics – KTM makes light bikes and the RC 200 weighs a whole 14 kgs less than the Honda CBR250R at 154 kgs. Besides the weight advantage, the RC 200 also has the hardware advantage, employing upside down front forks (the CBR uses telescopic forks), Trellis frame (Honda uses a Twin-Spar frame), aluminium swingarm, steel braided brake lines, wider and better tyres (both use 110 section front but the RC gets MRF 150 mm rear against the CBR’s Continental 140 mm) and a shorter wheelbase. Using a stiffer suspension set-up and a sharper rake, the RC 200 is quicker to turn-in and offers way better handling than the CBR250R which simply doesn’t like to corner hard. The feedback from the RC 200 is much richer too (it’s super sharp to say the least) and this is a bike which loves the twisties, unlike the Honda which feels uneasy on hard cornering with little feedback to offer.
Being stiffer, the KTM RC 200’s ride quality isn’t compliant and can really unsettle you on bad roads, the Honda CBR250R gliding over the worst of tarmac with utmost ease. The 250R not only rides better, it also has the better high speed stability with the extra weight playing in its favour. While the RC 200 has bigger discs at both the front and rear, Honda offers its fantastic C-ABS on the CBR250R which offers very confidence inspiring stopping power although you have to pay Rs. 35,000/- more over the RC 200 for it. KTM should have offered ABS on the RC 200, more so considering the export model gets it. The RC has a higher ground clearance of 178 mm while the CBR250R has a GC of 145 mm but somehow the Honda doesn’t scrape anything while the KTM 200 manages to do with a pillion.
Verdict – Deciding between both these bikes is quite easy. It all boils down to your requirements. If you are into riding on the track or twisties very frequently, then the RC 200 is easily the best bet of the two here. However, the RC 200 isn’t as practical as the Honda CBR250R which although dated, still manages to give the KTM a tough fight in this shootout. Being more comfortable with a tank capacity which is 3-litre more than the RC 200, the Honda CBR250R is an excellent touring machine. Even in its current avatar, this Japanese bike gives a close fight to the made in India Austrian machine. The KTM RC 200 wins today but once the new Honda CBR250R arrives, the KTM’s crown in this segment will be up for the taking.
The KTM RC 200 is the better looking bike with more goodies and super precise handling. Meanwhile the Honda CBR250R is more refined and practical, offering a better ride quality and much more comfort. Since the new model is coming, we won’t recommend the current CBR250R but once the updated Honda is launched, the RC 200 won’t be the default choice in this segment.
Further Reading –
KTM RC 200 Review
KTM RC 200 Track Test
KTM RC 200 vs Pulsar RS 200
KTM RC 200 vs Pulsar RS 200 – Video
Riders: Hrishi Mandke, Prasad Jadhav
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