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New Kawasaki Ninja 400 Outed by CARB Certification

Kawasaki’s current 2017 Ninja 300

When Kawasaki shot a commercial for the new Ninja 400 a few months ago, it was big news. Apparently, this constitutes news in Milwaukee, where a local TV station took video of the event. Now, the California Air Resources Board has all but confirmed a Ninja 400 will be announced for the 2018 model year.

This CARB certification document identifies the 399cc mill that will power the new, littlest Ninja (does it still qualify as “little”?).

This is the same old story of “displacement creep” familiar to the U.S. motorcycle market. Content with a Ninja 250 for years, Kawasaki moved to 296cc with the 2013 Ninja 300, only to be leap-frogged by the 321cc Yamaha R3 in 2015.

A Milwaukee news crew found the shooting of a Kawasaki commercial newsworthy.

The fact that Kawasaki has gone all the way to 399cc for its new parallel twin sport bike (a whopping 35% increase in displacement) is interesting for a couple of reasons. Will Kawasaki have a true entry level sport bike in its lineup for 2018, or does it believe that a 400 will work well enough for beginners?  What about price point? The old Ninja 250 was a true bargain, but prices have increased dramatically in this category of “beginner bikes”in recent years.

Experienced riders might just fall in love with a 399cc parallel twin machine. Based on the images coming out of Milwaukee, the new Ninja appears to be more closely related to the current 300, perhaps with an entirely new engine (rather than a sleeved-down 650). Would a 399cc twin hit the “sweet spot” in terms of performance, weight and price? The perfect second bike for an experienced rider? Stay tuned.


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62 Comments

  1. Rev Limiter says:

    Tire sizes please!

  2. orbit398 says:

    In another year, they probably bump it up to a 500 like they had back in the late 80’s thru 2009. What goes around, comes around.

  3. Jonny Blaze says:

    This is what I found;

    Engine 399cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin 8v DOHC
    Power 44.8bhp @ 10,000rpm
    Torque 28ftlb @ 8000rpm
    Seat height 785 mm
    Kerb weight 168kg
    Fuel tank 14litres
    Colours Metallic Spark Black, Lime Green & Ebony (KRT Edition)

    My CRF250M weigh about 145kg. This 400 is just 23kg more.

  4. skortch says:

    If it’s close to the 300 in size and weight then it should be awesome. If it’s closer to the 650, then… not so much.

    A 400 is fine for a new rider. I’ve been riding for a long while now and wouldn’t mind riding this in the mountains and on the local 1.1 mile kart track. (Again, see above.) The 250/300 was just a bit too underpowered.

    Edit: just read on another site that Kawasaki is claiming it will be 17 lbs lighter than the 300. What’s not to love?

    Nicely done, Kawasaki! (x2)

    • Jared says:

      The reduced weight is awesome.

      Power is 44.8hp (33.4kw) so its a lot more detuned that the 300 is, guess this is so it meeting the UK’s A2 scheme.

      EX300, 296cc at 29.0kw
      EX400, 399cc at 33.4kw

      Was hoping for 38ish kw, as look to replace my ageing 2007 EX250f.

      I wonder if the Z400 will have a different torque curve vs the EX400. I would expect this to be around 162-164 KG (357-362 LBs).

    • ProvolognaWh says:

      What he/she said!

  5. Terry S. says:

    I think Kawi would be best served (along with me) by producing a 400RR Triple !! I mean who else ? I had KH 4,,a pile of fun,,and oh that sound. But a 4 stroke triple 400 now that would be a sweet spot !Standard riding position please !

  6. Dave says:

    “Based on the images coming out of Milwaukee, the new Ninja appears to be more closely related to the current 300”

    I don’t think I agree with this. Unless those photographers are all very small people, those green bikes appear to be the size of the 650’s and they could be just that, for marketing photo purposes…

  7. RM says:

    I *REALLY* like the sound of a Versys 400 X !! 🙂 That really would float my boat!
    Come on Kawasaki – make it happen.

  8. Tom R says:

    A 400cc twin is better than a four in every way except possibly one: the shrieking exhaust note near or at redline….which is where you’ll have keep the 4-banger nearly all the time. I rode a friend’s Honda CB400 back in the day, and it was WORK to get it to move quickly. My Suzuki GS400 twin was much easier to ride, and was always in front of the Honda no matter who was riding it.

