KTM 390 ADVENTURE (2020 - on) Review
- Exciting power delivery
- Quality suspension
- Good spec for the money
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£80|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
It’s been a long time coming for this KTM 390 Adventure review. Roughly six seconds after the addictively rorty, naughty 390 Duke was launched way back in 2013, imaginations started running wild. What if the Austrian dirt experts could take that same lightweight, approachable and addictively engaging recipe, but mix in several scoops of unmatched off-road expertise?
The result could be everything from an everyman enduro, like a modern-day Suzuki DR-Z400S, to the starting point for a rugged rally replica, like a more affordable version of CCM’s GP450.
Seven years, several spy shots and countless premature headlines later, the 390 Adventure finally arrived, complete with a spec sheet capable of delivering and more than a passing resemblance to it's mud-plugging bigger brothers; the 790 and 1290 Adventure.
With a water-cooled, four-stroke 373cc single in the middle, complete with a slipper clutch and strong six-speed gearbox, it is the final piece in KTM's A2-licence-friendly arsenal - sitting alongside the sports-centric RC390 and upright 390 Duke.
Thankfully, the thrapping single was well worth the wait, impressing both at its world launch and on England's undulating road network. In performance terms, there's enough on offer to serve up a decent road ride and its easy-going nature will make commuters or the less experienced grin from ear to ear.
If you want to cover some decent distance, it’ll also oblige, although wind blast and vibrations will take their toll eventually. Being a KTM, it's also not afraid to get its hands dirty - capable of tackling a light trail when the mood takes you, but slightly let down by its road bike ergonomics.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
The 390 is not a hardcore rally bike for square-chinned Dakar wannabes – instead it’s for riders dipping a toe in muddy waters for the frist time. It is, say KTM, "aimed squarely at motorcyclists who are profoundly curious but perhaps unaccustomed to light off-roading."
The Adventure differs from the Duke by virtue of longer suspension, with 170mm of wheel travel from the adjustable WP forks and 177mm from the longer shock. There’s also a taller 19-inch front wheel to help it roll over off-road obstacles, with new tyre sizes of 100/90 x 19 and 130/80 x 17.
Seat height is 855mm and at 5ft 7in our tester can reach the ground with her toes. The LED instrument panel is clear and easy to read and a switch to the left gives the option of Tarmac or Dirt mode. There’s lean-sensitive ABS and traction control, too; not bad for £5499 (2020 launch price).
Life on the 390 is easy-going, with the rider sitting comfortably in a well-proportioned, typically adventure bike position. The seamless action of the quickshifter makes the ride even easier and strong acceleration from low down means overtaking slow-moving is a breeze - perfect for commuters. It also sounds good, too.
Carving through narrow alleys, up steep hillsides lined with old, derelict stone constructions and across bridges that look thousands of years old at the launch, the Adventure 390 pulls properly, using its 43bhp to good effect.
This nifty little lightweight can be chucked into corners with gusto and the WP APEX 43mm upside down forks and rear shock work well. The shock’s slightly excitable on rough roads at speed, however. Adding five clicks of rebound damping calms it down, improving ride quality. Each fork leg has its own spring, with the left regulating compression damping and the right looking after rebound. Adjusting them is easy, too.
But how does the KTM 390 Adventure handle off road?
Despite KTM's off-road credentials, the 390 Adventure, surprisingly, never stops feeling like a road bike. Stand up and the low handlebars make you stoop forwards awkwardly. On the lumps and bumps along a brisk gravel trail its suspension offers much less sympathy than rivals like the Royal Enfield Himalayan, too.
And while the 390’s motor feels frisky when ridden hard on the road, it’s a little breathless at the more sedate revs used on trails. Put a foot down and you’re aware of its tall seat height, too.
There are tricks up the KTM’s sleeves, however. It has the safety net of traction control, which you can switch off if you prefer on dirt, while the clever ABS system has an off-road setting to let you lock the rear. The gear pedal’s flip-up tip is a nice touch too, and standard handguards are very welcome. A measured kerb weight of 173kg with a full tank helps with manoeuvrability also.
EngineNext up: Reliability
It’s a frantic, eager, impatient little nymph, one that relishes being revved hard. The short-stroke 390 motor makes peak torque way up at 7000rpm and really wants to spend its life from there to the 10,000 redline.
Producing 43bhp, it holds 80mph easily and can carry on to tickle the fringes of 100mph. It’s buzzy though, with vibes tingling through the bars and pegs at cruising speed - made worse by the knobbly Continental TKC 70 tyres. The wind protection’s lacking, even after adjusting its short screen to the higher of its two positions, while the seat’s firm too.
