HUSQVARNA SVARTPILEN 401 (2018 - on) Review
- Off-road looks, on-road manners
- Based on proven KTM 390 Duke
- Highly fashionable urban enduro
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£140|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
The launch of the Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 was a funny thing. It was the second time in six years that I have been at the unveiling of a new range of Husqvarna street motorcycles. The last time, which was in 2012, involved BMW talking about the Nuda 900. Now, in 2018, we have a KTM man in a Husqvarna shirt introducing a range of single cylinder models inspired by the brand’s heritage. To be fair, Husky do have a two-wheeled history spanning back to 1903, so they have a lot of heritage to draw inspiration from – it’s just their parentage in recent times that gets somewhat confusing!
To clear matters up, Husqvarna is now owned by KTM and as a result their bikes share several major components. The Vitpilen 701 borrows KTM’s 690 Duke motor while the Vitpilen 401 and Svartpilen 401 use the 390 Duke engine. And that’s not the only similarities…
As well as the motor, the Husqvarna model share the Duke’s chassis, brakes, WP suspension, most of the exhaust and its ride-by-wire throttle system. But there is a major difference, where the 390 Duke is entirely built in India by Bajaj before being shipped to Europe, Husqvarna’s models are assembled in Austria. Although this is a bit of a charade as lot of the components are prebuilt in India, but more on that later…
Consisting of the Svartpilen (black arrow in Swedish) and Vitpilen (white arrow), Husqvarna’s two new 401 models are designed to appeal to fashion-conscious urban riders. They are machines that rely more on their funky styling to sell rather than their actual performance. Much like an Apple product, Husky are hoping riders will buy into the lifestyle (and be prepared to pay a premium for it) as much as the fact that they deliver excellent urban commuting potential. Is this a wise move? That remains to be seen, but at least the basics are there for those wishing to exploit their congestion-busting ability.
Styled to look like an urban enduro, the Svartpilen does have some nice touches. Wire wheels, Pirelli tyres, a cool exhaust end can, removable pillion peg hangers, neat fuel filler cap, wide bars, adjustable levers and its name embossed on the top yoke add an element of ‘premium’ while its stubby look is sleek and modern. But this style comes at a cost and not only a financial one…
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
Despite its off-road look, the Svartpilen rides well and its 17-inch wheels with only marginally chunky-style rubber ensures it handles naturally and doesn’t forsake agility in the name of fashion. The WP suspension delivers a nice balance between sports and comfort, the brakes and ABS are good and if it wasn’t for a hideous seat that seriously lacks padding, there would be little to complain about.
EngineNext up: Reliability
Using the 390 Duke as a base has ensured that the Husqvarna rides and drives excellently. The Duke’s 375cc single has enough grunt for urban use and its ride-by-wire throttle is spot on in terms of feel and connection. The gearbox is a little on the clunky side, but this is a bike at the budget end of the spectrum and it is nothing that will ruin the experience for newer riders.
There's an automatic clutch kit available for the Svartpilen 401 built by a company called Rekcluse. It turns your bike into a twist-and-go. Read more here.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
The 390 Duke is a solid machine that is now in its second generation, so there is little to suggest the Svartpilen will be unreliable. Although many of its components are manufactured in India, the actual bike is assembled in Austria, which is reassuring.
Our Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 owners' reviews show fairly positive comments, although there are two issues reported - one poor build quality and the other a bad experience with a dealer.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
The Svartpilen cost nearly £1000 more than the KTM 390 Duke when launched, despite sharing most of its components including its frame, engine and suspension. Husky claim potential buyers will be prepared to pay a premium as it is a lifestyle product, whether this proves accurate or not is yet to be seen…
The Svartpilen comes with some neat features such as a slipper clutch, Bosch ABS, WP suspension, radial brakes, spoke wheels and Pirelli Scorpion Rally tyres. However, unlike the Duke, its dash isn’t full-colour and lacks connectivity – that said it does have a gear indicator and fuel gauge.
Husky will sell you a range of optional extras, including an Akrapovic slip-on exhaust can, a fly screen and a smartphone bracket.
|Engine type||Liquid-cooled, 4v, single|
|Frame type||Tubular steel trellis|
|Fuel capacity||9.5 litres|
|Front suspension||43mm, WP forks non-adjustable|
|Rear suspension||Single WP rear shock, adjustable spring preload|
|Front brake||1 x 320mm disc with ByBre four-piston radial caliper|
|Rear brake||230mm single disc with single-piston caliper|
|Front tyre size||110/70 x 17|
|Rear tyre size||150/60 x 17|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||-|
|Annual road tax||£45|
|Annual service cost||£140|
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||two years|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||42 bhp|
|Max torque||27.3 ft-lb|
|Top speed||100 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
Model history & versions
2018: Husqvarna launch the Svartpilen and Vitpilen 401 models.
