Kawasaki Z 300, KTM 390 Duke and Yamaha MT-03 in the test

Kawasaki Z 300, KTM 390 Duke and Yamaha MT-03 in the test

300cc bikes in comparison

Faster Higher Further? There is another way. Kawasaki Z 300, KTM 390 Duke and Yamaha MT-03 counteract the performance craze with smart style and moderate tariffs. And: There are good reasons why these lively baby runabouts are booming.

Iris grins both cheeks as she pulls off the Yamaha MT-03 get off. The 26-year-old assistant to MOTORRAD boss Pfeiffer takes another look over the blue and white naked bike, the Kawasaki, and the KTM and lights a cigarette with relish. Sure, some will now think: young, small, light, female – the typical clientele for such bonsai nakeds. In the current biker demographics, however, not much more than a fringe group. But firstly, Iris drives a Kawasaki ZX-6R through the country in real life, and secondly, she would be on a 300 at every motorcycle meeting in contemporary company.

Kawasaki Z 300, KTM 390 Duke and Yamaha MT-03 in the test

300cc bikes in comparison

Kawasaki Z 300. Basically, she paved the way for what we call third-liter bikes. In 2008 as a disguised Ninja 250, then as a 300 and since last year as the defoliated naked frog Z 300. Understandable that Yamaha is now hurrying up, the YZF-R3, which was introduced last year, quickly tore the case off and now with her as Yamaha MT-03 that attracts bikers. Yes, bikers. Not just young, small, light or women. Because if around 2500 motorcyclists now push a 300 into their garage every year, there must be more to these bikes than their A2 driving license.

Last but not least, a small price tag. 5000 euros are enough. Some lightweight mountain bikes cost more. And even that usually occurs in a low-wage country. Like the test trio. Tea Kawasaki Z 300 is made in Thailand, the KTM 390 Duke in India and the Yamaha MT-03 in Indonesia. Keyword costs. Synergy matters. Technically, the nude differ only marginally from their disguised sisters. Only higher handlebars and newly styled lamps separate the hunched from the upright. The initially unequal sisters share the frame, suspension and wheels in harmony. The engines anyway.

And for the first time also the 1000-point ranking by MOTORRAD. Because while the 300 league had to be characterized exclusively prosaically in the past, now the moment of truth strikes. Therefore: Butter with the Backfische, uh, points evaluation for Kawasaki Z 300, KTM 390 Duke and Yamaha MT-03.

Relaxed sitting on 300cc naked bikes?

Perhaps for this reason the dutiful Iris is already back in the saddle. This time in that of the KTM 390 Duke. It slides effortlessly into the 79 cm high seating (Kawasaki and Yamaha: 78 cm). But the moderate seat height is only the beginning of the charm offensive of thesis bikes. Everything is a tad narrower, slimmer, shorter and lower than with conventional mid-range machines. At the first contact, the trio looks like washed too hot. Which is meant positively. Because the 300 series naked bikes come across as sociable and personable. And don’t worry: even medium-sized pilots don’t have to fold up uncomfortably. On the contrary. You sit completely relaxed on the Yamaha MT-03 and on the Kawasaki Z 300 with your upper body bent a bit further forward. Both fit. In comparison, you are more likely to reside on the KTM 390 Duke than in the motorcycle, and thanks to the firm seat padding you have the most intimate contact with the base. Only the footrests mounted far to the rear do not really match the sporty ergonomics of the Duke and do not make it easy to build up body tension for the brisk corners.

