Once upon a time, Kawasaki applied the Ninja moniker to its fastest and most sporting models. The iconic GPZ900R of 1984 (yep, the bike out of Top Gun) was the first and, since then, the ZX range of 600s and 1000s have been suffixed as Ninjas too.
But in recent years the Ninja name has found itself attached to the sides of some of Kawasaki’s smaller sporty models, which are always faired, never naked. It’s hardly surprising, really, with the word having such strong credentials and small capacity sportsbikes being flagship models in emerging Asian markets. The EX300 is a seriously desirable motorcycle in Asia, so why shouldn’t it wear the famous name with pride?
Indeed, the shrunken Kawasaki Ninja 300 loses none of its bigger sibling’s looks, even if it is obviously not going to get their muscle. Tip toeing through the stages to reach a big bike licence, many riders will look at a 300cc motorcycle while on that journey. The Kawasaki Ninja 300 offers you that big bike look mixed with a smaller engine, albeit one that still has enough go for the open roads. In traditional Kawasaki lime green, the mini Ninja certainly looks the part.
Launched in 2012, it remained part of the Kawasaki range for five years. For 2018 a new Ninja 400 has been introduced, but the 300 still makes perfect sense for commuters and those restricted to an A2 licence. Behind its sporty guise there’s a bike that’s more than happy to do your daily commute to work during the week, then want to play at weekends. The 296cc twin cylinder four stroke motor gives out 39bhp, it’s got a 17 litre tank and with a quoted mpg of around 70 miles it all makes for a practical yet fun motorcycle. Beginners might at first be attracted to those ZX-6R/ZX-10R looks, but they soon realise the Ninja 300 carries a charm of its own. There’s nothing startling about its specification, but as a package it all comes together nicely.
Kawasaki did their homework before launching the model and their research indicated around 40 per cent of potential owners would be aged under 24, of which 22 per cent would be females. The Ninja 300 has something of a racing pedigree too, as the bike was a common sight in the new World Supersport300 race class that was introduced in 2017.
What’s it like to ride?
From the moment you start that twin cylinder four stroke engine, you realise that despite its big boy looks, this is a machine aimed at those starting out on their motorcycle journey. It’s quiet, civilised and designed to attract people to the world of motorcycling, not to scare them away. The bike feels like it’s been built down to a price if you look closely at it. The suspension is pretty basic, non adjustable conventional forks that are paired with a five way adjustable rear shock. The frame is steel and explains the 174kg weight. On the move you’ll notice how smooth the engine is, that’s because it’s been rubber mounted to help reduce the vibrations from the high revving twin cylinder. It’ll happily potter round town, yet it’s equally happy on a dual carriageway too. The real fun starts at 10,000 rpm, but you’ll need some lanes to really explore that territory to the full. One feature that’s a ‘nod’ to its bigger brothers is the slipper clutch that’s fitted as standard.
The tank holds 17 litres of unleaded and if ridden sensibly, you can stretch 270 miles from a tank full. More energetic riding can see the low fuel warning light flash up at around 200 miles. The standard IRC tyres are adequate and will do plenty of miles before needing replaced, even if they lack a little feel, although sportier options are available for riders looking for a little bit more.
What to look for when buying one?
We spoke to Vinny Styles, Sales Manager at Cambridgeshire Kawasaki dealership Wheels Motorcycles. He said: “The Ninja 300 is a great way for beginners to get a taste for bigger bikes. It’s a popular model that tends to lead to brand loyalty too. For Kawasaki sales that’s a good thing. Any motorcycle associated with beginners will carry a higher chance of cosmetic blemishes. A simple topple at standstill will result in a few scratches at best, or bent levers and broken mirrors at worst. Build quality is good, so there are no issues to worry about there. Kawasaki has launched a few special editions of the Ninja 300. There was a 30th anniversary model finished in lime green and a Performance Edition that came with a different screen, solo seat converter and a different exhaust. If you can find one for sale they are worth considering. Also worth looking for are any bikes with ABS fitted. This was a £400 option in the past so it’s well worth having.”
What goes wrong with them?
We spoke to Chris Tombleson from the workshops of Grumpy 1260. He services all sorts of motorcycles and told us: “The ones we see haven’t had any untoward issues, even though the people who own them do struggle to leave them standard. We fit quite a few exhausts to these, most owners want a bit more noise and others go for adding style. The brakes benefit from having braided lines fitted. Tyres are another area where owners are poles apart, some want rubber that’s good for lots of miles and others want stickier options, though the 110/17 front and 140/17 rear standard fitments are best adhered too.”
Insure your Kawasaki bike through Carole Nash.