KAWASAKI NINJA 300 (2012 - 2017) Review
- A2-compliant junior sportsbike
- Mini-Ninja appeal for new riders
- Solid, high-revving engine
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£450|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
The 2012-2017 Kawasaki Ninja 300 was a comprehensive update of 2008’s Ninja 250R which, truth be told, wasn’t really a whole lot more than a microwave-reheated GPX250. But the 300 saw significant improvements throughout. As well as its larger and more powerful motor it also got a stiffer frame, plus new suspension, wheels, clocks, pegs and sharper bodywork. It's a high-revving, hard-working mini-Ninja with huge appeal for those who dream of ragging the living wotsits out of a ZX-6R or ZX-10R.
- Related: Best A2 licence motorbikes
The Ninja 300’s arrival coincided with the ominous-sounding European Union Third Directive – new licensing laws that kicked in on 19th January 2013. Before then, young riders who passed their test served a two-year 33bhp restriction – which is what the 250R was designed for. But overnight that 33bhp limit was binned, replaced by a new A2 licence with a 47bhp limit. The existing class of novice bikes suddenly needed more power.
And that’s what the Ninja 300 offered. A longer stroke increased the engine’s capacity to 296cc, while power climbed to 39bhp. But the screaming nature of the 250R was unchanged – it remains a bike with a ravenous appetite for revs. With maximum torque served way up 10,000rpm it needs a rider who’s prepared to put the effort in, someone who loves the satisfaction of squeezing every last drop of speed from an engine. If you want to lug around lazily in a high gear letting the bike do the work, look elsewhere.
And yet, while the motor’s pretty demanding, the rest of the Ninja 300 definitely isn’t. Its riding position is upright and easygoing, with clip-ons that rise high above the top yoke, a slim and low seat, a ridiculously light clutch and incredibly tight steering lock. It even has practical touches like bungee hooks, a small stash space under the pillion seat, a fuel gauge on the dash, an easy 200-mile tank range and optional ABS.
Watch Kawasaki Ninja 300 video review
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
The Ninja 300 tips in with a featherlight touch and tracks round turns cleanly and confidently. Its steel-tube frame was reinforced from the 250R’s, and suspension action is greatly improved by its softer springs and more controlled damping. The wider 140-section rear tyre is still fairly skinny, giving little resistance at turn-in, while ground clearance is easily enough for kneedown lean angles.
However, be in no doubt that the Ninja is built as an affordable, friendly, easy-to-ride machine, not a hard-charging track refugee in the vein of the old 250 two-strokes and 400 fours. Its upright riding position and high bars don’t naturally encourage you to get your weight over the front end, while the spindly unadjustable 37mm forks and basic shock are built for high streets, not back straights. If you want to carry momentum smoothly along open A-roads, it’s great fun. If you expect the precision and poise of a scaled-down ZX-6R, you’ll be left wanting.
When new, the 300’s weakest point was its IRC Road Winner tyres. By now most used machines should have (thankfully) moved onto a set of something else entirely. Bridgestone’s BT-45 is an ageing but still decent option, while the crossply version of Metzeler’s Roadtec 01 is available to fit the Ninja’s sizes. Speaking of which, be sure to check the size of whatever tyres are fitted to any used bike you look at. They should be a 110/70 front and 140/70 rear, but plenty of owners opt for fatter 120 fronts and 150 rears – in part because they prefer the look, but also because some high-profile radial tyres are available in these sizes. Our advice is to stick only to the sizes, models and construction approved by each tyre manufacturer.
Brakes are basic, with a single petal disc and a two-piston caliper at each end, but reasonably effective on the rare occasions they’re needed to slow the Ninja’s 172kg kerb weight. ABS was an option, but unpopular with buyers at first. In its initial two years, non-ABS bikes outsold ABS bikes four to one, but by the end of the 300’s life the balance had swung in favour of those with anti-lock. If you want an ABS bike – and we’d recommend it – you might need to look a little harder if your budget only stretches for an older bike, or just pay a little more for a later machine.
EngineNext up: Reliability
On paper, the Ninja 300 simply uses a long-stroke version of the Ninja 250R’s motor, which itself shared identical architecture with the GPX250 (originally used by cavemen to chase woolly mammoths). However, there’s a bit more to it than that. While the basic layout remains the same – it’s a parallel twin with a 180° crank – there are loads of internal differences. In evolving from the 250, the 300 also gains different pistons, conrods, valves and sleeveless cylinders, as well as new cases. Even the switch to a cartridge-style oil filter was new.