Yamaha MT-03 – the best of both worlds

Iris is already rolling out of the parking lot. The little single chugs out of his underfloor silencer, cheeky and a little tinny. Oh yes, single cylinder. On the engine side, there is a demarcation line between the KTM 390 Duke and the rest of the duo. With 373 cm³, the Austrian designers put more displacement in one pot than their colleagues from Kawasaki (296 cm³) and Yamaha (320 cm³) in their two tanks. That has consequences. Like its fat, big 690 sisters, the short-stroke single rattles roughly to itself below 3000 rpm, only then takes a breath. When the short-stroke engine kicks off, the two two-cylinder engines are left behind. With 44 HP, it not only presses more decisively than the Kawasaki Z 300 (39 HP) and the Yamaha MT-03 (41 HP) on the dyno role, but above all, with a torque that is up to 50 percent higher at mid -speed, it forces the smaller-volume competition into it the knees. But: The usable range between the untidy engine speed range at 3000 / min, the torque dent at 5000 / min (see again diagram) and the limit at 10,000 / min remains narrow, demands an alert pilot. If you do not flick into the next higher gear in time when overtaking, the rev limiter will quickly interrupt your brisk march past. Nevertheless: Anyone who knows how to take the single is always amazed at the impressive pressure from the small pressure cooker.

The drive of the Kawasaki Z 300 climbed to the opposite end of the speed ladder, so to speak. Speeds? The more the better. The twin turns up completely effortlessly and lively, hardly vibrates, basks in the role of the tweeter. Especially because the fluffy gearshift and the easy-to-pull clutch (anti-hopping and servo function!) Make it even easier to let the 300 cheer. This is probably one of the reasons why you don’t miss a single moment of the few missing horses, instead tapping into the engine speed reserve that reaches up to 12,600 rpm with every start or overtaking maneuver.

And what about the unit of the Yamaha MT-03 equipped with a cylinder offset of seven millimeters for lower internal friction? Almost exactly between the KTM 390 Duke and the Kawasaki Z 300. MT – the abbreviation for Maximum Torque – logically remains relative in a small-volume environment. The drive actually tends to concentrate on its mid-speed range. The 320 twin presses earlier and more powerfully than the Kawa and more cultivated than the KTM, only to then purr through the rev range hardly less committed than the Z 300. You could almost say: It combines the best of both worlds. Especially since the Yamaha propellant is also otherwise at the top, supports the triple dance necessary in this displacement class through the gears with precisely shifted gearbox and easy-to-dose clutch.

300 class redefines handling

Iris knows where the strengths of the trio lie and turns off at an inconspicuous intersection. Narrow streets, tight curves, bumpy asphalt – and no traffic. Legoland for the Playmobil squad. The closer the asphalt winds around bends in the stream or meadow slopes, the more confidently the three jockey figures throw themselves into their petite chests. Handling, this term is to a certain extent redefined by the Kawasaki Z 300, KTM 390 Duke and Yamaha MT-03. Who is there first – the curve or the corresponding lean angle? This question only arises on such pocket-sized racers. Especially on the KTM 390 Duke. With the lowest weight (152 kg), the shortest wheelbase, the slimmest waist and the best tires (Metzeler Sportec M5) of the troop, the Duke literally falls into a corner frenzy. Aiming at the line, bending it – everything succeeds with a seldom experienced ease. Taking the momentum with you – by the way, the most important of all driving tips in this class – is more successful with hardly any motorcycle. Great. And the Yamaha MT-03 also celebrates a successful debut in this regard. This is surprising at first. After all, the MT-03 – which, incidentally, takes over this model name, strangely enough, unchanged from the 660 single-cylinder that expired in 2013 – weighs an impressive 17 kg more than the KTM at 169 kilograms.

But the combination of the light engine running typical of a low-displacement two-cylinder and the apparently successful mass distribution makes it subjectively hardly feel heavier than the KTM, ultimately sliding around corners on Michelin Pilot Street tires just as sleekly as the KTM 390 Duke.

Tea Kawasaki Z 300 has other preferences. The longest wheelbase (1405 mm) and the flattest steering angle (64 degrees) give the 172 kilo Z 300 a completely different, calm, but also somewhat more sedate driving experience. And not only that moderates the momentum at Eckenwetz: With the IRC Road Winner tires, the Z 300 becomes infected with poor feedback and stiff handling. Ultimately, these tires cost the Kawasaki a lot of sympathy. Actually a shame, because both the brakes (see box in the booklet: page 58) and the suspension don’t let the Z burn. Sensitive and with the largest reserves in comparison, the spring elements sniff up bumps.

