Yamaha R3 vs KTM RC390 vs Kawasaki Ninja 300 – Road Test Preview

In the past few years, riders wanting an entry level sportsbike had to choose between the Honda CBR250R and the Ninja 250. Now, in addition to those two bikes (which are still sold in some markets), newbies can get their bigger brothers, the CBR300R and Ninja 300 and very soon they’ll be able to swing a leg over what will potentially be the best of the lot – the all new Yamaha R3 and KTM RC390.

The Ninja 300, R3 and RC390 offer the biggest capacity and power for riders in countries that have licensing restrictions for learners. Therefore, these three bikes will most likely attract the most buyers who want as much performance as they’re legally allowed to have while on bike restrictions.

Of the three bikes, we’ve only ridden the baby Ninja (in a test against the CBR300R in which we favored the Kawasaki). The RC390 hasn’t made it to the United States yet and the Yamaha R3 isn’t available anywhere until around March next year.

But with prices and specifications available we can already begin to see how the market is going to be pan out. Yamaha is clearly looking to dominate Honda and Kawasaki after coming so late to the party. The R3 has more horsepower than the Ninja and weighs less. In worse news for Kawasaki, the Yamaha R3 does all this while costing slightly less than the Ninja 300 ($4,990 for the R3 and $4,999 for the Ninja or $5,299 with ABS)

There’s one critical flaw the R3, though. For some reason that to us defies all reasoning and common sense, Yamaha Motorcycles USA has decided not to offer the R3 with ABS – even as an option. A motorcycle aimed squarely at new riders and you can’t even pay extra for ABS? In our view, ABS should be standard on learner bikes, but to not even offer it as an option borders on negligent in our view. We’ve contacted Yamaha to inquire why this is the case and will update accordingly.

We’ve banged on about the importance of ABS before and the science clearly shows its beneficial. Thankfully, KTM have done the sensible thing and are releasing the RC390 with ABS as standard. Costing $5,499, it’s obviously the most expensive of all the learner sportsbikes, but for that extra money you’re getting a lot. Firstly, the KTM pumps out 43 hp from it’s 373cc single cylinder engine. The Ninja and R3, both two cylinders output 39 and 42 hp respectively. Not much in it really, but the RC390 weighs 340 lb wet – a massive 43 lb less than the NInja 300 and a still impressive 28 lb less than the R3. That will make a big difference to performance. The KTM RC390 also provides slightly more powerful brakes and on paper at least, better suspension.

Of the three bikes, the RC390 is definitely the more aggressive, with the R3 offering the most relaxed riding position. In fact, the Yamaha R3 is probably more similar to the CBR300R in dimension and style, just with more grunt. Both the R3 and RC390 will be available early in the new year and we’ll bring you a full review of them soon thereafter. In the interim, have a look over the full specifications below.

 

KTM RC390Kawasaki Ninja 300 ABSYamaha R3
Engine
Engine Type373.2 cc single296cc 4 stroke, parallel twin321cc 4 stroke, parallel twin
Bore And Stroke89 mm × 60 mm62 mm x 49 mm68 mm x 44 mm
InductionBosch EFI (throttle body 46 mm)32 mm x 2 keihin with dual throttle valveTCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition
Compression Ratio1:12.510.6:111.2:1
Valve TrainDOHC, 4 ValvesDOHC, 8 valvesDOHC, 8 Valves
Horsepower44 hp @ 9,500 rpm38.89 hp @ 11,000 rpm42 hp @ 10,750 rpm
Torque25.81 lb ft @ 7,250 rpm19.91 lb ft @ 10,000 rpm21.18 lb ft @ 9,000
Drive Train
TransmissionSix-speedSix-speedSix-speed
Chassis / Suspension / Brakes
Front SuspensionWP-USD Ø 43 mm37 mm telescopic fork41mm KYB telescopic fork
Rear SuspensionWP-MonoshockUni Trak with gas charged shock and 5-way preloadKYB single shock
Front BrakeSingle 300 mmSingle 290 mmSingle 298 mm
Rear BrakeSingle 230 mmType Single 220 mm petal discSingle 220 mm
Front Tire110/70Z R17110/70-17 M/C 54S110/70-17M/C 54H
Rear Tire150/60ZR17140/70-17 M/C 66S140/70-17M/C 66H
Dimensions
Rake23.5 degrees27 degrees25 degrees
Trail98mm (3.9 inches)93mm (3.66 inches)94mm (3.7 inches)
Wheelbase53 inches55.31 inches54.3 inches
Seat Height32 inches30.9 inches30.7 inches
Wet Weight340 lb383 lb368 lb
Fuel Capacity3.4 gallons4.5 gallons3.7 gallons
Price
$5,499$5,299$4,990

Kawasaki Z300 – A Baby Naked Ninja

Kawasaki has today unveiled the Kawasaki Z300 – a naked version of the venerable Kawasaki Ninja 300 sportsbike which will go head to head with the Honda CB300F. Specification wise, there’s absolutely nothing different between the Ninja 300 and the Z300 save for standard handlebars rather than the clip-ons of the fully faired bike.

