Speaking of purring along, the Kawasaki is noticeably smoother during highway cruising than the other two. The Hyosung’s vibration is the most annoying, with a buzzing in the bars and pegs from 6000-9000 rpm that will surely get tiring on long rides, while the Honda’s is more subdued between 7000-8500 rpm. The CBR’s mirrors are easily the best of the group, with spacing wide enough to easily see behind you; both the Hyosung and Kawasaki allow your elbows to intrude into the view too much. And as far as fuel economy, the Honda’s single-cylinder engine was king with an average of 70 mpg; however, you’ll definitely be stopping more frequently than the Hyosung, whose 67 mpg average and 4.5-gallon fuel tank (compared to the CBR’s 3.4-gallon tank) ensure well over 250 miles between fuel stops. The Kawasaki pays the price for its increased performance with a 46 mpg average, but with the largest tank capacity, more than 200 miles between fill-ups is the norm.
Kawasaki Ninja 250R
Kawasaki Ninja 250R
The Kawasaki’s instrument panel is all analog, including the odometer and tripmeter; fuel gauge is fairly accurate.
Honda CBR250R dash has an...
Honda CBR250R dash has an analog tach atop the digital LCD panel; beginner riders disliked the location of the digital speedometer and felt it needed to be higher and bigger.
Hyosung’s analog tach sits...
Hyosung’s analog tach sits to the left of its digital LCD, with most agreeing its layout was the best of the lot.
When the pavement turns twisty, all three bikes’ acquit themselves well despite their budget suspension pieces. The Honda is the most agile of the group, although the micro-Ninja is a close second in maneuverability, with the Hyosung’s long 56.5-inch wheelbase, and weight disadvantage (31 pounds heavier than the Kawasaki, and a whopping 59 pounds more than the CBR) consign it to following behind the other two in the canyons. The Honda’s suspension is probably the best damped, although it’s softer overall than the Ninja when the pace really picks up; the Kawasaki remains relatively unflustered in the faster corners while the CBR and Hyosung start to wallow and wander about. The Ninja does suffer from an excess of high-speed compression damping though, causing the rear to kick up over sharp-edged bumps at speed.
Ironically, the GT250R’s dual 300mm front discs don’t provide the stopping power and feel of either the Honda’s single 296mm disc or the Kawasaki’s single 290mm disc. In fact, despite the smallest front brake of the group, the Ninja was the unanimous favorite of all our testers (beginners included), with a crisp response that wasn’t too grabby for novices while still providing excellent power, feedback, and modulation. While the Honda’s brake was just responsive and strong enough, most of our testers felt it was a little too soft overall.
With all three bikes coming in at $3999, this comparison test was bereft of any price considerations, which helps narrow down the ratings significantly. The Hyosung has a lot going for it, including a solid build, long range from its gas-sipping engine and decent size fuel tank, and performance that’s more than adequate to keep newbies satisfied. In this company though, the GT250R is simply too rough around the edges to warrant placing above the rest.
And that leaves the CBR250R and Ninja 250R. The Honda has obviously been designed with the new rider in mind, from its torquey yet benevolent engine to its agile yet neutral handling; the CBR is meant to be as unintimidating as possible in order to give the newbie a comfortable platform to learn on. And in typical Honda fashion, the bike has innovative design and superb quality in its build.
What puts the Ninja 250R slightly above the Honda is the fact that while it has the ease and user-friendly operation a beginner needs for an easy learning environment, the Kawasaki also has enough performance to keep that rider busy learning for much longer. Most riders that continue on the motorcycling path move on to larger bikes as they progress; the Ninja 250R’s advantage is that it can fill that role—as well as many others—for more people longer. An amazing achievement for a bike that has changed little from its inception 25 years ago. SR