Kawasaki’s all-new Ninja 400 is ready to upend the small-displacement sportbike category by offering the triumvirate of appealing motorcycle characteristics: class-leading power, a reasonable price, and swanky good looks.

At a base MSRP of $4,999, the new 400 retails for the same price as the previous Ninja 300, and the 400 is also endowed with a seriously attractive profile. But we already knew that when the Ninja 400 was announced.

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What we can exclusively report now is the Ninja 400 produces more power than anything in its class, cranking out a considerable 44.0 horsepower at its rear wheel. Its torque is also healthy, at 25.0 lb-ft when run on the Dynojet 250i at our friend’s shop, Mickey Cohen Motorsports.

2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400 dyno

Exclusive Ninja 400 dyno run shows a lot of ponies and an impressively flat torque curve from its 399cc parallel-Twin motor. That’s nearly a 30% increase in horsepower over the Ninja 300!

Of course, the Ninja 400 is armed with more engine displacement than all but one of its rivals, so it brings a size advantage to the table. But a bike with a bigger engine and similar weight priced at the same or similar MSRP threshold is a net gain. Full of fuel (3.7 gallons), the ABS-equipped Ninja 400 scaled in at 366 pounds, which compares favorably to the claimed wet weight of the 321cc Yamaha R3 ABS (375 lbs) and 384-lb Ninja 300 (with 4.5 gallons of fuel).

Horsepower dyno chart: 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400 against other small-displacement sportbikes

The dominance of the Ninja 400’s engine (dark green trace) is evident in this horsepower chart, dwarfing its 300cc competition and revving to a top-end pull that even surpasses the output of Honda’s 471cc CBR500R. Note also how the Ninja keeps pace or exceeds the 373cc Single of KTM’s RC390.

Perhaps most appealing is how Kawasaki was able to hold the line on pricing, selling for the same MSRPs as the Ninja 300, at $5,299 for ABS. The sharp-looking KRT edition colorway retails for $5,499 and includes ABS.

For context, Yamaha’s base-model R3 also retails for $4,999. Honda’s CBR300R is cheaper by $300 but is down an enormous 18 horsepower. The CBR500R, while close in power to the Ninja 400, costs much more ($6,599) and weighs a massive 59 lbs extra. KTM’s RC390 retails for $5,499 but includes ABS as standard, and it weighed 364 lbs last time we tested it.

Beginnerish Sportbike Shootout

Torque dyno chart: 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400 against other small-displacement sportbikes

Small-displacement sportbike engines are generally known for weak torque production, but the Ninja 400 is going to change that assumption.

In its brief time in our hands, the Ninja 400 was ridden only to and from the dyno by Sean Alexander, who, at 6-foot-2 and more than 250 lbs, isn’t the ideal candidate for a smaller sportbike. That said, Kawi’s 400 impressed him with its relative vigor, accelerating on an uphill freeway section to 105 mph while sitting upright. In a tuck on a downhill road, he saw 127 mph on the speedo and estimates an actual 120-mph top speed. He said it felt stable at speed but didn’t feel especially nimble. Brake feel, he says, was linear.

2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400 ABS SE

The Ninja 400 is also available in this Pearl Solar Yellow/Pearl Storm Grey/Ebony colorway.

While we never know for sure how a comparison test is going to turn out before we ride the bikes side by side, unless Kawi messed up the adroit handling of the Ninja 300, the new Ninja 400 is a solid bet to take the top honors in our 2018 Lightweight Sportbike Shootout.

Our boy Ryan Adams will be testing the Ninja 400 on street and the racetrack this week, so be sure to stay tuned to MO for his report.

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  • Jon Jones

    OMG! OMG!! OMG!!!

    If you don’t buy Harley-Davidson MotorClothes you’re supporting the terrorists!

  • Starmag

    This should be fun to flog without endangering one’s license too badly. Too bad for insurance purposes it’s called a Ninja, which they seem to have a thing for.

    • Let’s hope for a Z400!

      • Starmag

        Z400RS?

        • Born to Ride

          They’d charge a 2800$ premium for it and mess up the fueling on purpose to thumb their noses at us…

          • Starmag

            And de-tuned for torque!