    • MGNorge says:

      Oh come on Tom, a small four isn’t that bad, certainly not so that to go anywhere it has to be kept close to redline, where as a bonus you love its sound. I’ve ridden them too and while to extract maximum go they must be spun they can certainly live just fine when cruising around. Of course, nothing wrong in having a preference.

  9. Jonny Blaze says:

    May buy this for my son.

    Versys X 400 on the way…

    • bmbktmracer says:

      Have you checked out the twin cylinder Honda 500s? The F model would be perfect. They also have an X model, which is a pseudo dual-sport. Really nice motorcycles.

      • PatrickD says:

        The hondas are 30kg heavier, which is shocking, as the kerb weight of the kawasaki is nothing to be proud of at that displacement.
        Lazily engineered, those 500 Hondas.

        • MGNorge says:

          “Lazily engineered”? I say more like keeping the price down.

        • Dave says:

          “The hondas are 30kg heavier,”

          Heavier than what? We don’t know how much this 400 will weigh, or which platform it’s derived from. The more likely is the Ninja 650 as a donor (the 300 is a punched-out 250). That bike weighs a very respectable 420lbs wet, but that’s not any lighter than a CB500r.

        • Dave says:

          After reading some more release info it turns out that Patrick is pretty close to correct. The new 400 is claimed to be 169kg wet, making it some 20kg lighter than the Honda CB500’s.

          It will replace the 300 everywhere it is sold, which indicates that it will either be the same price, or that Kawasaki is very confident that young riders will pay more for a new entry level bike. I guess this will force regional racing leagues scrambling, and drive used Ninja 300 & Yamaha R3 prices down a little bit.

          • Jonny Blaze says:

            This is what I found;

            Engine 399cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin 8v DOHC
            Power 44.8bhp @ 10,000rpm
            Torque 28ftlb @ 8000rpm
            Seat height 785 mm
            Kerb weight 168kg
            Fuel tank 14litres
            Colours Metallic Spark Black, Lime Green & Ebony (KRT Edition)

            My CRF250M weigh about 145kg. This 400 is just 23kg more.

  10. Rocky V says:

    This bike should have a super charger- or turbo

    • thrus says:

      Hold my calls for the day I’ll be at the golf course. Oh and let R&D know I want one cylinder with a turbo the other with a supercharger, and I almost forgot since the news about it is out we are launching it a week early.

  11. Mark says:

    Honda – please build us a CBR400RR with a premium suspension, frame and 4 cylinders

  12. Alan in BC says:

    400cc is a sweet spot for insurance purposes – here, 400cc is the cutoff before the 401-750 category and pricing kicks in. Bikes with 450cc, etc. are much more expensive to insure while not offering anything more than the 400s.

  13. JPJ says:

    Ninja 400 (or Z 400) great news for the US motorcycle market. The new MotoAmerica series will be full of these machines. Displacement creep ? How bout’ a Z-140 or Z-150 PRO, with bigger wheels. That will be your “beginner bike”.

  14. RAD says:

    Does anyone remember the FZR400 ?
    What a wonderful machine very popular with club racers and experienced riders .

  15. Dwight says:

    I have long wished that Honda (or someone) would make a bike like the 1974 CB360T (or similar) I used to have. Or give the CB500F a retro style remake. Actually that CB400 in the link above for visordown.com looks really nice! Styling is a bit similar to my old CB750F.

    • Denis says:

      I had a Honda 360 and for me it was the most boring bike I ever bought. But I traded it in for the new (at the time) Honda 400 Hawk—a much better bike in every way—without much of a creep. I still see a few of those wheezy, old 360’s around but the only Hawks I see are the ones with the automatic trans. They must have sold a ton of those over the 5 speed.

    • Geoffrey Hill says:

      I loved my CB 360, Bought a used one for my new wife in 94. So easy to fix, Would love to see them again.

    • Paul says:

      I had a ’73 Honda CL350, loved that bike. Got back what I had paid when I finally sold it.

  16. bmbktmracer says:

    I doubt this bike was designed for America, but rather brought over here just because it was financially reasonable to do so. I’m not in the market for a small bike, but if I were, this 400 would be the minimum for me. Here in California the average freeway speeds are in excess of 70 mph even in heavy traffic. A tiddler is just not a safe form of transportation in this environment.

