Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 review

Tom Rayner takes the pintsize Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 for a ride in Barcelona

Ducati Scrambler Sixty2: Design

Ducati has a hit on its hands and I get the impression even it is surprised by the level of its own success. 16,000 Scramblers were sold last year, enough to propel Ducati into the top ten worldwide sales chart of bikes over 500cc for the first time in its history.

The Ducati Scrambler has never been just a bike, it's a brand and the entry-level Sixty2 is the first brand extension. This 400cc V-twin is designed to engage younger riders who might be intimidated by the 75hp 800cc Scrambler. Currently the average age of the Scrambler owner is 37, according to Ducati, and it wants to drive this figure down, weedling out a few more of those unsightly grey hairs.

Ducati launched the Sixty2 in Barcelona and we were treated to a red light tour of the town, we sat in every single traffic light in the greater metropolitan district. At least the constant drizzle kept my mind occupied on something other than red lights. It sounds like I'm complaining but damp, congested city streets are actually the natural home for the urbane Sixty2.

Ducati Scrambler Sixty2: Engine

In many ways it's the perfect city bike, more so than its larger sibling. It's light, the weight is planted low, and the wide bars are ideal for navigating through heavy traffic. The 400cc engine is more than enough through town and with a confidence inspiring flat torque curve that won't send the rear spinning out of control on wet cobblestones or tram lines.

It was a chilly day and I was typically ill-prepared so welcomed the heat churning from the air-cooled engine, my left thigh in particular was toasty. During the summer the underfloor heating won't be quite so pleasant. Ducati even redesigned the exhaust pipes on the Sixty2 for a cleaner low-swept look in a bid to reduce some of the heat on the rider and pillion – the new exit route also better shows off the engine.

Losing half the engine capacity does not halve the price of the Scrambler Sixty2. At £6,450 it's only £800 cheaper than the 800cc Scrambler Icon. It seems a bit steep for an A2 bike, but here's why. Firstly, Ducati views itself as a premium product and does not want to dilute its brand with a low-spec stinker. Secondly, 60 per cent of the bike is the same.

The Sixty2 loses the upside down forks of its predecessor and gets a smaller rear tyre but in the saddle you'd do well to notice the difference between the two. The Sixty2 feels more like a premium bike than any other A2 class machine on the market. There's nothing cheap or plasticky about it and, as a case in point, the new teardrop tank design is the same as is used on the top-of-the-range £9,000 Flat Track Pro. It's only when you open the throttle you realise you're not riding the 800.

Rev the Sixty2 past 6,000rpm and it bursts into life and is willing, even if its real world performance can't quite match its ambition. For newly qualified riders 41hp is more than enough power for thrills, in fact for experienced riders alike it's enough power for some fun on the right roads, even if you're pushing beyond the limits of the bike.

Ducati Scrambler Sixty2: Brakes and Suspension

The suspension, for starters, is a lot less firm compared to the larger Scramblers. The rear shock has been set deliberately soft by the factory. This is no bad thing around town and I was able to cruise over speed humps which forced the hordes of scooter riders to slow to a crawl.

The brakes too have novices in mind and the 320mm front disc never bites with a snap but is applied smoothly and predictably. Rainy Barcelona was a good test for the ABS and even over the cobbles it kicked in early and slowed me to a gradual stop.

After a day in the saddle my clutch hand felt sore. The number of traffic lights didn't help, but the mini Scrambler inherits Ducati's trademark firm clutch action. Looking at the photos it's clear I'm too tall to look natural in the short saddle of the Sixty2. That said, other than the first symptoms of numb bum, I didn't feel uncomfortable onboard the bike.

Should I buy the Ducati Scrambler Sixty2?

There's been some debate online about what the name Sixty2 refers to. Ducati would have you believe it's the year the original Scrambler was launched but I reckon it's the number of Instagram filters applied to the average Scrambler marketing photo.

As a cynical hack I'm supposed to sneer at the Land of Joy – but I'm not going to. Instead I think Ducati should be knighted for its services to the motorcycle industry. We'd all like there to still be motorbikes in 20 years time, so logically we're going to need some younger riders getting into biking. Naturally, if you don't deliberately aim at the youth market (like the Scrambler has done) then you're going to miss the target.

Sure, we were snarky about those beautiful, young creatures in the heavily filtered pictures on the Scrambler microsite who looked as though they'd never changed a spark plug in their lives. But what was Ducati supposed to do? Feature five beer-bellied, CAMRA men from The White Lion Motorcycle Club in Rochdale. I can't imagine the Scrambler selling quite so many bikes with real world brand ambassadors.

Maybe those gnarled, old veterans will be proved right and the Scrambler is just a fad that will look as daft in ten years time as every other trend the capricious winds of fashion have blown apart. But if these new converts to biking stick around then hasn't it all been worthwhile?

Of course, Ducati doesn't always get it spot on.

One of the most surreal chapters in the Sixty2's considerable marketing campaign is a cartoon strip about a skateboarding gorilla and his love affair with a buxom blonde. If the comic wasn't baffling enough, Ducati reenacted the scene for the assembled press on a Barcelona skatepark complete with a sweaty Italian bloke in a monkey suit.

I suspect the Sixty2 is going to come in for some criticism largely on account of its price and its horsepower. But at the risk of stating the obvious, if you feel this way then clearly the Sixty2 isn't the bike for you. This is for people who want to buy into the Scrambler brand and for whom an A2 licence, rather than cash, is the restriction. Perhaps too it will appeal to novice riders sensibly opting to climb the horsepower ladder slowly to gain confidence and experience.

It's true that the Yamaha XSR700 is cheaper, more powerful, more fun and more practical... but what does this matter if it doesn't say Ducati Scrambler on the tank. Yamaha can't just build a better bike than Ducati and expect to outsell it... the Japanese also have to build a better brand than Ducati – and there's the rub.

I'm giving the Scrambler Sixty2 the thumbs up, it's a premium product at a premium price but with the performance and styling to justify it. For many people this will be their first taste of biking. I just wish my first proper bike had been this good – I plumped for a K-reg Suzuki GS500E restricted to 33bhp.

The extent of the Scrambler's success is best measured by the clamour of rival manufacturers rushing to ape some of that Land of Joy magic. I tried to stir it up a bit and asked Claudio De Angeli, the Scrambler's brand director, what he thought of the competition “copying” his brand. Sportingly his perspective was the more the merrier, and they can all help fuel the 'new-wave' fire. Of course, it's easy to be magnanimous when you're the King of the hipster jungle.

Model tested: Ducati Scrambler Sixty2

Price: £6,450

Engine: Air-cooled 399cc L-twin

Power: 41hp at 8,750rpm

Torque: 34.3Nm at 7,7000rpm

Wet weight (inc fuel and oil): 183kg

Frame: Tubular steel trellis

Brakes: Radial mounted, 320mm at the front and 245mm single-disc rear

Seat height: 790mm (low seat option at 770mm and high seat option at 810mm)

Fuel capacity: 14 litres

Colours: Orange/ocean grey/black