Realistically this is the only way to produce a competitively priced middleweight nowadays. However, KTM is at pains to stress that it develops the bike in Austria and then builds it in India to save costs, while keeping a very close eye on quality control. And, to be honest, looking over the KTM it does seem fairly well built. There are a few money saving areas but this is to be expected and it's far from unacceptable. And the pay off is a very competitive £4,495 price tag, £400 cheaper than the Honda and with ABS as standard.
While KTM has armed the 390 Duke with some proper Metzeler Sportec M5 rubber rather than the cheapie MRF objects the small capacity bikes get, that's the only change. The motor, however, is a ground-up entirely new engine producing 44hp and 26lb ft from its 375cc single cylinder. Neatly, it slots right into the 125's chassis and only weighs 6kg more! So basically the 390 is a 125 with nearly four times the power! Sound like fun? It is.
The 125/200 machines play a very clever trick of not feeling like 'little' bikes to sit on (or more importantly look at) yet ride and handle like their featherweight 128kg suggests. Weighing just 139kg (dry) the 390 Duke plays this same game yet adds far more power into the equation.
The new motor is sprightly without feeling intimidating. Keen and eager to rev, yet not necessitating a constant and merciless thrashing, the single cylinder is an entertaining power plant. When pushed hard it is possible to see 100mph, although it is far happier keeping a steady speed of around 60mph. With enough torque to pull from relatively low rpm the engine lacks the grunt of the parallel-twin Honda but it is far more engaging than the slightly muted CBR and the KTM's handling is considerably better.
A lightweight, quality chassis and respectable WP suspension makes the 390 Duke a blast on twisty back roads. You can really throw it around and the Metzeler tyres give far more feedback (and grip) than the seemingly solid items on the 125/200. When ridden hard down mountain roads the single front brake did feel a little lacking in outright power but you can't fault the ABS system.
Here is the part you may not realise. KTM sold 107,142 bikes last year, making it Europe's largest motorcycle manufacturer. That is a 32 per cent increase on 2011's figures. Where has this boost come from? The 125 and 200 Duke. The 125 was Europe's best selling 125 while the 200 cleared over 8,000 units worldwide. In India they simply went bonkers for it! The 390 Duke is priced only a few quid more than the 125 (£500 if you care) and this fact alone is almost certain to make it sell like hot cakes. It's a brilliant fun, great looking and well-priced A2-compliant bike that is only going to take KTM from strength to strength. It has been worth the wait.
What next on the list? Did someone say Moto3 rep...
KTM 390 DUKE
Engine: 375cc single cylinder
Torque: 26lb ft@7,250rpm
Top speed: 105mph (est)
Weight: 139kg (dry)
MPG: 60mpg (est)