The new KTM 200 Duke has arrived recently boasting only new graphics and a BS-IV compliant engine. But crucially, KTM held on to its price - Rs 1.43 lakh ex-Delhi. KTM admits that the reason for the price being so vital to the proposition is the simplest one of all - the KTM is already the most expensive motorcycle in its segment and despite how well the motorcycle does, they really cannot increase the price a whole lot. In fact, while KTM makes all the Dukes - 125, 200, 250 and 390 with ABS for export - it only sells the 390 with standard ABS because of pricing constraints. Of course, once ABS and CBS become mandatory, then everyone will offer them.
The 2017 KTM 200 Duke
KTM also happens to have the most expensive 200 on sale in India in the form of the RC 200. As you know while the difference in the powertrain of the 200 Duke and the RC 200 is negligible, the chassis and the ergonomics are quite different. The revvy 199.5cc engine, which makes a segment-topping 25PS, feels rather good on the RC - it fits the nature of the supersport very well. However, the RC 200 is 9kg heavier than the Duke which robs it of some acceleration. But the RC 200 is a bit faster flat-out once the fairing shows its slight aerodynamic advantage.
The KTM RC 200
While the KTMs are the two most tech-laden motorcycles on the sale, there are two Bajaj Pulsars in the mix as well, both co-developed with the KTMs. The RS200 is sportier - but not too sporty - Pulsar while the NS200 is the sport-naked, which is returning to the market in the place of the AS200.
The RS200 engine makes slightly more power but it continues to produce very good economy. We say sporty but not too sporty because Bajaj has nailed the ergonomics on the bike. It's sporty and leaned forward but only just. So you can adopt a committed riding position at the track but sit more or less upright in traffic too. Unlike the KTMs though, the RS200 has many, many panels in the fairing and in our experience they rattle. We have not yet tested the 2017 model, but the primary changes were to meet the BS IV and to scale back the explosion of design to a more manageable level. The bright colours still come, but a more subtle grey-black has been added while the brighter colours use more black panels as well as lines that match the fairing to make the RS200 look more, erm, easy on the eyes.
The Pulsar RS200
The Pulsar NS200
Unfortunately, the RS200 is the heaviest motorcycle here at 165kg. The Bajaj Pulsar NS200 not only gets the BS-IV engine, but its relatively fewer panels get a fetching coat of new paint as well as a nifty little belly pan. The combination produces what should be one of the most persuasive packages here. Its performance rivals that of the KTM 200 Duke with slightly more economy and nearly Rs 50,000 less in price.
The TVS Apache RTR 200 4V
That leaves the TVS Apache RTR 200 4V. This is a great little motorcycle too. It is our current Bike Of The Year and that accolade is no fluke. It is the least expensive motorcycle of the lot, and there is no single facet of the motorcycle that you can call out as cheap either - impressive. TVS has taken the stand that the RTR 200 is a street motorcycle which can keep the power at a modest 21PS while boosting torque and rideability across the rev band. This, the quality and the refinement levels are the best in class even though the actual equipment on the motorcycle - in terms of say, brake diameters, tyre widths etc. - isn't class leading.
To us this is a relatively simple class of motorcycles. There are five good motorcycle, and the buyers of the KTM RC200 and the 200 Duke are both not going to be swayed by and large by the three Pulsars.
However, the RS200, NS200 and RTR 200 battle is going to be a lot closer. The TVS has the best quality level but the Pulsars have a clear performance advantage. TVS also is having issues getting all the promised variants of the RTR - especially the ABS, fuel-injection with Pirelli tyres version - out into the market.
Which one would you buy? Let us know in the comments.