A total screamer: Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-25R ridden in exclusive UK test

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The UK’s small-capacity sportsbike market is now dominated by a selection of competent, but comfortable single and parallel-twin cylinder machines, capped at 47bhp.

Practical, frugal and user-friendly, they are a far cry from the rev-happy 250 and 400 screamers of the ’80s and ’90s, which pinged off the red lines of their analogue tachos at the exciting end of 20,000rpm, whilst mimicking the styling of their larger, more powerful stablemates.

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However, as appetite dwindled and hunger for more powerful large-capacity sportsbikes surged, these mini exotics were consigned to the history books, with tidy used examples becoming increasingly rare and fetching big money.

Kawasaki could be about to change all that though with a new four-cylinder 250 introduced to parts of the Asian market. Called the Ninja ZX-25R, bikes available outside of Japan boast a claimed 50.3bhp at 15,500rpm from a 249.8cc inline-four, weigh a measured 182.2kg (minus a few road-going bits and some added R&G crash protection) and feature styling pinched straight from the ZX-6R. Japan market models produce a more modest 44bhp.

Although not all bikes fall within the A2 licence band without restriction and aren’t being officially brought to the UK, the ZX could be the perfect antidote to the ever-increasing roster of 200bhp litre bikes. To find out, we arranged a UK exclusive test on what’s believed to be the only ZX-25R in the country.

Firing it up, you are greeted by a sedate purr from its stubby Ninja-mimicking end can. With two glowing LED headlights shining back brightly, supersport lines, broad shoulders and USD 37mm Showa forks, it looks far more exotic than any UK-friendly alternatives and commands admiration from all-comers.

With gently set bars, a 785mm seat height (the same as a Kawasaki Ninja 400), roomy foot pegs and easy turning circle, it feels no more extreme than the A2 pocket rockets we already have in the UK. It also appears very well built, with a neat ZX-6R inspired part-analogue dash up front (convertible to MPH), Suzuki RGV250-mimicking banana swingarm, similar to the larger Ninja 650 and Z650, span-adjustable levers and crisp fuelling.

What really sets it apart from the A2 crop is its fantastic engine and although far less practical than those with half the cylinders, it’s so much more engaging. Equipped with an up/down quickshifter and a 17,000rpm redline, the 25R screams along, producing a cracking induction roar. Encouraging you to work the engine hard, there’s almost no pull below 10,000rpm.

Brilliantly, you can also enjoy all of it legally – making all the right superbike noises without risking your licence. In our speed camera-saturated landscape, it makes total sense, but we are unlikely to ever see it grace our shores officially.

But can you buy one?

The short answer is yes, but whether or not you can register it for UK roads will require careful research and won’t be fully apparent until someone tries it. You can use air or sea freight, and may have to buy the bike from a third party.

Available for around £6500 new in Japan and then with various shipping, import and tax charges, you’d currently be looking at about £9000 to get one to the UK – before any guarantee you can ride it on the road. 

Ciarán Perrin is the owner of Extreme Trading a company specialising in the import and export of exotic motorcycles and said: “If a vehicle has never been type-approved into the UK market or EU market, then your only option is an MSVA (Motorcycle Single Vehicle Approval) test. 

“I’d buy a load if I thought there was a market for them, but it all comes down to cost and whether you can bring it in, register it and MSVA it. This will probably be the sticking point, as it makes sure that the vehicle conforms to current EU specification.”

Things are slightly less complicated if you don’t want one for the road though and once in the UK, Ciarán says it will only need to be registered with HMRC via the Notification of Vehicle Arrivals (NOVA) service within 14 days of arrival.

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-25R specs:

  • Engine 249cc liquid-cooled four-cylinder
  • Front brake 1 x 310mm disc with single radial caliper
  • Rear brake 220mm disc with one piston caliper
  • Seat height 785mm
  • Power 44bhp/50.3bhp
  • Torque 15.5ftlb
  • Weight 182.2kg
  • Fuel capacity 15 litres