For 2013 Kawasaki decided to up the ante of entry level motorcycles by introducing a higher displacement cc version of their popular Ninja 250R motorcycle. So, do the extra 50cc make a difference? Read on…
Performance – In a word, yes… and no…. ok so maybe that’s 3 words but let me explain. Yes, the extra power does help the bike feel more “lively” but it feels gutless until the rpms reach around the 5000 mark. After that point the engine picks up and develops approximately 35hp at 11,000 rpms. The extra 10hp over the previous model help this bike reach a top aped of around 170km/h which is almost 30km/h more than its closest rival, the Honda CBR250R. The engine also has an increase in fuel economy thanks to electronic fuel injection, rather than carbureted like the old model. However, one thing I didn’t like about the new engine is that I thought it didn’t feel very smooth. The vibrations from the engine translated into the seat and handle bars which made it a very uncomfortable and numbing ride.
The engine is mated to a new 6 speed gearbox with taller gear ratios but accelerating off the line feels a little slow, it feels as though first gear is non-existent and you really have to rev the engine hard to build up some speed in the first gear. A big plus for this model is the introduction of ABS as an option. It is not intrusive under heavy braking but when the front wheel does start to slip, the ABS lets you keep the bike in full control without throwing you over the handlebars. But as I’ve said in other reviews, in my opinion a single front disc is not enough and dual front discs should be standard. Brakes are the one place that I’d rather spend money rather than cut money. Also this is the first entry level bike (that I’m aware of) that comes standard with a slipper clutch, I’m not entirely sure that it needs one but for new riders it could save them from a drop.
Comfort – This is a very narrow and therefore a nimble bike but the narrow size means that it also has a narrow seat. The seat does not offer much support for bigger riders and it has very little padding. The riding position, like any other entry level bike, is upright which allows for very easy control of the bike in almost any condition. The suspension is soft, but not too soft like a cruiser, and the rear shock can be pre-adjusted to different hard or soft settings.
Odds and Ends – The new updated styling takes inspiration from the ZX-6R and ZX-10R superbikes and this little 300 can easily be mistaken for a bigger and faster superbike. It looks fabulous. Kawasaki has also redesigned the instrument cluster with a giant analog tachometer in the middle and a digital speedometer to the lower left. All the dials are easy to read so long as direct sunlight is not shining on the instrument cluster. It was a sunny day when I test rode the bike and I had a hard time seeing whether I had cancelled the turn signals or not because the signal indicator lights were dim.
Ninja’s have always been one of the favourite bikes with new riders for their easy handling, “safe” power, and good residual value but if I had to recommend a starter bike for a new rider I would tell them to have a look at a 500cc bike. Even with the 35hp that this bike offers, it’s not enough and you will get bored of it very quickly. Having said that, if you are completely new to riding (even on a bicycle) then this is an excellent entry level motorcycle.
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.