We spend a day astride the 2023 Kawasaki Ninja 400 to remind ourselves of what a capable machine it is and also to bring you up to date on the same.
Story: Azaman Chothia
Photography: Apurva Ambep
The Ninja has been an iconic name in the world of motorcycles. This is the Kawasaki Ninja 400 that has returned to our market in its 2023 avatar and is now being sold as a completely built-up (CBU) unit. With styling inspired by Kawasaki’s flagship ZX-10R and H2 models, this one, too, is mean, green, and a menacing machine to look at from just about any angle. It follows the classic silhouette that the Ninja models have had for so long and the design is exactly similar to the previous-generation model that we tested about four years ago. This review unit sports the Lime Green Kawasaki Racing Team (KRT) colour and graphic scheme while there is also a Metallic Carbon Grey that customers may opt for.
There are no real updates in terms of ride modes, electronic aids, phone connectivity, and all of the additions that we see on modern sports bikes in this segment. So, why is this said to be one of the best motorcycles in its segment?
Starting off with the riding position, it is by far the most comfortable sport bike as it places the rider upright unlike other fully faired bikes that have very demanding riding postures. The Ninja 400 feels almost like a sport tourer in terms of ergonomics except for the fact that the footpegs are set slightly toward the rear. With a short seat height of 785 millimetres, this is a very accessible motorcycle and the 140 mm of ground clearance is adequate to tackle our road conditions.
Sitting in the high-tensile steel trellis frame is a 399-cc, liquid-cooled, parallel-twin motor that puts out 45 hp at 10,000 rpm and a peak torque of 37 Nm at 8,000 rpm. It is mated to a six-speed gearbox with an assist and slipper clutch. There has been some loss in torque to comply with the current emission norms but this motor is still very special because of how usable it is, be it within the city or on the highway or carving through your favourite set of zigzags. The power delivery is smooth with a crisp response from the throttle, the clutch action is light, and the gear-shifts are slick. The engine gets into its element at around 6,000 rpm with a nice growl from the exhaust and just loves to be revved all the way to the red-line. What makes it even more engaging is the analogue tachometer. This is something you hardly see on modern sports bikes and it surely added a classy touch to my riding experience. Even though this is a high-revving motor, it is extremely tractable and, in sixth gear, can easily manage to do around 50 km/h. Even while cutting down speed to approach a speed-breaker, you never really have to shift down to first as there is enough power to pull away easily from second or even third.
Suspension duties are handled by telescopic forks at the front with 120 mm of travel and a five-step preload adjustable linked monoshock unit at the rear with 130 mm of travel. While this set-up is on the stiffer side, it is amazing how well it soaks up all the road undulations while riding in the city. At this price point, most people would have appreciated USD forks at the front although, after spending enough time with the bike, I can say that this set-up works very well.
This is one of the most stable and confidence-inspiring motorcycles through a set of corners, which says a lot about why it would be a perfect track tool for a beginner. The handling is sharp and the Ninja 400 is very easy to flick from one side to another while holding the line perfectly, thanks to its 168 kilograms of kerb weight and how the motor allows one to power out of a corner smoothly. Enhancing the feeling is the grip offered by the Dunlop Sportmax tyres wrapped around the 17-inch wheels. Braking equipment includes a 310-mm disc brake at the front and a 193-mm disc at the rear with a dual-channel anti-lock braking system (ABS). I got good feedback from these brakes and once I got used to the feel from the lever, I was able to get on the brakes slightly later.
The Kawasaki Ninja 400 is a beautiful motorcycle that will be appreciated by a mature rider and there is really nothing to complain about except the affordability factor. Priced at Rs 4.99 lakh (ex-showroom), this motorcycle is prohibitively expensive in the Indian market if you compare it with the competition. While I do not justify the price, the Kawasaki Ninja 400 has managed to reserve a spot in my dream garage on account of its usability, comfort, and butter-smooth motor. We hope to see Kawasaki find a way to reduce the price so that many more can own and cherish this baby Ninja for what it truly is.