The leapfrogging continues in the small-displacement sportbike class, and Kawasaki is taking the displacement lead with its new 2018 Ninja 400. Far from a bored-out Ninja 300 with a facelift, the 400 is new from the ground up.
At the Ninja 400’s heart is an all-new 399cc liquid-cooled parallel twin. It utilizes a downdraft intake with funnels that are at different heights, tuning out torque valleys, and has a larger 5.8-liter airbox, increasing intake efficiency and performance, especially at high rpm. The 32mm throttle bodies have oval-shaped butterfly valves that allow for quick throttle response, and intake and exhaust valve diameters were chosen for optimal performance at high rpm. Kawasaki says the Ninja 400 weighs 19.7 pounds less than its predecessor, and part of that weight savings is due to the new engine design, including aluminum die-cast cylinders, lighter pistons, forged camshafts and a new cooling system with minimal external piping.
Read our 2017 Kawasaki Verses-X 300 First Ride Review.
A new steel trellis frame was created for the Ninja 400 that uses the shortened engine as a stressed member and tightens the wheelbase by nearly an inch, to 53.9 inches. The die-cast aluminum swingarm was lengthened for stability and handling, and it bolts directly to the back of the engine, eliminating the need for additional bracing and further reducing weight. Additional weight savings come from a slimmer seat, new 5-spoke cast wheels, a more minimalist upper triple clamp and the elimination of the front fender brace—which is possible thanks to the new beefier non-adjustable 41mm fork. The rear shock, meanwhile, offers 5-way preload adjustability via the included tool kit. The largest-in-class bike should have appropriate brakes, and the Ninja 400’s appear to be up to the challenge. A 2-piston caliper grips a big 310mm front disc, while a 220mm disc and 2-piston caliper handle the rear. Nissin ABS is a $300 option.
Kawasaki says it wants the Ninja 400 to accommodate a wide range of riders in terms of size and riding style, so the bike is fitted with higher clip-on handlebars and more forward footpegs than the outgoing 300. The large-volume bodywork resembles the larger ZX-10R and is designed for clean airflow around the rider rather than completely blocking the wind, and the mirrors are positioned higher and farther apart. A slim 3.7-gallon gas tank and low inch seat height are designed to make it easy for riders to get their feet on the ground.
The 2018 Ninja 400 will be available in three variations: the standard (non-ABS) version ($4,999) comes in either Candy Plasma Blue or Metallic Spark Black; the Ninja 400 ABS is available in Metallic Spark Black ($5,299) or Pearl Solar Yellow/Pearl Storm Gray/Ebony ($5,499), and the Kawasaki Racing Team (KRT) edition is Lime Green and Ebony ($5,499).