After almost 20 years of being absent in the USA 250cc sportbike market, American Honda is coming back with the aggressively styled liquid-cooled CBR250R and CBR250R ABS. Although pricing hasn’t been released, there are plenty of details that may make Kawasaki — makers of the outstanding $3999 Ninja 250R — nervous about its USA sales (which have been tremendous).
The new CBR is clearly aimed at the smallest Ninja. The motor is a 249cc, liquid-cooled, four-valve dual-overhead-cam Single, smoothed out and sophisticated with fuel-injection and a counterbalancer. The frame appears to be tubular steel, and the bodywork — love it or hate it — seems heavily influenced by the controversial new VFR1200. Wheels are 17-inchers, shod with radial tires (the back tire, a 140/70-17, is 10mm wider than the Ninja’s), and braking is handled with a two-piston caliper and 296mm disc in front. ABS is available. Seat height is .4 inches higher than the Ninja’s at 30.9 inches, but the seat looks very narrow at the front, negating that difference. Curb weight is a claimed 359 pounds, 15 pounds lighter than the 250R (add 9 pounds for ABS). Tank size is smaller than the Ninja’s 4.8 gallons at 3.4 gallons of dino-milk, but I’m guessing the FI Single might best the parallel-twin Ninja on range thanks to better fuel economy.
The theme in the moto-press for 2011 will be how the two bikes compare. It looks like the Honda will be a more nimble performer (both bikes have monoshock suspension and 37mm forks) thanks to its lighter weight and shorter 53.9-inch wheelbase. However, the motor could fall short in performance — it’s not the zesty, big-power mill out of the CRF250R motocrosser, but an all-new unit with lower compression and longer stroke, probably tuned for torque and newbie-friendliness. If the Ninja puts around 26 horsepower on the ground, expect the CBR to do somewhat less — although it may best it on torque.
But the main issue will be price. Honda usually prices its products at a slight premium over the competition, which means the base model could be $4500 or more and the ABS-equipped version could be over $5000. But will the sporty styling and Honda nameplate be enough to lure customers away from Kawasaki’s best-selling sportbike? Whatever the results, 2011 will be doubly interesting to small-displacement sportbike fans.