2009 Suzuki DR200SE Comparison

Adam Waheed | August 18, 2010

Considering its small size it’s no surprise that the DR200SE is easy to throw around on and off-road.

Set your eyes on the jet black Suzuki and it’s hard not to notice its dated appearance. With its big rectangular headlight, paddle-shaped front turn signals and jumbo plastic fenders, the DR200SE reminds us of one of the motorcycles ridden by spiky-haired hooligans in ‘80s movies like The Karate Kid or Lost Boys.
Its old-fashioned, yet effective instrument pod certainly doesn’t help it in the aesthetic department either. However, some might appreciate its classic styles, especially when they find out the Suzuki carries a cost of a mere $4199. This gives the DR the distinction of being the most reasonably priced bike in this comparison, $800 less than the Kawasaki and Honda and a whopping $2191 less than the WR250R.
“For sure the Suzuki doesn’t look as cool as the other bikes, especially compared to the Kawi or Yamaha,” says test rider Frankie Garcia. “But it’s hard to argue against its price. If you’re looking for something cheap that you’re only going to ride a few times a year at your cabin this will be your bike.”
Aside from cost, a popular reason why shorter riders continue to purchase this model is due to its 31.9-inch seat height, tying it with the Honda CRF230L for lowest-seat-height honors. It’s also an extremely light motorcycle, with it only tipping the scales at 278 pounds (second lightest) with a full 3.4-gallons of fuel in the tank (biggest fuel capacity). This gives a range of over 200 miles based on our calculated 64 mpg (second highest) average, which was achieved while employing both copious and judicial use of throttle.

(Above) 2009 Suzuki DR200SE is priced at $4199. (Below) The DR200SE is quiet only cranking out 72 decibels at idle.

Hop into the seat of the Suzuki and it feels like a “tricycle” as our 6-foot, 5-inch tall Digital Media Producer puts it. The relatively high position of the footpegs and low handlebar only exacerbates this feeling for taller riders. Though our smallest pilot, Alec Dare, who only stands 5’7” and tips the scales at 122 lbs, wasn’t as critical of the seating position.
“For sure the DR feels like it’s the smallest bike,” comments Dare. “Physically it looks about the same size as the Honda but the seating area is a bit more cramped. I can still comfortably ride the DR but I do prefer the Honda’s ergos.”

Grab a hold of the black, steel handlebars and you might feel a relatively odd sweep compared to the other bikes. In the stock position the bars feel like they are sitting in your lap. Fortunately, adjusting them is as easy as loosening the four bolts on the handlebar top clamp and pushing the bars forward. This opens up the cockpit and made it more comfortable for our taller riders, especially when lifting their legs up when motoring across the dirt. Like the other bikes, the DR rolls on a 21/18-inch front and rear wheel combo. In the convenience department the DR has passenger footpegs, a small plastic storage container and a lockable helmet device.
Switch the key to “run,” pull the choke lever, and thumb the starter button and the engine fired right to life. Due to the morning’s relatively cool 50-degree air temperature, plus the fact that we were operating these bikes at an elevation in excess of 8000 feet the engine needs considerable warm-up time before it can be ridden away cleanly without any hesitation from the 199cc air-cooled Single.
In the sound decibel test, the DR produced a reading of 72 dB at idle and 89 db at half of maximum engine rpm (4750). This tied it with the Honda for being the quietest at idle, while at speed the engine and exhaust do deliver a bit more sound. Though by no means can it be termed loud, even when the operator is riding without ear plugs.
Within a few minutes of warm-up the engine is ready to chug along on its own without the use of the choke. Like all the other bikes in this test, with exception to the Yamaha, the Suzuki makes use of a mechanical carburetor to supply fuel and air into the engine. Even though we didn’t modify the jetting based on elevation, we were surprised at just how well it ran with zero bog (as long as the engine is warm).
Sure it gave up a bit of power as compared sea-level operation but it still had enough get-up-and-go to maintain a 70 mph cruising speed on flat pavement. However, engine vibration at this speed borders on excessive. Equally as pleasing was the clutch, offering nearly effortless lever pull and a good amount of feel during launches or when used aggressively to keep the engine rpms up during off-road cornering maneuvers.
The transmission also performed perfectly and neutral was simple to find at a stop. Although it lacks a sixth gear like the gearboxes used in the other bikes, we didn’t miss it as the gear-ratios and final-drive gearing were well matched to the engine’s power output.

(Above) Frankie G. blows up a berm on the DR200SE. (Center) The Suzuki DR200SE feels like the smallest bike in this comparison. (Below) The beauty of these small dual-sport bikes is that they can be ridden virtually anywhere.

Speaking of power, the DR cranked out nearly 13 horsepower and just over nine lb-ft of torque as measured on our sea-level dyno. Despite these numbers being the lowest of the group, the DR still managed to best the Honda in the zero-to-60 acceleration test with a 15.2-second pass.
“Power-wise the Suzuki and Honda feel like they crank out about the same amount,” explains Garcia. “Initially it feels slower but when you rev it out it feels stronger on top and it doesn’t peter off quite as fast as the Honda. Without a doubt you’ve got to keep the Suzuki’s engine screaming for optimum acceleration.”
In an attempt to maximize power and let the engine suck in more air we took off the seat and removed the airbox flap with the supplied tool kit. In addition to a slight improvement in carburetion, the bike felt a wee bit faster and was much throatier sounding, which made it more fun to ride.
Although it employs a nearly three-inch longer wheelbase than the ultra-short Honda, the DR is every bit as nimble as the competition both on the pavement and in the dirt. The non-adjustable fork and preload-only adjustable hydraulic shock do an excellent job of soaking up bumps on the pavement at low speeds but are under-damped as the pace quickens. Still, the suspension doesn’t do anything crazy and you can have a surprising amount of fun blasting around trails.
Braking-wise the DR uses a hydraulically-operated front disc brake just like the other bikes. However, our testers rated it as being the weakest of the lot in terms of outright power. We also weren’t blown away by the stopping performance of the rear drum brake, which was hard to modulate – it either being fully engaged and locking up the rear tire or totally disengaged and doing next to nothing.
If you’re a smaller rider that isn’t concerned with outright performance or looks than the DR200SE is for you. It carries the lowest price tag, has the longest useable range and is a simple and reliable motorcycle to ride, not to mention it comes with a one year, unlimited mileage warranty. It can also rehash your ‘80s glory days, if that happens to be your thing.

Adam Waheed

Road Test Editor | Articles | Adam's insatiable thirst for life is only surpassed by his monthly fuel bill. Whether rocketing on land, flying through the air, or jumping the seas, our Road Test Editor does it all and has the scars to prove it.