And being tempted into carrying higher speeds drains the tank a lot faster – the KTM’s economy drops to just 62mpg in brisk riding, though that’s still enough to give an easy 150 miles between fillups.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
With impressive spec, decent build quality and a 24 month manufacturer warranty from new, there is no reason to suspect the 390 will be unreliable. What's more, owners reviews on its single-cylinder siblings; the RC390 and Duke 390, show nothing but glowing praise.
As some of these machines will be purchased by new riders and others by budding off-roaders, keep an eye out for the usual tell-tale signs of crash damage and neglect on the used market.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
That sensible 43bhp and light weight makes it great fun on trails and at just £5499 (2020 prices), this little funster could prove a surprise hit for 2020.
BMW’s G310GS is a tad cheaper (£5320), but not as accomplished as the KTM. Honda’s CB500X offers bigger cc for just £700 more, but it only has 3bhp more and won’t tackle the trails as well as the 390 Adventure. It's also a rival to the Honda CRF250 Rally, Suzuki V-Strom 250, Kawasaki Versys-X 300 and Royal Enfield 400cc Himalayan.
Royal Enfield Himalayan or KTM 390 Adventure?
We recently tested the KTM against the Royal Enfield and both bikes provide something different to the would-be A2 adventurer. Pick the KTM and you get a 12V power socket, a colour TFT dash, Bluetooth phone connectivity, backlit switchgear and an optional quickshifter.
Pick the Enfield and you get a centrestand, fork gaiters and a choke lever that doesn’t stop the motor stalling when cold. One is built on tried and trusted tradition, the rugged beauty of simplicity and a 119-year legacy. The other thrives on vibrant, sharp-edged modernity, youth appeal and shameless excitement.
In some ways the KTM 390 Adventure vs Himalayan proposition might be polar opposites, but they’re both trying to appeal to the same audience: from A2-licence-clutching novices to veteran road riders dipping a boot into the adventure world for the first time. They just go about it in very, very different ways...
Judged as road bikes, the KTM wins hands-down. The Adventure is so much faster, lighter, more sophisticated and, most of all, so much more fun. It might be a little more expensive than the Himalayan, but that £1100 difference is completely justified when you compare the spec of the two bikes, from the KTM’s superior-quality suspension to its 21st-century technology. With almost twice the power – not to mention brakes that can stop by 2020 standards – the 390 has a night-and-day dynamic edge.
But when it comes to which is the better adventure bike, that’s where things get tougher. Because the one that’d make life easier when the off-roading got rougher and tougher, and the one that you might stand a chance of repairing with a blunt twig in the middle of a rainforest during monsoon season, is the Himalayan.
So for the road, it’s the KTM. But for a real adventure, it’s the Royal Enfield.
KTM 390 Adventure vs Sinnis Terrain 380
The KTM 390 Adventure, like the Sinnis Terrain 380, has an A2-ready motor, adventure-sized cast wheels, all-LED lights, clever colour clocks, semi-knobbly tyres and plenty of dirty thoughts.
The two share something else in common. The Sinnis isn’t built by Sinnis: it’s made in China by Zongshen. And the KTM isn’t built by KTM, but by Indian firm Bajaj. In the car world this is known as badge engineering. In the case of the 390 Adventure, it’s Bajaj engineering…
The Sinnis is surprisingly heavy. Sinnis quote a kerb weight of 200kg – on paper, which would be a lot for a bike in this sector. But actually, with its 18-litre fuel tank brimmed and that three-piece aluminium luggage fitted, the Terrain is 240kg ready to ride. That’s considerably more than the KTM’s 174kg and far more than can be accounted for by the Sinnis’s luggage.
Compared to the Sinnis, the KTM feels small. Not its seat height (it’s an inch taller than the Sinnis) but the overall sense that you’re looking down on a slim little waif of a bike. The 390’s handlebars are set wide but unexpectedly low. After the Sinnis, the KTM feels like you are sitting on a kayak trying to hold the paddle down near the water.
The KTM’s seat is a lot firmer, its TFT dash is smaller, and the bodywork and screen are far less prominent and protective. At the same 60-ish cruising speed it exposes a rider to way more windblast. At first, having just jumped off the sensible and sizeable Sinnis, the KTM feels like a toy.
But toys are supposed to be fun, and the 390 offers plenty of that. The single-cylinder motor is frisky and lively, snapping through its revs sharply and crisply, and charging with cheeky glee all the way to its 10,000rpm redline. It loves to be worked hard, giving plenty back to a rider who’s prepared to put plenty into it.
Despite being a cylinder down, the KTM’s motor is the faster of the two, with a 20% power advantage over the Sinnis. And all while returning far more miles per gallon and able to cover more than twice the distance between valve checks. Taller gearing keeps revs lower than the Terrain along the faster, more open A-road stretches, making the motor feel less laboured.
