2024 Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 Review: KTM 390 Duke in Swede's Clothing?

Want to feel the thrill of riding a KTM without worrying about attracting judgmental stares? Say hello to the Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 then.

By Shivank Bhatt | Photography Sunil Chauhan | on February 15, 2024 Follow us on Autox Google News

Everybody and their grandma knows that the KTM 390 Duke is the street motorcycle for enthusiasts looking for outright thrills from a single-cylinder package. In the same vein, I must add that everyone – and their grandma, of course – also knows that the brand KTM suffers from an image problem. Thanks to its loud styling, bright orange paintwork, and boy racer image, KTMs have become, ahem, quite popular (for all the wrong reasons) among the masses. Let’s just say that if you want to fly under the radar and don’t like the attention, a KTM isn’t the right tool for you.

Not too long ago, it would mean looking for alternatives from rival brands. However, with the arrival of the brand-new Husqvarna Svartpilen 401, which is mechanically identical to the 390 Duke, it seems Bajaj / KTM has found a quick in-house fix to address the issue. The question, however, is whether the KTM’s Swedish cousin is a worthy alternative.

We got to spend some time with the new Svartpilen 401 for a full day to figure that out. So, here are three reasons why I would pick it over its Austrian brethren, and two reasons why I won’t.

Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 Review: A Duke in Swede’s clothing

Except for the rear sub-frame and wheels and tyres, the Svartpilen 401 and 390 Duke share virtually every component. However, as opposed to the 390’s sharp and edgy design, the 401 is all about subtle tastes and restrained aesthetics. It follows an opposite design philosophy, which, according to Husqvarna, appeals to customers with a ‘progressive taste’.

The 401’s design is all about smooth and seamless surfaces, with a bit of a neo-retro theme, which adds more zing to the overall package. At first glance, you might think it is more compact than its KTM counterpart, although that’s not the case – it has the same wheelbase (1,354mm) as the Duke 390 and its dimensions, too, are more or less the same. It’s the tight packaging of the Svartpilen 401 that gives it a relatively petite appearance. What sets the 401 apart is the fact that it’s not an outright streetfighter but a scrambler, owing primarily to its spoke wheels and meaty Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tyres. In short, it looks awesome in the flesh, period.

The only aspects of its design that look slightly odd, perhaps, is the boxy tail section – there’s no tail-tidy, and the chunky grabrail looks a bit too utilitarian. Overall, though, there’s no denying that the 401 is a looker. And since it’s a relatively new brand in the country, it’s unique and stands out more than the KTM. I think the 401’s design will age well – I am all but certain that five years from now, the 401 will still look icy cool and classy as it does today.

Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 Stand View

Overall, the Svartpilen 401’s biggest advantage over the KTM is that it’s immune to the boy-racer image problem. And for most prospective buyers in their 30s with a penchant for avoiding a lot of attention – and abuses, of course – from onlookers on their way to work or during leisure rides, the 401 presents a much more compelling package.

Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 Review: As good as it gets

What makes the 401 a treat is the fact that it offers a similar riding experience to that of the 390 Duke, which is what seals the deal for me. It is powered by the same 399cc single-cylinder motor that’s good for 45bhp and 39Nm of torque. The six-speed gearbox, equipped with a quick-shifter, is also the same, and so are the gear ratios and final drive. And all of this means that the performance is as explosive as the KTM's. And while the 401 is slightly heavier (171kg vs 168kg) than the KTM, the difference in their performance is practically imperceptible unless you are timing them with a stopwatch. The acceleration is as brutal, the throttle response is as energetic, and the turn of speed is as addictive as the KTM’s. There is ample torque at your disposal throughout the rev range, making this engine very tractable, and the seamless gearshifts egg you on to go faster.

Honestly speaking, I was expecting the Husqvarna to be slightly subdued in its approach – just like its aesthetics – in terms of engine performance, but that’s certainly not the case. It’s got the same frenzy and enthusiasm that makes the KTM appealing to enthusiasts. That said, like the 390, the 401, too, suffers from vibrations at higher revs. Between 6,000rpm and 8,000rpm, the vibrations through the pegs are a bit of a nuisance.

Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 Engine Close Up

In terms of ride-and-handling, it offers a bit different overall riding experience than the KTM, but it remains gleefully exciting. First things first, the suspension is identical, meaning you get a fully adjustable setup, featuring a 43mm WP front fork and an off-set mono-shock at the back. Even the suspension travel is identical to that of the KTM at both ends. That said, the 401’s handling isn’t scalpel-sharp like the KTM’s, owing mainly to the 401’s dual-purpose tyres and spoke wheels.

Now, that’s not to say that it’s an uninspiring handler. In fact, it’s quite agile and quick-turning, just like the KTM. It’s just that the tyres don’t give the same sort of feedback or planted feel while cornering. You’ll also notice that it takes a bit more effort to flick the motorcycle during quick direction changes on a winding road – it’s just a trade-off with dual-purpose tyres and nothing else. All in all, I would say that 90% of the time, the riding experience on the tarmac brings you the same levels of thrills as the 390 Duke.

The braking performance is also as strong, given that it retains the KTM’s hardware, except for the fact that it gets organic, and not sintered, pads at the rear. However, because of the tyres, there’s a bit of squirm under hard braking, which doesn’t feel natural.

Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 Review: Not a one-trick pony

Unlike the KTM, the Husqvarna is not a one-trick pony – it’s a scrambler, after all. And that’s to say that if you feel an urge to venture off-road, the 401 will happily comply. Sure, it’s not an outright off-roader, but it can ably navigate through bad and broken roads and light trails, thanks to those dual-sport STR tyres. What’s more, the suspension is quite absorbent and can take some beating. Not to mention, you can always tweak the compression and rebound on both ends to suit your preference. There is ‘Supermoto’ mode too, which allows you to disengage the rear ABS. After spending half a day in the fields with it, I must say that it’s a fun motorcycle for scrambling around. But, yeah, this isn’t meant for serious business – the café racer ergonomics aren’t conducive to riding while standing up during off-road excursions, so no need to take things to extremes. 

Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 Motion 2

Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 Review: Down the Tube

While it’s all fun and games to go scrambling on the Svartpilen 401, you can’t relax or go all out, given that the tyres aren’t tubeless, owing to its spoke wheels. Now, Husqvarna says that you can swap the spokes with alloy wheels of the Vitpilen 250 since the sizes are identical and the Pirelli STRs are tubeless-ready, but it would entail additional cost and would not be an exchange deal – a bit of a bummer. I would have loved to see it with alloy wheels / dual-sport tyre setup, which would have made it the best of both worlds.

Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 Review: Missing Goodies

The Husqvarna doesn’t get all the bells and whistles of the KTM. While it gets switchable traction control and ABS, they are not lean-sensitive. Similarly, there are no riding modes – or launch control, if you care about it – although, thankfully, you do get the same 5-inch TFT display with different graphics. While you may not miss the absent features in a day-to-day scenario, some riders might feel short-changed, especially considering that they are offered in the global-spec version and that the KTM costs only ₹18,000 more.

Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 Speedometer

The other problem with the Svartpilen is that even though it’s a scrambler, its ground clearance is lower than the KTM (177mm vs 183mm), but its saddle height is surprisingly taller (820mm vs 800mm). That said, it does get a solid metal bash plate to prevent damage. 

Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 Review: Verdict

Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 Motion

So, should you choose it over the KTM 390 Duke? Well, I don’t know about you, but for me, the answer is a resounding yes! Sure, you do have to make a few compromises, but if you look at the larger picture, the Svartpilen 401 allows you to unleash your inner hooligan inconspicuously, i.e. you won’t have to worry about drawing excessive attention from the general public. In short, if you have always wanted to go ballistic on a KTM but didn’t quite have the heart to do it on a streak of orange, the Svartpilen 401 is tailor-made for your needs.

  • Husqvarna Svartpilen 401

Engine: 399cc / Single-Cylinder / Liquid-Cooled

Transmission: 6-Speed

Power: 45bhp @ 8,500rpm

Torque: 39Nm @ 6,500rpm

Price: ₹2.92 Lakh (Ex-Showroom)

X-Factor: As thrilling as the KTM 390 Duke but not as conspicuous.

•  Performance

•  Design

•  Handling

• No Alloy Wheels

•  Missing Some Features

Tags: Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 husqvarna KTM KTM 390 Duke Svartpilen 401 390 Duke

Write your Comment

Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 Model Image
Starts at ₹ 2.92 Lakh Ex-showroom, New Delhi

Please tell us your city. This allows us to provide relevant content for you.