Suzuki’s goal for the 2018 GSX250R is to capture the attention of new and returning riders with a fresh-looking small-displacement sportbike. Call it adventitious, call it bold, but whatever you do, don’t call it a “Gixxer.” From the mouth of Tak Hayasaki, president of Suzuki Motor of America, “Why are we coming into the market with a 250cc bike now? We’re focused on practicality, and we see this bike as being bought by those who want an experience—a bike that will last them many, many years.” Be that as it may, some may still be wondering why Suzuki decided not to punch out the GSX250R’s parallel twin to 300cc.
The GSX250R might bear a striking resemblance to its larger GSX-R cousins, but the bike draws its biggest inspiration from the Katana lineage, blending rideability with reliability. This concept, Suzuki hopes, will help convince new owners to hold on to their bikes for a longer period of time, as opposed to being in a rush to replace them. This also explains the “GSX” part of the name, as the Katana line featured the same designation. It’s still not enough, however, to make me think that calling the bike a “GSX-R250” would have been detrimental, as the more recognizable name may have fetched even more interest.
Right out of the gate, Suzuki’s new GSX250R checks all the right boxes in the looks department. From the sleek, stylish bodywork down to the GSX-R1000R-inspired headlight and taillight, Suzuki’s new mini machine screams, “I’m a sportbike.” It quickly apologizes for raising its voice at you with comfortable upright ergonomics and simplistic controls.
At the heart of this minuscule beast is a 248cc parallel twin that eagle-eyed readers will notice bears a certain similarity to Suzuki’s GW250. Suzuki has since updated that engine, and it now features new valves with tapered profiles, a more durable cylinder-wall finish that helps retain oil, and rollers on the rocker arms. Engineers also added new throttle bodies that house new injectors. All of that boils down to this: increased durability, flow, rpm ceiling, fuel economy, and compression, and, allegedly, lower emissions.
Suspension comes in the form of a standard telescopic fork and a preload-adjustable shock. Neither are adjustable for compression or rebound damping, which is par for the course at this price point. New 10-spoke, 17-inch wheels at both the front and rear aid with aftermarket tire selection, and the 31.1-inch seat height welcomes riders of shorter stature, as does the narrow profile.
Suzuki claims its GSX250R’s 4.0-gallon tank will stretch the bike’s range to about 280 miles. Doing the math assumes 70 mpg, which is similar to estimates claimed by manufacturers of 300cc bikes.
San Pedro, California was the sunny (and brutally warm) site of our road test, which was a good mixture of city streets bustling with traffic and flowing hillside littered with twists and turns. Straight away, the GSX250R felt nice and planted, and I was indeed impressed with the overall fit and finish of the machine. The digital dash is high-contrast, easy enough to read, and features a bar-type rpm gauge. My 30-inch inseam was right at home in the front half of the two-piece saddle.
Although this bike is heavier at 392 pounds than I’d expected, the steering geometry is quick and made the bike feel light on its feet. The suspension isn’t anything to write home about. The rather springy fork, mixed with a very basic rear shock, did all it could to soak up the irregularities in the road, but it was easily overloaded under harder braking. Good enough, but not great. Braking itself is definitely a strong suit.
At risk of sounding like a broken record, I’d like to thank Suzuki for including an adjustable front brake lever—something too often overlooked in a bike that’s meant for people of all shapes and sizes. It’s a small detail, but I appreciate it. The six-speed transmission is noticeably smooth. The engine provided decent grunt, and although it might be outclassed in terms of outright power, it pulled well across the rpm range and I never felt like it was struggling on hills.
If you're looking for practicality rather than performance, the Suzuki GSX250R is a solid choice. Suzuki's reasoning for not bumping displacement to 300cc or more comes down to cost and practicality. Re-engineering the engine followed by government certification at a different displacement could carry fiscal and time penalties. Additionally, this engine size opens up the GSX250R to riders younger than 18 in some states and even a couple where the rider can be under 16 with certain provisions, such as a 250cc or smaller engine. Company officials stressed the use of tappet-style valves for easy adjustments. Suzuki dealers even offer a convenient “Oil Change Kit."
While the GSX250R won’t win any drag races against its closest twin-cylinder competitors, the linear power delivery is on par with Honda’s single-cylinder CBR300R. At $4,499, the GSX250R is less expensive than a CB300R, a Kawasaki Ninja 300, or a Yamaha YZF-R3 while still offering a high level of fit and finish, comfort, and enjoyment. I understand Suzuki’s idea behind the bike, but personally I’d be willing to spend a bit more for any of the other bikes in this class, all of which offer more performance and still return excellent fuel economy. Only time will tell if Suzuki will eventually come around and join the 300cc troupe.
Evolution: A newly designed, small-capacity sportbike that borrows from older designs to provide a practical approach.
|ENGINE||248cc liquid-cooled parallel twin|
|FRAME||Aluminum semi double-cradle frame|
|FRONT SUSPENSION||Telescopic fork, non-adjustable; 4.5-in. travel|
|REAR SUSPENSION||Single shock adjustable for spring preload; 4.9-in. travel|
|FRONT BRAKE||Two-piston Nissin caliper, single disc|
|REAR BRAKE||Single-piston Nissin caliper, single disc|
|SEAT HEIGHT||31.1 in.|
|FUEL CAPACITY||4.0 gal.|
|CLAIMED WEIGHT||392 lb. (dry)|
Verdict: Comfortable, punctual, and very useable—a solid choice if you don’t mind taking a bit of a hit in the horsepower area.