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2011 Kawasaki Ninja 250R Comparison

Monday, February 7, 2011

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2011 Kawasaki Ninja 250R Comparison Video
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Find out how the Kawasaki Ninja 250R stacks up against the Honda CBR250R in the 2011 Kawasaki Ninja 250R Comparison Video.
In complete contrast to the totally new CBR, with the exception of a major styling change and some internal engine tweaks for 2008, the Kawasaki Ninja 250R has featured the same basic architecture since its inception in 1983. That’s well over two decades in production with only a host of minor changes throughout the years. And while one would think this would put the little Kawasaki at an advantage, much like we thought coming into the shootout, they would be wrong.

At the heart of the little Ninja 250R is a DOHC, liquid-cooled 248cc Parallel Twin 4-stroke that comes by virtue of a 62 x 41.2mm bore and stroke. This engine has more or less been the basis of the bike since Day 1. However, the tried and true engine received reshaped intake and exhaust ports, as well as a more compact combustion chamber and thinner valve stems in the ’08 revision. New camshafts, cam chain tensioner and more efficient cooling system were also a result of the update a few years back.

Dual Keihin CVK30 carbs deliver fuel to the engine, while the power is put to the rear wheels by a revised-in-’08 six-speed transmission. Also updated three years ago was the Ninja’s suspension, a new 37mm Showa fork up front and KYB shock gracing the rear. The front is non-adjustable, while the rear features pre-load adjustability, something the previous model lacked. Steering angle was changed from 27 to 26 degrees, while the outdated 16-inch wheels were replaced with more modern 17-inch units.

The Kawasaki averaged 49.1 mpg over our term of usage while the Honda is some 15 mpg superior
Both come equipped with IRC Road Winner tires  which arent horrible  but if you plan to take one to a trackday we highly recommend changing out the rubber for something a bit stickier.
Easy and confidence inspiring handling is what the Ninja 250R is all about.
Seat height was also raised in 2008, going up 1.2 inches to sit 30.5 inches off the ground. While a bit up compared to the previous model, it’s exactly the same as the new Honda and still quite easily accessible for riders of just about any stature. Rounding out the updates three years back was all-new styling and pedal-style brakes; a single 290mm unit up front and 220mm disc out back.

This entry-level Ninja, which has been a top seller for Kawasaki for decades, remains almost totally unchanged for 2011, the exception being the customary BNG (Bold New Graphics) treatment. Retail price is $3999 and 2011 models are available now in dealers – if you can find one that is – in Black, Green/Black and Pearl White/Black color combinations.

Gear up, get on the Kawasaki and hit the right-hand starter button; the green machine fires to life in a fairly lackadaisical manner, sometimes requiring the use of the handlebar-mounted choke to get running in cooler temperatures. This is one area where the Honda has the Kawasaki pegged, as the CBR is off and away nearly instantaneously no matter the temp, while the carbureted Ninja requires a couple minutes warm-up time.

Once up to temp and underway the little Ninja sparks to life with an EPA-muted whine, running well from 2000 rpm all the way to the 13,000 rpm redline. Throttle response, while not as good as the fuel injected CBR, comes to life and becomes far more precise as speeds increase. For a carbureted engine the Kawi does well to not hiccup or bog down too badly at lower revs, and when into the upper rpms it outpaces the Honda quite easily.

“There’s no question the Honda runs better off the bottom, especially when cold,” says Waheed, “but once you get the Kawasaki going and under power it quickly pulls ahead. There’s no question it’s quicker everywhere throughout the rev range with the exception of the first eighth turn of throttle. Besides that there’s no doubt the Kawasaki has the Honda’s number when it comes to the engine department.”

A glance at the dyno shows exactly that, the Ninja 250R putting down 3.68 more ponies. As for torque, the Kawasaki lags slightly behind with a 1.81 lb-ft disadvantage. This added torque gets the Honda off the line quicker initially, but these bikes are quickly into the horsepower range, which helps propel the Kawasaki to a much quicker 7.7-second 0-60 mph time compared to the Honda’s best of 8.5 seconds.
The Ninjas only noted downfall on the freeway was a high-frequency buzz. Though the Honda Single vibrates more throughout the range
The Ninja’s only noted downfall on the freeway was a high-frequency buzz. Though the Honda Single vibrates more throughout the range.

One pays a bit for this added performance – in terms of gas mileage that is. The Kawasaki averaged 49.1 mpg over our term of usage while the Honda is some 15 mpg superior, averaging an impressive 64.7 mpg. When it comes to stopping distances things get much closer – exactly the same actually – with both bikes getting hauled down from 60 mph in 143 feet.

Another benefit of this added performance is freeway composure, as the Kawasaki runs almost 2000 rpm lower at 70 mph and will keep going to well over 90 mph whereas the Honda runs out of steam. This gives the rider an easier and safer time passing other traffic, as the Ninja isn’t nearly as strained at left lane cruising speeds.

“The Ninja is more suited to riders who will need to log miles on the freeway or go on longer riders,” Hutchison comments. “Same goes for longer commutes – this is an area the Kawasaki has an advantage over the Honda because the engine just feels like it isn’t working so hard over extended periods at 70 mph.”

