If you read Gabe’s report from the press introduction, you know that we are impressed with the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja 300. Its predecessor, the Kawasaki Ninja 250R, was a huge sales success for Kawasaki. As good as that bike was, its popularity was driven to a large extent by its low price. Redesigned in the 2008 model year, it carried an MSRP of $3,499. That price crept up, but the new Ninja 300 takes another big jump. The basic model is available for $4,799, while the ABS model is $5,499. We’ve come a long way from the 2007 Ninja 250, which was priced at a suggested $2,999.
Of course, due to currency fluctuations and other factors, virtually all motorcycles have substantially increased in price since 2008. The single-cylinder Honda CBR250R, another fun motorcycle we also reviewed favorably, has gone up to $4,199 for the non-ABS model, and $4,699 with ABS. This is for a bike that makes substantially less horsepower and torque than the 300 twin offered by Kawasaki.
Nevertheless, for close to $5,000 you expect a “real motorcycle”, with enough power to run away from automobiles in most circumstances. The good news is that the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja 300 offers that power, when its predecessor arguably did not.
Obviously, this is not a rocket ship, and it has less power than most motorcycles sold here in the United States (where big horsepower rules). Nevertheless, after a longer-term evaluation, we could not help but be impressed with the complete package offered by the new Kawasaki Ninja 300.
This bike looks completely different, and performs completely different from its predecessor. So different, in fact, you really don’t sense any direct lineage. It is still a parallel twin-engine, but with substantially more displacement (20%), fuel injection (as opposed to carburetion), and other engine tweaks, you can actually ride the Ninja 300 around town while staying under 6,000 rpm. You really could not do that on the old bike.
Don’t get me wrong, this bike likes to rev, but it makes more torque at 4,000 rpm than the old 250 did at its peak (coming at roughly 9,500 rpm). Engine displacement may have increased by only 20%, but rear wheel torque is up roughly 30%, while rear wheel horsepower is up roughly 40%. As I said, this bike doesn’t really resemble the old 250.
Gabe did not have too much difficulty exceeding a GPS-verified 100 mph at the press introduction. This bike is more than comfortable on the freeway, whereas the prior bike was wheezing heavily above 75 mph.
The chassis feels just as different. A stiffer frame and much smarter suspension tuning has resulted in a bike that still changes direction easily, but has a much more solid, planted feel. At freeway speeds, it is as solid as a rock, even in crosswinds.
The revised instrumentation is more thorough (as Gabe describes), and much more legible. Again, more like a bigger, more expensive motorcycle.
Styling is subjective, to an extent, but there is no denying that the Ninja 300 has a more sophisticated, refined style than its predecessor. The complex shapes of the fairing just look more expensive. The dual headlights separate this bike from the Honda 250, and other bikes in its class (to the extent you can define other bikes as being in its class).
As I said, this bike still likes to have its neck wrung, and it makes substantial horsepower at the upper reaches of the tachometer, between 8,000 and 12,000 rpm. If you are in a big hurry, you will spend much of your time above 9,000 rpm. The flat torque curve, however, does make the engine flexible enough to be ridden less frenetically without feeling slow.
Despite the huge increase in engine performance, Kawasaki claims mileage has improved, as well. In our experience we saw a slight improvement, with 60 miles per gallon available if you are riding judiciously, i.e., without wringing the bike’s neck frequently. On the other hand, if you are racing around and trying to get the maximum from this relatively small engine, your gas mileage will fall into the low 50s, in our experience. As Gabe said, a fuel mileage competition at the press introduction resulted in some pretty outrageous numbers. A couple of journalists obtained more than 100 miles per gallon in a controlled loop, but they were employing some pretty extreme methods to get there.
So the Ninja 300 has evolved from a motorcycle with adequate, if uninspired power, into a “real motorcycle” with enough power, when coupled with extremely nimble handling, to entertain entry-level riders, and even experienced riders looking for a smaller, more economical ride. The bike is safer, in our opinion, for freeway commuters, because it has plenty of acceleration available at freeway speeds.
The single, 296 mm front disc brake (employing a two piston caliper) does the job more than adequately. It obviously lacks the power of a dual disc set up with radial-mounted calipers, but you would never find brakes like that in this price range (look at supersport 600s). Moreover, a single disc keeps the unsprung weight low, as well as the reducing the reciprocating mass of the front wheel, and undoubtedly contributes to the extremely nimble handling . . . an important, and special feeling when riding a smaller bike like this.
If you can’t quite forget that the Ninja 250 was priced at $2,999 five years ago, you may have difficulty justifying the $4,799 MSRP for the Ninja 300 without ABS. If that is the case, we think you are ignoring at least two important points. First of all, pricing for all motorcycles has increased substantially here in the United States. For example, we live in a world where a 600 supersport costs nearly $12,000. Single cylinder 250s (for example, the Honda CBR250R) are generally priced north of $4,000, as well. Moreover, the Ninja 300 is not really a successor to the Ninja 250R as much as it is an entirely new motorcycle slotted into a higher category. The performance and refinement is that much better.
It is also fun to ride. From the sound of it, those fast, jaded moto-journalists racing around with Gabe at the press introduction had a blast. This bike has a small, intimate feel from the cockpit. For a sportbike, it has a very low seat height, is very slim between your legs, and maneuvers in a manner that larger displacement motorcycles typically cannot maneuver (even if they’re dry weight is close to the same).
The bottom line is that the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja 300 is a fun and relatively inexpensive motorcycle that could be the perfect fit for a new rider, smaller riders, commuters, and even experienced riders who want an economical, fun, relatively light bike in their garage alongside their bigger machine. The 2013 Kawasaki Ninja 300 carries a U.S. MSRP of $4,799, or $5,499 with ABS brakes. The available colors are Pearl Stardust White, Lime Green/Ebony, and Ebony. For additional details and specifications visit Kawasaki’s website.