    • Bmwclay

      Even in California, 127 mph might get you noticed.

      • Sayyed Bashir

        I was thinking the same thing: If you publish in a online magazine how fast you were going on a public roadway, can you be cited? Over 100 mph is jail time and a big fine and points on the DL. Hopefully they let you have a laptop and internet access so you can still write articles.

  • Born to Ride

    Bring on the Versys 400!

    • john phyyt

      .Yep .. A little restyle to mimic Z900 ..

      • gjw1992

        Mimic the KH400 – even better.

        • john phyyt

          I agree .. How about both.

  • SteveSweetz

    The CBR500R has an ABS option too, it’s $6899. Honda is going to have to adjust their pricing. Awesome and kind of crazy that Kawi is maintaining the Ninja 300 price for this.

    • Honda’s going to have to adjust their pricing and trim some weight if they want the CBR to compete with the new Ninja. I don’t think they can increase the power anymore and still have an A2-compliant bike.

      • MotorbikeMike

        I have hope, they shaved 30 pounds off the naked interpretation. Maybe we’ll get a redesigned cbr soon.

  • Matt O

    i wish this had been around when i started riding. this puts my old ex250 to shame. i cannot wait to see what these are going for used in five years.

    • Maria

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    • Born to Ride

      Every time some sweet new beginner bike comes out I think the same thing. But I’m not sure my newly 18 year old self would have popped for 6500-7000$ OTD on a brand new ninja 400. I bought my completely unmolested and scratchless 2004 SV650 in 2009 for 3600$ OTD. I then proceeded to wreck it 3 times in my first 2 years of ownership(all lowsides). Took it apart, put it back together with nicely repainted parts and upgraded suspension and brakes. Rode it for 2 more years and sold it for 3000$. What more could I ask for?

      • What year were you 18? When I was 18, in 1987, $2,340 had the same buying power as $5000 today, according to the BLS CPI calculator: https://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl?cost1=4999&year1=201712&year2=198712

        The MSRP of the 250 Ninja in 1986 (couldn’t find a price for the ’87) was $2299. And if you want to compare apples to apples, you can find a pretty nice used Ninja 300 for about $3,000. That’s $1404 in 1987 dollars. I remember buying my first motorcycle, an ’82 Yamaha XS650 Special with 1000 miles on it in 1987 for about $1200 OTD.

        • Born to Ride

          I thought I was decently clear, but I was newly 18 in 2009. Hence the purchase of a 5 year old 2004 SV650 being my first bike.

          • Not fair to compare apples to oranges! In 2023 you’ll be able to get a 2018 Ninja 400 for less tha. 1/2 price too.

        • Gabriel Owens

          Im seeing last years fz07’s priced at 5549 on cycle trader.

      • Rocky Stonepebble

        My RZ is older than you.

      • roma258

        I was shopping for my first bike around the same time, a few years earlier actually. If you didn’t want to step up to an SV (great bikes, btw), you were stuck with slim pickins. My first bike was a GS500, a 1980s tech turd bucket. The other options were EX250 or EX500, also 1980s turd buckets with styling to match. These days, the beginner bike market is pretty fantastic. You’ve already got used R3s and RC390s popping up. The CBR300 is a solid option as was the Ninja 300. Plus all the naked/ADV variants of the same chassis.

        Now this Ninja 400 is seemingly taking things to another level. I mean, it looks appealing to me, as someone with over a decade of experience now. It’s a great time to be getting into bikes.

        • Lewis

          Watch it with the 80’s turd bucket comments. My 89 FZR 600 will make quick work of these brand new 400s. Have far less invested in it and that is with reworked suspension.

          • roma258

            I mean those bikes were probably turds in the 80s too 🙂 I love 80s bikes, my VF500 was one of the most rewarding bike I’ve ever ridden. The FZR is great I’m sure, though I lust for the FZR400.

          • Lewis

            Indeed, the 400s are quite expensive now. I am told the 600 engine is a direct bolt in to the aluminum 400 frame.

