To say the new Ninja 300 is a lot quicker then the Honda, doesn’t begin to cover it. The CBR lives as a pin-prick of light in the Kawasaki’s mirrors. In all the back-to-back acceleration tests, the Ninja absolutely dicks all over VFR’alike. Without even analysing anything else the Ninja has to offer, the Honda has blurred into the background. I very much doubt you’d find many bike loving young ’uns who’d disagree.
So that’s brilliant news for the Ninja, yet the update is so much more. The styling ticks a large box, I think it looks brilliant. From the corner of your eye, it’s every bit a supersports machine of questionable designation. Only when you get up close do you see traces of the old 250. The suspension is the same, for example, but has been fettled and adjusted to allow for the extra turn of speed. The brakes are the same, but updated, while the chassis and engine have seen the biggest overhauls. The whole package looks sexy – this bike appeals to the eye, backing up the glam with action!
The larger capacity engine surprises, in that it’s lost the 250’s initial surge. In fact, at first you wonder when something is going to happen, even though the speedo is ascending pretty quickly. The power delivery is unbelievably flat; you pin the throttle and the tacho rises at a set (though speedy) rate and doesn’t change pace. But it revs and revs its tits off. And this is where the real fun lies with the Ninja. It’s almost as though Kawasaki has engineered it to feel like a pre-power-valve two-stroke engine. For somebody reasonably au fait with 180bhp these days, I rather surprisingly found this sensation extremely intoxicating. And it’s pretty quick too, as motorway and a brief track excursion proved. On track I saw more than 100mph on the clock every lap. Even if optimistic, that’s pretty good and the most we’ve seen is 110mph displayed after a tow. Better yet, it can do A-road overtakes from 50mph relatively easily, even getting you past trucks quickly enough. It’ll buzz along the motorway in the fast lane too, easily holding its own. If you can’t tell, I love this little motor; its ‘all or nothing’ attitude pleases.
I also like the seating position and the size of the machine. It’s just right to give it that proper big bike feeling; comfortable with perfectly placed controls. Its much larger wheelbase also exudes the feeling of a larger machine. And it also handles, too, except that it doesn’t. The reason it doesn’t is the IRC’s Road Winner tyres that are fitted as standard.
They’ve been rolling in this class for a while, and do an OK job, but the Ninja 300’s speed and handling capabilities have surpassed their talent. Yeah, you can ride around on them just fine, but start to push hard, going for big lean, and they feel horrible. It’s almost a travesty that they’re fitted, as they completely screw the Ninja’s new skill set. You can start to feel the quality of the suspension upgrade when pushing on, but then the IRCs start scrabbling for grip, and you become a bit scared. Honestly, it’s nearly enough to make me a bit angry, so good is the rest of the Ninja.
Yeah, you can still blat about despite the rubbish rubber, and wet weather is endured, but it’s still a pain. Even then, it still lords it over the CBR, without breaking a sweat.
KAWASAKI NINJA 300 £4,799 (ABS - £5,199)
The 296cc parallel-twin engine’s roots go back more than 20 years. It’s liquid-cooled, DOHC and has eight valves. Bore remains identical to the 250’s, but stroke is up from 41.2mm to 49mm. Intake ports and valves are larger to match increased displacement, while compression is reduced to 10.6:1 via lightweight pistons, ones shorter than the 250’s allowing it to rev slightly higher. Cylinders are now of the sleeveless sort.
The 300’s seat height remains the same as the 250’s, though is in effect lower thanks to a narrow seat. The engine is rubber-mounted, yet the footpegs no longer are. The frame is brand new, a steel-tubular unit that features extra bracing. The bike rolls on new wheels too, a ten-spoke style with a larger tyre allowance. Brakes are as before, and could be better if we’re honest, though there is an ABS option available.
A2 licence friendly
Not with those tyres...
FAST ROAD 8
Much more like it
Non ABS = skids!
NEW RIDER 10
Brilliant, a proper job
Teenage spunk rocker
DON’T BE FOOLED BY
The old Ninja 250. It’s OK if you’ve still not got your licence proper, but the new 300 is the real deal...
A terrific bike hobbled by mediocre tyres, though the Ninja’s quality still manages to shine through.
+ STYLING, PACE, ECONOMY, HANDLING
- TYRES, BRAKES ARE WEAK, AND TYRES…