Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 20th March 2020

Kawasaki is set to launch a high-revving new 250cc four-cylinder sports bike, called the Ninja ZX-25R, although it’s not yet clear if it will be made available in the UK.

The mini ZX-10R look-a-like will be launched later this year and harks back to the late 1980s and early 1990s, when Japanese manufacturers produced jewel-like race replicas for their domestic market. Kawasaki showed the bike at the Tokyo Motor Show back in October and has been trailing what it says is the first of several teaser videos showing the bike being ragged around the Jerez MotoGP circuit by five-time Superbike World Champion Jonathan Rea and his factory Kawasaki Racing Team team-mate Alex Lowes.

Screaming in-line four power!

Kawasaki is remaining tight lipped about the specs of its pocket rocket, however onboard footage from the promo video shows the bike wailing to a 17,500rpm redline and 160kph (100mph) down the straight, with the caption ‘screaming in-line four power.’ The engine certainly sounds sweet and is a twin cam, 249cc four-cylinder design fitted with a quickshifter and multiple riding modes, while the chassis too would appear to be of a higher specification than the current Ninja 400 model, which is more of a sportily styled A2 compliant commuter machine than an out-and-out race replica. The bike is fitted with upside-down Showa Big Piston Forks up front and features a fancy gull arm rear swingarm. The bodywork, graphics and headlights follow the current Ninja family lines and, at first glance, the new machine could be mistaken for the company’s range topping ZX-6R and ZX-10R in its traditional lime green livery with black and gold detailing. Closer inspection, however, reveals just a single front disc brake setup and a trellis style steel frame lurking under the sharp bodywork, rather than the bigger bikes’ twin front brakes and aluminium beam chassis.

The ZX-25R would appear to be targeted at the booming Asian market, where small capacity sports bikes like the Ninja 400 and Yamaha’s YZF-R3 have proved hugely popular with riders looking to graduate to something bigger than the smaller capacity machines traditionally used in those countries. It is understood that the Ninja ZX-25R will be built at Kawasaki’s Indonesian factory and that it’s extremely unlikely that the machine would come to Europe or the United States, where emissions regulations are generally tighter than in South East Asia, despite what appears to be a large catalytic converter on the bike shown in the video.

According to Kawasaki Indonesia’s blurb “this long-awaited model was created for discerning, sports-minded customers longing for a racy street machine with high circuit-riding potential.”

Over six and a half million motorcycles are sold in Indonesia alone each year, meaning that there is a huge market for the new Kawasaki.

Two versions or one?

Japanese motorcycle magazine Young Machine, who are well known for having their finger on the pulse when it comes to getting new model scoops has suggested that there could be two versions of the new Ninja, one developing 45bhp and the other a more impressive 59bhp, contradicting perhaps the view that the Ninja is only aimed at Asian riders. If true, this would suggest that Kawasaki are aiming the bike at different audiences in different markets.

The 45bhp version would fall into Europe’s A2 licence category, which restricts bikes to 47bhp, and would place it alongside machines like the Honda CBR500R and the KTM RC 390, while the full power version would open up the appeal of the machine to more experienced riders.

A look at the new ZX-25R Ninja’s engine architecture suggests that it may even be based on the block of the ZXR250 from the late 1980s. The ZXR250 was one of the leading lights of the highly specialised 250 class and made a claimed 45bhp at a heady 19,000rpm. Even accounting for 30 years of development and engineering advancements, the idea of a near 60bhp four-stroke 250 seems hard to comprehend, but exciting nonetheless.


Race reps reborn?

The Ninja ZX-25R represents a rebirth of a niche class which was last seen in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The class came about due to strict Japanese motorcycle licencing laws which restricted riders to machines of a certain power and engine capacity. With domestic riders wanting to be seen on the flagship machines of the day, but unable to ride them on restricted licences, Japanese manufacturers developed a range of 250 and 400cc sports bikes with specifications as high as the superbikes of the day.

Just some of the 400cc sports bikes to emerge from this era include the VFR400R NC30, a miniature replica of the legendary VFR750R RC30, Kawasaki’s ZXR400, the Yamaha FZR400RR EXUP and a Suzuki GSX-R400. Along with two-stroke marvels like the Honda NSR250, Yamaha TZR250 and Suzuki RGV250, these were exported in large numbers as second hand bikes to the UK in the early 1990s.

Along with these 400cc four-strokes and 250cc two-strokes were some even more bonkers four-cylinder 250s like the Kawasaki ZXR250 (along with Honda’s CBR250RR and the Yamaha FZR250RR). These bikes looked to all intents and purposes like the range-topping superbikes of the time, without being burdened with the heavy taxes and tough licencing laws for Japanese riders.