By AZLAN RAMLI
DURING a 2017 Modenas trip to get to know its new collaborator Bajaj Auto Limited (BAL) in India, my media friends and I took the D400 for a few laps around BAL’s test track and also on a short, relatively quiet and bendy stretch of public road, in Pune, India, but those rides was nowhere near a real-world use of the bike.
Not a lot could be gleaned from those rides other than the compact sports tourer seemed very promising as an entrant to the Malaysian market. Still, the bike looked very good, with impressive build quality and decent all-round fit and finish. Its 373cc engine is based on KTM’s* brisk-selling Duke 390 after all, so there’s confidence there for the D400’s potential buyers, on top of BAL’s long experience in two- and three-wheeled vehicles.
The Dominar D400 did make its debut in Malaysia, in 2018 , retaining the same model name. Officially branded as a “national” motorcycle – with just a couple of tiny “Modenas” stickers on it saying so – its sub-RM15,000 pricing made it even more attractive.
And so, the media folks sampled it again; this time for several days. I could feel that it was slightly rough around the edges, in terms of ride and handling, plus the single-cylinder, liquid-cooled engine could use with a couple more horses that would’ve made it a nicer bike. But that’s just me; many owners who bought the D400 don’t have much to complaint about it.
Good job, BAL!
Modenas, BAL and I’m sure feedback from countries where the D400 were sold must have contributed to the D400’s refinement; in September Modenas introduced an upgraded “D400UG”, that is pretty much the bike I was hoping it would be.
It had received several technical upgrades, such as new inverted fork that replaced the conventional telescopic fork, a twin-barrel exhaust system, a 320mm front and 230mm rear disc brakes paired to a dual-channel ABS, adjustable Nitrox monoshock absorber and an assist and slipper clutch system.
More stylish than ever, the refreshed D400’s now comes in two new colour options, the nice Savanna Green you see here and Charcoal Black.
The fuel tank pad now has a carbon fibre finishing, as well as the Dominar logo stamped on its rear seat. The fully-digital LCD instrument console is complete with speedometer, rev counter, fuel gauge, odometer and gear position indicator. Its automatic headlights are of the “LED mosaic” type that is a lot brighter.
All those, working together with a more powerful 39.5hp (an impressive 5hp gain over the old D400) and 35Nm twin-camshaft (single camshaft in the old D400) engine create a very nice package, where we now have a superbly value-for-money bike that is happy and more enjoyable nearly anywhere that has tarmac.
That clutch system is very useful in dense stop-and-go urban traffic and also when having a bit of fun in the twisties. Braking is the job of the D400’s ByBre stoppers that work very well. If you’ve never heard of that brand, it is an abbreviation of “By Brembo” – a brand specifically dedicated to small-to-medium displacement motorcycles and scooters, owned by the renowned Italian brand.
To those who heard from owners of the old D400 that their bikes need a bit more speed, this new D400 certainly has it. I can’t remember the exact top speed I reached with the old D400 other than it was 160km/h-plus. This new one did 170km/h (that’s what its speedometer said, anyway) and I felt it could do another 5km/h, with steady confidence too.
Keep in mind that this bike is not made for outright speed, being just a single cylinder with no fairings to scream and slice through the air. It is labelled as a “sports tourer”, after all. Heck, it even has a nice, factory-fitted engine guard...
Those things and a recommended selling price of RM13,997 (excluding insurance and road tax) make this Dominar D400 worthy of a serious consideration.
*India-based BAL owns nearly half of Austrian motorcycle and sports car manufacturer KTM AG, in case you’re not aware.