Kawasaki Ninja 400

Kawasaki Motors Australia took to the Lakeside Park Raceway to prove that the new Ninja 400 is an exciting addition to their line-up.

Kawasaki Motors Australia took to the Lakeside Park Raceway to prove that the new Ninja 400 is an exciting addition to their line-up.

The bike replaces the Ninja 300 which was launched five years ago and has been among Australia’s top-selling bikes ever since, selling more than 11,000.

For the increase in pricing you get a lot more bike with more power and torque, LED headlights, light assist and slipper clutch, thicker and narrower seat to suit more rider sizes and the largest front brake disc in its class.

Engine capacity is increased to 399cc and power to 33.4kW, but it still meets Australia’s Learner-Approved Motorcycle Scheme (LAMS) without the need for an ECU limit or throttle stop.

The Ninja 400 parallel twin engine features a larger 5.8-litre airbox for more torque down low yet a dizzying 15,000 rev limit. The result is a bike that accelerates faster than the Yamaha R3 and closely matches output with the KTM RC 390.

It’s not just an upgrade, but a completely new engine that now sits as a stressed member in a lighter and more rigid trellis frame with a longer swingarm mounted directly on the back of the engine like the Ninja H2 hypersport models.

This all translates into a bike that is faster, better handling and more stable than the previous model, even in race form. More about the track test later.

Despite the bigger engine, the Ninja 400 is 6kg lighter than the Ninja 300 and now the lightest in class at 168kg fully fuelled. For all its weight saving, it looks a bigger bike than the Ninja 300 with its styling based on the H2 and ZX-14R with larger painted surfaces.

The bigger silhouette doesn’t slow it down. Kunihiro says it was styled with aerodynamics in mind and wind-tested in their new wind tunnel at their Akashi factory.

The layout includes a longer swingarm for more high-speed stability, a steeper caster angle for more precise steering and stiffer 41mm Showa forks for better handling and cornering.

It comes with the largest front brake disc in its class at 310mm which is the same as on their Ninja ZX-14R.

Rider comfort has been improved with more relaxed ergonomics, a narrower and thicker seat that allows shorter riders to more easily get their feet on the ground and an engine heat management system to blow heat down and away from the rider.

Another rider comfort feature is the assist and slipper clutch. Not only does it prevent rear-wheel lock-ups on downshifts, but it decreases tiring clutch effort in heavy traffic.

Even though it is a sports bike, riders of most heights should feel relaxed with high clip-on bars that are now 15mm closer and aluminium foot pegs that are moved 9mm forward and 9mm down.

The Ninja 400 now comes with the backlit LCD/analogue instruments from the Ninja 650L which are bigger, brighter and easier to read. Information featured includes a clock, gear position indicator, analogue engine revs, fuel level, coolant temperature and speed on constant display. You can also switch through other information such as the odometer, dual tripmeters, range and fuel consumption.

It now comes with LED headlights where both lights are on at low beam, unlike the previous model that only had one headlight on.

The track test gave little indication of how the suspension will handle real-world road bumps but feels taut and nimble yet stable at high speeds.

Bigger cubes win sales wars and Kawasaki has balanced the bigger engine with light weight, nimble handling, improved rider comfort and an attractive price tag.

Fast facts

  • Engine: liquid-cooled, DOHC, 399cc, parallel twin

  • Power: 33.4kW @ 10,000rpm

  • Torque: 38Nm @ 8000rpm

  • Bore x stroke: 70×51.8mm

  • Compression: 11.5:1

  • Transmission: 6-speed, chain drive, assist and slipper clutch

  • Frame: steel trellis

  • Tyres: 110/70R17, 150/60R17

  • Suspension: 41mm telescopic fork, bottom-link Uni-Trak shock with reload adjustment

  • Brakes: 310/220mm petal discs, ABS

  • Length: 1990mm

  • Width: 710mm

  • Height 1120mm

  • Wheelbase: 1370mm

  • Clearance: 140mm

  • Seat: 785mm

  • Wet weight: 168kg

  • Fuel tank capacity: 14 litres.

By Mark Hinchliffe.