Enter the Ninja
The all new Kawasaki Ninja 400 feels at home doing speeds in the region of 120 to 150kmph
Kawasaki has launched the new Ninja 400. Sporting attractive Kawasaki trademark graphics in a combination of black and green, the new bike takes inspiration from the bigger Ninja 650 in its styling. With the look of a sport bike, the Ninja 400, as a fully faired machine, is all-new. But more than the front with twin lamps embedded in the full-fairing, it is the hind quarter of the bike that draws attention. It sits up high just like on the bigger sport bikes. Add the ‘Kawasaki Racing’ decal on the lower fairing, and there is little doubt that this bike is for people who are in search of a performance machine. The ‘400’ decal helps to indicate that this is a smaller displacement machine. The three-point LED tail lamp reminds one of the Z1000 and ZX-10R. The analogue-digital instrument panel contributes to the big feel the Ninja 400 extends.
Lighter wheels, wider tyres
Flaunting good fit and finish standards, the Ninja 400 comes with a new rolling chassis; a trellis frame to be precise. The stiffer yet lighter frame trellis supports sharp steering. The new bike comes with lighter wheels and wider tyres. (It is 6 kg lighter than the Ninja 300 and is almost as light as the KTM RC390.) The 49bhp 399cc liquid-cooled parallel twin engine was derived out of the 300’s engine by raising the bore and stroke. The compression ratio of 11.5:1 is however witness to the fact that the engine is new. Over the 300, it makes a good 10bhp more. There is a substantial increase in peak torque as well. The peak torque and peak power are produced at a lower rpm than on the 300. Mated to a six-speed gearbox that supports precise shifts, the Ninja 400 gets a slip-and-assist clutch and the clutch action is quite light.
0 to 100kmph in 5 secs
Firing up with a deep grumble that is more like the Ninja 650 rather than the Ninja 300, the engine responds well. It exerts a good pull, and feels particularly strong past 5000rpm. Some vibrations tend to filter through the handlebar and the foot pegs as the revs rise past 6000rpm, but never get to a level where it’s annoying. Claimed to clock 0 to 100kmph in five seconds, the Ninja 400 feels quick. It does not take long to dig into the triple digit territory, and is at home doing speeds in the region of 120 to 150kmph. The power does taper past 11000rpm. The best result is had between 8000 and 11000rpm. Even when cruising at good speeds in top gear feels like there’s good amount of power in reserve. Turn the throttle and the bike accelerates. The throttle travel is long, but the engine response in comparison is quite spot on.
In-town, the bike feels quite tractable. The 785mm seat height helps. The foot pegs are set high, and the riding position is aggressive. It is typical of a sport bike, though not too aggressive to be uncomfortable. What can be slightly annoying is the non-adjustable brake and clutches lever. However, the Ninja 400 turns out to be quite agile. Aiding it is the quick steering in part; it also helps in traffic. Feeling stable and planted, the bike corners well. A sense of rigidity is felt, courtesy the new trellis frame. Boosting confidence, the Ninja 400 handles better than the 300. The tyres do a good job of keeping the bike planted. The ride has a firm edge to it, but it’s not all that bad. It is, in fact, reasonably pliant over many surfaces. The good ground clearance of 140mm also helps. The brakes consisting of a 310mm dia disc at front and a 220mm dia disc at the rear do a good job of getting the bike to shed speed.
The Ninja 400 marks a big step up from the Ninja 300. But the Rs 4.69 lakh ex-showroom price of the bike is simply too high. It is just about Rs 35,000 less than the Z650, and Rs 1.9 lakh (approx) more than the Ninja 300. At such a price, the Ninja 400 simply does not make for the performance it offers.
Pros: Sporty demeanour, handling