The Ninja’s only noted downfall on the freeway was a high-frequency buzz. Though the Honda Single vibrates more throughout the range, the Kawasaki is very smooth down low but as revs build a light hand-tingling sensation comes to the forefront, something some riders minded more than others.

Adds Hutchison: “This motorcycle feels more buzzy to me than the Honda. Both have vibration but the Kawasaki makes my hands tingle and the Honda did not. I feel the difference is similar to the way a Ducati Twin vibrates compared to the way an Inline-Four engine buzzes.”

But not everyone agreed with Hutch, Dawes commenting he felt less overall vibration from the Kawasaki compared to the Honda, something Waheed and I also agreed with.

This entry-level Ninja  which has been a top seller for Kawasaki for decades  remains almost totally unchanged for 2011  the exception being the customary BNG  Bold New Graphics  treatment.
The Ninja 250R doesnt quite as high-tech looking dash as the CBR but it does work. We do wish there was a coolant gauge however.
The Ninja 250R doesn’t quite as high-tech looking dash as the CBR but it does work. We do wish there was a coolant gauge however.
Once off the freeways and onto the back roads the Kawasaki continues to shine. Handling from the quarter-liter Ninja is very planted and stable, the bike changing direction with minimal effort and holding a line extremely well. Stability is also quite confidence inspiring, as while it may not be as sharp-edged as the Honda, the Kawasaki feels quite a bit more solid. Both come equipped with IRC Road Winner tires, which aren’t horrible, but if you plan to take one to a trackday we highly recommend changing out the rubber for something a bit stickier.

“It feels a little bigger, more like a motorcycle; where the Honda feels kind of small like a scooter,” says our largest test rider at 5’11” at 200 pounds. “It just seems to handle a little better and doesn’t flex as much on bumps in the corners.”

Overall ergonomics are somewhat similar to the Honda, both seats sitting 30.5 inches off the ground with an easy reach to the raised up clip-ons and pegs not overly cramped. As for overall comfort, the Honda’s cozier seat gave it the nod over the Kawasaki, if ever so slightly.

“I like the way the Honda looks and it is a lot more comfortable than the Kawasaki,” says Hutchison. “The bike is smaller overall but more roomy and doesn’t cramp up the rider as much. Also, the seat is great, definitely way more comfortable than the Ninja seat. It seems to be a perfect bike for in-town commuters or weekend jaunts in the hills.”

The Kawasaki also falls behind slightly when it comes to the transmission, as the seamless six-speed on the Honda is smoother and more positive, where the Kawasaki is slightly dead feeling and can be sloppy engaging, especially from first to second. That’s not saying it’s bad in any way, it’s just not on the same level as the Honda.

The 11 Honda CBR250R and Kawasaki Ninja 250R faceoff in MotorcycleUSAs 250 Sportbike Shootout.
The Kawasaki Ninja 250R comes out on top in this 250 Sportbike Shootout.
And while the Honda has the Kawasaki’s number in terms of transmission and slow-speed running, as well as gas mileage, the speed and handling abilities of the Kawasaki are impossible to overlook. By virtue of a 3-1 decision among testers, we have to give the Kawasaki the nod as shootout winner; surprising considering how much older the basic technology is. But Kawasaki has had over two decades to get it dialed in, and when it comes to the lightweight sportbike market, it’s done its homework. The real winner in this are beginner sportbike riders all over the world, as now there are more than one high-performance quarter-liter options, which will hopefully encourage more people to share in the sport we all love so dearly.

2011 Kawasaki Ninja 250R Photo Gallery
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2011 Kawasaki Ninja 250R Specs
The 2011 Kawasaki Ninja 250R retails for  4999.
2011 Kawasaki Ninja 250R
Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, four-stroke Parallel Twin
Displacement: 249cc
Bore and Stroke: 62.0mm x 42.1mm
Compression ratio: 11.6:1
Valve Train: DOHC; four valves per cylinder
Fueling: Dual Keihin CVK30 Carbs 
Ignition: Computer-controlled digital transistorized with electronic advance
Transmission: Six-speed
Suspension Front: 37mm fork
Suspension Rear: KYB single shock with five-position preload adjustment
Brakes Front: Single 290mm disc with two-piston Nissin calipers
Brakes Rear: Single 220mm disc with single-piston caliper
Tires Front: 110/70-17 radial
Tires Rear: 140/70-17 radial
Rake/Trail: 26.0 degrees / 3.2 inches
Wheelbase: 55.1 inches
Seat Height: 30.5 inches
Fuel Capacity: 4.8 gallons
Colors: Ebony, Lime Green / Ebony (SE), Pearl White / Ebony (SE)
Curb Weight: 375 lbs. 
MSRP: $3999
CBR250R vs. Ninja 250R Braking
CBR250R vs. Ninja 250R 0-60

