2013 Beginner Sportbike Shootout - Video
Honda CBR250R vs. Hyosung GT250R vs. Kawasaki Ninja 300
Hyosung’s 249cc engine more than holds its own on the dynamometer. In fact, except for a slight hiccup near 6K rpm, the 75-degree V-Twin outpaces Honda’s one-lung thumper all the way up the chart. While both achieve peak torque at around 6500 rpm, in the end the Hyosung reached 700 revs further up the dial and rounded up nearly three more ponies (25.5) than the Honda’s 22.5, a bit short of the 24.0 horses our 2011 CBR delivered.
Hyosung’s Twin also bested Honda’s Single in the torque department. The Honda didn’t crank up its torque output until about the 5000-rpm mark, while the Hyosung started lower, reached max output quicker, and held that peak longer than did the Honda. Admirable qualities all.
And yet, on the blacktop the GT250R couldn’t measure up. Its big-boned chassis comes with a 59-pound weight penalty that dramatically cuts into its power-to-weight ratio. We’d love to see how this Hyosung engine performs in a chassis more suited to its displacement.
The CBR’s mill, by comparison, doesn’t disappoint in any way. On the dynamometer it naturally loses to the twin-cylinder bikes, but the friendly 249cc Single excels in any urban environment, doing it confidently, eagerly and precisely.
“It pulls well from just 3000 rpm,” says our Editor-in-Cheese. “The bottom-heavy powerband makes the CBR more noob-friendly than the others in this group.”
Roderick concurs: “The Honda’s thumper is incredibly smooth, even at freeway speeds, and produces a respectable amount of low-end torque.”
The Ninja’s 296cc parallel-Twin assuredly realizes Kawasaki’s desire to put this new Ninjette into a class all its own. The baby Ninja uses those 7.8mm of added stroke on each cylinder to pump foot-pounds and ponies to the rear tire clear beyond 10,000 rpm, achieving a peak torque rating 20% higher than the CBR – at 3K rpm higher on the tach. On pavement, those numbers translate as you’d expect they would.
According to quarter-mile times published in Cycle World, both 250s hit 1320 feet in about 16 seconds flat, which shows that they can keep up with most traffic. However, the Ninja 300 is able to do the deed in a relatively blazing 14.4 seconds, quite a bit quicker than the vast majority of automotive pylons.
“While its rivals are nearly tapped out at 80 mph,” Duke notes, “the Ninja loafs along at perhaps just one-third of its throttle travel, registering 8800 rpm and having 4000 revs additional headroom before hitting redline. The added displacement expands its powerband into something exciting even for vet riders.”
And that’s important, because this is where the “class all its own” thing becomes glaring. Seasoned riders know it’s sometimes easier to accelerate away from potential trouble than to hit the brakes. On the highway, the 250cc rider won’t have that “out,” because he’s likely near top speed. The Ninja 300 rider, on the other hand, probably has enough throttle left to push beyond merging trucks, budding traffic knots and flying tire treads.
In the end, it’s safe to assume the Ninja 300 owner likely won’t be as quick to outgrow his motorcycle. The beginner who starts off with the Ninja 300 should get at least another year out of his first bike than the newbie aboard the Honda CBR250R or the Hyosung GT250R. That translates into extra value.
“Where the CBR can be viewed as more of a beginner’s bike, the Ninja 300 is docile enough for a beginner and exciting enough to entertain an experienced rider,” Tom says, adding he wouldn’t mind having the little Ninja in his own garage.
As for transferring power to the rear wheel, both the Honda and Kawi’s six-speed transmissions were grand, with different actuation but equally satisfying performance. The Ninja’s in particular was nicely suited for the bike’s sporty demeanor, and the inclusion of a slipper clutch is particularly pleasing, especially on such a high-revving sports bike. Comparatively, Hyosung’s 250 has a somewhat clunky tranny that annoyingly popped out of second gear on more than one occasion on our test rides, and it comes up one gear short to its rivals.
