The year 2017 marked the arrival of Bajaj Dominar 400 in the country. It was more affordable and comfortable than its chief rival and mechanical twin – KTM Duke 390. However, Bajaj could not sell a lot of them. In an attempt to score big numbers on the sales chart, Bajaj updated the Dominar 400 with a powerful iteration of the existing single-cylinder power plant along with upside forks at the front and a few more tweaks. While this worked in making the Dominar 400 a lucrative deal, it wasn’t enough to break the financial and psychological barrier that is often associated with a 400cc motorcycle. And, to work around it, Bajaj has now launched a smaller 250cc motorcycle under the Dominar umbrella. But, is it all the Dominar that buyers wanted from day 1? We find it out in our first ride review.
Bajaj Dominar 250 Review – Styling & Build Quality
The Dominar 250 gets a smaller numerical value for the suffix, but the dimensions stay identical to the bigger Dominar 400 just like the design. Body panels like front mudguard, headlamp cowl, fuel tank shrouds, rear cowl, dual-barrel exhaust muffler and more are borrowed from the Dominar 400. They give the smaller Dominar a big bike appeal. However, there are certain elements that see a reduction in size. In place of thicker 43 mm upside-down forks seen on the Dominar 400, lesser Dominar 250 gets 37 mm upside-down tubes. Also, the aluminium swing-arm has been replaced with a conventional box-section type unit.
The size reduction exercise is also followed on the tyres and the front brake rotor. The Dominar 250 gets a 300 mm brake rotor at the front, which is just 20 mm short of diameter than the disc seen on the Dominar 400. Furthermore, the tyre profiles are smaller as well. Interestingly, all of it helps the Dominar 250 with a lesser kerb weight of 180 kilograms, which is 7 kilos lesser than the bigger one.
Being a smaller member of the Dominar family, the instrument cluster here shows lesser information. Nevertheless, it gets a twin-display setup, where one screen in mounted on the handlebar while the other one sits on the fuel tank. But, it fails to show the gear you are in. Overall, the smaller Dominar should be appreciated for inheriting most of the significant traits from the bigger one. For the untrained eyes, it would be really tough to differentiate between the two, unless parked together as the swingarm act as a giveaway.
Talking of the build quality, Dominar 250 feels nicely put together a motorcycle. In comparison to the first-gen Dominar 400, the rattles and squeaks are hardly a point of concern here. Although, the finishing of the backlit switchgear could’ve been a little better as the signs of the casting process are easy to spot.
Bajaj Dominar 250 Review – Engine & Gearbox
The baby Dominar houses a 248.77 cc single-cylinder engine between its twin-spar frame. In comparison to the bigger Dominar 400, this motor gets one less spark plug. However, it continues to get the dual overhead cams to actuate 4 valves in total. Talking of the bore and stroke values, they are identical to that of the KTM Duke 250, but this motor runs on a reduced compression ratio. It belts out a peak power output of 27 PS at 8,500 rpm and a max torque of 23.5 Nm at 6,500 rpm.
On paper, these figures appear to be smaller than the competition, but that isn’t the case in reality. This engine possesses well-calibrated power and torque curves. The low-end is adequate to get going; the mid-range is strong and punchy. However, in the higher-revs, there isn’t much to explore. Bajaj claims that this engine gets the similar clutch and crank casing as the Duke 250’s motor, whereas every other part of the engine is redesigned to suit the Dominar’s character.
Filtering the output of the engine to the rear wheels is a 6-speed gearbox. It comes coupled to a wet, multi-plate clutch with slip and assist function. The clutch is light and progressive. Also, it is never a pain to use in the worst of the traffic jams. So is the case with the gearbox. Shift actions in both the directions are smooth without any clunky feel attached to them. The gear ratios, they seem to be designed with just one aspect in mind – cruising. While the first 5 gears offer a nice pull, the 6th gear boasts of an overdrive ratio, and it is best suited for the long highway hauls.
