Mix It Up
We brought these three 250s together to see which one offers what we feel to be the right type of performance for the entry-level market. And speaking of entry-level, we even had three beginners with scant riding experience try out each bike to give us their first-hand opinions.
Firing up the Honda or Hyosung in the morning requires nothing more than turning the key and hitting the starter button. The Kawasaki, on the other hand, is one of the few street motorcycles left that still uses carburetors, and thus requires some fiddling with the choke lever to keep the engine from either stalling or singing at 5000 rpm (interestingly, the Ninja 250 is equipped with fuel injection in all the other markets except the U.S.).
When it comes to ergonomics, both the Honda and Kawasaki have a more hospitable riding position than the Hyosung. The GT250R’s ergos are very sport-oriented, with clip-on bars that lean your torso forward and put more weight on your wrists, along with higher-set pegs and less legroom (to be fair, the Hyosung’s footpeg brackets are adjustable to one of three positions). Although the GT250R’s seat height is half an inch lower than the Honda or Kawasaki (which both are listed 30.5 inches), it doesn’t feel that way, especially since the Hyosung’s midsection is wider. This splays the rider’s legs out farther, and combined with the low bars can make the bike more difficult to balance for shorter riders. The CBR has the narrowest midsection and most upright ergos, with the Kawasaki only slightly wider and more aggressive; both are comfy enough to run through a tank of gas without complaints, while the Hyosung will have your derrière crying uncle well before 100 miles.
The Hyosung’s clutch was stiffer than the others, with more effort needed at the lever. Engagement was also toward the end of the lever travel, requiring a more deft touch compared to the Honda and Kawasaki, which were butter-soft and intuitively smooth by comparison.
Throttle response is where the Honda’s torquey single-cylinder engine and crisp fuel injection show a distinct advantage taking off from a stop. The Kawasaki and Hyosung both rev a little sluggishly off the bottom, forcing you to use more throttle than the Honda. That torquey response also makes itself known in acceleration anywhere from 10-40 mph, where the CBR is quicker and able to get the jump on the other two whenever the throttles are opened up. The Ninja requires a lot of rpm before it displays the same acceleration, while the Hyosung seemingly requires more throttle to match the Honda.
Once above 50 mph, however, both the twin-cylinder engines begin to show a definite advantage in power spread as the Honda starts running out of breath. At 70 mph, the CBR starts to struggle while the Hyosung and especially the Kawasaki are still well within their powerbands. At 80 mph, you can pretty much stick a fork in the Honda, while the Hyosung is wheezing pretty heavily; meanwhile, the little micro-Ninja is still purring (well, okay, more like screaming) along contently at 10,250 rpm, with plenty more in its pocket.