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Milo2000   May 27, 2012 04:31 AM
Great to see another option for this size range. I have an 05 Ninja 250 though and frequently get 70-75 mpg. Only time I can even get it into low 60's is by cranking it out everywhere and redlining every gear so not sure why they have such low numbers. Great to see another player though.
Swordsman   May 4, 2012 01:01 PM
I know this article is a year old, but it's interesting that the fuel injected Honda 250 gets about the same MPG as an old Buell Blast, which is carbed and has an engine twice as big.
Piglet2010   September 2, 2011 05:21 PM
Why did all my line breaks get deleted? Is there a secret posting guide hidden on the site?
Piglet2010   September 2, 2011 05:20 PM
I understand why Honda went to a 250cc bike, since it is a "worldwide" design, and there are significant tax and/or licensing advantages for being under 250cc. Of course, if we could combine the fuel injection, ABS, and better saddle and rider ergonomics from the Honda with the parallel-twin and better high speed stability and handling from the Ninja, then we would have a bike I would likely buy. That being said, a 400cc twin would still be suitable for a newbie, while being much more freeway/long-distance usable. Similarly, why did Kawasaki drop the Ninja 500? The 600cc sportbikes are too powerful for beginners, and too track oriented to be all around good bikes. Meanwhile, the Ninja 650, Suzuki SV650 and V-Strom 650 and in particular the Yamaha FZ6R are too large/heavy, expensive and powerful for beginners, and are more than is really needed for many riders. Unfortunately, the US market has been poisoned by "bigger is better", with people buying much more bike than they need or can really exploit. Of course, obesity is also a problem, with fat people needing much more motor for similar performance. Sorry noami - no good answers from me, and I am also looking to buy (I am between bikes at the moment, except for my Honda NHX110 scooter).
noami   July 31, 2011 10:31 PM
i read all this conversation and still not sure on which one i should spend my money on. any answers?
bluevolt   February 10, 2011 05:03 PM
Would be interesting to know the Honda stacks up against the Fuel injected version of the Ninja 250R(sold in Europe/Asia) which has slightly more power at 33.5 PS.
gregp   February 9, 2011 05:28 PM
IMO, if you are looking at these two bikes, save yourself some money and find a clean pre-2008 Ninjette for $1000. The motor is bullet proof and has screw and locknut valve adjusters, as opposed to the shim design of the newer models. The newer ('08-up) Ninja 250 is no faster, and some reports have it just a bit *slower* than the first generation Ninja 250. Parts are easy to find, and the only "bad" thing about them is the 16" wheels, for which decent tires *can* be found, and the dated looks.
After reading this review, I would be scared to take the CBR250 on any high speed highways. My '99 Ninja 250 carried my 200 + lbs over 130 miles at 85-90 mph on a joyride last year. I was, and still am quite amazed with its performance.
Africord   February 7, 2011 08:30 AM
The Ninja 250 made a number of improvements in the redesign, but paid for it in performance and mileage with increased weight the probable culprit. That's why you will see higher mileage numbers for pre-2008 models. I regularly pulled down mileage numbers in the 60's with only a mild 1 tooth increase front cog gearing change on my 2006. With a 4.8 gallon tank on the new models, you still have a 235 mile range on the current Ninja 250. That shouldn't break anyone's bank.
JSH   February 6, 2011 07:38 PM
I would be interested to see a comparison of braking distance done in wet conditions. Some of us use our motorcycles in all weather conditions and this is where ABS really shines. Most tests I've seen in recent years show that the ABS computer beats even seasoned racers when it comes to stopping in the wet. I won't purchase any new motorcycles that don't have EFI and ABS.
HokieRider   February 6, 2011 06:02 PM
This review is all well and good, but the opinions of four well experienced male riders I think misses the mark on what this comparison should be. I was hoping you guys would pull some new riders, especially some females, and have them do the majority (not all) of the commentating. Personally, we are seriously contemplating trading my wife's Ninja for the CBR because the fueling is just terrible and dangerously inconsistent. We don't feel we should need to spend money on aftermarket jetting to correct a factory issue and apparently void the warranty if we did. I think she'll take a slower top end with better bottom end and consistency, especially for the riding she does. But thanks for the review guys, love the site.
moldeater   February 5, 2011 04:25 PM
The Ninja 250 is an awesome motorcycle - especially for beginning riders. Nice to see how it stacks up to the newcomer, the CBR250.
tshute   February 5, 2011 09:30 AM
First Ninja 250 was in 1986, not 1983 as stated - bought one new, April 1986. Just sayin'.
Mark Nadolski   February 5, 2011 07:20 AM
Wow, they went pretty easy on the Honda. For a new design I think Honda missed the mark. The Kawi has a 20% power advantage without significant extra weight. It has lower vibration, they didn't mention the Kawasaki twin also has a balance shaft. The 49 mpg number sounds low. I have seen much higher numbers reported for the Ninja 250.
tastytoast   February 5, 2011 01:47 AM
Great write up! I'm surprised how K edged out a win! It's great news that H has come up with a bike that does put some fire under K's heels. I hope the competition fuels both companies to provide even better beginner rides at affordable prices in the future. The Ninja really needs EFI though. And I still like how the CBR gives great fuel economy and has 15k valve adjust intervals. Thanks motousa!