Kawasaki Ninja 500 Road Test Review - A Sharpened Weapon

  • May 25, 2024
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The Ninja 500 replaces the Ninja 400 with an upgraded engine and sharper looks, and the same price tag.

The Ninja 400 has always been an extremely capable and potent motorcycle but its price tag has kept it an exclusive machine. For 2024, the Kawasaki Ninja 500 has been introduced to replace the Ninja 400. It gets an upgraded engine and sharper looks, with the price tag remaining the same as the Ninja 400’s. We spend time with the motorcycle in different conditions to bring you a detailed review and tell you about how it fares when compared to the 400 that it replaces.

Design

The Ninja 500 gets sharper and more muscular bodywork when compared to the Ninja 400, especially the larger front fairing. The styling of the LED headlights is reminiscent of what we see on the new ZX-6R and ZX-10R. From the rear end, the bike looks similar to the Ninja 400. Currently, the Ninja 500 is being offered only in this Metallic Spark Black colour scheme which I think looks stunning and perfectly suits its character. You could argue that green has been an iconic and signature colour for Kawasaki motorcycles, but isn't a ninja technically meant to be dressed in black?

Engine, Performance, and Mileage

When compared to the Ninja 400, the 500 gets an updated engine. The displacement has gone up by 52cc and the stroke has been increased by 6.8mm. This makes it a 451cc engine putting out 45PS at 9,000rpm and 42.6Nm at 6,000rpm. With the peak torque produced at 6,000rpm, the Ninja 500 has a healthy dose of mid-range torque, which also translates to it being more tractable. It can easily do 45kmph in sixth gear and pulls cleanly once the throttle is opened. The engine feels like it is breathing more and fewer gear changes are required while riding through the city. Further adding to the relaxed riding experience in the city is the slick six-speed gearbox and light clutch. 

While the nature of this motor is slightly different from the Ninja 400's. I appreciate that it has retained its rev-happy nature, making it great fun to wring out on twisty roads. In our tests, the bike was able to do a 0-80kmph run in just 3.73 seconds, while the run to 100kmph took just 5.44 seconds. Out on the highway, the bike can easily sit at 100kmph in sixth gear at 5800rpm. While attacking twisty roads, you can enter a corner in a gear higher than necessary and still have enough drive to power out of the corner. With the usable nature of this engine, it is a bike that can be a potent track tool for experienced riders and also double up as a friendly and manageable motorcycle for newer riders. 

Throughout my time spent with the Ninja 500, I got an indicated mileage of 23kmpl, which is quite good for a motorcycle in this class. With the 14-litre fuel tank, riders should be able to get approximately 320km of range.

Ride Quality and Handling

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The Ninja 500 has surprisingly plush ride quality for a bike in its class. It gets a telescopic fork and a monoshock which is on the stiffer side but it is amazing how well it soaks up undulations in its way while riding through broken roads. This makes the Ninja 500 strike a good balance between sporty performance and everyday usability. 

At this price point, most people would have liked to see inverted forks instead, although just one ride through the twisties and you will forget that the Ninja 500 misses out on inverted forks. It is a stable and confidence-inspiring motorcycle through a set of corners, which says a lot about why it would be a perfect track tool for a beginner. Opposed to the Ninja 400, the 500 is just 3kg heavier with a 171-kilogram kerb weight. It feels nimble, tips into corners quickly, and is very easy to flick from one side to another while holding a line through a corner perfectly. With its lightweight nature, correcting a line mid-corner is an effortless task.

The Dunlop Sportmax tyres wrapped around the 17-inch wheels do a good job of providing grip in the city but I would swap these tyres out if I were to take the Ninja 500 to a race track and exploit all that it has to offer. The brakes provide adequate stopping power, with a progressive feel from the front brake lever that inspires confidence. This, in turn, allows a rider to get on the brakes harder and later without worrying about losing grip or stability. Even though the bike gets a dual-channel ABS setup, the calibration at the rear allows a rider to lock up the wheel for a quick second, which is a nice touch for more experienced riders. 

Comfort

The ergonomics are extremely practical for a sports bike as the Ninja 500 places a rider upright, unlike other fully faired bikes which have very demanding riding postures. It feels almost like a sports tourer, except for the footpegs, which are set slightly toward the rear. While attacking corners, all I had to do was shift towards the rear of the seat to get into an aggressive riding position. The seat is also quite comfortable and should allow a rider to do 100km stints without breaking a sweat. With a seat height of 785mm, this is a very accessible motorcycle to shorter riders and the 140 mm of ground clearance is adequate for tackling our road conditions.

Features 

The Ninja 500 gets LED lighting, an LCD instrument cluster with smartphone connectivity, and dual-channel ABS when it comes to safety and convenience features. What I missed the most while riding the motorcycle was the analogue tachometer which we used to get on the Ninja 400. The switchgear is also simple and it misses out on adjustable levers. Considering the price tag of the bike and with the competition offering many more features and electronic rider aids as standard, the Ninja 500 unfortunately, becomes hard to justify to interested customers.

Verdict

The Kawasaki Ninja 500 offers a great combination of style, performance, and nimble handling characteristics. Whether you're a seasoned rider looking for a fun machine for weekend rides or a newcomer seeking a capable bike to hone your skills, the Ninja 500 delivers in spades. It is nice to see that, at Rs 5.24 lakh ex-showroom, the price has remained the same as the Ninja 400’s, but this is still very expensive for a motorcycle in this segment. If it was priced Rs 1 lakh lower, we could have looked past the lack of features. That said, the sporty demeanour, comfortable ergonomics, and spirited performance of the Ninja 500 will always keep a rider entertained with an exhilarating riding experience. 

Kawasaki Ninja 500
Kawasaki Ninja 500
Rs. 5.24 Lakh
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