Nonetheless, despite all the modernisation its capacity is still just 296cc, so those two tiny pistons need to be worked hard. When you’ve only got small explosions, you need lots of them – and so the Ninja 300’s makes power much in the same way you could be crushed under a pile of a billion ants, rather than one grand piano. Maximum torque is just 20lb·ft, yet the motor needs to be spinning at 10,000rpm to conjure up even that. Peak power (Kawasaki claim 39bhp; about 35 reaches the rear tyre) is at 11,000rpm and the redline is 13,000. There’s no powerband as such – it’s not like the delivery suddenly goes all Jekyll & Hyde at the top end – but for maximum motion you’ll be stirring the six-speed gearbox frequently to keep the motor spinning at five-figure speeds. At least the 300’s motor is rubber-mounted, which helps to mute the tingly, high-frequency vibration felt on the 250R.
The 300 also uses a slip/assist clutch, which serves two purposes. Firstly, and more usefully, it lightens the clutch lever action because it let Kawasaki reduce the number of clutch springs fitted. Secondly it acts as a slipper clutch, disengaging on aggressive block downshifts to stop the rear wheel from skipping and sliding – though, in fairness, that’s not really much of a problem on the 300. Still, nicer to have it than not.
The Kawasaki Ninja 300 top speed is 93mph.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
Component appearance and overall sense of quality are a noticeable, intentional improvement over the 250R. The wheels have a smart 10-spoke design, shaped after the ZZR1400’s. Most of the sharp bodywork’s fasteners are cleverly hidden out of sight. Footpegs have a sleeker, serrated, sporty style rather than the 250’s chunky rubber-topped items.
But there are still a few shortcomings. The rear brake pedal looks like it cost pennies to produce, while thinly-finished heelplates scuff up quickly and make a bike look like it’s had a harder life than it has. Clutch and front brake levers are both unadjustable, while the basic-design chain adjusters (threaded rods sticking out the back of a box-section swingarm) don’t really shout premium either.
2012-2017 Kawasaki Ninja 300 owners' reviews on MCN
However, the good news is that the Ninja 300’s fundamentals are sturdy. Owners report very few major issues, and even though the motors tend to spend most of their lives at high revs, they’re generally solid. So long as the bike’s been serviced on time, high mileage alone shouldn’t be a concern as far as the engine goes.
There’s one other thing worth mentioning if you’re looking to buy a first-year model: recalls. There were two in 2013. The first was to fit a new ECU, as the original was found to have an internal fault that could cause the engine to stall. Another only affected ABS models, but involves replacing the whole ABS unit. If you’re looking at a used 2013 machine, check whether it’s affected by either of these and, if so, whether there’s proof that the work has been done.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
Running costs are, on the whole, pretty low. The small-capacity motor means road tax is cheap. Slim crossply tyres don’t cost much and last ages. Even thrashed hard the motor still returns over 60mpg, and with a less-frantic right hand you could see 75mpg. That’s fairly good – though perhaps not astonishing compared with a Honda NC700, a Yamaha MT-07 or even a gently ridden ER-6f, all of which offer similar economy despite having twice the capacity.
Insurance-wise it’s comparable to natural rivals such as the Yamaha YZF-R3. One detail that may be worth bearing in mind is that the Ninja 300’s ignition barrel doesn’t have an immobiliser, whereas the Honda CBR500R does.
Private sales start at just over £2000, with dealer sales around £2500 – but the price window is very narrow, with even the most expensive bikes topping out around £3000. Prices seem to be very slightly lower than a Yamaha R3 or KTM RC390 for a similar age and mileage.
However, there is one fly in the low-cost ointment. The Ninja’s official service schedule includes valve clearance checks every 7600 miles. That’s a £300+ job at a franchised Kawasaki dealer. And with that in mind, it’s unsurprising that many valve checks get skipped, or a seller will (claim to) have done the work themselves. Always check, and look for proof, when valves were last inspected.
Our tester Andy Davidson said: "The 2012 Kawasaki Ninja is a good laugh if you keep the revs up, but its competitors surpass it with a more modern feel. The KTM lacks in build quality and its harsher, track-focused ride is fun but tiresome as an everyday machine. The Yamaha takes the win as it’s the most competitively priced, has the best build quality and is a credible, very well thought-out machine. It’s exciting, easy to ride, more forgiving than its competitors and is a proper big bike in its own right. Yamaha are onto a winner with the new R3."
