Challenging the Kawi in the underrepresented genre of economical, easy to ride sportbikes, the CBR250R is priced at $3,999 or $4,499 with ABS. How does Honda's newcomer compare to the venerable Ninja? To find out, let's ride!
The Goods: Sporty Styling, Single-Cylinder Power
Power comes from a liquid-cooled, dual overhead cam, single-cylinder 249cc engine that's fuel-injected (unlike the Ninja 250R's parallel-twin engine, which is carbureted.) Honda's thumper routes exhaust through a large muffler, and is mated to a six-speed transmission that uses a chain to drive the rear wheel, where a Pro-Link single-shock can be set with five positions of spring preload. Up front, a non-adjustable 37mm fork offers 4.65 inches of travel, while braking duties are supplied by a single 296mm disc at the front wheel, and a single 220mm disc at the rear. ABS is a $500 option, and the anti-lock system is linked rear-to-front (which means that applying the rear brake will also trigger the front, but not the other way around.)
Seat height matches the Ninja's with a measurement of 30.5 inches (which Honda says comfortably accommodates riders between 5 feet, 4 inches and 6 feet, 2 inches), and the CBR250R tips the scales at 357 pounds—- 18 pounds lighter than a comparable Ninja 250R—- or 366 pounds with ABS. A fuel capacity of 3.4 gallons yields an estimated cruising range of over 200 miles.
Swing a Leg Over: Mildly Aggressive But Entirely Approachable Ergonomics
The CBR's ergonomic triangle enables an easy reach to pavement at a standstill, while peg positioning results in a fairly aggressive knee bend and a modest tilt forward to reach the handlebars. The rear curvature of the CBR's fuel tank creates a some snugness in the crotch area, which is probably more noticeable to male riders than females.
On the Road: Flickable Fun for Lovers of Low Displacement
The CBR250R's steering is extremely light, and even with a passenger aboard, the bike feels maneuverable enough to warrant sensitive handlebar inputs at low speeds in order to maintain a smooth trajectory. While the single-cylinder engine feels-— at least by the seat of the pants—- like it produces a bit more low-end torque than the Kawasaki Ninja 250R's, power delivery is soft enough to require a bit of winding up between gears. The middle portion of the powerband is generally a good spot to shift, but if you've got a pillion aboard and are aiming for hard acceleration, it's a good idea to wind the engine further—- at least past 6,000 rpm—- in order to wring it out and get into the sweet spot of the next gear. Fully unrestrained revs push the tachometer past the indicated redline and into a soft, electronically limited overrun.