2020 Husqvarna Svartpilen 250 and Vitpilen 250 first ride review
It is a Swedish branded motorcycle, powered by an Austrian developed engine, that is manufactured at Chakan, Maharashtra for India and the world - that has been my default reply to each and everyone stopping me to ask about the motorcycles that you are seeing in the pictures below. The Swedish brand is Husqvarna, one of the oldest motorcycle manufacturers in the world. While many have derived their own pronunciations, I prefer calling it "Hoosk-vaarna" just as the folks in Sweden would do.
In case you haven't heard of them, Husqvarna started their motorised two-wheeled journey back in 1903 and churned out GP championship-winning machines in the 1930s. And that's not all as the company has 100 world championship titles in motocross, enduro, cross country rally and more. In its years of existence, Husqvarna was a part of the Cagiva MV Agusta Group in 1987, followed by BMW in 2007 until finally being acquired by Stefan Pierer in 2013.
The brand has made its debut in India with two 250cc motorcycles, the Svartpilen scrambler and the Vitpilen cafe racer. Positioned at the premium end of the popular quarter-litre segment, these Huskies aim at offering a lifestyle aspect to motorcycles at an accessible point. How good are these two at doing that? Read on.
Back in the 60s, Husqvarna had a lightweight performance bike called the Silverpilen designed by Sixten Sason, whose portfolio included designing aircraft, SAAB cars and also the very first Hasselblad camera. The new-gen Huskies essentially pay homage to Silverpilen with its minimalistic design. They are called Svartpilen and Vitpilen, which translates to black arrow and white arrow in Swedish respectively.
Both these designs made their first public appearance as 401 concepts at the 2014 EICMA show in Milan, receiving an overwhelming response by the audiences back then. We got to experience something similar wherever we took these two motorcycles. Starting with the Svartpilen 250, Husqvarna calls it an urban scrambler, thereby giving it a raised single-piece handlebar, a luggage rack bolted on the fuel tank and dual-purpose tyres with eight-spoke alloys.
In comparison, Vitpilen 250's cafe-racer vibe comes with clip-ons mounted on the triple clamp, road-spec tyres with five-spoke alloys and a simpler fuel tank design sans the luggage rack (which can't be retro-fitted later). The other differences between these two offerings are - a flatter two-piece seat on the scrambler versus the single-piece contoured seat on the cafe racer and the presence of heat shield on the exhaust of the Svartpilen 250.
What we like about the design is how distinct they look compared to whatever is available at this price point, with its circular neo-classic LED headlight, sleek fuel tank with a bulge sporting the 3D logo and a clean tail section. The overall design looks like a neat fusion of just two panels at the tank area. Both the motorcycles feature a front biased design where a lot is happening at the front, while the tail section looks a tad too simple with a compact LED taillight.
The other highlights of the design are the beefy front USD forks, champagne gold shade of the engine and the rear tyre hugger, as these three make the design resemble that of more expensive motorcycles belonging to the higher segment. The rear pillion grab handle, that sticks out of the overall clean design, is a mandatory addition.
Equipment and build quality
Affixed right above the headlight is a circular single-pod LCD instrument console, which is identical to the one offered in the more premium 701s sold in the international markets. While the design of the console blends in neatly, we only wish it could've been a more modern TFT unit like the ones on the 390 Duke/Adventure, making a cool addition to the design with a modern smartwatch-like appearance.
Nonetheless, the console on the Huskies will give you information on range, coolant temperature, gear indicator and ABS modes among the other essentials. The quality of switchgear is decent for the price, while the paint quality on the panels along with the stamped logos on the fuel tank does feel premium. The only let down for me were the weld spots at some points and the exposed cables running along with the Trellis frame, which can be surely overlooked when you consider the complete design.
Needless to say, these Huskies are compact in size and form. As seen from the images, the size ratio between the Svartpilen 250 and myself is what David was to Goliath. However, what we like is how accommodating the design felt even for a big guy like me. The higher positioned handlebar in case of the Svartpilen 250 paired with sufficient recess on the near-flat panels of the fuel tank works well offering enough room for the knees.
However, the cushioning of the seat is on the firmer side and if you are someone like me, there is no room for pillion or rear luggage. Further, the position of the front pegs is a tad towards the rear for my liking, which works in favour of the Vitpilen 250 cafe racer, but could be an issue for some on the scrambler. The overall stance on the Svartpilen 250 is more or less upright, that makes it a more suitable choice for longer rides.
The Vitpilen on the other hand with its lower set handlebars, offers a sportier rider posture comparable to the KTM RC, but without the fairing and long nose attached to it. Its ergonomics are sporty and bearable for 200-300kmph long journeys too. Both the Huskies have a seat height of 842mm, which is more than that of Duke and the RCs, posing a slight issue for someone who is around 5'5-5'6 to get their feel completely planted on the ground.
Here comes the similarity with its Orange cousin. The almost exposed engine that is nestled between the Trellis frame in both the Huskies is the same unit that powers the KTM 250 Duke BSVI. Husqvarna has retained the tuning of the engine and along with its gearing from the KTM Duke 250. Get the single-cylinder motor running and you are greeted with a familiar KTM exhaust note, except that the one on the Huskies have slightly more bass to the tune which is a result of the different exhaust end can.
