Husaberg will be no more after this model year. The Swedish marque that sprung from Cagiva’s purchase of Husqvarna and its subsequent move to Italy has always been a unique brand. Even the recent models that were assembled alongside KTMs in Austria seemed special with their composite subframe, up-spec forks and striking blue and yellow color schemes. The 2014 Husaberg FE250 comes into this shootout on its way out. However we felt it deserves a final shot at glory, so we put it up against the competition.
“I’ve always been a big fan of Husaberg,” admitted Chris Northover. “I’ve had a lot in my time, a lot of the old dodgy ones. But the new KTM brand of Husabergs are real good bikes. They’ve just been a better finished version of the KTM – slightly higher specs with a higher price.”
The FE250 got all the engine and frame updates that were bestowed on the KTM 250 XCF-W. In simplest terms the powerplant is based on the KTM 250 SX-F motocrosser, and was tuned for off-road usability. On our Dynojet 250i dynamometer the ‘Berg cranked out more horsepower and torque than other machines that share the same 249cc DOHC
single. The FE250 topped the second-best Husqvarna by six-tenths of a horsepower with 32.13 hp and 0.5 lb-ft of torque at 17.68.
Sharing the same engine specs and putting forth nearly the same level of power, the Husaberg’s engine performance on the trail was dead even with the KTM and Husqvarna. The low-end grunt trounced the Honda’s making it easier to lift a wheel for obstacles and squirt out of tight corners. As a 250cc four-stroke it revved willingly and feels fairly fast on the top end with a decent overrev. The midrange was grunty and meaty, but not over the top. All-in-all it was easy to work the power to suit your needs in every situation without wanting for more.
“I’ve never been a huge fan of 250F’s; I like a little more power,” explained Simon Pavey. “But these new 250s are getting close. Now they do have the ability to fire off the bottom. When you see that hole at the last minute you can wheelie and you can hop off of rocks and stuff. So I like the chunkier bottom end.”
“It felt very similar to the KTM, I couldn’t feel a big difference between it and the others at my level of riding,” added Northover.
The Husaberg FE250 is an amalgamation of the KTM and Husky when it comes to suspension. At the front, the ‘Berg sports an up-spec, WP 4CS closed cartridge, upside-down fork as does its “Swedish” sibling. A PDS rear suspension system with a fully adjustable WP piggyback shock mirrors the layout of the KTM. We expected the FE250 to have improved handling and suspension over the KTM, but it was not the case.
Right as we set out onto the trail the Husaberg felt off. At speed in the sand washes and fast trails headshake was pronounced and kept us from keeping pace with the rest of the field. The rear-end also felt high and caused the front end to knife badly in turns. We added backed-off compression to the front fork, and added some rebound damping on the rear to
balance out the suspension action, and it helped settle down the FE250. Throughout the test we fiddled with the clickers, and while it was better than the Honda, it was just slightly behind the other Euro bikes.
“It was quite poorly set-up considering it has a lot of the same components of the other two bikes,” commented Llel Pavey. “ The front end was trying to tuck all the time. It was just more uncomfortable to ride.”
Banging through the whoops revealed the Husaberg was just as soft as the KTM, but while the orange bike would go straight, the FE250 would swap about. In rock gardens and chop the front fork was less compliant and defected easier and with more frequency. We all ranked the ‘Berg third in the suspension department just ahead of the Honda.
Rowing through the FE’s gearbox, it performed with the precision of the KTM. Gear changes were solid, crisp and issue-free. Modulating the hydraulic clutch found the same feel as both the Husky and Katoom – slightly heavy but fade-free.
Sitting on the Husaberg felt more similar to the Husqvarna than the KTM as the two share the same larger, 2.51-gallon fuel tank, shroud shape and composite plastic subframe. The tapered aluminum bars are an easy reach and comfortable whether seated or standing. The seat is motocross-firm and narrow between your legs.
Braking performance is stunning, just like the other two Brembo-equipped bikes. Front lever feel is strong and positive with excellent power using just one finger.
In its final appearance in a MotoUSa shootout, Husaberg takes the runner-up position. Although we struggled with suspension set-up, the friendly engine character and good looks kept it high enough in the subjective categories to capitalize on its wins in the horsepower, torque and fuel capacity rankings. We are going to miss the Husaberg. Even though it will live on in spirit under the skin of future Husqvarnas, it was a unique choice for those that wanted to be different.