Kawasaki Versys X-300 [2018-2019] Review
This is the Kawasaki Versys-X300. Launched in India back in 2017, it is touted as one of the best small ADVs in the market. But, at Rs 5.6 lakhs in Mumbai, it is also very expensive; if not for anything else, for being a 300.
No, this isn't the 2018 edition. No, there has been no change to it whatsoever since it was launched. And no, we hadn't forgotten about it. It's just one of those things that sometimes take longer than expected. A lot longer in this particular case.
This is the Kawasaki Versys X-300. Launched in India back in 2017, it is touted as one of the best small ADVs in the market. But, at Rs 5.6 lakhs in Mumbai, it is also very expensive; if not for anything else, for being a 300.
But, you do get your money's worth when it comes to quality. The paint job is fantastic; and this is a heavily used motorcycle. We found no real signs of rust; at least on parts that weren't fabricated in India.
The switchgear though basic, is crisp to operate. And the plastic all round not only fits well, it looks and feels solid. Apart from the pannier, which is flimsy. Not just to the touch, but also in the way it operates.
That's nearly a five-on-five for the Versys. Both the seating and standing ergonomics (it's an ADV, after all) are spot-on. The seat is low, the footpegs are neutrally positioned, the handlebar is just the right height, and the distance between the seat and the handlebar makes for properly upright seating. No pointless crouching here.
The one-piece seat is large and cushy, and even the pillion end is big enough to hold someone hefty. Then there's the ride. It isn't exactly plush, and many might find it a bit firm initially. But, it's well damped. And that means even though the suspension doesn't isolate the rider from the road completely, it does cut out all the ugliness.
There's no handlebar shudder, no bottoming out into potholes, and no kickback from the rear to speak of. It also doesn't jiggle or skip about even when the going gets rough leaving the bike with a stable, confident and relaxed air.
It's just one of those bikes that allows you to power through almost anything without shaking its head or bucking around.
We will split this into two parts - on the road and off it. Because ADV.
On the road, the Versys is a joy. It's got a neutral balance, decent turns lock-to-lock, and a low seat height that allows you to put both feet firmly on the ground. And though its not exactly a light bike, moving it around on muscle power alone won't leave you with shredded tendons. It's also easy to filter through traffic with.
Away from the city, its straight line mannerisms are typical of a big bike. It just stays on its intended line of travel no matter the crosswinds or change in surfaces. Even around corners, it might not be as agile as street nakeds with its slightly lazy trail, the long travel suspension, and its high handlebar, but it is anything but cumbersome or uninvolving.
It doesn't feel vague when you tip it into a corner; it doesn't skip or wallow if it encounters a mid corner bump; and it doesn't flex or feel skittish when powering out. Sure, it needs positive and slightly exaggerated steering inputs, but once you have steered it, it holds on to its line, like a dog does a ball.
Off-road, the Versys won't blow your mind. It might run spoked wheels - 19 and 17 inches, front and rear - but it uses more road-focused IRC tyres. And, you can't turn the ABS off, even for just the rear wheel.
Then there's the high-strung engine. The parallel twin is borrowed from the Ninja 300, and it hasn't lost any of its top-end potency. It also creates unnecessary vibes at the handlebar, seat and foot pegs between 5,000-7,000rpm. Rev past it, and the bike runs smoother and it finally begins to pull with vigour.
Yes, the low end grunt is relatively weak on this engine, which is very uncharacteristic of an adventure motorcycle, big or small. So, to have any sort of control or purchase on dirt, one needs to wring the hell out of the Kawasaki at all times. And, that's not just rude to the bike, it's tiring for the rider too.
Having said that, the X300 does have a few off-road friendly traits. Its slim waist makes it easy to grab the bike with the legs. The fuel tank design allows you to hook your knees when standing up. And, the handlebar is high enough not to necesate excessive bending. To ride standing up comes easy on the Versys.
The X-300 gets ABS, but no tubeless tyres, no ride-by-wire, no adjustable levers, and no LED lighting whatsoever.
As we mentioned earlier, this engine is a high-strung one. And that never bodes well for fuel economy. Expect the to return fuel efficiency figures in the high twenties at best. But, at least the X300 has a big tank (17 litres), and that means good highway range on a tankful.
Fitness of purpose
The proper definition of an ADV involves long travel suspension, high ground clearance, spoked wheels, upright seating, and luggage carrying capability that would make a donkey proud. And on these counts the Versys-X300 comes quite close.
But, an ADV is also about low and mid range torque to make it easier and more relaxed to ride on dirt or while touring. On the X300, one has to rev it and make constant down shifts just to keep the momentum. And, that's one big shortcoming of this small ADV.
As a product, the X300 is undoubtedly good, even though expensive. It is comfortable to spend long hours on; it can most certainly go around a corner; it can carry a pillion and some luggage; and even though it isn't ideal for dirt, with the right upgrades (read better tyres), it should work.
Moreover, it has comfy ergos, it isn't as heavy as a rock, and it has decent range and wind protection for highway blasts. It has light controls too. It doesn't heat up. And, with its low seat height and good turning circle, it's quite manageable as a daily driver.
But, it needs a different engine.
Photography by Kapil Angane
Helmet: Arai Astro IQ - Rs 59,000
Jacket: Helstons Sonny Mesh - Rs 15,990
Gloves: RS Taichi Shorties - Rs 6,500
Pants: Helstons Corden Stone Riding Denims - Rs 17,990
Boots: Alpinestars Tech 7 MX - Rs 30,000
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