If you want proof that history repeats, look no further than Kawasaki's latest model range. Somewhere at the beginning of the list you' ll find the newest, smallest, nimblest Ninja, its capacit now expanded to 300cc to take advantage of a new worldwide trend in regulations governing the power-to-weight ratio of motorcycles accessible to motorcyclists. Back in the early ' 80s, this new Kawasaki Ninja 300 had a popular forebear, the GPz305, and it, too, was an entry-level parallel twin added to a range of sporty, air-cooled inline fours.
The new Kawasaki Ninja 300 is a much better player as entry level sportsbike. First up, there' s the engine. Over 40 percent of its components are new, including major structures like the engine block, cylinder head and crankcases. The additional 47cc it produces over the previous model is one the most effective gains in capacity added to any motorcycle.
Kawasaki seems to have recognized that the extremely peak power delivery of the old 250cc was a bit of a turn-off for some, as the extra 47cc have been attained via a 7.8mm elongation of the piston strokes, which now measure 49mm instead of 41.2mm. This adds a lot more leverage, so the crankshaft now spins more readily, and a relaxed, effortless engine persona is the result. IT also means that short-shifts are firmly on the riding menu, as the Kawasaki Ninja 300 now has enough surge in the middle of the rev range. And when you stretch the new 300cc inline twin out in typical Ninja 250R-operating fashion, the new Kawasaki Ninja 300 delivers its power far more emphatically. The six-speed gearbox remains irreproachable. The Kawasaki Ninja 300 might be an entry-level motorcycle aimed primarily at the bottom of the sportsbike market and the thrifty but the performance it offers near the top of its rev range is that more usually associated with a 400cc sportsbike.
So the Kawasaki Ninja 300 feels a larger-capacity motorcycle than it actually is, an impression accentuated by gains in refinement. Further counter-balancing mass is added, and there are lighter pistons and an improved Keihin fuel injection system, all of which enhance the ridding experience. Where the 250cc felt progrssively more chainsaw-like as it revved out, the Kawasaki Ninja 300 settles into a smoother zone that leaves you in little doubt it is indeed the three-quarter-scale sportsbike that its new looks promise. As with the old 250, its go-fast zone is definitely the 9,000 - to – 13,000rpm window – but unlike the old 250, the Kawasaki Ninja 300 fully earns its ' Ninja' nameplate.
Importantly, you can now hop aboard the smallest member of the Kawasaki Ninja family, ride it from down south to up north of Thailand – and get off with nothing but a wide grin on your face. Such is the increase in the performance and powertrain refinement of Kawasaki' s entry-level motorcycle that its abilities have widened. The previous Kawasaki Ninja was a fine weekday motorcycle and one of the best choices on the market for commutes, and while the new Kawasaki Ninja 300 retains this valuable role, it is a far more enjoyable recreational ride on the weekends. Fuel comsumption also improves to the point where the Kawasaki Ninja 300 roams just as far as the previous 250cc, its slightly reduced, 17-liters fuel tank notwithstanding.
The design of the new bodywork alligns the new Kawasaki Ninja 300 more with the ultra-serious sportsbikes of the Kawasaki range, particularly the new fairing, which draws its cues directly from the fire-breathing ZX-10R, yet behind this threatening facade lies a comfortable riding position. If there' s a better-tailored motorcycle for riders of medium build over a wide range of touring, commuting and scratching applications, I've yet to encounter it.
A revised steel-tube frame for the Kawasaki Ninja 300 adds extra stiffening to the engine mounts, swingarm pivot and steering head, and contributes quite a portion of the motorcycle's three-kilogram weight increase over the previous entry level Kawasaki. The result is improved steering response and cornering agility, the equal of the Honda CBR250R, the Kawasaki' s lighter rival. The latter' s increased enthusiasm to change direction has not been at the expense of head-shaking histrionics, however, despite what feels like a slightly softer suspension setup, which gets increasingly harsher as the Kawasaki's lighter wheels reach the limits of their travel. The stability also feels improved when encountering bumpy corners at speed.
Brakes and tires are the areas that most warrant improvement in the Kawasaki Ninja 300. Quite a lot of stopping power appears to have gone AWOL, in the transition from the 250. Though the petal-edged discs front and rear look good as does the twin-piston front caliper, the promise of sponge-free preformance is never kept. Perhaps Kawasaki has softened the operation of the braking system deliberately to account for panicked reactions of inexperienced riders, but I had the idea that was the ABS's its job....