Kawasaki Ninja 300: First ride in India
Kawasaki's claim of the clutch being lighter to use at the lever is true, as the 300's clutch feels extremely light.
We've already told you everything that's in the Kawasaki Ninja 300, so lets see what its like to ride on Indian roads.
What's it got?
The Ninja 300 is closer to an all-new motorcycle than an update to the 250R. The changes are visible in every area - be it styling, performance or handling. The engine now displaces 296cc versus the previous 249cc thanks to the increased stroke, and the engine is now lighter thanks to the extensive use of aluminium.
Engine revisions are exhaustive, justifying the all-new tag. The pistons are lighter and get flat crowns, the connecting rods are shorter and thicker, and the cylinders lighter. The intake ports and valves have both grown in size. The redline remains the same at 13,000rpm, but all these changes help the 300's engine rev quicker than the 250.
Power output is up to 39PS from the previous 33PS, while torque too has gone up to 27Nm from the earlier 22Nm. Also, the engine is now rubber mounted, which makes it silky smooth.
How is it to ride?
The biggest change between the 250R and the new Ninja 300 is the power delivery. While the 250R was more peaky, the 300 offers a meatier midrange, not to mention stronger top-end performance.
This, in effect, means that the 300 is a lot more rideable in the city. For those of you who own the 250R and have been using it for their regular commute, the lack of bottom-end and midrange grunt will have been apparent. The 300 changes that, as it offers a lot more pull even as low as 4000rpm.
This eliminates the need for constant downshifts and offers quicker acceleration at all times - be it overtaking or pulling away from a traffic light. The engine is a lot smoother throughout the rev range, and even when revving hard, there's no vibration anywhere.
It sounds more or less similar to the 250R, and is the sweetest when revving past 10,000rpm. The pull at high revs matches the stronger midrange, making the power band feel more linear than the 250R's. The gearbox is butter smooth, offering precise shifts at all times, with minimal effort.
The slipper clutch is something we have seen previously only on larger super sport machines and while we did not really feel the need for it while riding the 300, it does work well. Aggressive downshifts are a lot smoother and in turn less scary if accidental.
Kawasaki's claim of the clutch being lighter to use at the lever is true, as the 300's clutch feels extremely light. Straight line acceleration is impressive, and the 300 should accelerate to 100kmph from standstill in no more than 7 seconds. Top whack should be higher than the 250 as well, and we expect it to be in excess of 170kmph.
Given the improvements to the engine we expect the 300 to return better fuel efficiency numbers too, despite the increase in performance.
On open highways, the 300 is a beast waiting to be unleashed. Performance is impressive, and the 300 loves being pushed. If conditions permit, the Ninja 300 should have absolutely no trouble in cruising at well over 100kmph all day.
Ride and handling
The 250R was an impressive machine in terms of handling and the 300 only improves that. It feels confident slicing through traffic, aided by the improved midrange performance, making it a slick commuter.
This is aided by the able suspension - ever so slightly on the stiffer side, while soaking up undulations impressively. The riding position, with the comfortable two-piece handlebars and lower seat, makes for great comfort, and riding the 300 all day long - in the city or on the highway should not be a problem. Around corners, it feels confident.
Quick direction changes are never a problem, as isn't leaning the bike over around a fast corner. The IRC tyres provide ample grip at all times, and the larger 140mm rear tyre adds to one's confidence. Importantly, the 300's brakes are not as ferocious as the 250R's in terms of bite, and feel more progressive, while providing ample stopping power.
Is it worth the money then?
The Ninja 300 is clearly a motorcycle for the passionate and well-informed motorcyclist who knows what he is getting. The 300 gets a host of technical updates which make it a highly desirable motorcycle. It certainly takes the entry-level performance game to a higher level, though at a significant premium over the 250R.
It is a great motorcycle to look at with the ZX-10R inspired twin headlights, and feels like a much larger mount. It boasts of top notch build quality and fit-finish, and is without doubt a high-end product. That said, the price of Rs 3.50 lakh ex-showroom New Delhi does sound steep, but the 300 with its design, performance and snob value should make for an ownership experience like none other in its class.