    • Tim C says:

      Never had a problem on the 250 I learned on out there (SF/peninsula e.g. 280).

      • Bryan says:

        I agree. A 400 single, twin or four is plenty large enough for commuting roles. Traffic here is fine at 65 even well off of commute hours except for those fools who lane split while traffic is moving along at 65 already.

      • bmbktmracer says:

        How long ago was that? Seriously, if you guys want to ride California freeways on 250 to 300cc motorcycles, go for it. That doesn’t make it safe or smart.

    • Johnny ro says:

      With 45 hp and 28 lbft it will be fine at 80, with 20-25 to spare. Outrun a sportster. Much faster than the 300. Not a 500 or 600.

      The thing will be small, not suited for long runs on highway for that reason.

  17. ChrisRR says:

    Dear Honda, please end the “displacement creep” and leapfrog everyone with a modern version of the CB400F Super Sport. Thanks

    P.S – make sure there are 4 curvy headers poking their way out, as god intended.

  18. Norm G. says:

    re: “What about price point? The old Ninja 250 was a true bargain, but prices have increased dramatically in this category of “beginner bikes”in recent years.”

    we’ve seen this movie.

  19. Jared says:

    I’m hoping for the Z400, if is comes in at the same price as the current Z300.

  20. Tommy D says:

    So much for club racing my R3 next year….

  21. Bob S. says:

    Versys 400, please.

  22. bmidd says:

    Just around the corner, an all new Ninja 500.

    • PatrickD says:

      If it was half-a-zx10R, then definitely.

      The mid-1980s GPZ500 (EX-500) {60bhp) was half a gpz1000rx (125bhp).

      So at that proportion of power, tomorrow’s would be would be a 90+bhp 500cc twin. That would be something else.

  23. Bill says:

    Being an old fart, 350 would have been fine; but seriously, a 400 sporty twin should make a lot of people happy.

    • Dave says:

      Re: “a 400 sporty twin should make a lot of people happy.”

      Until the next displacement creep increment. 😉

      xLaYN, that 400 is an update to a long running I4 400. Maybe we’ll see it if this Kawasaki does really well. Last time the displacement was tried with I4’s in the us it was the Honda CB-1 and Suzuki Bandit 400. I bet the twin rides much nicer. Had to really wring those little 4’s to get them moving..

      • xLaYN says:

        “that 400 is an update to a long running I4 400”

        I know… Aussies and Japan has been enjoying those bikes for a long time.

        “I bet the twin rides much nicer”

        Agree with you… as Tom R mentions above: “A 400cc twin is better than a four in every way except possibly one: the shrieking exhaust note near or at redline”

        Still would prefer the screaming sound of the I4.

        • Dave says:

          Yep, guys who had those I4 400’s really loved them. Makes sense in some ways. You could ride the bike reasonably “hard”, without such extreme velocities that result from riding bigger bikes that way.

          If this succeeds, maybe the others will be forced to answer by bringing in their existing I4’s!

  24. xLaYN says:

    And while searching for more information…. you discover new and updated honda CB models for japan… oh well…

    http://www.visordown.com/motorcycle-news-new-bikes/updates-honda-cb1300-and-cb400

  25. Carlos says:

    Funny, I guess we will be back to the Ninja/EX500 of the late 1980s early 90s in a another 2 years.

    • SausageCreature says:

      I had a 2002 EX500 for a couple of years. It was nice enough (for its market niche) although the styling was rather dated, even by 2002 standards. It was an excellent commuter and even pretty good at light, weekend-trip type touring.

      I imagine a modern, fuel injected 400 should be able to at least come close to the output of the older 500. Add ABS and viola! A better EX500 is born.

  26. RyYYZ says:

    Seems like a great idea to me – a bike for newer or smaller riders, or just ones who want a smaller, cheaper, lighter bike, with more than enough performance for the highway, and extra displacement to beef up the bottom end of the torque curve.

    The previous Ninja 400 was an abortion. Just as heavy and pretty near as expensive as the Ninja 650, with a bunch of power missing.

  27. Tom R says:

    “Displacement creep” is alive and well.

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