Jeff Allen

Best Lightweight Streetbike—2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400

Kawasaki packs a lot of punch with its Ninja 400, Best Lightweight Streetbike of 2018

Kawasaki went big in small-displacement fully faired sportbikes from the birth of the class in the 1980s. In recent years, the Ninja 250′s displacement has grown in search of versatility and, ultimately, more fun. With the introduction of the 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400, the company found a sweet spot that’s earned it Best Lightweight Streetbike honors in our 2018 Ten Best Bikes awards.

The Kawasaki Ninja 400 is Cycle World's Best Lightweight Streetbike for 2018.Jeff Allen
On the CW dyno, the Ninja 400 belted out 43 rear-wheel horsepower.Jeff Allen

And while the 399cc DOHC parallel-twin is fantastic—offering a broad, smooth torque curve and 43 rear-wheel hp on the Cycle World dyno—it is the Kawasaki Ninja 400's overall balance and high level of performance that put it at the top. Its more robust chassis and excellent suspension, plus well-thought-out ergonomics, make it a more flexible streetbike. It's a killer daily rider. But the biggest surprise was hitting the racetrack, where the now-littlest Ninja shined, belying the $5,299 price of our ABS-equipped test bike ($4,999 for non-ABS). The Ninja 400 truly rips and its budget-conscious suspension does an amazing job of keeping the bike stuck to the track.

On the racetrack the Ninja 400 shined with excellent suspension and grippy tires.Jeff Allen

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ABS is available as a $300 option, bringing the Ninja 400’s price to budget-friendly $5,299.Jeff Allen

It doesn’t hurt that it’s lighter, weighing 371 pounds with the 3.7-gallon fuel tank empty, 12 pounds less than the last Ninja 300 we weighed.

A robust feature set gives excellent value in a highly-competitive class. It also doesn’t hurt it that looks like a full-sized sportbike.Jeff Allen

Clutch-lever pull continues to be one-finger light and rowing through the six-speed gearbox shows off its slick shifting ability. Higher-spec Dunlop Sportmax GPR-300 rubber, an excellent gauge package, and LED lighting cap the excellent feature set, giving Ninja riders real value in this competitive class. So much so, it took top honors in our “Which Small Sportbike Should You Buy In 2018?” comparison test.

The Ninja 400 will thrill new and experienced riders—and for that it’s the Best Lightweight Streetbike.Jeff Allen

Critics might gripe about Kawasaki’s engine displacement boost as an overt and possibly anti-new-rider effort to simply one-up the competition with a bigger stick, but the truth is, today’s Ninja 400 is just as tractable and friendly to new motorcyclists as it thrilling to more experienced riders.