We get our hands on two of the newest entry-level premium sports motorcycles in India – a segment that’s fast increasing in popularity.
In the last three years, we’ve seen the quarter-litre segment of sports bikes grow pretty rapidly. While the Bajaj Pulsar 220 started things off, it was never really considered premium. That honour went to Honda, which introduced the CBR250R in 2012 – and that changed everything! Now we have KTM, Bajaj, Hero, Hyosung, Kawasaki and Benelli offering some amazing entry-level high-performance bikes that are accessible to the masses in the price range of `1-3.5 lakhs.
The newest entrants into this segment are two naked bikes – one from Kawasaki and the other from Benelli. The Z250 is the Japanese manufacturers latest offering, and is based on the Ninja 250 – while the TNT 300 is the newest entry from Italian manufacturer Benelli, who have just set up shop in India under the banner of ‘DSK Benelli.’ We took both bikes on a short ride through some beautiful back-country roads in Maharashtra to see just what they had to offer.
The Kawasaki Z250 is the more familiar motorcycle in India because it’s the naked version of the current Ninja 250, which has sold in reasonable numbers in India. It does carry a rather high price tag though compared to the other products on offer, but it’s got the best total package. The Z250 is small in size and weighs just 166 kilograms, but it looks very aggressive. It borrows its headlamp from the higher Z models, and gets a sharp cowl around it – and, together with the large fuel tank and muscular engine shrouds, has a menacing street-fighter appearance. The 140mm rear tyre, front and rear petal disc brakes, and the aluminium wheels, also emphasize the bike’s sporty character.
The riding position of the Z250 is also set up so that your legs are well behind your knees and you lean forward on the wide handlebars. This is not the best riding position for the city or highway, but when you’re riding along some beautiful twisty roads it’s perfect and confidence inspiring. The bike also handles brilliantly, and is very nimble thanks to its low weight. It uses the same circuit-developed frame from the Ninja 250, and this gives the bike great balance – and with the engine partially rubber mounted onto it, the ride quality is also very smooth with no vibrations at all. Even in dense traffic, it’s supremely easy to handle, and on the open road it handles effortlessly. You can easily lean into curves at high speeds. The tyres also offer considerable grip on tarmac, but that’s not the case on rough patchy roads.
The engine is mild in terms of performance, because it gets only 21Nm of torque – so the initial acceleration takes time. The throttle response is good, but it just lacks the power to push you towards the horizon with any great urgency.
From a wider perspective, though, the Z250 is a great bike. It looks brilliant, is easy to ride and has decent engine performance. But its high price tag of almost `3 lakhs makes us wonder if it’s really worth it – especially since it didn’t make us smile throughout the entire ride.
Now the Benelli TNT 300 is a slightly larger bike, and has a completely different character. Its overall design focuses more on style than sportiness, and in all honesty we think it looks really good. It doesn’t shout at you, but rather pleases your eyes when you look at it – and it looks brilliant in green. The 12-spoke alloy wheels look good and they get petal disc brakes. The stylish under-belly exhaust is a nice design element and allows more of the bike to be seen. The visible frame design is typical with most Italian bike makers and shows its muscularity. Moreover, the large and smooth flowing fuel tank with the engine shroud fairings add to the bike’s muscular character.
The riding position is very good, as your feet are placed behind the knees for better control of the bike, and the handlebar is higher up – so the rider places less weight on the wrists, and is allowed some comfort while riding on the highway or in the city. The seat is also very comfortable.
The engine is a 300cc unit with 38bhp and 26.7Nm of torque, but it sounds like it produces much more than that. The engine note is the key feature of this bike, as it really does sound like a high-performance machine. You also get a good adrenalin rush too, as the TNT 300 picks up speed rather well – an experience that’s amplified by the sound of the engine. The refinement levels are also very good, so the bike rides very well.
The TNT 300 does weigh in at 196kgs, so it’s not a light bike by any yardstick. However, it handles quite well, and we did enjoy it very much on the country roads. It’s very comfortable to lean into curves, and you can accelerate quickly out of corners – and, once again, the sound of the engine just encourages you to keep pushing harder. In heavy traffic, it can take some getting used to but it’s fairly easy to manoeuvre. The trellis frame also gets an adjustable monoshock that can be adjusted very easily, so you can set it up to your preference.
Overall, the Benelli TNT 300 is a good bike – it looks great, is comfortable to ride anywhere, and has enough power. However, it’s not the most refined bike out there and it carries a high price tag as well.
Both bikes have a unique character, and between the two cater to a wide range of riders. One thing’s for certain, the Indian rider is now spoilt for choice.
- Kawasaki Z250
- Benelli TNT 300
Engine: 249cc / DOHC / liquid cooled
Power: 31.5bhp @ 11,000 rpm
Torque: 21Nm @ 10,000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed, constant mesh
Price: Rs. 2.99 lakhs (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
Engine: 300cc / DOHC / liquid cooled
Power: 37bhp @ 11,500 rpm
Torque: 26.5Nm @ 10,000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed, constant mesh
Price: RS. 2.9 lakhs (Ex-showroom, Delhi)