Ninja hits back in style
FOR years, learner riders coveted the Kawasaki Ninja 250cc road bike. It was, quite simply, the machine to be seen on.
But Kawasaki was a victim of its own success and failed to keep the baby Ninja up to date, relying on its proven design and rugged, carburettor-fed engine to keep it at the front of the pack.
That was a mistake that cost it segment leadership. Honda saw an opportunity and launched the CBR 250R early last year. It is a lightweight fuel-injected Learner Approved Motorcycle Scheme motorbike that instantly— and deservedly — went to to the top of the sales charts.
Now Kawasaki has now fought back — and in a big way — with the launch of the Ninja 300.
The 296cc engine is clearly the most powerful in the class with 29kW and 27Nm and it’s been slotted into a modern chassis that will soon have an ABS option.
The price is more than competitive at $6199 for the regular model and $6699 for the anti-lock brake version.
Honda holds the price edge with $5490 and $5990 for standard and ABS versions respectively but there’s now little to separate the two machines.
Kawasaki spokesman Rudi Baker is understandably rapt with his entrylevel bike and is confident that it will regain top spot in the sales charts.
‘‘We’ll have the ABS versions on sale soon and then there’s no reason why you wouldn’t go green,’’ Baker says.
The Kwaka for mine is the better-looking bike but the Honda still has a 10kg weight advantage that will help it in low-speed manoeuvres — a major issue for novice riders, who tend to put their machines down at pedestrian pace rather than higher speeds.
The ‘‘Green Machine’’ has the edge in terms of acceleration, courtesy of that 50cc bigger engine and uses a set of 37mm front forks and rear monoshock with fiveway preload adjustment that will let riders carry luggage and/or pillions without any hassles.
This is still the budget end of the market, so the Ninja doesn’t have any span adjustment for the clutch or brake lever, though it does have a torque-limiting clutch which should help with any of the overenthusiastic downshifts.
Choice is always a good thing and buyers are now spoiled for it.
It will be hugely interesting to see how the public rates them in the next 12 months.
Ninja 300 Special Edition adds $200 to the base cost of the new bike that has come out to battle Kawasaki’s competition