Kawasaki Working on a 250cc Four-Cylinder?

06/24/2014 @ 2:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS


According to the Indonesian publication TMC Blog, Kawasaki is working on a performance-oriented 250cc four-cylinder…and they have the supposed photos to prove it. The news should be well-received by those who remember the high-revving small-displacement Japanese machines of just a few decades ago.

Southeast Asian markets, like Indonesia’s, are driven by graduated taxes on motorcycle displacement. For the Indonesian market, machines 250cc to 500cc in displacement receive a 60% tax rate, while machine over 500cc are taxed at 75%. Unsurprisingly then, bikes under 250cc are accounting for the lion’s share of motorcycle sales.

Working against that taxation plan is the growing middle class in these regions, with consumers able to purchase more expensive motorbikes, and looking for more performance in the process. This trend is what helped bring the Yamaha R25 to market (and production) in Indonesia, along with the slew of other ~250cc machines we’ve seen from Honda, Kawasaki, and KTM.

Competition improves the breed, as they say, and with the small-displacement market in Southeast Asia becoming a hotbed of action for the Japanese OEMs, we once again may see some screamers from the Land of the Rising Sun. This bodes well for eclectic riders in the Western world, who yearn for small, light, relatively high-powered two-wheeled weapons.

Kawasaki seems to be poised to enter this space first with their four-cylinder machine, though expect the other OEMs to be hot on their heels. How high the revs will go is a matter of conjecture of course. It will be interesting to see how this news plays out though, but it certainly has our interest piqued.

Source: TMC Blog via Canada MotoGuide

  • Kenny

    Woohoo! I’m in!
    Nothing quite like having a light little 18,000+rpm screamer where you have to wring it’s neck and not worry too much about your licence.

  • crshnbrn

    Don’t get too excited. 250cc bikes intended for general public consumption don’t come with internal engine components capable of 18,000 RPM, but the return of 250cc four-cylinder engines is interesting none-the-less.

    I wonder what is the tax rate on motorcycles <250cc.

  • Yeeha! Stephen

    Kawi seems to have history in making small displacement bikes for the masses that ”want” but can’t have the big history makers.
    I had a 250 triple back in the day when the Mach I and the big-for-the-time 750 triple were what everyone wanted.

  • Noel B

    All the big 4 made 4 cyl screamers for the japanese market in the 80s and 90s. The CBR250 was (and I suspect still is) the highest revving 4 stroke production engine with a redline of 19,500 if memory serves and was astonishingly reliable. They were imported into Ireland by the container load used and 17year olds did their best to drive them into the ground without sucess! Beautiful machines, like little jewels. Love to see them back! particularly the ZXR250! And while they’re at it – my ZXR400 is nearly worn out as well……….

  • Starmag

    Just a bit of trivia. I just found out about these. Who would have thunk it from MG in ’77?


  • There are still lots of CBR250RR’s and ZX-2R’s screaming around here in Australia. So so noisy when on boil but the L/P-platers sure love them. They’re much more interesting and fast than the ubiquitous Ninja250/300s and CBR250s, and with the introduction of mandatory flouro vests for L-platers we’ll need every asset possible to recruit new riders.

  • Starmag

    Didn’t Brando wear a mandatory flouro vest in “The Wild One”?

  • Coreyvwc

    So what are we talking here? 10-15 ft lbs of torque @15,000 rpm? Maybe 40 hp @18,000rpm?

    It would make for a really cool little track bike, but that kind of power generation is completely useless on street…

  • n/a

    Modern ZXR250RR,

    Yes please!

  • Lardener

    Considering I’m still trying to find a way for someone to get me an old CBR250RR into the US, I would be first in line for one of these. Kawi, if you can get these to market soon I’ll make the switch from Big Red to Team Green!

  • MJM

    @crshnbrn – The reciprocating mass of a tiny 4-cylinder makes stratospheric RPM operation entirely possible, even at a consumer price point. Considering current 600cc bikes are capable of ~16k, 17-19k doesn’t seem implausible at all.

  • BBQdog

    No use at all if it is going to weight 155 kg dry like the rest. I owned a Ninja 250 R and although the engine was really fun one has to rev it all the time to get some descend acceleration. Either you go drastically down with your weigh (max 130 kg dry) or use a slightly larger and relatively light engine like in the Duke 390 and RC 390 series.

  • Minibull

    I had an FZR250 as one of my first bikes, and I loved it. Wish I had had it today. 45HP at the crank as it was a 1989 model, before they started restricting them a tiny bit. Pretty much the same HP as all the manufacturers 250’s. The gear driven cam CBR250RR though, that would be lovely to have today in mint condition. They would all reach right up at 19,000rpm odd and were reliable as. I knew someone who had clocked 90,000kms on an FZR250 and it was still running brilliantly.

