The only quarter-litre motorcycles available in the Indian market a few years back in the timeline were in the form of either the Honda CBR 250R, Kawasaki Ninja 250R, Kawasaki Z250 or the Suzuki Inazuma all of which were on the costlier side for one to afford. But now, times have changed and so has people’s interest in premium motorcycles which can easily be seen by immense popularity the Austrian brand, KTM has managed to attain with its premium offerings. The brand recently launched its 250cc competitor in the Indian market in the form of the KTM 250 Duke. The bike shares its underpinnings as seen on the 200 Duke but with a bigger stroke that increases the overall cubic capacity from 199cc to 250cc. So the KTM 250 Duke comes as a mid-placed bike that offers a well-balanced performance with uncompromised looks.
But it’s not just KTM which is interested in invading this quarter-litre segment. Yamaha launched the FZ 25 recently and received a tremendous response for its bike. The FZ 25 takes forward the legacy built by the FZ 16. The latter still is one of the most famous power commuters in India but is now facing serious heat from the other Japanese rivals. Going back to the FZ 25, which has been built over the same standards as its smaller sibling but taking inspirations from the modern times. The FZ 25 looks promising with the front LED headlights and the rear looks as smashing as well. Similar design lines run in its body which can also be seen on the FZ 16 but with a much bolder stance and modern appeal.
The Kawasaki Ninja 250R has been long discontinued in the Indian market and was replaced by the current Ninja 300, but there is another bike which still hasn't broken the quarter-litre rule and is still known as one of the most niche products in this segment, the Kawasaki Z250. It’s really hard to spot on the Z250 outside Kawasaki dealerships as I haven’t seen even a single bike on the roads yet. As far as our market goes, it is on the costlier side for being a 250cc and at the same time it is a naked bike (Indians have a thing for fully faired bikes over naked bikes.) In the times when you can get exactly the same amount of power from a much lesser priced bike then it becomes harder for a bike to come up and justify the price tag. But at the same time, it is a Kawasaki and Japs don’t play around and they surely know what they make. The Z250 is the most premium bike present in its segment, it’s a twin-cylinder unlike any other bike and it is not made in India, it is an imported product, hence it is not cheap. The level of detailing and built quality is unmatched and delineates it being a high-class product.
Apart from Austrians and the Japanese, Italians too are interested in this segment as Benelli have its candidate in form TNT25 which sadly isn’t as famous as the other two. The TNT25 is the smallest bike in the line-up from Benelli and has been derived especially to rival the KTM bikes be it the 200 Duke or the new 250 Duke. But even after demanding a decent price tag, the brand has still not been able to generate the confidence a typical Indian buyer needs in order to invest in such a bike even though Benelli is working on to increase its reach across the length and breadth of the country. The brand has also managed to come up with showrooms in almost all of the major Indian cities. On the flip side, opting for a KTM or a Yamaha is still a much simpler experience as let alone reach, spares and components are readily available with the minimum waiting period and better reliability. Hence, the TNT 25 gets out of the scene.
Honda CBR 250R has been quite a famous machine in India, primarily famous for being a reliable touring machine and fully faired looks over anything else. It also remained a high-selling model even after the introduction of KTM back in 2012 as both were different and appealed to slightly different set of riders. People who preferred touring, comfort, reliability and looks over everything else went for Honda while the ones looking for exhilarating riding experience, out of the box looks, and power delivery of a mini superbike went for the KTM. But due to stringing emission standards and norms (i.e., the recent BSIII ban), the Honda CBR 250R is off the official list (at least for now) while KTM is still inspiring young stunt riders in India.
Since the departure of CBR, the market is left with the FZ 25 and the 250 Duke which are the quarter-litre bike models on which people are ready to put their money on. The FZ 25 is more towards being a sensible package as it offers greater comfort, efficiency, reliability while the KTM is just the opposite that focuses on going fast and looking excellent over anything else. The FZ doesn’t look bad either but it’s the KTM that clearly looks more special and one of a kind.
For our market, Yamaha FZ 25 promises to be a more intelligent package out of the both. It surely isn’t as quick as its Austrian competitor, neither does it have the highly unlikely yet pleasing appeal of the Duke but yet it outshines because of the price sensitivity of the Indian market and the fact that it is any day a more practical buy as per Indian standards. It’s not like the Duke isn’t a value for money proposition but in this case, Yamaha is slightly more!