  • Jack Meoph

    So tempting, but my Ninjette is paid for. The Ninja 400 moved ahead of the CB500F on the wish list though. IF I sold the Triumph and the Ninjette……………. I did see a Kawi Z900RS in the showroom today……memories, misty eye bleeding memories of the bikes we rode………

    • Larry Kahn

      Just got a Z900RS. Go get one.

  • Craig Hoffman

    There no longer is any reason to buy another bike in this class. Well done Kawasaki. You just completely smoked the field.

    • gjw1992

      Euro A2. Max of 0.26bhp per Kg (as well as max of 47bhp regardless of bike weight). Taking the 39.7hp graph figure for the KTM (the end table shows the ninja 300 hp against the rc390?), and that dry weight, the KTM’s around 0.27bhp per Kg. So, pushing the limit.

      • Craig Hoffman

        Good point.

        The way the 300 keeps climbing and the 400 flattens at the peak suggests power was artificially limited on the top end. As mentioned in the dyno video, the bike would probably make 47hp in unrestricted but otherwise stock form.

  • Stephan Boatin

    I’m hoping to see a Versys 400 soon. I want a lightweight adventure bike that still has enough power to hit the highway without buzzing me to death. With the right gearing, the 400 motor in the existing Versys 300 set-up just might hit that sweet spot.

    • Jeff Cunningham

      Yup .. A 400cc Versys suspended to handle a 200#+ rider and a 5 gallon fuel tank.

  • WPZ

    The next question: what will come into the Kawasaki line to replace the 250s?
    I would think that is still a need, even as the old 250s fill out and become 400s.

    • Stuki Moi

      CCs, at least at the smaller end, is increasingly being determined by license and insurance classes in Asian markets. Where I believe 250 is still a major knee point.

  • Old MOron

    How the heck did Kawi hold the price down? Did they cheap out on suspension and other components? The shootout is going to be real interesting.

    • Born to Ride

      It’s possible that the cost of the bike rose, and the left the MSRP the same, effectively shafting the dealerships. Or, this new frame and engine have been designed specifically to be cheaper and easier to manufacture. Or it’s a loss leader intended to snuff out the competition.

    • Chris

      The couple of ride reviews I’ve read thus far said the suspension does very nicely for what it is/at the price point. They said the front brake was a little mushy, but were very impressed overall. All agreed it was an absolute hoot to ride. Sounds like a sweet little bike, especially at the price.

  • GregS

    Can’t wait to get one of these on the track 🙂

  • elgar

    400cc motorcycles…such a sweet spot for street bikes, and I’m glad that they’re back. Bravo Kawasaki.

    • Joe Smith

      I totally agree with you. The right amount of performance, great gas mileage, low maintenance, and low insurance cost. But Honda has been in the game since 2013 with the 471cc CBR500R. I’ve been really enjoying mine for 3 years now.

      • Stuki Moi

        The Kawi adds the thrills of higher revs and lighter weight. Not sure what this 400 gives up in exchange for that.

  • StreetHawk

    Did this article disappear for awhile ? I read it and went back looking and it was not to be found.

    • Old MOron

      Ha ha, MO is not allowed to put this bike on a dyno until every slow-ass other publication gets a chance.

      • Correct.

        • Old MOron

          Hey Sean, when is Kawi going to allow you to post your Ninja H2 SX story? Sheesh!
          http://www.motorcycle.com/manufacturer/kawasaki/manufacturerkawasaki2018-kawasaki-ninja-h2-sx-review-first-ride-html

          • Same time as U.S. press introduction…. couple more weeks. It’s a great bike!

          • Old MOron

            Thank you for your reply. I don’t mean to be contentious. I’m just a little confused. The U.S. press introduction?

            In your explanation, you made it clear that the cry babies were from overseas, “…It wasn’t long before Kawasaki’s U.S. distributor, KMC, started receiving heavy fire from across the oceans … and you can bet your ass we’ll still be the first publication to have a complete ride review live once the first H2 SX press event gets underway over in Europe.”

            So why are you waiting for the U.S press intro? Don’t tell me the Americans pussed out and went crying to Kawasaki, too!

            Don’t get me wrong. I don’t expect Adam, Ari, Zack, etc. to enjoy being scooped. But as far as I can tell, you kicked their asses, fair and square. Did they go crying to Kawasaki and demand that you hold back your story? What BS!

