2020 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-25R First Look

Return of the 250cc four-cylinder sportbike—but probably not in the US.

2020 four-cylinder 249cc Ninja ZX-25R
Kawasaki announced the 2020 four-cylinder 249cc Ninja ZX-25R at the Tokyo Motor Show.Kawasaki

Back in Japan's "bubble era" of the late '80s a combination of Japanese license laws and an insatiable demand for technology led to a brief spate of exotic 250cc four-cylinder sportbikes. The Honda CBR250R, Suzuki GSX-R250, Yamaha FZR250R, and Kawasaki ZXR250 were only offered for a few, short years, briefly giving road-going riders the experience of bikes that revved as high as 20,000 rpm. Now Kawasaki is bringing those days back with the newly launched Ninja ZX-25R.

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-25R
Will the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-25R make it to the US? We certainly hope so.Kawasaki

Revealed at the Tokyo Motor Show, the bike is a production model, but at the moment Kawasaki is still reticent when it comes to announcing key performance details. The firm has confirmed that it's powered by a 249cc, DOHC, four-cylinder engine with modern technology including traction control, multiple power modes, and a quickshifter.

249cc DOHC inline-four
A 249cc, DOHC inline-four will power the ZX-25R. Kawasaki has not revealed performance figures yet.Kawasaki

Bearing in mind that the last of the old-generation, four-cylinder ZXR250s, made nearly 30 years ago, squeezed an astounding 45 hp from 249cc, hopes are high that the new model—despite needing to meet tighter emissions laws—will be able to at least match that figure. The provision of more than one power mode means there must be enough peak performance to warrant reducing it in slippery conditions.

The engine is mounted in a tubular steel trellis frame, following the lead of models like Kawasaki’s H2, rather than the aluminum beam chassis of its long-dead predecessor. A Showa SFF-BP fork is fitted at the front, with a single radial-mounted brake caliper. The gull wing swingarm appears to be aluminum, but the bike is clearly not a money-no-object machine despite its exotic engine.

underbelly exhaust looks to have a catalytic converter on the ZX-25R
An underbelly exhaust looks to have a catalytic converter on the ZX-25R. Will this quarter-liter sportbike meet US emissions requirements?Kawasaki

We understand the new ZX-25 is to be built at Kawasaki’s plant in Indonesia, and that’s also the bike’s main target market. Whether it will be sold elsewhere depends on two things. One is demand; will riders be prepared to pay four-cylinder money for a bike with 250cc performance? The other is emissions. High revving, small-capacity engines are particularly hard to get past the latest generation of pollution laws, so it will be interesting to find out how Kawasaki has addressed that problem. Since Indonesia’s emissions rules are some years behind those in places like Europe, Japan, and the US, there’s no guarantee the ZX-25 will be able to meet our limits, despite the appearance of a hefty catalytic converter in the belly-mounted exhaust. We certainly hope it will meet the requirements.

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