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Friday, October 17, 2014

The war of the Super Quarters

If we talk about Sports motorcycle segments, then on a broader scale, the segments would be - 

1) Light Weights - 125cc
2) Quarter Liter - 250cc
3) Super Sports - 600cc
4) Sports - 1000cc
5) Hyper Sports - 1300-1400cc

All the above categories enjoy some amazing motorcycles and all of them enjoy their own customer/user base.

Off late, with different licencing norms, specially the A2 Norms, manufacturers have been enforced to push the limit of the Quarter Liter segment and now we have a new category of sub 400cc motorcycles, which can very well be christened as the Super Quarters - the 300-400cc engine capacity segment.

Recently there has been an amazing surge in this segment and it seems that this segment has provided the manufacturers with a very unique business opportunity of providing motorcycles, which not only meet the limits of the A2 Norms, but also are Affordable, and pack in a solid punch in terms of performance and package.

Kawasaki drew first blood in this segment when it came out with the Kawasaki Ninja 300, then it was followed by Honda with it's Honda CBR300R. The thunder bolt from the clear blue sky came in the form of KTM RC390 with it's delicious design and performance to match. Now, yesterday, another bolt landed on the market in the face of Yamaha YZF R3 (or rather I should say 320). So, let's see what makes the Super Quarter market interesting.

Super Quarter War

Kawasaki Ninja 300
When we rode the Kawasaki Ninja 300, we were convinced to the core that this new package is a worthy successor to the legendary Kawasaki Ninja 250 in every possible way (Read the full review here). 

Kawasaki Ninja 300

The Ninja 300 is compact, looks gorgeous, feels light, gives that Big Bike Feeling, it's Fast, it's Agile, heck it's a Parallel Twin and is a screamer when given the proper treatment and coupled with the Slipper Clutch, it's bound to make the hair stand at the back of your neck. Be it on paper or on the tarmac, the Kawasaki Ninja 300 impresses.

Kawasaki Ninja 300 Ergo

Kawasaki Ninja 300 Specifications

Needless to say, the Kawasaki Ninja 300 is nothing short of being stellar!! The only flip side to this flawless package which can be picked, is the price. 

KTM has been on a spree since the time it has joined hands with Bajaj in India, specially in the smaller engine capacity segment. First KTM gave use the Duke 125,200 and 390 and when every commotion stirred up thus seem to settle down, KTM dropped in two nukes - the KTM RC390 and the KTM RC200. Built ground up on their respective Duke Engine platforms, the KTM RC siblings (the 125 internationally and the 200 and the 390 here in India) are a group of shamelessly purpose built motorcycles (Read our first impressions here).

KTM RC 390

The KTM RC390 pushes the A2 Licencing guidlines right to their very limits, and at least on paper it's the most powerful motorcycle in the Super Quarter motorcycle segment, but then we all know, more than numbers, what matters is, how those numbers are put to use.

KTM RC 390 Ergo

Talking about putting numbers to use, a quick glance across the Engine specs between the Kawasaki Ninja 300 and KTM RC 390 would tell you that even though the KTM makes roughly 4 hp more than the Kawasaki, the motor of the Kawasaki revs higher till 11000 rpm as against the KTM which produces it's peak number at 9500 rpm. On paper it might seem a very small, almost negligible difference, but the functional translation of these numbers would be intersting.

Honda CBR300R
We all know what Honda is capable of doing in the Super Sports segment, the Sports Segment, the Tourer Segment, and what Legend it is in MotoGP, but is Honda that exciting in the Quarter Liter class and now the Super Quarter class? Well, let's just say that Honda likes to walk on it's own path and is totally justified while doing so. Honda gave the CBR250R and made it look like a baby VFR, but then stepped up into the competition with the Honda CBR300R, and brought the visual and visceral aspects close to the CBR600RR (from certain aspects).

Honda CBR300R

Based on the available specs, we reckon that the CBR300R would walk the trusted path of it's predecessor, and would remain to be a busy tourer rather than being a track monger, with peak engine output limited to the range of 34-38 odd hp.

Honda CBR300R Ergo

Honda CBR300R Specifications

The chassis geometry clearly demonstrates that the what ever the engine performance number might be, the Honda CBR300R is a different crop from the rest of the offerings in the Super Quarter class.

Yamaha YZF R3
The latest to join the race, is none other than the Yamaha YZF R3. A Quarter Liter from the Jap has eluded the wet dreams of many enthusiasts for quite some time, until ECMIA last year, when the concept version of the Yamaha YZF R25 was shown following it's subsequent production version release early this year. Yamaha did an amazing job building up the momentum around the R25 via various teasers and enthusiasts were all ga ga over this new Quarter Liter bombshell of a motorcycle, when all of a sudden the news of YZF R3 surfaced, and boy does the spec sheet looks impressive or what!!

Yamaha YZF R3 Specifications

Yamaha has taken the war right through the doors of Kawasaki and is eyeing for dominating the Super Quarter class now. Clearly, Yamaha is eyeing the KTM RC390 with great vengence and with his peaky performance (42.0 PS @ 10,750 rpm vs 43 hp @ 9,500 rpm of the KTM), and with the twin-pod ending to dance to the tunes, Yamaha means serious business with the YZF R3.

Yamaha YZF R3

Yamaha YZF R3 Ergo

Between the KTM RC390, Kawasaki Ninja 300 and the Yamaha YZF R3, the KTM RC390 definitely has some exotic bits like -

1) Twin Projector Head Lamp setup
2) USD forks
3) ABS as standard
4) Metzelers M5s as standard
5) A huge shopping list of official KTM power parts
6) Lower set Clip-Ons (for that uncompromising sports bike experience)
7) Better Power-to-Weight ratio
8) Comparatively comfier pillion seat
9) Exotically Low Price for all the above Exotic bits!!

The list is exotics in favor of the KTM RC390 is not small, but at the same time, both the Ninja 300 and the YZF R3 would be having better quality parts and both Kawasaki and Yamaha (as we say it at TQ), have owned the race track for decades together.

The Super Quarter class is now buzzing with options and the between the KTM RC390, Kawasaki Ninja 300 and Yamaha YZF R3, KTM RC390 is available at a mouth watering price tag which cannot be ignored. We know how Kawaski Ninja 300 is priced. With the Yamaha, it's a little more wait before we know if it's India bound and if it is, then what would be price bracket of this machine. Anything between INR 2.75 lacs to INR 3.25 lacs would make the Yamaha YZF R3 too irresistible to resist. The story for Honda would be slightly different here (if at all Honda India decides to introduce the CBR300R here)

The only player left to join this exciting segment is Suzuki and we reckon that it's just a matter of time before this happens.

Suzuki GSXR-300

Suzuki coming late into this segment might prove to be an advantage, because with the competition already in, Suzuki would have all the data necessary to build a product that knows what it's doing and would be market ready from day one.

Text by: Sajal Chakraborty
Ergo Illustrations courtesy: Cycle-Ergo.com
Yamaha pic courtesy: www.yamaha-motor.eu
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Item Reviewed: The war of the Super Quarters Description: Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Sajal
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