The looks of the Kawasaki Z300 are based on it’s bigger brothers – the Z800 and Z1000. It was inevitable that a naked version of the Ninja 300 would makes it’s way to western markets. The Z250 – based obviously on the previous Ninja 250 has been available in south-east Asia since last year and therefore Kawasaki actually beat Honda to the entry level naked market – at least in some markets.

Like the Ninja 300, the little 296cc parallel twin pumps out 39hp @ 11,000 rpm and 20 lb ft of torque @ 10,000 rpm. Weight with ABS is 374lb which we’re assuming is dry, as the wet weight of the Ninja 300 is 383 lb. It seems unlikely that the reduced amount of fairings and smaller windshield would shave that much fat off.

Official pricing and release dates to be announced.

Yamaha R3 vs Kawasaki Ninja 300 vs Honda CBR300R Specification Comparison

Yesterday, the Yamaha R3 was officially launched, meaning there is now three serious learner bikes available which previously included the Kawasaki Ninja 300R and Honda CBR300R. In the neat future, the KTM RC390 will be widely available but in the interim, if you’re in a country that has stricter learner restrictions, these three bikes are what’s available if you want a beginner sportsbike.

Previously, we’ve test ridden both the Honda CBR300R and Kawasaki Ninja 300, with the green Ninja being our pick. While Honda may market the CBR300R as a small capacity sportsbike, in comparison to the Ninja it is definitely more of an all rounder. And despite it’s recent capacity increase, it’s still well down on the power figures of Kawasaki’s machine.

The Yamaha R3 therefore seems to be aimed squarely at the Ninja. It’s capacity of 321cc is 26cc more than the Ninja 300 and 35cc more than the CBR300R. And that translates to figures of 42hp for the R3, around 39hp for the Ninja and 31hp for Honda’s bike. Those figures are even more in the Yamaha’s favor when weight is taken into account. The lightest of the three bikes is the CBR300R at 364lb (wet), but the R3 weighs only 4lb  more with the Ninja at 383lb (that said, the Ninja 300 does have the largest fuel tank).

Obviously we haven’t ridden the Yamaha R3 yet, so it remains to be seen whether it can match the Ninja’s handling. However, reviews of the Yamaha R25 (the Asian version of this bike which has been available for some time which has a 250cc capacity) have been very favorable. And with the Yamaha R3 coming in slightly below the Ninja 300 in price and only $100 more than the CBR300R, Yamaha may soon reign supreme in the entry level market.

For now, check out the comparative specifications for each bike below.

Honda CBR300RKawasaki Ninja 300Yamaha R3
Engine
Engine Type286cc 4 stroke, single-cylinder296cc 4 stroke, parallel twin321cc 4 stroke, parallel twin
Bore And Stroke76mm x 63mm62mm x 49 mm68 x 44 mm
InductionPGM-Fi, 38mm throttle body32 mm x 2 keihin with dual throttle valveTCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition
Compression Ratio10.7:110.6:111.2:1
Valve TrainDOHC; four valves per cylinderDOHC, 8 valvesDOHC, 8 Valves
Horsepower30.50 hp @ 8,500 rpm38.89 hp @ 11,000 rpm42 hp @ 10,750 rpm
Torque20 lb ft @ 7,500 rpm19.91 lb ft @ 10,000 rpm21.18 lb ft @ 9,000
Drive Train
TransmissionSix-speedSix-speedSix-speed
Chassis / Suspension / Brakes
Front Suspension37mm fork; 4.65 inches travel37 mm telescopic fork41mm KYB telescopic fork
Rear SuspensionPro-Link single shock 4.07 inches travelUni Trak with gas charged shock and 5-way preloadKYB single shock
Front BrakeSingle 296 mmSingle 290 mmSingle 298 mm
Rear BrakeSingle 220 mmType Single 220 mm petal discSingle 220 mm
Front Tire110/70-17 radial110/70-17 M/C 54S110/70-17M/C 54H
Rear Tire140/70-17 radial140/70-17 M/C 66S140/70-17M/C 66H
Dimensions
Rake25.30 degrees27 degrees25 degrees
Trail98mm (3.9 inches)93mm (3.66 inches)94mm (3.7 inches)
Wheelbase54.3 inches55.31 inches54.3 inches
Seat Height30.7 inches30.9 inches30.7 inches
Wet Weight364 lb383 lb368 lb
Fuel Capacity3.4 gallons4.5 gallons3.7 gallons
Price
$4,899$5,299$4,990

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:

CBR300R

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
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
TransmissionSix-speedSix-speed
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
Dimensions
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