Faired motorcycles are my thing. I did lust after the Pulsar 220 for the longest time. Even now, I want to own it. I loved faired motorcycles so much that the LML Adreno was a design marvel. Or so, thought my 19-year old mind. Social media, which wasn’t a craze in 2006, didn’t have a huge hand when I decided to create an email id with the word Ninja in it. I guess the Kawasaki Ninja 250 was out by then and that holly molly got my attention. I still use that email id but not for official purpose. When the Kawasaki Ninja 400 came over for a road test, you can imagine the child-like glee that I felt when I first saw it. Does it manage to be a dream bike for me and many aspiring owners? Let’s find out.
Kawasaki Ninja 400 design and features
This has perhaps got to be one of the best budget clones of the mighty Ninja H2. The Kawasaki Ninja 400 has got that mean looking full-LED headlights. Personally, I am no fan of this colour scheme. It is derived from the Kawasaki Racing Team colours and is a mix of green and black. Moreover, it attracts attention and you can’t leave the Ninja 400 unattended for a moment. Move to the rear and you end up noticing that the LED light looks really nice, however the fat exhaust seems to be an overkill. Speaking of which, I have no idea what the Kawasaki designers were smoking when they designed that hideous grab rail. While it helps move this big bike around on its stand easily, it has a few ergonomic flaws including burying itself into the pillion’s thighs.
The instrument cluster has a negative LCD, similar to the one you have seen in the Dominar 400. This one has twin trip meters, distance to empty, range, digital speedo and an analogue rev counter. There is also the engine temperature gauge. Kawasaki unfortunately doesn’t give you adjustable brake levers and that’s a miss in my opinion. The big non-adjustable windscreen helps reduce wind buffeting and gives you extra speed if you’re tucked in. The fuel tank has knee recesses on the side and help one to hold onto the motorcycle dearly while carving corners.
Kawasaki has gone for a thin padded rider’s seat. It is a bummer for long distances and will force you to take a break. The pillion seat though is better padded. There is storage space under the seat for the vehicle papers.
Kawasaki Ninja 400 engine and transmission
Filling in niches is what Kawasaki is doing at the moment. While the Ninja 300 was recently given the local assembly treatment, the 400 still is imported into the country. That aside, the 400cc parallel twin engine is all-new and is liquid cooled too. This, along with the higher compression ratio has enabled Kawasaki to massage out 49PS of power and 38Nm of torque. The engine is coupled to a 6-speed gearbox that also gets a slip and assist clutch. Needless to say, this engine is a screamer. In the sense, there is lots of power to play with at around 7,000rpm.
Start the engine and the motor settles into a systematic idle quickly. Rev it and the 400cc motor doesn’t seem to have a deep bass to it. This might put off the Benelli customers who have come to expect the world in terms of audio quality from of their single cylinder steeds. Slot the motorcycle into first and you realise that this Ninja is more about performance than aural delight. Even third gear at 20kmph is doable. Better still, I was able to do 45kmph in 6th gear. From there on, the motor pulls strongly as well. I hit a speedo indicated 161kmph before running out of road. The Kawasaki Ninja 400 is fast, however the motorcycle is able to mask its speed well. You never feel that you are doing 100kmph and the mind tells you that it is an easy 60kmph, until you see the speedo numbers.
Refinement is also part of the deal and for the most part, the bike is supremely refined. I appreciate the fact that Kawasaki engineers have also ensured that riding the motorcycle doesn’t cook your legs in traffic. The heat management is just brilliant and never once did the heat gauge cross four bars. The tractability of the engine ensures that you end up getting good fuel economy. For a 400cc parallel twin, how does 26kmpl in city and 33kmpl on the highway sound? Unbelievable, right?
Kawasaki Ninja 400 ride and handling
It is a Ninja and is expected to handle. And it does so with aplomb. I usually concentrate more on the ease of riding in city. Filtering through traffic is easy with the Kawasaki Ninja 400. Couple this with the aforementioned heat management and you will still arrive fresh as a daisy to the office. The handlebars are placed lower, however these don’t take a toll on your wrists. A shorter rider though may be positioned slightly closer to the fuel tank. I like the brakes too – discs at the front and back. These are connected via ABS and help bring the motorcycle to a safe halt.
This being said, brake fade was experienced after a few high speed runs. I will attribute this to the motorcycle not being serviced since a few other journalists had ridden the bike before me. The motorcycle was supposed to go back to the service station for a quick check up. Handling wise, the other noticeable thing is the grip from the Dunlop tyres. Kawasaki usually gives IRC rubber on their lower displacement bikes. While I haven’t ridden any other Kawasaki running on IRCs, the Dunlops are pretty good. They provide for good lean angles and have ample cushioning on the side walls to ensure that the ride quality stays pliant as well. This Kawasaki isn’t set up softly but somehow, the suspension ends up absorbing most of the road bumps quite easily.
Kawasaki Ninja 400 verdict
Looks, tick. Strong engine, tick. Ease of riding, tick. Value-for-money, untick. Service, untick. The Kawasaki Ninja 400 price in Mumbai is Rs 4.69 lakh, ex-showroom. At this price, it is not only a lakh and half more expensive than the 300 but the performance bridge isn’t too far either. After the RE Interceptor’s entry, everything in this Rs 3-5 lakh space seems ridiculously priced too. So, the answer to my question in the introduction remains a NO. The Ninja 400 is a motorcycle I can seem myself riding everyday but perhaps will end up paying the EMIs for the next five to six years as well. If the price were to be around Rs 4 lakh on-road, I guess Kawasaki will have more eager takers.
Kawasaki Ninja 400 things we like
Styling, engine performance, ride and handling
Kawasaki Ninja 400 things we don’t like
Price, service uncertainty, could have had more equipment
Trivia: Just like others, I am waiting and hoping that the Ninja 400 CKD happens soon. This will not only entice more customers but also help many a young ‘un fulfill his dream of owning a sportsbike that is practically good at everything.