2013 Honda CRF250L vs. 2013 Kawasaki KLX250S - Video

Honda's all-new lightweight 250 shakes up the sleepy dual-sport class

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There isn’t much mystery behind what makes this duo go. Each motorcycle is powered by a liquid-cooled, 249cc Single with a six-speed gearbox. Honda took the oversquare approach, giving the CRF’s jug a 76.0mm x 55.0mm bore and stroke. The Kawasaki engine, while also oversquare, is less so with a bore and stroke of 72.0mm x 61.2mm.

We’ll spare you prolonged anticipation and say up front that it’s a dead heat in the dyno race. Each scoot makes 20 peak horsepower coming on in the low- to mid-8000-rpm range. Only half a foot-pound separates peak torque, with the Honda registering 14.0 ft-lbs and the Kawi 13.5 ft-lbs. However, the Honda scores a bonus point here since it churns out its best twisting force earlier in its rev range (5800 rpm), whereas the Kawasaki doesn’t peak until 7100 rpm.

The CRF’s earlier peak torque is beneficial in that it comes on strong closer to the rpm ranges where the engine will likely spend most of its time spinning – especially when riding off road where the going is often slower.

2013 Honda CRF250L vs. Kawasaki KLX250S dyno chart

When these bikes are rolling on the road rather than the dyno drum you’re hard-pressed to get a true sense that one has a discernible power advantage at any given point. The CRF250L, however, has a distinct feature in its engine package that equates to real world advantages for its rider: fuel injection. The KLX250S continues to use a constant velocity carb.

2013 Honda CRF250L engine
2013 Kawasaki KLX250S engine

Electronic fuel injection (EFI) in this case pays dividends in the form of easy, instant start up, and what we suspected was partially responsible for the feeling that the Honda is more eager to rev, particularly at lower rpm. Throttle response from the Honda’s EFI is free of hiccups, lag time, or any noticeable drawback for that matter.

“Although equal in displacement and nearly so in horsepower, the Honda’s fuel-injected Single is more eager to rev, which really helps accelerate a small-displacement motorcycle out of a tight corner,” said Motorcycle.com Content Editor, Tom Roderick.

The Kawi’s carbureted fuel induction, though, proved to be less than optimal. The KLX is one of the most cold-blooded motorcycles we’ve ridden in some time. Starting the KLX was routinely difficult, even when up to operating temp. Culpability likely lies with environmentally friendly carb tuning meant to keep the engine running lean, and therefore clean.

The Kawasaki’s power delivery is generally linear, but engine response at small throttle openings during on/off throttle transitions seem ever so slightly delayed, again likely due to lean jetting to meet modern emissions standards. If we owned a KLX, we’d definitely look into fitting it with a jet kit. But when the Honda starts instantly, and without thought on the rider’s part, well, why not have EFI…?

Neither bike suffers from too little power at freeway pace and easily cruise between 70–75 mph without feeling frenetic. Engine vibes are expected from a single cylinder, yet both manufacturers did a commendable job of mitigating the amount of buzz reaching the rider.

2013 Kawasaki KLX250S and 2013 Honda CRF250L

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