Even at our banzai street pace the KLX250 averaged 56 mpg.
As opposed to the classically styled Suzuki and Honda, Team Green’s KLX250S sports a much more contemporary look. It’s easily recognizable by its green plastics and angular halogen headlight. Additionally it is available in a red colorway for the same price. The engine looks modern as well by employing carefully routed rubber hoses and twin aluminum radiators tucked inside pointed plastic shrouds, as opposed to the stacks of air fins on the CRF and DR. This gives the KLX a tough, purposeful and modern stance.
Hop onto the narrow seat and you’ll notice just how high it is off the ground as compared to the air-cooled bikes. All of our testers commented how well the Kawi fit them courtesy of the taller 35.0 inch seat height which is nearly three inches taller than the aforementioned machines, but still 1.6 inches shorter than the WR’s lofty perch. The position of the footpegs correlates well with the seat making this the bike of choice if you plan on racking up more than just a few miles.
looks much bigger than the Honda so I wasn’t sure if it was going to fit me, but it did,“ says Dare. “Overall I think the ergonomics and riding position of the Kawasaki will appeal to the widest range of riders from giants like Ray to small guys like me.”
Grab a hold of the steel handlebar and you’ll feel that it is at a relatively low bend. Equally as slick is its LCD dash that even includes a legible horizontal tachometer. This setup is in stark contrast to the primitive readouts employed on the CRF and DR. Even the ultra-premium Yamaha doesn’t offer a tach.
A person could assume that a bike brimming with this much technology must cost a lot, but it doesn’t. In fact it’s priced identically to the $4999 CRF and comes with a one year, unlimited mileage warranty which gives the Kawi the award for best value in this class.
“It’s crazy that the KLX250S costs the same as the Honda,” mentions Garcia. “This thing has to be the deal of the century. You just get way more bike for you money. It’s got a water-cooled engine, fancier instruments and adjustable suspension. All-in-all, it is a more versatile bike and the one I’d buy with my money.”
The liquid-cooled engine and other equipment equate to a heavier motorcycle with the Kawi tipping the scales at almost 300 pounds fully fueled (ties the Yamaha as being the heaviest). Speaking of fuel, the KLX sports the smallest capacity tank (2.0 gallons) which limits useful range (112 miles) based on the 56 mpg average we obtained with plenty of extended high rpm riding. Also noteworthy is the KLX’s use of a low-fuel warning light on the dash just like the WR.
The 249cc liquid-cooled engine is no different than the other float-and-bowl machines, requiring use of the carburetor choke, followed by a few minutes of elevated rpm idling in order to get some heat into the engine so it won’t hesitate or bog when you first pull away.
We recorded a 73 decibel reading at idle. Although it registered one point louder on our sound measuring device as compared to both the Honda and Suzuki, to the human ear the difference is undetectable. At speed the exhaust unleashes just 87 dB which is identical to the Honda and still quieter than both the Suzuki and Yamaha.
On the road the KLX’s engine carbureted well with the stock jetting even at upwards of 8000 feet. Similarly to the rest of the bikes (with exception of the WR) we popped off the seat with the supplied tool kit and removed the plastic snorkel in the airbox. This allowed the engine to inhale more air which helped to restore a bit of engine power. A side effect was the substantially louder airbox howl when the engine was loaded under acceleration.
Generally the KLX’s powerband feels a lot more subdued as compared to the Yamaha. The engine spools up lazily and doesn’t have quite as much ‘oomph as you’d expect from a dual overhead cam design. On flat pavement it can achieve speeds in the low-to-mid 80s and can generally hang with the WR as long as it is tucked in tightly behind it in the draft. Otherwise it doesn’t have enough power to push itself through the air over 85 mph. Engine vibration is muted at all but at very high rpm. Finally, the Kawi makes use of a 6-speed transmission and cable-actuated clutch which performed without issue just like on the other bikes.
At sea level, the KLX cranked out a little over 18 horsepower. While this number is better than the air-cooled bikes it’s still a whopping six horsepower less than the WR. In terms of engine torque the KLX pumped out just a tick more peak torque as compared to the Honda (12.36 lb-ft versus 12.02 lb-ft.) The Kawi recorded the second slowest zero-to-30 mph acceleration time of 3.5 seconds. Furthermore it was almost three seconds slower than the WR when accelerating to 60 mph, no doubt due to the significant weight.
“The engine in the Kawasaki worked okay but it lacks a lot of power as compared to the Yamaha,” notes Garcia. “Mid-range is actually pretty decent but then power signs off well before redline so you have to short-shift it similarly to the Honda.”
Petal-style disc brakes are used fore and aft with a 250mm disc grabbed by a two-piston caliper up front and 240mm/single-piston setup in the rear. The anchors offer an acceptable level of power and are easy to modulate and overall feel very similar to class-leading set-up employed on the WR.
Even though the KLX sports the longest wheelbase (56.3 in.) it is a fairly nimble motorcycle. Sure it isn’t quite as agile as the Suzuki or Honda in the really tight stuff yet on the more open trails it turns with little effort and is generally easy to maneuver both on the road and trail. Suspension-wise it utilizes an inverted fork with compression damping adjustment. Handling rear suspension duties is a gas charged shock that offers spring preload, compression and rebound damping adjustment. It also rolls on a 21/18 inch wheels.
The KLX floats over bumps in the road though an elevated cornering pace quickly exposes the Kawi’s soft damping settings. In an effort to increase chassis composure we dialed in more damping front and rear, but were less than enthused with the results and came to the conclusion that if you’re a heavier and/or faster rider and want increased suspension performance you’re going to need to go up on the spring rates. Off-road the suspension actually worked pretty well and offered the second highest ground clearance (11.2 in.) aside from the WR.
If you’re looking for the best value then hands down the KLX is it. It’s astounding how much performance and technology Kawasaki has packed into this affordable dual sport. Even more impressive is how versatile of a platform it is while fitting each and every one of our riders. It’s this reason why we chose it as Dual Sport Bike of the Year in our annual Motorcycle USA Best of 2009 Awards
. However its lack of outright performance as compared to the Yamaha held it back in the final scoring.