2024 Kawasaki Ninja 500 review | This approachable A2-ready sportsbike looks the part and takes the fight to Honda


  • New look Ninja for 2024
  • Stroked engine rides better than ever
  • Added tech, brilliant brakes

At a glance

Power: 45 bhp
Seat height: Medium (30.9 in / 785 mm)
Weight: Low (379 lbs / 172 kg)


New £6,499
Used N/A

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
4 out of 5 (4/5)

The 2024 Kawasaki Ninja 500 is an A2-ready middleweight sportsbike that replaces the Ninja 400 in the Japanese firm’s ever-expanding line-up. It, along with its Z500 naked sibling, are the second and third bikes to be added under the ‘500’ moniker, following the Eliminator cruiser.

But don’t be fooled by the name. The engine is an evolution of the outgoing Ninja 400's with some tuning and 52cc more. It’s also very closely related to the petrol aspect of the Ninja 7 Hybrid’s powertrain. It's priced from £5999 for the standard bike, but most UK models will be the Special Edition, which is £6499 and comes in far more fetching colours with additional kit.

The frame is the same 250-derived tubular steel item, with a relatively accessible 785mm seat height plus the option of a 30mm higher seat for taller riders.

Kawasaki Ninja 500 static shot

Considering the sheer number of shared parts between Z and Ninja in this format, we were surprised by how different the two bikes felt when rode back-to-back on the launch event in Alicante, Spain. The Ninja is a far more serious proposition, with composed, agile handling, whereas the naked feels looser at the front end and as a result, a little more fun.

But that isn’t to say that the Ninja is in any way dull. In fact, on first inspection (admittedly on some sensational roads) we felt that it was a very highly accomplished bike with a brilliant balance of performance and handling for the less experienced rider. It feels ‘right-sized’, rather than a bigger, heavier bike that’s been throttled back to duck under the A2 licence threshold.

There’s enough tech on board to keep most younger riders happy, with a smartphone app for that all important connectivity and on SE models like the one we’re riding here, a pleasingly posh-looking new TFT screen to keep an eye on vital statistics. The big question here is whether this bike has what it takes to go toe-to-toe with its arch rival, the Honda CBR500R.

Kawasaki Ninja 500 on the road

You’ll need to wait for the group test to find out our definitive verdict, but early indications are that the Honda takes itself a little less seriously, with its MotoGP-style winglets and raucous exhaust note bringing a sense of occasion to the A2 sportsbike class, but the Ninja fights back with an accomplished balance of handling and comfort. And it’s hardly a shy-looking thing itself, particularly in Kawasaki’s greener paintjobs.

Read on for our in-depth look at the 2024 Kawasaki Ninja 500…

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
4 out of 5 (4/5)

The first thing to note here is that to date, we’ve pretty much only ridden the Ninja 500 on glass-smooth, beautiful tarmac wending through the hills around Alicante. The temperature was idyllic too, ranging from 14 to just over 20 degrees centigrade for the duration of the test.

However, we found its chassis felt light and incredibly composed, with decent adhesion from the Dunlop Sportmax GPR300 rubber – a tyre that’s keen to turn in and offers chatty feedback mid-bend. The non-adjustable 41mm front suspension features higher spring rates than the Z500 naked and feels a fair bit more direct through corners as a result.

Lean on the handling a little more than an A2 rider is likely to, and this Ninja feels very composed indeed, with a bigger-bike feel than its spec sheet would suggest. We had no issues with ground clearance during our test ride, and there’s no indication that knee-down fun would pose a problem should the opportunity present itself to a confident enough rider.

Kawasaki Ninja 500 handling test on the road

The steering is fast enough to facilitate quick direction changes (helped in no small part by the bike’s relatively low 172kg mass) but there’s also an appreciably tight turning circle for a sportbike, meaning it’s wieldy in town and even does a decent U-turn.

The forks also keep the bike stable when you’re leaning on the Nissin brakes. Furthermore, the single-disc fronts have feel and feedback that is streets ahead of Honda’s rival CBR and we a little taken aback by this subtlety of set-up on a bike at this pricepoint.

The rear shock, with its five-way adjustable preload, never seemed to struggle keeping up with wheel movements, but again, only on the smoothest of surfaces. It’ll be interesting to pit it against our pothole-strewn UK roads. The seat also seemed fine during our test ride, and there's a handy 35mm higher option for taller riders.

Kawasaki Ninja 500 front brake


Next up: Reliability
4 out of 5 (4/5)

The 451cc engine in this Ninja doesn’t have anymore power at the top end compared with the old 400, but thanks to 6.8mm additional stroke (accounting for the 52 additional cubic centimetres) it benefits from more area under the torque curve, meaning extra low-down punch and mid-range.

Also new for the 500 motor is a crank that features more counterweighting, with the aim to provide a smoother on-throttle response, making it easier and more pleasant to ride. Kawasaki has done a bit of extra tuning to the specification we sampled in the Eliminator too, adding circular throttle valves rather than oval, for snappier pick-up.

