Kawasaki Ninja 650R too big? Ninja 250R too small? Then the
2011 Kawasaki Ninja 400R should be juuussst right. Mechanically
identical to the 650R with the exception of a smaller 399cc engine, the
second littlest Ninja brings a useful price and performance drop which
combines with the slick styling and reasonably high mechanical spec to
create exactly the sort of appealing, unintimidating, affordable,
broadly capable bike Michael Uhlarik called for in Motorcycling's missing link. The only problem? It's probably not coming to the US. >
The Ninja 400R is coming to Canada where it's priced at $7,499 (CAD). That might sound a tad high, but it's roughly 86 percent the price of the 650R. Applying that same math to the price of a 650R in the US ($7,099) gives us and estimated US MSRP of about $6,099 for the 400R. In comparison, the 250R's US MSRP starts at $3,999. The 400 should also be cheaper to insure and slightly cheaper to operate than the 650R while adding some useful performance over the 250.
Looking at the specs, it actually appears that the 400R is simply a sleeved down Kawasaki Ninja 650R, every number but the bore, stroke and fuel-injector size is identical between the two bikes. The DOHC, eight-valve parallel-twin in the 400R makes 42bhp at 9,500rpm and 27lb/ft of torque at 7,500rpm. It weighs 203kg/447.5lbs (wet).
Let's do any easy numbers comparison for all three bikes:
650R: 71bhp, 49lb/ft, 204kg/449.5lbs, .35bhp:kg, .24lb/ft:kg
400R: 42bhp, 27lb/ft, 203kg/447.5lbs, .20bhp:kg, .13lb/ft:kg
250R: 30.5bhp, 16lb/ft, 170kg/375lbs, .18bhp:kg, .09lb.ft:kg
Looking at those numbers, it's the torque to weight ratio that most separates the 400 and Kawasaki Ninja 250R, the larger bike will be less work to ride and less high-strung as a result. It also comes with a higher level of mechanical specification, namely two petal front brake discs, nicer suspension and a GP-style underslung exhaust.
On Friday, the designer of the Yamaha MT-03 and 2003 Yamaha M1 MotoGP racer suggested that the main reason the US bike industry was unsuccessful at creating young motorcyclists was that there simply aren't enough appealing, affordable, practical small to mid-size motorcycles for them. He called precisely for bikes like the Ninja 400R although he did suggest that manufacturing them outside of Japan could lead to usefully lower retail costs. To us, a $6,099 retail price is simply too close to the hoards of heavily discounted 600 and 1000cc supersports currently flooding the market place.
As of the time of writing (Sunday night), the 400R has been officially released in Canada, but there's no word as to US availability. We'll call Kawasaki tomorrow and ask, but it doesn't look like this bike is US-bound.