HUSQVARNA SVARTPILEN 401 (2018 - on) Review

Highlights

  • Off-road looks, on-road manners
  • Based on proven KTM 390 Duke
  • Highly fashionable urban enduro

At a glance

Owners' reliability rating: 3.9 out of 5 (3.9/5)
Annual servicing cost: £150
Power: 42 bhp
Seat height: Medium (32.9 in / 835 mm)
Weight: Low (331 lbs / 150 kg)

Prices

New £4,299
Used £4,000 - £4,200

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
3 out of 5 (3/5)

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 & brakes

Next up: Engine
3 out of 5 (3/5)

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.

Engine

Next up: Reliability
4 out of 5 (4/5)

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 quality

Next up: Value
4 out of 5 (4/5)

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 rivals

Next up: Equipment
3 out of 5 (3/5)

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…

Equipment

3 out of 5 (3/5)

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. 

Specs

Engine size 375cc
Engine type Liquid-cooled, 4v, single
Frame type Tubular steel trellis
Fuel capacity 9.5 litres
Seat height 835mm
Bike weight 150kg
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 £150
New price £4,299
Used price £4,000 - £4,200
Insurance group -
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 -
Tank range -

Model history & versions

Model history

2018: Husqvarna launch the Svartpilen and Vitpilen 401 models.

Other versions

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)

8 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.

Review your HUSQVARNA SVARTPILEN 401 (2018 - on)

Summary of owners' reviews

Overall rating: 4.1 out of 5 (4.1/5)
Ride quality & brakes: 4.4 out of 5 (4.4/5)
Engine: 4.8 out of 5 (4.8/5)
Reliability & build quality: 3.9 out of 5 (3.9/5)
Value vs rivals: 4 out of 5 (4/5)
Equipment: 3.8 out of 5 (3.8/5)
Annual servicing cost: £150
4 out of 5
16 July 2021 by Paul

Version: 401

Year: 2019

Annual servicing cost: £180

Really great fun to throw down a back road, I use mine for commuting all year round mainly using back roads and it's been brilliant. More than fast enough you can use all the power most of the time, handles really well on a bumpy surface and it's so light it changes direction like a house fly. The finish is mainly very good except for the engine cases that are starting to peel a bit despite using ACF50 & FS365.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

Ride isn't too bad, I did a longer run mainly on the A1 last summer and it was quite happy crusing around the legal limit, others have complained about the seat but I found it OK over a distance of around 160 miles. Brakes are OK, the standard pads are OK too but I might put something with more bite in at some point, the engine has lots of engine breaking available and there isn't too much weight to stop.

Engine 5 out of 5

Really great little unit, revs quite high but the power (all 44hp of it) is spread quite well, to get the best out it you need to be up above 6000rpm. Really smooth positive gear shift and a light clutch. Very cleaver motor to get 44hp out of 373cc's and have it all useable is a really neat trick.

Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5

It is a small budget bike and if you think of it like that it's really quite good. The finish is OK, some of the bolts start to show a bit of rust and the paint on the engine cases is peeling a bit but I do ride it through the winter. I did have the oil pressure switch fail which threw oil all over the side of the engine. It was fixed under warranty (although the deal would collect the bike but I had to go to them to get it back which was a bit annoying). The chain is not a quality part and stretched to it's limit by 5000 miles despite using a Scottoiler.

Value vs rivals 4 out of 5

Economical (I get 65mpg and don't hang around on it) and quite cheap to run, tanks a bit small though so range is limited. I go through a back tyre every 5000 miles too. Services are every 4500 miles which is once a year for me, (I use it for commuting and have a second bike for distance work).

Equipment 3 out of 5

It doesn't come with much as standard (small budget bike) you get ABS, and all the lights are LED's and there's a small but clear LCD dash but that's about it. The standard tank rack is useful and I got the optional rear one too (I wouldn't like to take a pillion on it anyway). Accessories are readily available, I made to most of lockdown time and put a tail tidy, less straight bars (bit more comfortable) heated grips (winter rider), de-cat pipe, headlamp cover etc.

Buying experience: Bought new from the dealer at the advertised price, had a test ride on a Vitpilen first and then rang back a week or so later to put a deposit on the Svartpilen. New at £3999

4 out of 5 Full helmet with smile for fair amount of money.
07 April 2021 by Peecis

Year: 2019

Annual servicing cost: £150

Good looking city commuter and nice bike for kart track

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

Nice in the city, but boring on highways, never went more than 50 km from home :D

Engine 5 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5

Built quality is not perfect, but I had no problems.

Value vs rivals 4 out of 5

Almost same as cheaper duke 390, but much more beautiful :)

Equipment 3 out of 5

There is no connector for phone charger, no connector for alarm. Led headlight looks and works nicely.

3 out of 5 Loved it till the ownership experience went sour.
10 January 2021 by Glads

Year: 2018

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.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

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.

Engine 5 out of 5

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.

Reliability & build quality 3 out of 5

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.

Value vs rivals 3 out of 5

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.

Equipment 4 out of 5

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.

5 out of 5 Awesome and fun with a serious side - smiles every time I ride it.
30 November 2020 by The Swede

Version: Svartpilen 401

Year: 2020

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.

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

Doesn't feel skittish, good solid feel and handles motorways well.

Engine 4 out of 5

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.

Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5

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.

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

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.

Equipment 4 out of 5

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.

4 out of 5 Great little runabout with unrivalled looks
21 August 2020 by Forty - something down sizer

Year: 2019

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.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

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.

Engine 5 out of 5

Never ceases to surprise me how perky the engine is and it revs through the range really well. It's not slow.

Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5

Have owned for a year and no reliability issues. Small amount of surface rust on some areas but no more than reasonable to expect.

Value vs rivals 4 out of 5

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.

Equipment 4 out of 5

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.

3 out of 5 Slightly dodgy build quality
18 January 2020 by Douglas Hill

Year: 2019

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

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

Can't fault, just about right. Had a SMR511 before so used to the hard seat.

Engine 4 out of 5

Engine appears to be strong but still running in. Clutch is noisy when cold & clutch level/cable 'cracks' going down the gears.

Reliability & build quality 2 out of 5

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.

Value vs rivals 4 out of 5

£4000 otr is a great deal is you have a well built one.

Equipment 3 out of 5

Good, Like the illuminated switch gear

Buying experience: Dealer support good.

5 out of 5 Good looks, agility and more fun than most!
16 September 2019 by Ben

Year: 2018

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!?

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

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.

Engine 5 out of 5

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.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5
Value vs rivals 4 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5

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...

5 out of 5 Svartpilen a bike for every day.
24 May 2019 by Christopher Smith

Version: Svartpilen 401

Year: 2018

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.

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

Rides well local or motorway. Brakes fine for a light bike.

Engine 5 out of 5

Revs well and gets about.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

Never missed a beat, plenty of equipment. Good build but as all bikes now I would like less plastic.

Value vs rivals 4 out of 5

Not cost me anything yet.

Equipment 5 out of 5

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.

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