In terms of numbers, the 248.8cc twin-cam four-valve engine puts out 30PS at 9,000rpm and generates a torque of 24Nm at 7,500rpm. When the engine is idling, you might feel minor vibrations but that disappears as soon as you start riding. While riding at city speeds, you realise that the motor feels smooth and linear, but not in a boring commuter manner. Instead, there is enough power at the lower end to offer impressive roll-on acceleration, available at a wring of the throttle.
However, if you want to squeeze out more from this motor, it will demand a downshift. Get the engine revving at around 5,000-6,000rpm and the Husky will climb higher speeds of 85-90kmph effortlessly. What we liked about this 250cc unit is how refined and smooth it feels even at higher revs. On an open stretch, I got the motor to peak to its redline before shifting to the next gear, and the motor obediently does it, sans any discomforting vibration, which is impressive. The smooth nature of the engine is felt even when you are cruising at speeds of up to 120-125kmph.
Mated to the 250cc engine is a 6-speed gearbox that offers seamless and precise shifts, even when you do it in quick succession to get the motor to a boil. The engine performance of these Huskies might not cut it for someone looking for a spirited machine but we believe the linear performance of the motor will be enjoyed by those who are upgrading from comparatively smaller displacement motorcycles.
The only downer, however, in the case of the Huskies, will be its small capacity fuel tank of 9.5 litres, which is the smallest in its class. The company mentions an ARAI fuel efficiency figure of 32kmpl which we believe translates to a (claimed) full tank range of around 250-260km.
Ride and handling
Both, the Husqvarna Svartpilen 250 and the Vitpilen 250 make use of the tubular trellis frame that underpins the KTM 250 Duke. However, the rear subframe is different in case of the Huskies. The 2020 iterations of the Svartpilen and the Vitpilen sport a longer subframe compared to that of the 2018 model that was introduced in the international markets. This was done to offer better support to the floating tail section of the Huskies.
The suspension setup of WP Apex USD forks and mono-shock has been carried over from the KTM, wherein the rake and the trail angles too have been left untouched. That being said, there are minor changes in the suspension feel of the Huskies, which we believe could be due to a slight tweak in the damping and rebound behaviour compared to that of the Duke. The cafe racer Vitpilen 250 and the scrambler Svartpilen 250 are offered with an identical front-rear suspension travel of 142mm.
Starting with the Svartpilen 250, take it on uneven surfaces and bad roads, and the WP setup will neatly iron out the differences. Additionally, it offers a comfortable ride over potholes and even broken surfaces. To the Huskies' advantage, both of them tip the scale at 166kg, which makes them lighter than the Duke also offering a better power-to-weight ratio of 180.7PS/tonne. You can feel the dividends of the same when you are darting through traffic as the lightweight and compact form offers easy manoeuvrability. Even on highways, while taking multiple corners, the Svartpilen 250 feels nice and flickable.
How does it perform off-road? Since it is a Husqvarna, the champs of off-road, you would have some preconceived notion about the scrambler. However, Husqvarna is calling it an urban scrambler and is offering alloy-wheels, unlike the larger Svartpilen 401 sold in the international markets with spoked wheels.
While riding it on trails, the setup was doing its best to absorb the undulations. The bulge on the fuel tank, however, becomes an obstruction when you wedge your knees while standing on the pegs on trails. Compared to the 250 Duke's ground clearance of 151mm, the Huskies get 149mm which does not make a world of a difference in real-world conditions.
Differentiating itself from the cafe racer, the Svartpilen 250 comes with dual-purpose MRF Revz FD tyres, that make some amount of tyre noise on the tarmac due to its tread pattern. That being said, they offer a decent grip on both trails and tarmac and are a better choice for dual-purpose riding. In terms of braking, the ByByre dual-channel ABS offers the right level of bite without much effort. Using the Supermoto mode, one can switch-off the rear ABS that comes in handy while riding on trails.
The Vitpilen too allows the rear ABS to be turned off. Complementing it's sporty ergonomics and the road-biased MRFs and they are exceptionally good too. Their grip and sportier riding stance allow the Vitpilen to have more fun around the twisties than their urban-scrambler sibling and even in the crazy downpour that we shot these bikes in, the Vitpilen was fun by maintaining it's stability and grip through the corners. "If long distance comfort isn't on the top of your mind while choosing either one of these, the Vitpilen is the sportier and more fun machine," says Rohit who spent majority of his time riding this bike during our test.
Why launch the Huskies with a 250cc engine? The quarter-litre segment has now become a sweet spot for two-wheeler manufacturers as it offers the right amount of power to not intimidate first-time buyers and at the same time offer the right value to someone upgrading from the commuter or the mass sports segment of 150cc-160cc motorcycles.
The Huskies, with its boutique-manufacturer inspired distinct design will surely make you look cool among your peers. Further, the attention to detail and the build quality surely make the Huskies a better option compared to some of its rivals in the segment. The Svartpilen 250 and the Vitpilen 250, both are priced at Rs. 1.84 lakh ex-showroom, undercutting the KTM 250 Duke BSVI by up to Rs 25,000. This is a substantial difference considering most of the kit is shared between these three motorcycles. While the performance of these two Huskies are in line with what you expect from a 250cc, the pricing and the overall package makes for a strong case in favour of the Husqvarnas. Both these motorcycles are being sold through the KTM network that has close to 400 showrooms located across 275 towns in India.
Images: Anis Shaikh
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