The Dominar 250 is not the fastest quarter-litre motorcycle on the planet, but it has the potential to be the most-capable mile-muncher in its segment. The engine and gearbox are a perfect match to each other and aid smaller Dominar’s cruising capabilities. Thus, triple-digit cruising can be said as its prime forte. But, this does not come at the cost of reduced tractability in the traffic or in the city streets. As the Dominar 250 can reach the speeds of 60 kmph from a standstill in under 4 seconds, while the 100 kmph mark comes up in under 10 seconds.
Since Dominar 250 gets a lower value of compression ratio than both Duke 250 and Dominar 400, it boasts of reduced NVH levels. Also, the engine temperature stays well in control, whatever the situation is. Additionally, it returns a better fuel efficiency figure of around 33 kmpl in city riding with ease.
Bajaj Dominar 250 Review – Ride & Handling
Bajaj has smartly made changes to the Dominar 250 to reduce its weight but keeping the same composure of the ride as the bigger Dominar 400. The suspension duties here are performed by 37 mm upside-down forks at the front and by a mono-shock at the rear, which also offers adjustability for pre-load. The suspension setup is apt at making the ride a comfortable affair. It can glide over potholes and speed bumps of any size with pretty ease without affecting the overall poise of the ride. Also, the suspension isn’t soft to an extent that it makes the overall riding experience a scary deal when braking, accelerating or tipping the bike in corners.
The heft, however, is felt at times. The Dominar 250 weighs in at 180 kilos and that coupled with a not-so-stiff suspension setup is not the best deal when exiting a corner with the throttle pinned to the max. But the Dominar 250 isn’t made to do that either. Talking of the brakes, it uses a 300 mm rotor at the front and 230 mm at the rear. They are governed by a dual-channel ABS system, which cannot be turned off. A bummer I’d say. The performance of this braking setup is appreciable. The front brake offers the right amount of feedback and initial bite, but the rear lacks them both. Thus, it would’ve been a nice touch, if the ABS could be turned off for the rear wheel.
The tyres here are skinnier than those seen on the bigger Dominar, but the smaller profiles help it with reduced rolling resistance. The front rim comes shod with a 100-section tyre, while the rear one gets a 130-section unit. They measure 17-inches in diameter and are sourced from MRF. The grips levels are adequate for both dry and wet conditions.
Talking of the ergonomics, the Dominar is the best in the business. Too tall a statement, we know. But, Bajaj has done a great job here. The rider sits in an upright seating position with elbows bent a little. The pegs are forward set, thereby improving the rider’s triangle. On the flip side, they intervene in the rider’s movement when tip-toeing in a traffic jam. To aid the rider’s comfort furthermore, the seat is nicely carved with the right amount of cushioning. Also, the pillion seat isn’t bad either. With this arsenal in place, one can haul over long distances of up to 300 kilometres in one go, as the Dominar 250 needs to take a halt for tank fill-up after that.
Bajaj Dominar 250 Review – Verdict
Overall, Bajaj Dominar 250 is a great bike to take the long highway routes at triple-digit speeds. It boasts of a respectable road presence as well, thanks to its Dominar 400-derived looks. With a refined engine and smooth gearbox in place at INR 1.64 lakh, it makes for a great motorcycle to tour around the country and streel in the city. However, if hooning around the space is what you wish to do, better look elsewhere. The heavy front-end is not wheelie-friendly; while the ABS system doesn’t let the rear wheel lose some grip. But, it offers rock-solid stability on highways at high speeds even in heavy crosswinds. This comes without comprising on the nimbleness that is required to filter the city chaos. Nevertheless, Bajaj still has some rough edges to iron out, like the quality of plastics at places, vibrations in the lower RPM range, and the small tank range. Talking of the rivals, Dominar 250's biggest rival is its own sibling – Dominar 400, which is INR 42,000 more expensive than Dominar 250. So, if your budget allows, you are better done with the elder one.