Watch: Kawasaki Ninja 300 vs KTM RC390 vs Honda CBR300R / CBR500R
The Ninja 300 is from a time and a class where equipment expectations were fairly minimal. ABS-equipped versions are available, though the system was a £400 option and most buyers chose to save money, making it rare on early models.
The clocks have an LCD panel that includes a six-bar fuel gauge, which is handy and looks far flasher than the 250R’s twin dials. That slipper clutch lends some bragging rights in certain circles too. There’s also a neat, small, two-layer storage compartment under the pillion seat, if you need to take a pair of thin things out for a ride. Otherwise, running gear is fairly simple – the only suspension adjustment is five-position preload on the shock.
Most Ninja 300s have been attacked by accessory-catalogue-wielding owners. Aftermarket exhausts are a firm favourite, with owners keen to unleash a bit more volume (as standard it sounds very soft and flat) from a fruitier end can. As ever it’s not worth paying a penny extra for, but not really a problem so long as the owner includes the OE part with the sale. Smarter, subtler improvements such as braided brake lines, sharper pads and decent tyres should be welcomed. Non-standard levers and bar-ends could be a hint that the bike’s been dropped (not uncommon with its often inexperienced audience), so scour plastics, mirrors and peg-ends for further evidence of falls.
|Engine type||Four-stroke, liquid-cooled DOHC, 8v parallel twin|
|Frame type||Tubular steel|
|Fuel capacity||17 litres|
|Front suspension||37mm conventional forks, non-adjustable|
|Rear suspension||Five-way adjustable pre-load shock|
|Front brake||1x290mm petal disc. dual-piston caliper|
|Rear brake||1x220mm petal disc, two-piston caliper|
|Front tyre size||110/70 ZR17|
|Rear tyre size||140/70 ZR17|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||75 mpg|
|Annual road tax||£44|
|Annual service cost||£450|
|Used price||£2,700 - £3,300|
8 of 17
How much to insure?
Top speed & performance
|Max power||39 bhp|
|Max torque||20 ft-lb|
|Top speed||93 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
|Tank range||280 miles|
Model history & versions
- 2013-2017 Kawasaki Ninja 300
More power and sophistication than the 2008-2012 Ninja 250R (for some reason the 300 didn’t get to keep the ‘R’ bit of the name), landing just in time for the new A2 licence. Credible Ninja styling, upright riding position and a parallel twin that needs to be kept on the boil. ABS optional. SE model is the exact same bike with jazzier graphics and red wheel stripes. Discontinued at the end of 2016, with a Ninja 400 arriving for 2018.
- Kawasaki Ninja 250SL
Short-lived, single-cylinder, sporty-styled sibling makes just 27bhp but is 20kg lighter than the Ninja 300. Feels more like a big 125 than a ‘proper’ A2 motorcycle.
- Kawasaki Z300
Naked version of the Ninja 300 with same engine, power, frame and running gear. Flat bars instead of clip-ons, but otherwise a similar riding experience.
- Kawasaki Versys-X 300
Adventure-styled upright all-rounder powered by the same 296cc parallel twin as the Ninja. Revvy power delivery feels a bit at odds with something otherwise trying to be sensible and practical.
More Kawasaki Ninja reviews on MCN
- Kawasaki Ninja 125 review (2019-on)
- Kawasaki Ninja 250R review (2008-2011)
- Kawasaki Ninja 250SL review (2015-on)
- Kawasaki Ninja 400 review (2018-on)
- Kawasaki Ninja 650 review (2017-on)
- Kawasaki Ninja H2 review (2015-on)
- Kawasaki Ninja H2 review (2019-on)
- Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX review (2018-on)
- Kawasaki Ninja H2R review (2015-on)
Owners' reviews for the KAWASAKI NINJA 300 (2012 - 2017)
6 owners have reviewed their KAWASAKI NINJA 300 (2012 - 2017) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£450|
Great build quality, very reliable and excellent first bike or twisty-road carver. I take it out of town to twisty roads as much as I can and a year and 6,000 miles later haven't quite mastered it so am happy to keep another year or two. It's still really entertaining and cheap to own. It's very practical and frugal, super lightweight and for the entry-level market I think the quality is great. I have an A2 license and I've ridden Yamaha MT-03 660cc (first bike that I still own), Kawasaki ER-5, Honda CB500F, and KTM's Duke 390 and RC390 as well and overall it has to be my favorite for how flickable and fun it is and the screaming twin is a blast. The KTMs are just too small for my height (5'11") though I do like the RC390 more sporty seating position and MT-03's massive torque (for an A2 bike).
