Suzuki GSX250R: The return of the pocket rocket?
I rode Suzuki's new GSX250R earlier this week. And during just one afternoon, here's how I got on...
It’s got big shoes to fill
This is Suzuki’s first racy 250 since the two-stroke RGV250 and Japanese import four-stroke GSX-R250 of the 80s and 90s. Sporting a variation on the legendary GSX-R name, the bike has been designed to slot neatly into the burgeoning A2-friendly sportsbike class, heavily populated by the rest of the major Japanese manufacturers.
It’s not as fast as they used to be
At the heart of the GSX250R lies a peppy 248cc parallel twin motor, producing just 24.7bhp. It’s a far cry from Suzuki’s screaming mini supersport bikes of the 90s and it has to be worked hard to get the most out of. But, there’s still enough poke to be fun along nadgery back roads.
With so little power on tap, the Suzuki prefers carving up city streets, rather than going in search of peg-scraping, knee-down thrills. But power is non-threatening and fuel economy is great, even when you cane it in every gear to keep up with traffic.
Flat out with your head on the tank, you’ll just about manage to keep up with motorway traffic and the bike sounds like it’s in a constant struggle. At 70mph it sits between 8500 and 9000rpm in sixth gear, close to its 10,500rpm redline. Despite this, the bike returned a measured fuel economy just shy of 77mpg – making it brilliantly cheap motoring.
At slower speeds the throttle response can be jerky, especially in the higher gears. It makes it hard to maintain a steady speed, which could be an issue on the urban commute.
The gearbox can also be stubborn. On more than one occasion I was left stranded at the lights, as the bike refused to clunk into first gear from neutral. The problem can also happen changing up to fifth when you ride it more enthusiastically.
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It’s happier when the pace drops
At lower speeds the GSX250R is more predictable. It has lots of low-speed flick ability to help you scythe through traffic and along busy city streets. It’s a great tool for getting across town with its easy handling and non-threatening engine.
Standard tyres aren’t the best. It comes on IRC RX-01 Road Winners and make the steering vague and unpredictable when you start to press on. In wet conditions they’re quite unpleasant, with the bike feeling like it’s going to fall away from you at the slightest angle of lean. It is unnerving and spoils the Suzuki’s otherwise enjoyable riding experience.
It’s a bit soft
The basic KYB conventional fork set-up is too softly sprung to be considered truly sporty. While the rear is firm enough to inspire confidence, the front-end feels skittish and prone to wobbles over bumps at speed.
But the little Suzuki feels like a quality product. The paintwork is lovely and glints majestically in the sunlight. There are no poor panel gaps and no tacky plastic tank covers.
It’s not the cheapest
At £4399 for the model we tested (the GP-rep paint job is £100 extra), the GSX isn’t cheap. Honda’s higher-capacity, CBR300R offers more power and similar big bike looks for just £3999.
The Suzuki looks like a more modern bike though and the extra cash buys you a reverse-lit LCD instrument cluster, which is very easy to read. ABS comes standard and offers great feedback and minimal intrusion to the rider.
The GSX250R looks like more than simply a 250. It may not look that similar to a GSX-R1000, really but no-one wants their 250 to be mistaken for a 125 and that won’t happen here.
After a 20-year absence, Suzuki finally resurrected their assault on the small-capacity sportsbike market, or did they? Though it has the GSX-R name and go-faster paint, the GSX250R simply isn’t designed with performance in mind. Instead, it is a good looking, easy to handle commuting machine, perfect for tackling the urban sprawl in style.
The GSXR250R facts
Price: £4299 (£4399 for the GP version with MotoGP inspired paint)
Engine: 248cc 53.5mm x 55.2mm parallel twin
Frame: Steel frame
Seat height: 790mm
Suspension: Front KYB telescopic coil spring, oil damped. Rear KYB swingarm type, coil spring, oil damped. Preload adjustable shock. Non-adjustable forks.
Front brake: Petal-type singular disc brake, two piston sliding callipe
Colours: Black, Suzuki MotoGP livery
Kerb weight (no fuel): 181kg (178kg non-ABS)
Tank capacity: 15-litres
Yamaha YZF-R3, £5295 – 169kg, 41bhp, 780mm
The R3 is a credible, genuine, practical sportsbike that has the ability to entertain even the most sceptical old goat of a motorcyclist.
Honda CBR300R, £3999 – 162kg, 30bhp, 775mm
The CBR300R holds its own in traffic, offering plenty of torque for such a small, light bike.
Kawasaki Ninja 300, £4899 – 172/174kg, 39bhp, 785mm
The Ninja 300 is popular with young riders and female riders alike and needs to be revved to get the best from it.
KTM RC390, £5099 – 147kg, 44bhp, 820mm
The racer of the class, KTM's R390 has a higher capacity than the rest but only has one cylinder.