Kawasaki Ninja 300 First Ride Review

07 March 2018, 01:10 PM Ranjan R. Bhat

What is it?

Until a decade ago, an Indian customer who longed for a fast ride but couldn’t afford the high-end superbikes didn’t have many options. Then in 2009, Kawasaki marked its re-entry into the Indian market as a solo contender with the Ninja 250R. The quarter-litre Kwacker enjoyed a monopoly and a fair bit of success. But with the Honda CBR250R coming into picture, Kawasaki had to up the ante. And in came the new Ninja 300. The Ninja 300 climbed up the ladder (both in terms of positioning and price) and once again created a niche for itself.

On the surface, there aren’t many things to set the 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 300 apart from the original one. It gets a KRT race livery, and that’s about it. But despite it being a five-year-old design, the Ninja 300 continues to sport one of the most desirable looks in the market space. It looks like a scaled-down version of the Ninja ZX-10R, thanks to the sharp fairing with air scoops, integrated indicators and the twin headlamp setup. It can even trick you into believing that it is a middleweight. That pillion grab rail however, is a major eyesore. Nevertheless, getting rid of it wouldn’t be a big task. 

How does it ride?

Quite like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The thing that impressed me the most was how the Ninja 300 transitions from calm and easy-going to lively and exciting within a matter of milliseconds. The parallel-twin engine in the Ninja 300 displaces 296cc and churns out 38.5bhp and 27Nm of torque. It’s a high-revving engine that rewards riders who keep it around 10,000rpm. But stick below 4,000rpm and the engine has a relaxed demeanour that makes it as easy to use as any commuter bike. The clutch and throttle operation is light, which makes riding through traffic very easy. Even the exhaust note differs depending upon how you ride it. It maintains a low key when you are pottering around the city, and sounds like a tenor at the peak of its form when you are hooning it.

Kawasaki Ninja 300

Kawasaki Ninja 300

  • Displacement296 cc
  • Mileage - ARAI25 kmpl
  • Max Power(bhp)39 bhp
  • Kerb Weight172 kg
  • ;

Ex-showroom, Mumbai

 2,98,000

The ratios on the six-speed gearbox are well spaced out. The first gear is tall and can take you up to 60kmph before hitting the redline at 13,000rpm. On the highway, you can get close to 7,000rpm when cruising at 100kmph, which means that a quick overtake is just a wring of throttle away. The gearbox gets a slipper clutch to prevent the rear wheel from hopping during those over-enthusiastic downshifts.

The Ninja 300 rides on 37mm telescopic forks which are too soft for my liking. The front dives under braking, and the bike rocks back and forth when you are working the throttle. However, this hasn’t affected the handling of the Ninja 300. Tipping it into corners feels effortless and natural, and you have a very good cornering clearance thanks to the high set footpegs. Even mid-corner bumps are taken care off without any fuss. The rear gets a Uni-Trak linkage system for the monoshock instead of being directly mounted on to the swingarm. Despite being set up for a stiff ride, the rear monoshock felt at ease tackling the potholes and bumps around Pune’s roads. 

Braking is taken care of by a 290mm disc at the front and a 220mm disc at the rear. It might not be the sharpest setup around, but it does its work well. There is a good mix of progression and feel from the front brake, although the initial bite is a little soft. This felt like an intentional move to keep riders from grabbing on to the lever and locking the wheel. Speaking of which, ABS is not offered even as an optional extra. 

Anything else I should know?

The Ninja 300 gets a very clever seating triangle with a comfortable yet sporty riding position. The handlebars are angled well and droop perfectly, the footpegs are rear-set just right and the tank is perfectly sculpted to allow your thighs to latch on to it. The spacious seat allows you to move around and adjust your riding position depending upon whether feel like Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde. Out on the highways, the windscreen is very effective in shielding you from windblast, as long as you crouch a little. Build quality and fit-and-finish is top notch. Heat dissipation is well taken care of, and you never have to worry about your legs cooking up, in traffic or while touring.  

The engine makes use of weight-saving measures like die-cast aluminium cylinder and lightweight pistons. While this allows the engine to rev higher, it has also translated into vibrations. The buzz through the footpegs, handlebar and the tank set in at 5,000rpm and keep getting more pronounced as the revs climb. This might be the nitpicking side of me talking, but the vibrations felt very uncharacteristic for a Kawasaki parallel-twin. 

Should I buy one?

The Ninja 300 is a good step-up for someone moving up from a commuter bike. It is a bike that won’t overwhelm a novice, but at the same time can be quite entertaining for a performance enthusiast. It wouldn’t feel out of place as a commuter, tourer or even on a race track. And then there is the way it looks. 

 

Where does it fit in?

As the pioneer of the segment, Kawasaki had the freedom to charge an arm and a leg for the Ninja 300, and it didn’t seem odd due to the lack of competition. Today however, the Rs 4.43 lakh price tag makes it look absurdly expensive, especially when you consider that the KTM RC390 can be yours for Rs 2.70 lakhs. The new Yamaha YZF-R3 retails at Rs 4.00 lakhs while the Benelli 302R will set you back by Rs 4.24 lakhs. It is worth noting that all these bikes, apart from the Ninja 300, get ABS as standard.

Photography by Kaustubh Gandhi

Gear Check

 

1. Zeus ZS-811 Speedster helmet – 

Lightweight and comfortable budget helmet with good noise isolation. It gets ECE 22.05 safety rating and Double D-ring mechanism, which means you can use it on race tracks too. Price - Rs 4,600.

2. Joe Rocket Alter Ego 3.0 jacket – 

An extremely versatile all-weather jacket. In this guise, it is being used as a ventilated mesh jacket, though it ships with two more liners - waterproof and thermal. Price – Rs 20,000.

3. Ixon Moto HP gloves – 

High quality full gauntlet leather gloves suited for city riding, touring and track use. Offers good ventilation and a high level of protection. Expensive though. Price - Rs 9,500

4. Café Racer Moto Kevlar Jeans: These Kevlar lined denims offer adequate breathability and are comfortable even on long rides. Price: Rs 4,500

5. Sidi B2 boots – 

All-round street and sportbike riding shoes also suitable for track days. Not ventilated, which can make it uncomfortable for everyday use. Price - Rs 17,000

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