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Kawasaki Ninja 250R Review

kawasaki ninja 250You’ll need to go back over a quarter century to the last era of motorcycling when small, beginner friendly motorcycles were this popular.Kawasaki’s Ninja 250 is the right bike at the right time. The Ninja’s 2008 restyling has made it a good looking to boot, with power to go beyond A to B.

There are so many reasons for today’s unprecedented hype in the 250cc sportbike class. Gas prices are soaring, the recession is shadowing over us, more great websites out there educating new riders on the importance of starting small. Whatever the case, the 250cc market is hot.

The reality is to update the baby Ninja while keeping a low price point,Kawasakicut a few corners. The previous generation ZZR-250’s aluminum frame was replaced with a steel frame.Kawasakiopted not to bring a fuel-injected Ninja 250R toNorth America. Horsepower is down a few ponies from the previous generation. Despite on paper differences and shortcomings versus the ZZR the new 250R still has plenty going for it on the road, and that’s where it counts.

The redesigned Kawasaki Ninja 250R looks a lot like its bigger siblings, but has narrow, low seat height, comfortable standard ergonomics, with fair wind protection. In other words, the Ninja is a nice all around machine for commuting.

The real concern for people looking at a 250cc motorcycle is power, and the Ninja 250R does fine. The average sized rider can comfortably hold 120 km/hr on the highway with power to spare, pushing the bike to 150 km/hr, although acceleration notices a sharp decrease after 135 km/hr, much like the similarly powered 250cc KYMCO Venox cruiser.

best 250cc motorcycles

The flipside is that you’ll need to keep those revs high. The Ninja is particularly weak on the low end and mid range power doesn’t kick in until 7,000 RPM. Performance can be greatly improved with Stage 2 kitting. That is, throwing in a K&N Performance Air Filter, DynoJet 2 jet kits, and a Yoshimura exhaust we saw great low end and midrange performance gains as the Ninja 250R comes too lean fromKawasaki’s factory, likely to comply with North American EPA regulations. The parts for this modification are over $500 in Canada, plus the cost of labor, but this modification is well worth it to the new or veteran motorcyclist looking to keep his Ninja an extra season few seasons and wanting just a touch more power and sound.

Kawasaki Ninja 250R

More on those RPMs, despite working hard, the bike never seems overly buzzy. The Ninja’s light weight and smoothness is complete through the bike, again, much like the KYMCO Venox I’ve happily put over 30,000 km on. The Ninja feels as though it benefits from a rear disk brake over the Venox, as well as having a sixth gear, however both bikes remain the only 250cc motorcycles on the market that we recommend, even over the Honda CBR-250R, Hyosung GT-250R, and Suzuki’s TU-250.

The Good

  • Readily available and beginner friendy
  • Surprising performance and highway capability for a little parallel twin
  • Good resale value
  • New “real sportbike” look

The Bad

  • Bike won’t budge below 3,000 RPM in stock form
  • May still leave people in need of a larger commuter wanting more bike
  • May not be low enough for shorter riders

The Ugly

  • Step backwards from the previous Kawasaki Ninja ZZR-250 generation
  • Peak torque too high up the powerband

Other 250cc motorcycle reviews:
KYMCO Venox 250
Honda Rebel 250
Yamaha V-Star 250
Suzuki TU250

You may also be interested in our Kawasaki Ninja 300R review.


Engine – 4 valves per cylinder, dual overhead cams, liquid cooled 249cc parallel twin
Carbs – 2 x 30 mm carburetor
Compression – 11.6:1
Horsepower – 32 hp @ 11,000 RPM
Torque – 16 ft/lb. @ 10,000 RPM
Transmission – 6 speed
Drive Mechanism – Chain drive
RPM @ 100 km/hr – ~ 7,400 RPM
Fuel Consumption – 4.3 litres / 100 km
Miles on Tank – 418 km
Top Speed – 158 km/hr
¼ Mile Speed – 14.9 @ 137 km/hr

About Adrian from YouMotorcycle

I started riding motorcycles in 2007, founded YouMotorcycle in 2009, and was working in the motorcycle industry by 2011. I've worked for some of the biggest companies in motorcycling, before going full-time self-employed in the motorcycle business in 2019. I love sharing his knowledge and passion of motorcycling with other riders to help you as best I can.


  1. My son bought a used one last fall to learn to ride on with less than 2000 kilometers on it.. Great little bike! He stores it at my house so it is always available for me to putt around on and I have ended up putting about 1500 kilometers on it. I was surprised how well it handles gravel roads, very stable.

    I have a Suzuki S40 so we end up riding together quite a bit. The Ninja is quite a bit slower in acceleration than the S40 up to around 100 kpm.. That is to be expected as the Ninja has half the torque of the 650 thumper. As far as top speed on a flat highway goes he can slowly creep away from the S40. Probably a 2 or 3 kpm higher ultimate top speed when he lays down on the tank.

    Another surprise was that we got almost exactly the same fuel economy. His bike is totally stock and mine I had re-jetted richer with a Dyno Jet kit after the motor was broke in. I also put on a Harley muffler to save about 6 pounds weight and gain a little better exhaust flow. Perhaps the jet kit, airfilter and muffler you mentioned would also improve the fuel economy of the Ninja?

    Overall the Ninja 250 would make a great first bike. Very easy to ride, lots of low millage used ones around between $2000-$2500 dollars. They look good and handle well with enough power for the highway but not enough power to get a new rider into trouble.

    • Absolutely. Put quite a few kilometers on it as the ex girlfriend had one. It’s quite a capable bike, although slow as heck. Doing a full stage one kit (exhaust, intake, carb jetting) really opened it up and let it live up to it’s full potential. It also made the bike sound far too good for a 250. Small wins (see what I did there?).

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