The suspension and brakes are good. Excellent all around and managed to stop in time when riding a bit too fast in the fog and getting caught off guard by an unexpected roundabout. A couple of times the slipper clutch saved my butt when I downshifted too hard and nearly slid the bike sideways. I think it's a fantastic all-rounder and even got me out of a long stretch of unpaved road without any issues.
For a 300cc twin this thing is fantastic. It screams when youre racing in twisties and getting it to sing above 8,000rpm to it's 13,000 redline is so much fun. The engine can probably handle a lot more, maybe 15-17,000 rpm if there was no limiter, and you need to push it to keep a fast pace (it's not very torquey and won't handle two-up well). Slipper clutch as standard, first gear is a bit short.
Engine, suspension and electrics are great. No issues except one small chip on the gas tank (the paint seems a bit thin), otherwise very happy with reliability.
I service it myself (oil/filter changes every 3,500 mi) or so. Spark plugs changed as well (time consuming though as you need to remove plastics and the gas tank) for cheap. Tires seem to be my biggest cost as I buy soft and relatively expensive Pirellis and love to ride aggressively outside of town.
Standard stuff, nothing spectacular for a bike of it's class - slipper clutch really is a nice touch and the clutch pull is super light. Would make for an excellent first bike for almost anyone considering the low seat height, constant power delivery (not jumpy in any way), and super light weight. I wish it came with LED headlights and blinkers. My only real gripe is that the angle of the levers on the throttle side is not really adjustable (to have straight arms and not bend your wrist) - might be a bit of discomfort for long-distance riding but I did 300+ miles in a day with no issues.
Bought 2nd hand with 3400 miles on. I have done around 2k of mainly daly commuting. Pretty much all seems great. Bought for a few reasons one being mpg which I can get around 73-74mpg but don’t get near the quoted 280 miles per tank. Around 205 the light is blinking away at me. Thoroughly enjoy the bike though and performs as well as you would expect a 300 to. Quite a narrow bike (part of the reason I bought it, so it can get up my side alley and in the back garden).
No major brake slams yet but daily commute involves an average of 3-4 idiots pulling out on you and managed to stop each time. I don’t have the abs versiob
Like I said, what you would expect from a 300. Seems to be able to pull in any gear and get you out of trouble or off the lights quick enough
Bit to son to tell for me but no problems so far
Around £16 to fill up does me over 200 miles. Cheap tax cheap insurance
Gear indicator would be nice. Personally I think the standard exhaust is fairly ugly and will change as soon as I can
Buying experience: Bought from dealer (suoerbike factory) and they were great. Bought blind and wasn’t disappointed when the bike was delivered
Annual servicing cost: £150
Happy with the bike overall. Rev happy if you need it to be but easily manageable. It will react quickly if you open the throttle like an idiot. Very easy to manoeuvre in town between traffic. I do mostly B roads followed by centre town traffic and the bike glides trough it all. Would not recommend this bike only if you are doing any frequent motorway miles. She can do it but it feels like she is giving it all she has, all the time. I felt this at 80mph... As a whole, this bike works best as a in town commuter and B-road fun. It feels solid and powerful enough for a 300. I also ride a Suzuki GS500F 2004 and other than comfort and overall stability due to weight, the Ninja would still be my choice.
Bought the bike new so i knew the brakes needed time to settle in. Still don’t feel they are the best compared to my partners Yamaha R3. I touch them and the bike responds a lot sharper. Maybe I’m not used to using both brakes as often as other bikes.
No issues with engine.
Built well, no complaints. Still no corrosion even though I ride in all weathers. I only have a complaint which is, on both sides now, the decals are coming off. Replacing them will cost £25 per decal plus labor. Not something you want to do yourself. I’ve owned the bike from new with just 5500 miles by now. Every other part of the bike looks good. I’ve only had to take the bike back once because an issue was detected during the service. My rear wheel ball bearings got sorted within a week and under warranty. This did not affect the handling of the bike when i rode it for the time i was waiting to get it sorted.