Above all, the KTM 390 Duke looks valuable

The Yamaha MT-03 offers a bit more fluffiness at the provincial rodeo, also because of the comfortable seat. The reserves of the Kawa suspension cannot be matched by the slightly damped spring elements of the MT-03. Especially not that of the KTM. The stucky, appealing fork and the equally stubborn shock absorber from WP Suspension spoil the fun on the nimble Duke, of all things, in its parade discipline, despite the longest suspension travel (150 mm front and rear). That cannot be changed with standard resources. Because on all three machines only the spring base on the monoshock can be adjusted. Witness the cost pressures. Just like the rust-prone sheet metal silencers or the non-adjustable clutch levers. But apart from that, it will take a long time to look for the consequences of penny-pinching. Whether the consistently elaborate paintwork, the fully-fledged instruments or the neat welds – the trio looks valuable and properly processed. Especially the KTM 390 Duke. The exiled Austrian puts herself in the limelight with a radially mounted brake caliper, a strikingly drawn aluminum swing arm, an upside-down fork, illuminated switches and the design based on the great Duke. Certainly a decisive reason for your sales success.

Instead, savings are made at the petrol station. The KTM 390 Duke consumes just 3.3 liters per 100 kilometers, just a little more (3.7 l) the Kawasaki Z 300 and the Yamaha MT-03. With the impressive tank volume of the Z 300 of 17 liters, that’s enough for at least 400 kilometers, with the rest of the duo for 300 kilometers. And they can quickly pass on the baby runabouts. Not only because the three of them twist so lively on the country roads, but also give an unexpectedly brisk impression on the motorway. Constant speed 150 shakes everyone easily out of their little motor. Still: The track has never been a place for naked bikes. Especially not for the 300s. Back on the country road, hold the tachometer needle in the upper third of the scale again, take the momentum with you into every corner. Enjoy this driving pleasure again, which is not generated from the power on the throttle, but from the delight in the wonderfully lively handling and the simple controllability. Out of the feeling of always being in control of the situation, of being able to explore the limits – at a driving license-conserving speed and manageable costs. Ultimately, a healthy mix of emotion and reason.

Healthy mix wins

Which is why – we remember the premiere of the 1000-point rating on these bikes – the most successful mixture ultimately prevails in this test field. Because while the emotionally strong KTM 390 Duke weakens in terms of brakes and suspension and the sensitive Kawasaki Z 300 suffers from its tires, the new Yamaha MT-03 makes no mistakes and impresses with a straightforward and homogeneous debut. By the way: if you want to know, Iris’s favorite color is blue – possibly Yamaha Race Blu.

MOTORCYCLE test result

1. Yamaha MT-03: In the end, the new Yamaha prevails with an extremely homogeneous appearance. The engine pleases with its smooth running and liveliness, the chassis with comfortable suspension and excellent handling.

2. Kawasaki Z 300: You can’t get closer to victory. The Kawa pleases with the best suspension and the most revving engine, is stable and looks the most grown-up. The case would be scratched with better tires.

3. KTM 390 Duke: The bestseller at the bottom? With the lowest weight, the most powerful engine and the most agile handling, the KTM has the trumps in hand. But suspension and unsafe brakes screw up the performance.

Technical data Kawasaki Z 300

Technical data KTM 390 Duke

Technical data Yamaha MT-03

Used 300ccm naked bikes in price comparison

1000PS marketplace app

Naked bikes in the 300ccm class.

Thanks to their low maintenance costs, used motorcycles of the 300ccm class enjoy great popularity. The acquisition costs of the motorcycles are also usually very reasonable, which is good news for every novice driver. Compare prices here: used motorcycles of the 300ccm class.

Related articles

Related articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *