There are many factors that make the Ninja 400 a great motorcycle for India, except for one – the price. So, can its virtues justify a high price tag?
A decade ago, most enthusiasts could just dream of owning a big bike. You see, with just a few manufacturers officially in India, owning a performance offering was a dream for most. Kawasaki gave us the opportunity to turn that dream into reality when they first brought in the Ninja 250 and 650. Both bikes were great value for money, and they continued that trend when they launched the new Z650, Ninja 650 and the Z900 last year. The 650s are still the most affordable mid-size motorcycles, and the Z900 is amongst the cheapest in-line four bikes out there. Given this history, launching the Ninja 400 at Rs 4.69 lakh made it stand out like a sore thumb in the Kawasaki’s portfolio. But, before you write it off completely, here are some reasons why you should still consider it:
Reason 1 # it’s the right size
And by size, I don’t just mean the dimensions – although we’ll get to that in a bit. What I really mean is the engine – a 399cc parallel-twin, liquid-cooled motor developing nearly 50bhp is just the right fit for Indian conditions. Considering our roads, we believe that you don’t quite need a more powerful motor, unless your goal is bragging rights. Aside from the output figures, what’s great about the engine is the way it’s tuned. The Ninja 400 can comfortably sit at speeds of about 100 to 120km/h all day, and it still has more in reserve for those short bursts of madness on an open road. There is a hint of vibration post the 7,000rpm mark, but it isn’t too troublesome.
Unlike the peaky Ninja 300, it does all of this in a very mature and level-headed manner. The Ninja 400 makes its max torque at 8,000rpm, lower than the 300’s 10,000rpm mark. In fact, the 400’s power delivery and torque spread is so much more linear that it feels both tractable and enjoyable. You feel the punch right from 4,000rpm, and it stays energetic up until 8,000, before a sudden upward spike hits you – a result of a bigger bore, longer stroke, different intake & airbox and revised compression ratio.
As you go hard on the throttle, the bike responds with a nice bassy note from the exhaust, egging you to keep it on the boil. While it’s a potentially perfect highway companion, it performs brilliantly in the city too. Unlike the 300, it doesn’t feel sluggish at low revs and feels at home at speeds of 30km/h in fifth gear. In fact, in the top-cog, it’ll accelerate right from 40km/h all the way up to its top speed. With all this in mind, it’s hard not to fall in love with the versatility of the Ninja 400.
Reason 2 # it’s perfectly balanced
Despite the bigger motor, more bodywork, bigger brakes and the wider rear tyre, the Ninja 400 still manages to be lighter than the 300 – at 173kgs, as opposed to the 300’s 179kgs. Of course, the smaller 14-litre tank has a role to play in the reduced weight, but then so does the lighter trellis frame – not to mention the lighter wheels. The real beauty of the 400, however, is just how balanced it feels. Add to that a perfectly tuned suspension, and what you get is a motorcycle that handles like a dream.
Since the setup is relatively soft, the front end may bottom out occasionally, but, on the plus side, it doesn’t feel jittery on bad roads. The rear is firmer and gives the bike better stability in corners. In fact, the shorter wheelbase and the tighter steering geometry give the Ninja 400 the kind of agility that we yearned for in the 300.
Reason 3 # It’s an everyday big bike
From 1,000-kilometre days to daily commutes, the Ninja 400 can do it all and with great aplomb. While it looks sporty and aggressive, Kawasaki has nailed it in terms of the riding position. At 785mm, the seat height isn’t very tall, and even a rider of average height can easily plant his or her feet on the ground. The handle bar is flat but not too far away, and the rear-set foot pegs give it the perfect blend of comfort and aggression. That being said, 6-footers may feel a bit cramped. With the exception of my right heel, which was constantly touching the exhaust, the ergonomics felt pretty well sorted.
Having spent a lot of time with the Ninja 250 and 300, I was expecting the 400 to be harsh on the spine on rough roads, but I was pleasantly surprised with the way it rides over potholes. In fact, while the 300 is stiff and the 650s are softer, the 400 hits the perfect sweet-spot in the middle. And you’d think with 140mm of ground clearance, the underbelly would scrape now and then but that’s not the case either. All these aspects make the Ninja 400 a remarkably easy big bike to live with – not something that a lot of motorcycles can claim.
Reason 4 # It has all the features you need
From an LED headlamp, with a pass switch, and semi-digital instrumentation to ABS, the Ninja 400 has every feature you’d expect from a motorcycle in this price range. But the one that makes riding it a breeze is the slip and assist clutch. The clutch action is lighter than any other bike we have ridden in this class. The only disappointing aspect, however, is the absence of adjustable levers – not something you’d expect at this price.
Reason 5 # It looks fab!
We’ve always loved the fact that the Ninja 300 looks like a baby ZX-10R. With the 400, Kawasaki has gone a step forward and made it look like a scaled down version of the H2. Although, it’s just marginally larger in dimensions than the 300, the bodywork makes it look bulkier than the numbers suggest. From the edgy headlamps, creases on the fairing, and nicely chiselled fuel tank to the impressive rear, there’s a distinctive sharpness to the Ninja 400s design that arrests your attention in a way that most other bikes don’t.
Now that we’ve given you the reasons to consider buying the Ninja 400, let’s go back to why you shouldn’t. And the only thing that comes to mind here is its ridiculous price – Rs 4.69 lakh (ex-showroom). And when you consider that the Z650 is Rs. 5.18 lakh (ex-showroom), it feels all the more outrageous. So, at the end of the day, can the 400 claim to be worth the money? Well, not really.
Kawasakis are known to offer phenomenal value for their products, but it seems that, with the 400, they’ve lost sight of that. They really need to source parts locally and rework their pricing strategy for the Ninja 400 to sell it in reasonable numbers. But if reasons one through five (above) have given you reason enough to take the plunge, one thing’s for certain – the Ninja 400 will put a smile on your face every day. With the exception, perhaps, of the day you write the cheque.
- Kawasaki Ninja 400
Engine: 399cc / parallel-twin / liquid-cooled / 8 valve
Power: 48.2bhp @ 10,000rpm
Torque: 38Nm @ 8,000rpm
Price: ₹4.69 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi)
X-Factor: Easily the most sensible and fun sports tourer to buy - its the one bike for almost every purpose.
• Astonishing ride quality
• Edgy design
• Outrageous pricing