The Vitpilen 401 is café racer styled with Metzeler M5 tyres and clip-on bars. It comes in white where the Svartpilen is black.
Owners' reviews for the HUSQVARNA SVARTPILEN 401 (2018 - on)
7 owners have reviewed their HUSQVARNA SVARTPILEN 401 (2018 - on) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£140|
Annual servicing cost: £150
Good looking city commuter and nice bike for kart track
Nice in the city, but boring on highways, never went more than 50 km from home :D
Built quality is not perfect, but I had no problems.
Almost same as cheaper duke 390, but much more beautiful :)
There is no connector for phone charger, no connector for alarm. Led headlight looks and works nicely.
Annual servicing cost: £200
A great concept with striking looks, light weight, good handling and sufficient punch for town and outskirts riding - but undermined by some quality control issues.
On handling and ride, it’s well set up for 70 - 75kg riders in a town or country environment. Front forks are great and wide bars give brilliant leverage. Rear can be a little abrupt with its damping so consider trying a preload tweak - but it’s generally great for scything through traffic in urban, A or B road environments. Feels a little out of its depth on a motorway but that may be a function of the compact frame and wheelbase. Brakes are more than sufficient, though the inner front disc rusts a little too easily. And that seat is actually quite comfortable for an hour IF the rider is the right shape. Take a long test ride. If you have a problem, chances are it will be the shape / sharp edges of the side panels causing you discomfort.
Brilliant for a sub-400cc thumper. Great pull through to 60mph. Well set gear ratios help. Mine burned very little oil considering that it has a relatively aggressive state of tune for a single cylinder street bike. And the noise through the stock exhaust should make an owner think twice about the need for an aftermarket end can.
Most core components are fine. Largely corrosion-free in 18 months (despite mainly British coastal use) save for the front disc, accessory headlight guard (worst corrosion offender by far - avoid!) the odd fastener and tyre valve nuts. Then again, it got regular coats of XCP Rust Blocker. Engine has been faultless. Only significant issue has been the ‘yogurt pot’ dash, which had condensation after 10 months and then began to fill with water droplets. Took dealer over half a year to source and fit a new one. Thank heavens I was lucky enough to have a Honda in the garage as well.
Was charged just under £200 for the 1 year service and £150 for the running in check and oil change. On a single cylinder naked. And they refitted the seat back incorrectly and didn’t feel the need to adjust or re-oil the chain. Bit steep. Fuel economy is great, though. Pushing on backroads yields 65 mpg. Gentle town work can go higher than 85mpg without trying too hard. Needs to be good, though, as the tank is a little too small and the fuel gauge is comically indecisive.
Standard Pirelli tyres are way grippier on Tarmac than I expected and warm up quickly. Bit noisy but not too annoying. ABS is good, non-intrusive and can be switched off if that matters to you. Dash is a real weak point. Never mind the poor quality and possibly leak-prone plastic design (see forums - and as I’ve seen the insides of one, I’d urge Husqvarna to bin it ASAP for a higher quality item), anything other than speed is really hard to read at a glance. And the standard mirrors are cheap, ugly and vibey. Husky’s own bar ends are wonderful, non-vibey and well-made (unlike the headlight guard) but they do add further width to some already wide handlebars and at the wrong height for regular filtering. Luggage options exist but are very limited. You’ll be wearing a rucksack.
Buying experience: Paid £3999 to a dealer for a preregistered 0 mile bike with some extras thrown in. Do not pay full price for one if you can help it. They seem to be an acquired taste and don’t fly out of showrooms at the RRP. Dealer experience wasn’t what I’d hoped. Real shame for me as I really like the other brands they have but am nervous about trusting them after ownership experience with this bike. Dash troubles made me chop the bike in for a Yamaha after eventually getting a new dash. Less mpg but sooo much higher quality build.
Version: Svartpilen 401
Annual servicing cost: £100
Gorgeous bike, lots of grunt, great for zipping around and solid on motorways. Buy the 2020 colour scheme (it changed late in 2019 from the black and yellow) as this is better looking in my opinion. Looks nice and chunky. Seat height could be a bit lower - I'm 5' 10" and it feels tall as I can only just put my feet flat. Anyone shorter than that may stuggle a little.
Doesn't feel skittish, good solid feel and handles motorways well.
Sounds a little like a petrol lawnmower, when yoiu first buy one it's almost impossible to find neutral but after a couple of hundred miles this eases off and it slips in there nicely. Takes a little getting used to but worth it.