The result of this finetuning is a pleasingly responsive but approachable package. It doesn’t particularly like being thrashed to the redline, but pulls well with plenty of in-gear grunt meaning you don’t have to work the gearbox too hard if you just fancy a pootle around.

Kawasaki Ninja 500 engine

It’ll handle quicker riding too, but don’t expect this sports middleweight to set your pants on fire. It’s no ZX-4RR screamer, with power tailing off at the top end in a manner that has you selecting the next gear well before the dash starts flashing to prompt a change.

We’d have preferred a little more of an interesting note from the pipes, too. The Ninja 650 sounds miles better, even in its standard form. An Akrapovic pipe is available as an optional extra, however, or as part of the Performance package you can add to either standard or SE Ninja 500s.

The bike remains A2-friendly but actually has slightly less power than some other A2 bikes (including arch rival the Honda CBR500R), yet its lower kerb weight means the power-to-weight ratio is still in its favour.

Kawasaki Ninja 500 rear action

The six-speed transmission is slick and simple to operate, and feels well matched to the performance on offer. It comes with an ‘Assist and slipper’ clutch that offers easily modulated pullaway from a standstill, and protection from rear wheel snatching or skipping on downchanges at high revs to keep things stable when riding quicker.

There’s even an economic riding indicator that illuminates when you’re not using a lot of fuel – apparently – but we didn’t do a massive amount of testing of that particular feature on the sensational roads around Alicante…

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
4 out of 5 (4/5)

While the obvious lack of much in the way of technological toys indicates this isn’t an expensive Kawasaki, it still does a decent job of feeling well put-together. The switchgear is simple but nicely laid-out and effective, while the paintwork and fixtures and fittings didn’t give us any cause for concern.

Owners’ reviews of the out-going Ninja 400 seem to indicate this is likely to be a hassle-free ownership proposition, too, with a star rating of 4.8 out of 5 for reliability.

Kawasaki Ninja 500 headlight

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
4 out of 5 (4/5)

The best version to go for is the SE model, with useful extra kit and to our eyes, far better-looking paintjobs.

Easily the closest rival to the Ninja 500 is Honda’s recently revised CBR500R, which offers a similar proposition in many respects, and is only a few hundred quid more expensive.

Then there’s CFMOTO’s 450SR to contend with, albeit not enjoying quite as high a level of quality as the Japanese offerings. The incoming Aprilia RS457 is worth a mention here too, although we suspect that might be a little sportier than the Ninja 500, and potentially a little pricier too, if the RS660 middleweight is anything to go by.

Kawasaki Ninja 500 left turn front action shot

Other rivals could include smaller-capacity sportsbikes like the Yamaha R3 and KTM’s RC390, but obviously these are a way behind on performance.


4 out of 5 (4/5)

As standard, the kit list includes an LCD screen, and Bluetooth connectivity using a smartphone application called Rideology the App, which then provides battery voltage levels, a riding log, mobile phone notifications, rider profile sharing and a maintenance log. The only colourway is metallic black.

The majority of UK Ninja 500s will be in SE (Special Editon) specification, which means a choice of two colour schemes – green with black highlights or vice versa – plus a higher-grade TFT screen with automatically switching light and dark screens for day and night running respectively.

You also get KIPASS (Kawasaki Intelligent Proximity Activation Start System), which means keyless operation of ignition and steering lock.

Kawasaki Ninja 500 keyless ignition switch

There’s also a USB-C outlet by the screen, LED indicators, a larger windscreen in clear or smoke, a radiator guard, frame sliders, a pillion seat cover, a tank pad and knee grip pads for quicker cornering.

An ‘Ergo-fit’ 30mm higher seat is available as an optional extra, alongside all of the kit mentioned above, and a tank bag, wheel rim tape, a helmet lock and a U-lock.


Engine size 451cc
Engine type Liquid-cooled, 8v, parallel-twin
Frame type Steel trellis
Fuel capacity 14 litres
Seat height 785mm
Bike weight 172kg
Front suspension Rigid 41mm telescopic forks
Rear suspension Bottom-link uni-track rear suspension with 5-way preload adjustment
Front brake Single 310mm semi-floating disc with dual-piston Nissin caliper, ABS
Rear brake 220mm single disc with dual-piston Nissin caliper, ABS
Front tyre size 110/70 x 17
Rear tyre size 150/60 x 17

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption 74.3 mpg
Annual road tax £84
Annual service cost -
New price £6,499
Used price -
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term Four years

Top speed & performance

Max power 45 bhp
Max torque 31.4 ft-lb
Top speed -
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range 229 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

  • 2008: Ninja 250R sports bike revealed.
  • 2012: Kawasaki Ninja 300 launched with more power, new suspension and more aggressive looks.
  • 2019: Ninja 400 introduced with different chassis, even more power and race-rep looks.
  • 2024: Ninja 500 replaces out-going 400, with larger engine but frame based on 250 bike.

Other versions

Kawasaki Z500 is a naked version of the Ninja 500, while Eliminator cruiser shares the same basic package. Engine also employed by Z 7 Hybrid and Ninja 7 Hybrid.

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