KAWASAKI NINJA 300


Kawasaki has upped the
ante with its everyday
Ninja, making it more of a
long-distance operator.
Kawasaki surprised us with
the Ninja 250 at the back
end of 2008. We knew the
model existed in other
markets, and even that it
was the bestselling
Kawasaki sports bike in the
United States, but the 250
class in the UK had died a
death decades before,
when you could no longer
stick some L-plates on an
RD250 and howl away in a
cloud of two-stroke, Kenny
Roberts rep anorak
flapping in the wind.
The Ninja, though, did very
well, in part because there
was almost nothing else in
this sector, so even though
demand was low it still
grabbed all the sales. It
also fed a need for small
but stylish bikes that
provide useful and low-
cost everyday transport
with decent quality, a
proper dealer network and
trusted badge.
The class has attracted
more offerings since, with
Honda joining in and Suzuki
just about to, while Daelim
and Hyosung have some
decent 250s, and all these
bikes are selling.
So what Kawasaki has done
for 2013 has surprised us
again: the Ninja 250 has
become the Ninja 300. The
engine changes are
substantial and include a
new, all-aluminium block,
new head, lighter pistons
and even new crankcases.
A little oddly,
Kawasaki
has also fitted a back-
torque-limiting slipper
clutch, usually associated
with high-end sports bikes,
claiming this helps novice
riders who change down
clumsily by preventing
rear-wheel lock-up and
skip. In fact this is a slip-
assist clutch that also
results in a lighter lever
action, a lot more useful on
this kind of bike.
Power is up to 39bhp from
33bhp, and the torque is
increased across the rev
range. This makes a big
difference to the bike as an
everyday, all-round
motorcycle. I have tested
250s before with a full
range of duties, and while
they are fine in urban use,
for longer trips they can be
inadequate, especially when
conditions conspire against
them such as a long
motorway hill with a
headwind. Then you need
to drop down a gear or two
and rev hard, and it gets
tiring trying to maintain a
normal dual-carriageway
speed.
The Ninja’s extra 20 per
cent makes all the
difference. The bike will
cruise along with faster
motorway traffic regardless
of incline, making distance
riding far more relaxed. If
you fancy a weekend break
a few hundred miles away
then the little Ninja will take
you there without turning it
into an endurance test.
Comfort is not quite up to
that sort of thing but it’s
not too bad, so you won’t
need medical attention when
you arrive. The new fairing
keeps a lot of the
slipstream away from you
lower down too. It is
unmissable in Kawasaki’s
Molly Green, but there is a
black alternative if you are
less extrovert.
The motor is very smooth,
even spinning at more than
1,000rpm for every 10mph,
but not as economical as I
expected, given the
exceptional economy of the
250. Used hard, it returns
52mpg, while the
“economy” indicator will
stay on below 8,000rpm
with small throttle openings,
which lets you cruise at
72mph maximum. Even
mixing that with gentle
acceleration gives you only
67mpg, which is almost
identical to our long-term
Suzuki V-Strom 650. A BMW
G650GS or Honda NC700 will
better that, so if small
capacity is a sacrifice you
are making to save on fuel,
there is no need – you can
do better with an entirely
different choice of bike.
The list price is not
especially persuasive
either. The NC700S is
£5,450, while the Ninja is
only £250 cheaper with ABS
(which the Honda has as
standard). The BMW is
£1,000 more so less of a
direct competitor, but the
Ninja is by far the costliest
bike in its immediate class.
The Honda is just too dull
for many considering the
Ninja, though, and the
Kawasaki is certainly more
agile. But the brakes
demand a lot of lever
pressure, and the
suspension gets unsettled
at speed on bumpy
surfaces. Generally it is
good to chuck around –
and still has the small-bike
fun factor of trying to keep
the engine on the boil and
maintain momentum as you
charge about.
THE FACTS
Kawasaki Ninja 300
Price/on sale: £4,799
(£5,199 with ABS)/ now
Power/torque: 39bhp @
11,000rpm/20lb ft @
10,000rpm
Top speed: 110mph (est)
Fuel tank/range: 3.7
gallons/220 miles
Verdict: The point of the
250 class is low purchase
price and good economy,
and the Kawasaki seems to
be edging itself away from
both of these factors. You
would choose it as the only
one truly capable of all-
round duties, but if that is
the motive, why not get a
Honda NC700S instead?
Rating: Three
out of five stars

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