Only done the usual services in order to keep the bike with good service history at the dealership. Roughly £120 each but i know the next big service will be around £450. They offer monthly plans but I don’t want an additional direct debit on my account. Usually fill up my tank with £15/16. I’ve done 200 miles with a full tank being more conservative than not. Open the throttle and that will drop to 188 miles. Still good for me. Plus lots of fun on B roads.
ABS as standard.
Buying experience: First time I bought a bike from dealer so don’t have anything to compare it to. It was an ok experience for me. The person that handled my purchase was very professional and a nice guy. My only gripe is after being told that my bike was one of the few left, I’ve now seen quite a few more waiting to be sold. I paid £5499.
Annual servicing cost: £700
Decent engine, Kawasaki cheaped out big time on something's though. The OEM chain has to be replaced in the same amount of time the one I replaced with took to need it's first adjustment, which isn't so bad chains I expect to replace but come on Kawasaki that's pretty poor. The biggest issue I have with this bike is that I had to replace to fork springs. At about a year and a half off the showroom floor the front got very soft. I contacted Kawasaki and the rep said to replace the fork fluid, I told him that seemed like it was not likely to the problem based on the performance but eventually against my better judgement has the fluid replaced. It did not improve anything, and Kawasaki had told me that it's considered normal maintenance that they don't publish any thing about. Yes I do know that it is a normal maintenance thing, but on other bikes I've owned it's been anywhere from 7-8 years or the bike needed other things replaced and was getting to be such high milage (150k+) that doing the forks and then everything else wasn't really worth it so I just went ahead and got a new bike. The suspension on the ninja got to be so bad that it was a safety concern for me, I had rear wheel locks when I never would have expected it on any of the other bikes I've owned it the ninja during the first year, it felt unstable during anything but the most conservative commuter cornering, the front end would dip badly when letting off the throttle, etc. I tried to contact Kawasaki about it again and one of their reps just quit responding while I was emailing back and forth. So finally I just went ahead and replaced the springs. And all the sudden the performance was like it was during the first year of the bikes life. I contacted the BBB seeking reimbursement from Kawasaki figuring that they would at least do something, but no. No reimbursement for the first reps poor advice to charge fluid, and nothing for the replaced springs. Long story short I've been recommending against Kawasaki when friends ask about getting into a motorcycle, and I'll be going back to either Suzuki or Honda when I get my next bike. I know that the dealer's will say it's an entry level bike so it's not as well manufactured as some of their others, but my Suzuki was an entry level 250cc and never had any problems that got me to contact the manufacturer over owning it for 8 out so years.
Factory suspension went way down hill. Around a year and a half it was trying to ride for more then 20 or so min (commuting). Before the suspension went bad it was good for an afternoon ride with one nicd break in the middle, maybe 4 hour ride with a twenty min or so break to strech in the middle. Back to that with the replaced fork springs
Needing to perform parts replacements to get it back to showroom performance (suspension) put this well over what it should be
Suggest short levers (depending on personal taste), I've been very happy with the michiline pilot tires on it-good grip on normal Street conditions including occasional rain and they look like they'll have a good life span (these are the tires I replaced the factory installed ones with). It came set up to be a good standard bike, nothing awesome nothing horrible
Buying experience: Dealer, purchased new, don't recall advertised price paid about 6300usd
Annual servicing cost: £500
I just purchased this bike yesterday. Put 75 miles on it. Love this bike. I rode a GS500F, then went to a Shadow 750, and now here. I do a lot of street riding versus open road with big curves and this bike has been great for it so far. It's a lot more nimble than the Shadow and just as quick as the GS500. Seat position is a little more straight up versus your typical sport bike which is nice when I cruised on the highway for a little bit. I was able to get up to 95mph and still had some to go before redline (I'm 5'11'' and ~210lbs). Would definitely recommend to anyone looking for a practical yet fun motorcycle.
Everything is great. I think the brakes are a little squishy but that's probably a me thing.
Quality seems great. Not much vibration even at 95mph. It's too new for me to comment on reliability but Kaw doesn't usually put out bad bikes.
Same as any other except the 7500 change. That one's a little pricier due to valves.
Everything was cool. My complaint is the under seat storage seems kind of small compared to other sport bikes I've seen. Maybe that's a me thing too.
Buying experience: Dealer - Was awesome. I bought from them previously so they took off $700.
Top speed is a lot higher than 93 test rode one feels smooth in the gear changes acceleration is pritty much instant, if the 250r can do 110 I'm sure the 300 can do a little bit more