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Kawasaki Ninja 300 vs. Honda CBR250R

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

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2013 Honda CBR250R Comparison Video
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Watch the Honda CBR250R battle it out against the all-new Ninja 300 in the 2013 Honda CBR250R Comparison video.
Last decade the entry-level sportbike class in the United States was a one-bike show. Novice riders could have any bike they wanted, as long as it was Kawasaki’s Ninja 250. Now as manufacturers clamor for market share of coveted new riders, the once stagnant beginner bikes are finally benefitting from R&D attention. The result for consumers is a more robust offering of small-displacement mounts, with the promise of more on the way (see sidebar).

Kawasaki’s Ninja 250 reigned unchallenged for years as the quarter-liter sportbike in America. It faced zero direct competition from Kawasaki’s Big Four rivals, despite the little Ninja’s obvious popularity. Instead, manufacturers seemed content to chase the higher margins afforded by the larger displacement Supersport and Superbike classes. Then the motorcycle market crashed, with the sportbike segment high-siding… Now as the market stabilizes, more manufacturers see wisdom (or is it necessity?) of producing fun, affordable bikes to court a new generation of riders.

Honda was the first to challenge Kawasaki with its CBR250R. The 2011 model year debut showcased some of Honda’s engineering might – with features like the off-set cylinder head on its liquid-cooled Single. It also offered big-ticket newbie-friendly features like optional ABS and linked braking. While it thankfully provided sportbike initiates with a second option, it couldn’t displace the Kawasaki in our 2011 CBR250R vs. Ninja 250R comparison

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2013 Kawasaki Ninja 300 Comparison Video
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See the Ninja 300 battle its entry-level sportbike rival, the Honda CBR250R, in the 2013 Ninja 300 Comparison video.
Two years after the CBR affront, Kawasaki delivers its Ninja 300, powered by a now-296cc Parallel Twin. Those extra 47 cubes impressed during the 300’s First Ride introduction late last year. But the other redesign changes and additions on the Ninja, like its slipper clutch, make this Kawasaki a comprehensively better bike than its predecessor.

The above statement doesn’t bode well for the Honda, of course, but the CBR showed true Samurai spirit by not flinching in this 2013 comparison test. Down 47cc, the CBR squared off against its bigger Ninja rival in MotoUSA’s standard showdown format. Our test kept to the streets (in hopes that we may follow up this year with a track test), with a mix of freeway, city and canyon carving duties surrounding our offices in Southern California. We ran the little rippers on the in-house dyno and weighed them on the scales, as well as gathered the usual performance test data as best we could.

As author of the Ninja 300 First Ride and well-versed with the previous 250 iteration, I serve as author and chief test rider alongside our do-it-all editor/video guru Justin Dawes. Chasing my colleague on Ortega Highway with the throttle pinned, my little CBR screaming at redline… we were far from a triple-digit pace, but both of us were grinning. True, these entry-level bikes are a critical segment for the motorcycle industry. But they also deliver a legitimately fun riding experience. Here’s what we discovered.

The Growing Entry-Level Market
The Ninja 300 and CBR250R are highlighted in this shootout, but even more entry-level bikes are on tap for the US market. Suzuki has confirmed its GW250 standard as a 2013 model, and KTM has promised its Indian-built 390 Duke is on the way. BMW is also ready to jump in the sub-500cc market with its new partner TVS. And Triumph is rumored to be developing a small-displacement mount as well. The main thrust of these smaller bikes remains the high-volume Asian markets, namely India and China, but entry-level riders in the US and Europe should also benefit.

Dealers figure to benefit too. Whenever I have asked Kawasaki dealers what they think of the Ninja 250, their only complaint is they couldn’t get enough of them. The 250, and presumably the new 300, may not make a ton of money directly – but Ninja 250/300 sales lead to Ninja 650 and ZX-6R sales. Dealers also often re-sell that entry-level bike after trade-in. Having a fun bike that generates new customers is a money maker beyond that first unit sale.

There’s also the importance of that new generation of riders. The Boomers that fueled the last motorcycle boom are aging. Making a bid for the hearts and throttle hands of Generation Y figures to be worth the investment.

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Dingalingz   September 20, 2013 01:42 PM
Why are you comparing power in this article? It doesn't take a test drive and half a working dyno to figure out the Ninja 300 has more power than the CBR 250 (hence the larger numbers...) "Against the 300, however, the Honda faces a sizable power deficit across the entire rev range. It only comes close to catching the 300 with its mid-range kick, around 6000-8000 rpm, and even then gives up a couple ponies. After 8K the CBR signs off and watches the Ninja make tracks with its robust top end."
m45mcdan   July 8, 2013 11:52 AM
Let's just hope the folks at Honda don't find it necessary to add 50 more CC's on what is an entry level bike. Found your analysis to be very fair and balanced and as experienced riders I understand your choice of favorite. Hope that manufacturers continue to build for the new entrant.
Piglet2010   April 18, 2013 09:25 PM
Wish all the small-displacement bikes were not entry level. Where is the 55-HP, 250-lb sport-bike with fully adjustable suspension?
CrankyHippo   April 17, 2013 04:23 PM
jfc1, I have to give you credit, you're one of the most dedicated trolls i've run across.