    This news really excites me, I really hope they do push for a high performance 250 4, and the other manufacturers follow suite. If they could crack 45HP and near 20,000RPM over 20 years ago, they should easily be able to match that today. Hopefully they will go further, haha.

  • Jaybond

    Seems like Kawasaki is the trendsetter for the small displacement sportbike segment in recent times. If the new 250cc Kawasaki 4 cyl screamer sportbike is indeed a production reality, it won’t be long before the other Japanese Big 3 will follow suit. Question is will Europe OEMs respond to this? We’ve only seen KTM joining the small displacement sportbike market with the RC200/390…

  • Curly

    You guys seem to forget that an inline 250-4 has just as many parts in it as a 600 or 1000 inline four and requires just as many machining operations and labor to assemble. So would you also be willing to pay the near the same money for a 250 as a 600? I think not and don’t expect the manufacturers to give them away at the same price as a 250 single or twin.

    I’ll throw out a bone, how about a triple 375-450 built up from 250-300 twin components instead?

  • donno

    Yeah, i had one of those 4cylinder zxr250rr’s before. It takes awhile to get comfortable to cruise in city traffic at 10-14k rpm… Its sounds like a mini-F1 engine.

    So kawasaki will have a 1cylinder, twin cyllinder and 4cylinder bike in its lineup. Right now both the single and twin is known as ninjas, need to have more differentiation between their names.

  • paulus

    As Curly says…. the parts and processes are akin to any bigger inline 4 engine.
    I would not expect this to be a solution for a developing market.
    Even the recent 1 and 2 cylinders have sold at almost full international price…. they just are relatively lower than the import option.

    Let’s hope they build it though… be nice to have some exotic 250’s back into the mix.

  • Kenny

    BBQdog my CBR 250R, 1988 version weighs in a 160~ wet and made 45 horses from the factory. About 20 ft.lbs torque is the figure I’ve heard. Good for 6 seconds 0 to 100k and limited to 180k. Though I reckon It wouldn’t do much more.
    Curly and paulus, you are correct the cbr250rr I had about the same price as a cbr600 new. But what I gather from the article above is that there is a market for these bikes in Asia and possibly oz. The catch is I know for a fact that these bikes don’t fit into any of the new European licencing categories. So in the western world these would be niche bikes.

  • BBQdog

    @Kenny: so what’s the point ?? 160 kg for a 250 is still a fat pig …. on the back roads a need a agile steering bike.

  • BBQdog

    That’s partly why I’m looking forward to this. If there are things I’d change about my 25 year old 250 it’s the suspension and geometry and the weight. The engine itself can still hold its head up high. It’s design puts out 180hp/l. Current 600’s are putting out about 215hp/l.

  • Kenny

    ^ Sorry that was me. Smart phone dumb operator

  • Ben

    @BBQdog – fat pig? a friend of mine would disagree with you … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xV-9bnhg_Sc

    Having owned both a zxr250rr and an mc22 these bikes are PLENTY on the road. In comparison my 636 is a ridiculous commuter. Still fun but in a very different, much more illegal way.

    I would have a hard time trying to decide which to track and which to ride every day if these do become more than a pipe dream

  • KAS
  • @KAS
    It certainly makes more sense…oh well.

  • KAS, man, that is one wickedly good catch. Nicely done!

    Add me to the ranks of those who would like to see another round of I-4 250s. There are plenty to be found here in Japan on the used market, but, of course, they don’t enjoy modern conveniences such as EFI and the like. I’d love to see the recipe of, say, a Honda Jade brought into the modern era. Not only were there some really spectacular full-blown sports models available, but the Jade, Bandit and Hornet were fine examples of sane, daily riders.

    There’s nothing quite like a sweet I-4, small-displacement bike winding up into the stratosphere. The Japanese aftermarket is full of pipes that sound glorious, too, all while not producing ear-splitting dBs. Pure win, that.

  • MikeG81

    Even if the story is a fake, it’s nice to think of a 250 inline four sportbike turning stratospheric RPM’s. As mentioned above though, cost might be a factor. Too close to a 600 and the North American market probably wouldn’t support it.

    The other thing that popped to mind while reading this, is wouldn’t it be nice to have 250-fours on the Moto3 grid? Limit the big 4 to offering production ‘EVO’-tuned engines only, and have aftermarket frames, kinda like Moto2. Eh, one can dream. The sound alone would be worth it.