Ninja hits back in style

NT News - Motoring - - CARS GUIDE - By CRAIG DUFF

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

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