          • The Hockey News Chat

            No. They went to Kawasaki to complain that Rocky’s comments all go to moderation and that he has to use his hockey blog account to cast his pearls before swine bon mots.

          • Old MOron

            I was wondering why our MOronic forum had been so void of bombast bon mots.

  • I’ve since moved up to a bigger bike, but if this Ninja had been around two years ago when I bought my CBR500R, I’d likely have gone for that instead.

  • Patriot159

    When all the Mfg’s. end up at 400cc ‘small bikes’ one of them will have a brilliant idea to make a 250!

    • Personally I can’t see what a 300 or 400 has that makes them any less suitable as a starter bike than a 250: they’re barely heavier, no taller in the seat, and not appreciably more powerful. Maybe this gradual uptick in displacement for beginner bikes represents a market correction of sorts because the manufacturers have realized that just about anything that’s A2-compliant would make a great beginner bike.

  • hipsabad

    as far as the spec sheet goes it seems the KTM’s the winner here: weight, shortest wheelbase, ABS included, only inverted fork, radial mount caliper, and matches Kawi with a slipper clutch. priced almost the same

    • Kevin Duke

      It now also includes the updates given to the 2017 390 Duke, including ride-by-wire throttle, TFT instruments and backlit switchgear.

      • hipsabad

        woah Kevin, I was trying to go easy on the competition–didn’t want to rub it in with the literally brilliant and entertaining dash, smooth RbyW, and ‘enlightened’ switches. You know, i bought a 2016 because of an article by you–and now i traded that in for a 2017 because of another article by you(!) As i wrote once before, Mattighofen owes you some commish

        • Kevin Duke

          Wow, I’m thrilled at the level of trust you have given me – thanks!

          • Sayyed Bashir

            I think my 2015 KTM 1190 Adventure R commission can be added to that.

          • Kevin Duke

            Cool! It’d be interesting to have somehow cataloged all the purchasing decisions I’ve played a role in over the years!

          • Sayyed Bashir

            Do a MO survey.

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            Reading one of your articles convinced me to purchase a Molson Golden.

          • Kevin Duke

            I doubt it. I’ve always been more of a Labatt guy… 🙂

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            I meant for me! And if I knew you better, I’d do the punch line. But, although I would mean it in a jocular, dressing room manner, like two old pals, it could be construed as being insulting. So, I shall leave it at that, Duker.

            (And maybe, someday, an American hockey fan shall twig to the nicknames, Dukeser).

            😉

    • Joe Smith

      Except for that suspect Indian build quality. Now my 2014 Thai built CBR500R has been outstanding.

    • Stuki Moi

      For ultimate sportiness, those specs look like the winning formula. For pretty much any other use, I’d take the longer (still short) wheelbase twin.

      • hipsabad

        I have seven different bikes, all of them have longer wheelbases than the 390. But that Duke’ll turn within turns so intuitively that it becomes a trip in itself! All while being very stable—brilliant!

  • Arvin.

    I’m still caught between the cbr 500r and the ninja 400. any help or info would be great!! thanks !

    • Stuki Moi

      Vacation in Spain. Rent both back to back….

      More realistically, I know at least Kawi has travelling roadtest shows. Not sure about Honda. Still annoys me to no end how difficult it is to get test rides in the US.

      • Arvin.

        hahaha i don’t have the luxury to go to a vacation. but from what heard the cheaper, lighter is the better choice. that being said others said that the additional weight on the cbr feels good on the highway as you are more stable?

      • Arvin.

        i don’t have that luxury for vacation. also I’m a beginner and was just trying to figure out which would be that best ahahah

        • Sayyed Bashir

          Insurance will be less on the Honda. Agents are allergic to the Ninja name. Slightly heavier is better for a more planted feel. And the Honda will last forever. Maybe even keep its value longer.

          • Brian Clasby

            Also, it seems like the Honda is having a hard time selling them. There is a brand new one sitting in my local dealer for $4500.

        • Rocky Stonepebble

          Beginner, eh? Have you considered that new Kawasaki H2?

  • Kahless01

    30% more from about 30% more displacement. who knew?