Kawasaki Ninja 300 vs Honda CBR300R – Beginner Sportsbike Comparison

So you’re looking to start riding and want an entry level sports bike.  Well then the Ninja 300 or the CBR300R are pretty much the choices available to you at the moment (at least until the Yamaha R3 and KTM RC390 hit the showrooms). But which one is better? Are both the Ninja 300 and CBR300R pretty much the same thing except for the badges? Is one more suitable than the other depending on what your expectations are? Are you only interested in performance or are do you want a bike that’s comfortable and good for city traffic? Let the Ninja 300 vs Honda CBR300R battle begin.

What the Ninja definitely has in its favor is history. The little sports bike was first released in 1986 and had virtually no competition in the market until Honda came in with their CBR250R in 2011. In response, Kawasaki increased the capacity of the Ninja to just under 300cc with Honda responding in kind this year (though the CBR300R is actually only 286 cc).  And while both bikes are squarely aimed at the beginner market, they do take a different philosophy and approach as to how to achieve their desired aim.

Of the two, the Ninja 300 is definitely the sportier of the two. In fact, when it comes to performance the Ninja 300 is more closely in competition with the Honda’s other entry level bike, the CBR500R. Its straight twin engine puts out 38.89 hp (29 kw) @ 11,000 rpm and 19.91 lb ft (27 nm) @10,000 rpm.

Ninja 300

Acceleration 0 to 60mph: 5.60 seconds
Acceleration Quarter Mile: 14.50 seconds @ 90.58 mph
Top Speed: 112 mph

Despite its recent upgrade, the Honda CBR300R is still down on power and torque compared to the Kawasaki. It’s single cylinder engine outputs 30.50 hp (22.7 kw) @ 8,500 rpm and 20 lb ft (27 n) @ 7,500 rpm.  That’s a power deficit of around 22 per cent and it shows in the figures below:


Acceleration 0 to 60mph: 7.80 seconds
Acceleration Quarter Mile: Not available
Top Speed: 100 mph

As far as weight goes, the CBR300R is 364 lb (165 kg) with all fluids compared to the Ninja 300 which weighs 383 lb (174 kg) wet.  And this is one of the CBR300R’s greatest strengths.  That lightness translates into a much better bike to ride when it comes to city traffic. If you live in a place where lane splitting and filtering is allowed (or you do it anyway), the CBR is much easier to weave through cars on. And it’s weight isn’t the only reason for that.

The Honda CBR300R’s ergonomics are much better suited to the suburban landscape. The Ninja 300 is designed as a beginner sportsbike that is much more at home on the track or in the mountains, whereas Honda has designed the CBR300R as more of an all-rounder. It’s a relaxed bike to be on, and while the seat height of 30.7 inches is only slightly lower than that of the Ninja (30.9 inch), leg room is much more expansive with lower pegs.

Power delivery down low is also smoother on the CBR300R and more readily available. While the Ninja is more at home at higher RPM, the CBR gives you almost full power just north of 6,000 rpm.  Fueling on both bikes is good, though I’d give a slight edge to the CBR.

Once you get out into the open road, the Ninja claws its way back and definitely outperforms the Honda.  That extra power and top end make a huge difference on the freeway.  The little single of the CBR starts to strain once you go north of about 120 kph, whereas the Ninja keeps on accelerating. The same can be said when you’re going for a spirited ride in the twisties. You really notice the power difference in both bikes. Where the Ninja will quite happily head up inclines with only a single downshift, you have to hammer through the box on the CBR300R to get it motivated.

And the Ninja is definitely the better handling of the two when it comes to riding closer to the limit. Directional changes are swift and you just feel more confident on the Ninja 300. That’s not to say the CBR300R handles poorly at speed, it’s just that its all-rounder composition starts to show. You’re more comfortable on the CBR, just not as quick in a corner. Having a slipper clutch is also a great benefit and is unheard of in an entry level bike. Brakes on both are good and come with ABS as an option (which should be standard on a beginner bike) but I would marginally give braking performance honors to the Honda just due to their better feedback – something you want whether you’re a novice or a pro.

From reading all of this, you’ve probably come to the conclusion that the Ninja 300 is the faster and more sports orientated bike, while the Honda CBR300R is a better everyday bike. And that’s correct. And it’s because of that I would choose the Ninja 300 over the CBR300R. Why?

Because this is a comparison of two entry level sports bikes and to me it’s clear as day that the Ninja 300 is superior as a sports bike. If you’re after an all-round beginner bike then the CBR300R is fine – great even. But while it may look like a sports bike, it’s a term I think that loosely applies. And trust me, when you’re stuck on a learner approved bike for a year or more, you’ll want all the performance you can get.

Honda CBR300RKawasaki Ninja 300
Engine Type286cc 4 stroke, single-cylinder296cc 4 stroke, parallel twin
Bore And Stroke76mm x 63mm62mm x 49 mm
InductionPGM-Fi, 38mm throttle body32 mm x 2 keihin with dual throttle valve
Compression Ratio10.7:110.6:1
Valve TrainDOHC; four valves per cylinderDOHC, 8 valves
Horsepower30.50 hp @ 8,500 rpm38.89 hp @ 11,000 rpm
Torque20 lb ft @ 7,500 rpm19.91 lb ft @ 10,000 rpm
Drive Train
Chassis / Suspension / Brakes
Front Suspension37mm fork; 4.65 inches travel37 mm telescopic fork
Rear SuspensionPro-Link single shock with five positions of spring preload adjustability; 4.07 inches travelUni Trak with gas charged shock and 5-way preload
Front BrakeSingle 296mm discType Single 290 mm petal disc
Rear BrakeSingle 220mm discType Single 220 mm petal disc
Front Tire110/70-17 radial110/70-17 M/C 54S
Rear Tire140/70-17 radial140/70-17 M/C 66S
Rake25.30 degrees27 degrees
Trail98mm (3.9 inches)93mm
Wheelbase54.3 inches55.31 inches
Seat Height30.7 inches30.9 inches
Wet Weight364 pounds.383 lb
Fuel Capacity3.4 gallons4.5 gallons


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