A Milwaukee television news broadcast seems to have uncovered the return of the Kawasaki Ninja 400.
Earlier this week, Milwaukee’s TMJ4 news station ran footage of a Kawasaki commercial shoot on the east side of that city (a curious decision in itself, considering Milwaukee is the hometown of the all-American Motor Company, and not known as a haven for sport bikes).
That news footage (see it here—watch fullscreen for best detail) showed a sportbike bearing a licence plate with the words “Ninja 400.” Interesting! There’s a Ninja 300 in Kawasaki’s lineup right now, and a Ninja 650, but nothing in between. Does this footage tip the imminent unveiling of a new Kawi sportbike? It seems so.
The bike seems to be very similar to the existing Ninja 300; don’t be shocked to see it’s almost identical, with the displacement taking a slight bump past its existing 296 cc. A move to the 350-380 cc range would give it a bigger engine than any of the Japanese beginner bike competition, and put it on par with class frontrunner KTM’s 390 engine, which is itself really only 373 cc.
In most other markets, Kawasaki would likely continue sales of its single-cylinder Ninja 250 model, which would ensure riders on the strictest budget could still afford a sporty ride from Team Green.
Although they have never seen the sales of their larger counterparts, the Ninja 400 models have been a steady presence in Kawasaki’s lineup, going back to the 1980s, when they were sleeved-down versions of the 600 cc machines.
These bikes were built to satisfy demand in the Japanese home market, where displacement restrictions limited riders to smaller bikes. Those 400s were surprisingly common in certain parts of Canada with a thriving grey market industry, particularly in areas where lower speed limits made smaller bikes more sensible.
More recently, Kawasaki pulled a similar move in 2011 when it sleeved down the Ninja 650 to build a Ninja 400, aimed at fighting draconian insurance regulations. This version did not last long in Canada, and wasn’t available at all in some other markets.