Return of the quarter-liter inline four.

Nowadays, putting a 250cc, four-cylinder engine in a motorcycle may look like weird strategy, however, the layout was a rather popular one in the 80s. It allowed manufacturers to meet strict Japanese licensing standards while offering customers high-power, high-revving engines. The trend phased out as small bikes were relegated to the use of single or twin-cylinder engines, leaving the four pots to be used in bigger motorcycles.  

That was until Kawasaki decided to revive its four-cylinder Ninja 250, or ZX-25R. Rumors of the model’s return surfaced in June 2019, when Japanese outlet Young Machine reported on the possibility of a ZX-25R in the works at Kawasaki. A few months later, Team Green showed up at the Tokyo Motor Show with a little 250cc monster that stole everyone’s heart with its pocket-sized big-bore attitude. Here’s a look at everything we know about the 2020 Kawasaki ZX-25R.  

Though Kawasaki has yet to reveal the new ZX-25R's full specs, we’ve been drop fed information about the bike thanks to a series of videos that showcase its abilities. In one of those clips published by Kawasaki Indonesia, we get to watch WSBK racer Jonathan Rea whip the baby Kawi around the track in Jerez. That's when we find out that the little 249cc, inline-four redlines at a staggering 17,000rpm—screaming note included.  

As Rea tackles a straight, we also get to watch the ZX reach a speed of at least 162 km/h (100 miles per hour)—we say “at least” because in said video, Rea shifts into 6th gear as he reaches 100 mph at roughly 15,800rpm, suggesting that the bike can be pushed even further. We simply don’t have an official stop speed yet. The possibilities that the video suggests, however, are exciting.  

Same goes with power figures—Kawasaki has been tight-lipped about official numbers. The little ZX is rated at a ludicrous 50 horsepower and 22 lb-ft of torque. For comparison, the Ninja 400 produces 43 ponies.   

What we do know about the model is that it’s built on a WSBK-derived chassis with a 37mm inverted fork at the front and a horizontal back-link suspension setup at the back. It will feature riding modes (identified as “Full” and “Low” in one of the videos) as well as Kawasaki’s proprietary traction control system and quick shifter.  

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-25R
The 2020 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-25R at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show.

We doubt the model will make its way to North America, only because of its placement and pricing within the lineup. The model is gradually making its way West but where will Kawasaki draw the geographic line for the 2020 ZX-25R, we can’t say for sure. With a bit of luck, the European market will be deemed viable and we’ll only be a few-hour flight away from be able to try one.