Nearly done 1,000 miles, feels premium quality but am having a slight fault with ignition as key doesn't easily switch on. Dealer happy to resolve. This bike feels like a premium one. I researched before buying and Husky have made bikes for over 100 years - we've just not seen them on the road due to their focus on enduro sports. Great bike, love riding it am thinking of buying a 701 Svart as well.
Cheap to run but tank could be bigger. Cost me about £7-£8 to fill up and seems to get through fuel quicker than expected. When full it tells me that it has a 120 mile range - this doesn't seem to be the case. Halve that amount at it would be more accurate.
Solid quality brakes and throttle feel. Could do with a colour display but the one it has is good - nice and clear and easy to see in sunlight. The illuminated controls are really handy an a bonus for a budget bike. Doesn't look and feel like a budget like though. I get people stopping me and asking questions about it a lot.
Buying experience: Slow delivery from Austria - mainly due to covid restrictions.
Annual servicing cost: £150
Looks great. Surprisingly quick. Very light. Sounds great with a Leo Vince exhaust and the tail tidy improves the rear end. Would definitely recommend. I downsized from a Triumph Street Scrambler which I loved, but don't regret it.
Reviews complain about the seat which would be understandable if you were going to spend hours on the bike. But you quickly get used to its firm nature and the riding position is great. Having ABS on such a cheap bike is a bonus.
Never ceases to surprise me how perky the engine is and it revs through the range really well. It's not slow.
Have owned for a year and no reliability issues. Small amount of surface rust on some areas but no more than reasonable to expect.
600 mile service was a normal price which was a surprise as its usually parts only. But excellent mpg even when you give it some beans.
Not a great deal of rider aids but has all you need. Fuel gauge and abs, and great looking led headlight.
Buying experience: Bought new from GH Motorcycles in Colchester. Great little dealer and would definitely recommend.
Love the soling and ride is great. Not a fan of the low number plate holder. Mudguards are far too small for the Uk, have bought & fitted extenders. Don't expect Honda reliability, check the forums first as some bikes are 100% reliable whilst others were poorly built. Quite a few electrical issues with the ECU, . starter soleniod & battery leads causing stalling. Some owners have returned for a refund.as dealer cannot resolve
Can't fault, just about right. Had a SMR511 before so used to the hard seat.
Engine appears to be strong but still running in. Clutch is noisy when cold & clutch level/cable 'cracks' going down the gears.
Build quality on my bike is really disappointing. Broke down twice within first 100 miles with electrical problems. Annoying vibration from throttle switchgear. Logo disappearing off the exhaust can. On full tank the there is a knocking from the front of the bike/tank.
£4000 otr is a great deal is you have a well built one.
Good, Like the illuminated switch gear
Buying experience: Dealer support good.
This is the slowest bike I've owned, the last one being a Tuono... But it's also the most fun, reminding me of my SV650n, though really the Husky feels a lot better built. It also looks great, really great. Makes me happy everytime I'm taking it, right now I wouldn't change it for anything else, regardless of price/power or reputation. Surprised it's only getting a 3 star rating!?
The front brake has more than what you need, bite and feel! Most reviews seem to mention the suspension is on the soft side, can't say I've noticed, I weigh 82kgs and I surely wouldn't want it went firmer.
I actually went to the dealer to test ride a Vitpilen 701, they also had a Svartpilen 401, tried both, bought the 401, no hesitation whatsoever. I thought small capacity engines were for beginners only, having had much more powerful bikes. Was I wrong, this little engine is a beast, so much fun extracting 100% of its power, something you couldn't do in the twisties (or any public road really...) with anything north of 100bhp.
Buying experience: Bought an ex demo bike from a dealer here in France, the salesperson (or teenage boy really...) was a bit of a joke, the bike wasn't ready as agreed when I arrived (1000kms service undone) and he forgot to give me the owners manual and service book with the bike, he also gave me the another bike's paperwork which could have been a problem (insurance!) had I not noticed it! Anyhow I had the bike at a good price and everything is now in order so I'm still happy with the way things went...
Version: Svartpilen 401
Annual servicing cost: £100
Excellent bike does everything very well, great in town or motorway. Tyres won't let go. Brakes are more than good enough for a light bike. If I had another I would flat track race it in a heartbeat. If you have not risen one go and book a test ride.
Rides well local or motorway. Brakes fine for a light bike.
Revs well and gets about.
Never missed a beat, plenty of equipment. Good build but as all bikes now I would like less plastic.
Not cost me anything yet.
Got everything you need what more is there.
Buying experience: After a test ride at MCN show I called DK Motorcycles who I have had several bikes from, they did me a good deal and delivered.