KTM RC 200 Review
A few days after its India launch, Bajaj invited us to ride the new RC 200 on its testing track and it felt better on almost all fronts. But the truth is most of the RC 200s will spend their lives in the city and on the highway and that calls for a comprehensive real-world test, doesn’t it?
Pros: Brisk acceleration, responsive handling, plush ride quality
Cons: Vibrations at high speeds, inconsistent front brake bite, lack of Bluetooth connectivity
The KTM RC 200 has always been applauded for the engaging riding experience it delivers. Punchy acceleration and sharp handling have always been its forte. However, the previous generation model was deemed to be too frantic and uncomfortable to be used as a daily driver or even for long-distance riding. Well, that might not be the case anymore. KTM has launched the new-generation version of the RC 200 and all the changes it gets are focused on making it a more practical and versatile package.
A few days after its India launch, Bajaj invited us to ride the new RC 200 on its testing track and it felt better on almost all fronts. But the truth is most of the RC 200s will spend their lives in the city and on the highway and that calls for a comprehensive real-world test, doesn’t it? In that case, we spent a few days with the bike to find out how much more practical it is.
The new RC is a better put-together motorcycle as compared to its predecessor. The paint finish, the quality of plastic panels, and the robustness of nuts and bolts are all decent. However, going by the uneven gaps around the fuel tank and slightly loose panels on its tail section, we believe the RC 200 could do better in this area. Nevertheless, the new RC looks more welcoming right from the moment you lay your eyes on it. Gone is the profoundly combative and razor-sharp design and the new RC looks more mature, bigger, and more elegant.
The fact that the new RC 200 is easier to live with is verified the moment you get onto its saddle. Although swinging a leg over isn’t effortless, thanks to its tall 824mm seat height. But once you saddle up, it’s surprisingly more comfortable than the previous RC. The handlebar is placed higher so you don’t need to crouch ahead as much as before. KTM has also changed the design and padding of the seat which now feels suitable even for long hours of riding. However, you can’t get away with the fact that it is still a sportbike and your wrist and back start hurting a bit after a few minutes. Also, the tall seat height means shorter riders might find it difficult to tiptoe the bike in traffic.
As high up is the pillion seat visually, it's equally challenging to get on it. It's a struggle, to say the least. But once you manage to hop on, the RC is equally comfortable with the right amount of cushioning and space. The presence of sturdy grab rails to hold on to is a bonus.
The 2022 RC 200 retains the 199.5cc, liquid-cooled, single-cylinder engine that makes 25.4bhp of power and 19.5Nm of peak torque. While the performance numbers haven’t changed, KTM has equipped the new RC with a bigger airbox for the engine to breathe more freely now. Even the radiator design is curved for better heat dissipation.
The revisions in the engine are noticeable from the word go. It has become substantially smoother, more tractable, and less frantic now. You can do speeds of about 40-45kmph in sixth gear without the engine throwing any tantrums, which means pottering around in the city is much easier. Although the acceleration hasn’t improved drastically, the power delivery is more linear across the rev band. Until 6,000rpm, the RC 200 remains polite and humble with a mellow acceleration, but beyond that, it delights you with a quick and enjoyable pull, making it addictive to rev the bike to its redline. It can also do speeds of 100-110kmph without much stress and overtakes aren’t a task either.
Even the gearbox of the RC is typical of a KTM with slick and effortless shifts. And this is accompanied by a light clutch. However, we noticed that the cogs misbehave after a long riding session and the shifts take some effort at times. And now that we are talking negatives, the presence of vibrations is another shortcoming you have to deal with. It creeps in on the footpegs and the handlebar from as low as 90kmph and persists as you go faster. A minor buzz emanates from its panels as well.
One area where the RC 200 has improved by a huge margin is in terms of heat dissipation. Thanks to the revised cooling setup, even after getting stuck in traffic for several minutes, I didn’t experience any heat being dissipated on my legs.
The handling of the RC 200 is as taut and sharp as ever. In fact, the new model feels more predictable and composed and inspires a lot of confidence while pushing it around corners. The steering responds with decent precision and once leaned over, it holds its line accurately, may it be taking on long sweepers or tight hairpins. While the grip from the tyres is also commendable for the most part, there is a lack of needed feedback when pushed to the edge.
Surprisingly, the ride quality isn't compromised in favour of confidence-inspiring handling. The motorcycle soaks up almost everything with ease, from small potholes to ruts, from stones to manhole covers. It's only when you go fast over major undulations that the rear feels a bit firm.
The RC 200 could do better with brakes though. It doesn't deliver as good stopping power as you would expect from such a performance-focused machine. The brake lever has a decent initial bite but feels inconsistent and lacking under hard braking. The rear brake, however, delivers adequate bite and feel.
The new RC 200 also gets a new instrument cluster, and just like most other aspects, this is better too. This is a much larger unit that shows a host of important data in a clean and easy-to-read layout. The list of parameters at your disposal includes speedometer, tachometer, gear position indicator, clock, odometer, two trip meters, fuel range, average fuel consumption, and more. It doesn't have Bluetooth connectivity though, and we think that would have made it a little more desirable. Our wish list also includes a slipper clutch, something that would have made riding it spiritedly even safer.
Our fuel efficiency test, which involves riding in the city with mild traffic and on open roads, surprised us as the new RC 200 returned an admirable mileage of 43.5kmpl. With its larger 13.7-litre fuel tank, the motorcycle should deliver a range of around 590km.
With the new RC 200, KTM seems to have achieved what it aimed for - to make an RC that’s almost as engaging as before while being substantially more practical. The great engine performance and incredible handling didn’t come as surprise. But what truly wowed us is the enhanced comfort, plusher ride quality, a more manageable engine character, and almost no heating from the engine. And despite all the improvements, KTM has priced the motorcycle the same as before at Rs 2.09 lakh (ex-showroom). To conclude, the RC 200 is ideal for those who want the excitement of a KTM without compromising much on practicality. It can handle your daily commutes, your weekend rides, and occasional long rides as well. Moreover, you can also hone your riding skills by taking it to the race track.
Photography by Kaustubh Gandhi
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