Bunny Punia feels the world’s best 250cc motorcycle has been worth the wait. But is it worth every single penny?
Photography Sanjay Raikar
It won’t be wrong to say that the bike you see on these pages is probably the most speculated, hyped and awaited motorcycle in the history of Indian two-wheelers. Since it was first showcased at the 2008 Auto Expo in New Delhi, enthusiasts have been waiting patiently for the Ninja 250 to be launched commercially by Bajaj. Before the patience of thousands of local bikers and Ninja fans turned into sore disappointment, the Pune-based manufacturer finally decided to take the right step and uncovered the baby Ninja as well as, most importantly, disclosed the bike’s pricing for the Indian masses last month. Many people say that the bike has come too late and at a price too steep. I do agree with the first statement but for the second argument, all I can say is that one needs to be in the saddle of this bike to really feel and experience true entry-level sports biking in its purest form.
The Ninja 250 had been selling pretty well in various countries without any major changes for over two decades. In 2008, the motorcycle got its first major revamp on every single front – from the design to the engine – and the modern Ninja 250R was born. What we have here is the 2010 model which remains more or less unchanged from the 2008 variant. However, the bike will be sold in only two colour options in India, namely the classic Kawasaki lime green and the all-black version which is called the Ebony in a few markets. The former colour variant, for the year 2010, gets a black rear body panel along with a green seat and a black exhaust instead of the chrome one on earlier models. Visually, this baby Ninja has a very strong character. It looks like a bigger machine and has the right amount of curves with minimal graphics running along its length. The twin front headlamps (one works all the time, similar to the bikes available abroad) look distinctive from a distance but the stupid Indian government regulations mean that the position of the front number plate spoils the mood a bit. Side on, this bike looks the best – the full fairing, petal discs up front and at the rear, the beefy 2×1 exhaust with dual catalysers (do I smell prospective owners already thinking about aftermarket units?) and the raised rear go a long way in making the Ninja the prettiest thing on two-wheels this side of the bigger superbikes in the country. Look closely and you notice bungee hooks below the pillion seat – a boost for tourers. Even though the bike is assembled in India and imported from Thailand as a CKD (Completely Knocked Down) unit, on closer inspection, we found the overall quality of the workmanship and the fit-finish to be perfect.
Swing a leg over and suddenly the big looking small bike seems to shrink. To start with, the fuel tank (in spite of having a capacity of 17 litres) does feel small. The seat height of 790mm is low by sport bikes’ standards. Another thing that really disappoints you is the analogue speedometer console which frankly looks very ‘90s. This bike will be sold in India without a single change from the versions sold abroad and hence the dated looking console. Don’t be discouraged by the above lines though as the moment you bend down a bit, hold onto the clip-on handlebars and thumb the starter, the fun begins. The parallel twin, 249cc, liquid cooled, fuel injected, eight valve motor immediately sets into a slightly high set idling. It doesn’t really sound very exciting until you rev it. Shift into the first, raise the revs, dump the clutch and the next few moments will change your perception towards 250cc bikes completely. This Ninja is the same European model which means we get 33 ponnies on offer along with 22Nm of torque. The bike weighs in at 172 kilos (kerb weight with fuel and oil). This number is three kilos more than the UK model due to the extra weight of the saree guard and the number plate which means the bike has a power-to-weight ratio of 191.8PS per tonne. Impressive? You bet.
The Ninja’s task is to infiltrate, combat and emerge victorious after assassinating its enemies. Though the baby Ninja doesn’t really have any enemies in the Indian market, I feel that it has emerged victorious in every sense. The Kwacker looks sensational especially in its green dress (I personally don’t like the black tail and green seat funda though).
With Aspi in the saddle and our test equipment strapped on, the bike managed a naught to 60km/h timing of 2.98 seconds. Zero to 100km/h came up in just 7.9 seconds and the way this Kawasaki continued to gather speeds was simply amazing for a small capacity bike. With a limited straight of just 1.1km at the Bajaj test track, exiting the last left hander in third and pinning the throttle hard saw the test equipment register a true whack of 152km/h. Mind you, this was in fifth with another gear to go. We believe that given the road, this little screamer will go onto hit a genuine 160km/h or around 170km/h on the speedometer. Brilliant! What is also impressive is the way the engine feels at high speeds – completely fuss free with enough power in reserve. We expect the bike to run around 25km to a litre in city traffic and while on the highway, the tall sixth gear should help extract good numbers while touring as well.
But the Ninja is not just about out and out performance. For one, the little two cylinder mill being short stroke, loves being revved and while doing so, it remains almost vibration free. A lot of credit for this goes to the 180 degree crank which helps when it comes to a smooth and free revving character. Like its bigger brother, the ZX-6R, this bike also features dual throttle valves which aid responsiveness across the rev range. The Ninja also has a linear yet terrific midrange, although in the limited riding environment, I really couldn’t judge how well the bike would fare in day-to-day traffic. What I could easily evaluate however was the nimble, effortless and forgiving handling of the bike. The 37mm telescopic front forks and Kawasaki’s UNI-TRAK rear suspension along with the rugged diamond shaped frame and a beefy square cross-section swingarm go a long way in giving the bike a very sweet handling nature. Further, the 110mm front and 130mm rear IRC tyres also lend a helping hand in the way they hug the road. While flicking the bike around the test track or gunning the throttle hard through high speed curves, the Ninja felt like no other small capacity bike in India today. Yes, that is a very strong statement but it is a fact. You can aim the bike in the intended direction without losing composure and take the exact line you want to with perfect ease. The punchy, high revving nature of the motor also helps as you can stick to a lower gear and rev the hell out of the small engine without losing steam on most occasions. The braking feedback is impressive too aided by the 290mm front and 220mm rear brakes work more than exceptionally well.
Before I took the bike for a spin, I already knew its retail price. Yes, I was disappointed like thousands of others but after a half hour riding and thrashing session, my perception changed. This is a bike that draws its lineage from the legendary larger Ninjas. Its rides and feels like one too, albeit in a toned down way. It looks absolutely ravishing and will satisfy those looking for an exhilarating performance too. Being backed by Bajaj’s Probiking network is another added advantage. We are told that spares have already reached dealers and full backup support will be provided to Ninja owners. At Rs 2.69 lakh (ex-showroom), I don’t deny that the bike isn’t cheap. Given the fact that it is imported from Thailand (with which India has a FTA agreement) as a CKD unit, I feel it was possible for Bajaj to have a lower price tag. But then who said fun, excitement and involvement come cheap? The Kawasaki Ninja 250R is a practical sports bike too and its full potential can be easily extracted on Indian roads. At the same time, it has more than enough juice for owners to have ‘grinning from ear to ear’ moments inside the helmet every day. Those who understand the value and meaning of taking the first real step into the world of genuine and legal superbikes will surely look no further.
|Beautiful, gorgeous, graceful, sexy – pick your word!
|The clip-ons are sporty wiithout being too low. The Ninja can be a good companion for long rides
The liquid cooled parallel twin engine works brilliantly, especially once the tacho needle inches towards the 10,000 mark