And when roads tighten up into the tricky technical bits on the B-road loop, the KTM shines even brighter. It snaps into corners with more speed, precision, control and sheer enthusiasm than the Sinnis. WP suspension keeps things far more composed, Continental tyres grip harder, and the ByBre front brake bites with instant intent. There’s more feel for the road and more response from every part of the chassis, giving more encouragement to hold on to your hard-earned momentum.
That sophistication extends to the KTM’s electronics too. Traction control and lean-sensitive ABS are standard, a two-way quickshifter is optional (£218), and if you pair the dash to your phone it can display turn-by-turn directions. But to bring the 390’s practicality in line with the Sinnis costs extra: crash bars are £140; panniers, topbox and mounts total £915; and there’s no centrestand in the catalogue.
With switchgear for the Playstation generation, the 390 Adventure’s back-lit four- button pad provides access to the 5in TFT screen’s various menus and settings. This display has big clear speedo, as much (or as little) trip info as you like, an eight-bar fuel gauge, tank range countdown and loads more. What's more, you can also connect to your phone via bluetooth, then display turn-by-turn satnav directions using KTM’s My Ride connected app.
Elsewhere, the standard 390 comes with a black plastic bashguard, which looks okay but won’t stand up to much abuse. KTM offers a much tougher, aluminium version for an extra £165. Small, powerful LED lights look good and work well, too. There’s still that split face, but the design has been refined and now looks striking rather than plain weird!
To truly make it your own, there are actually no less than 160 KTM Powerparts available, allowing you to spec your machine to almost any scenario.
|Engine type||Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, single|
|Fuel capacity||14.5 litres|
|Front suspension||WP APEX 43mm upside down, fully adjustable|
|Rear suspension||WP APEX adjustable return damping and spring|
|Front brake||Single 320mm disc, four-piston radial caliper|
|Rear brake||Single 230mm disc, single-piston floating caliper|
|Front tyre size||100/90x19|
|Rear tyre size||130/80x17|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||84 mpg|
|Annual road tax||£44|
|Annual service cost||£80|
|Used price||£4,800 - £5,500|
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two year|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||44 bhp|
|Max torque||27.3 ft-lb|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
Model history & versions
2020: KTM 390 Adventure launched.
Owners' reviews for the KTM 390 ADVENTURE (2020 - on)
3 owners have reviewed their KTM 390 ADVENTURE (2020 - 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:||£80|
Annual servicing cost: £50
Amazing handling, great brakes. Superb price / value ratio, with the LCD dash and the traction control, ABS (normal, offroad) etc. The one cylinder engine is a little bit noisy and do not like the life under 3500 rpm, but above 6000 it is very enjoyable and colorfull. Cruising speed is arond 120-130 km/h without any problem, so great for longer travel. Perfect for commuting in the city, with low consumption (3,3 litre / 100 km) and light offroad on the weekends.
Very good, strong brakes, with good ABS.
This bike takes me back 45 years and why I got into riding. It’s a blast. Lightweight, easy to ride. Perfect for a retiring old fella like me! Dirt roads to destination then enough guts to do the twistes back home. Just what the doctor ordered!
I know more as I rack up the miles but did I say easy to ride!
Is a little weak down low but for where I’m riding it’ll be fine. Some dirt roads some blacktop. 50, 60 miles jaunts.
12volt plug. Keeps my phone charged.
Buying experience: Paid recommend msrp. No dealer mark up other than freight.
Annual servicing cost: £100
A perfect learner or great option for a returning rider.
Easy to ride and comfortable for about an hour - then the saddle starts to feel a bit hard. However, this might ease as it breaks in and there is plenty of room to shift around from the narrow front to the flatter rear.
Great, peppy little single that has more than enough power to overtake and have fun. I'm still under 7000 rpm until the first service and that's when it gets better apparently so I can't wait.....
Great fit and finish. No complaints at all. For the price it's amazing that they can build such a solid and light bike!
Early days as I still have to do the 1000km service but I can't get over the fact it takes about $10 to fill the tank which will do my commute to Sydney city for a week! (my car is $100)
Amazing level of tech for pricce. I see reviews on much more expensive bikes without TFT or corner ABS etc + you can turn off traction and rear ABS if you like. Also you can run sat nav from KTM phone app which I haven't seen on any other learner bikes!! When you add adjustable from and rear suspension too it is very difficult if not impossible to find a bike with the same specs for less cash...
Buying experience: KTM dealer was very good and arranged insurance and didn't over sell when I went to test ride against the cheaper duke 390. That said, when you ride both back to back it will be obvious which one you want depending on use etc.