Handle The Ride
When Editor Duke notes that CBR250R was more “noob-friendly” than the Ninja 300 or the GT250R, he was referring to more than just the Honda’s powerband. With a wheelbase nearly 1.5 inches shorter than the Kawi and a full 2.2 inches shorter than the Hyosung, Honda’s entry-level CBR is by far the most nimble bike in this comparison. On our ScoreCard, only Editor Duke held back from giving the CBR 10 out of 10 in the handling category. He gave it a 9.5.
“The CBR’s agility is unrivalled in this class, whether slicing up low-speed traffic or bending into a canyon hairpin,” Duke gushes. “The direct feeling through the handlebars offers gigabytes of feedback.” Roderick agrees, likening its flickable nature to an enduro bike.
But the Kawasaki isn’t far behind. “While nothing in this class is as agile as the CBR, the Ninja is only marginally less responsive to handlebar inputs,” Duke admits. The 300’s larger and heavier stance combines with its enhanced power to give it a more assured track than the other two bikes.
The Hyosung performed fairly well in this category, scoring 7s across the board on our ScoreCard. But it was still not up to the level of the Japanese bikes, likely due to its full-size heft. But again, you get what you pay for, right? Hold that thought, Tiger…
Styles For Miles
All three bikes in this comparo are sportily styled, with pointed noses, aerodynamic fairings and spritely tail sections that give each a knife-in-the-water deportment. As for which bike comes out superior in this department depends on your perspective.
Kawasaki wasted no expense on the Ninja 300’s looks, and the Motorcyle.com ScoreCard proves its package is our favorite of the three. In fact, parked next to its big brother, the new 636, a layman would likely have a tough task distinguishing between them.
“Kudos to Kawasaki for delivering a package that looks way more expensive than it is,” Duke raves. “The 300’s new styling gives the impression of a more substantial and striking motorcycle that can hang its headlights high even among more expensive machinery. Its integrated flush-mount front turnsignals and titanium-colored footpeg hangers are just two of several reasons I judged the Ninja’s finish details best in class.”
“While the CBR might not peg our lust meter, don’t tell that to the postman we rode past who yelled, ‘That’s exactly the bike I want!’” Duke laughs. “Perhaps he liked it because it matched his USPS truck.”
The Hyosung won’t be outdone in the looks department. Available in red, black, white and two-tone, it looks sharp on the street, save for, perhaps, that chrome muffler hanging off its right side. Closer inspection reveals a couple of sloppy frame welds and comparatively shabby plastics, plus a disappointingly weak headlight. But hey, a hiccup or two is expected when you purchase a budget brand, right?
In the cockpit, all three bikes feature an analog tach with digital LCD speedo readout. Instrumentation is fleshed out with a clock, fuel gauge, and dual tripmeters (except for the Honda, which curiously offers only one tripmeter). The Hyosung features a novel adjustable backlight, and the Ninja boasts a peculiar-looking icon on its digital inset called an Economical Riding Indicator, which points out maximum fuel economy.
All three offer integrated passenger grab handles (the Ninja with unobtrusive hand holds integrated into its tailsection) and diminutive underseat storage compartments with helmet holds. The Kawi has bungee hooks under the passenger seat; the Honda sneaks a couple of molded bungee nooks into the plastic under the tail; and the Hyosung makes no specific concessions for strap-on cargo.
It’s little wonder all three motorcycles in this comparison are ranked among the very best in fuel economy (among freeway legal vehicles, of course). The CBR250R boasts the highest manufacturer claim of the three, and our results prove Honda’s claims.
In a mix of city and freeway riding Honda’s single-cylinder thumper achieved a mind-blowing 74.4 miles per gallon, not far off Honda’s claimed rating of 77. This was followed by the Ninja 300’s impressive 59.6 mpg and the Hyosung V-Twin’s underwhelming 50.6 – which wouldn’t have been such a letdown had the Hyosung spec sheet not pledged a far higher number of 78. It’s worth noting that both the Ninja and the Hyosung feature 4.5-gallon fuel tanks, while the Honda holds only 3.4 gallons of fuel.