The easiest way to give any motorcycle a beef injection is to bore it and fit bigger pistons. While that gives a useful power increase, however, it doesn't usually do much for torque, which is even more important, especially on smaller-capacity machines.
So Kawasaki has opted instead to stroke its existing Ninja 250cc engine, retaining the same 62mm bore, to produce a more 'grown-up', 296cc version of its perky little quarter-litre parallel-twin sportster that will sell alongside its smaller-engined sibling.
The result is 18 percent more power and 24 percent more torque - 29kW at 11 000rpm and 27Nm at 10 000rpm, compared to the 25kW and 22Nm of the 250.
The engine is virtually all new, however, with shorter connecting rods to keep its height the same, lighter pistons, sleeveless plated barrels, new crankcases, a beefed-up crankshaft, and a larger-finned sump holding an extra 700cc of oil with a new, cartridge-type oil filter to make servicing easier.
FASHIONABLY SHORT SILENCER
Compression ratio has been reduced slightly, the inlet ports are 1mm bigger, the fuel-injection throttle bodies have grown from 28 to 32mm in diameter, and a new, larger diameter exhaust system takes care of the waste products, ending in a fashionably short silencer, well tucked away for maximum ground clearance.
The six-speed gearbox has been beefed up and the spread of ratios widened, and the 2013 Ninja 300 is also the first lightweight streetbike we've heard of with a racetrack-derived slipper clutch to smooth out rear wheel hop under engine braking.
With extra power comes extra heat, so large openings in the fairing allow a decent through-flow of air to dissipate warmth away from the rider, and a new radiator fan cover directs hot air downwards and away from the cockpit area when the rider is stuck in slow-moving traffic.
The steel-tube diamond frame is beefier than that of the 250 and the engine is now rubber mounted at the front to strangle any vibrations that might sneak past the balancer shaft. The rear sub-frame is also bolted on at a flatter angle than on the 250 to compensate for the larger rear tyre.
17-LITRE FUEL CAPACITY
Suspension damping (and springing!) at both ends has been upgraded, and twin-piston callipers clamp the 290mm front and 220mm rear petal discs, with resin-based rather than sintered pads.
New 10-spoke alloy wheels, similar to those on the Ninja ZX-14R, carry 110mm front and 140mm (10mm up on the 250) rear rubber.
The fuel tank uses a flat-topped supersport design rather than the slim-line Ninja 250 unit, giving it a generous 17-litre capacity, and the instrumentation is all new, with a large analogue-style rev counter (backlit with while LEDs at night) and a multi-function screen displaying speed, time, fuel level, dual trip meters, overall distance covered and an economical riding indicator.
All-new plastics include a dual headlight, a 'floating' screen like that of the ZX-10R, with a gap between it and the fairing, and neat mirrors that can easily be folded away when parking. The panels are mostly held together using a combination of hooks, push-rivets and bolts so as to show the minimum number of visible fastenings.
The Kawasaki Ninja 300 will be available at Kawasaki dealers towards the end of October; price, as always, when they get here.
Engine:296cc liquid-cooled parallel twin.
Bore x stroke:62 x 49mm.
Valvegear: DOHC with four overhead valves per cylinder.
Power:29kW at 11 000rpm.
Torque:27Nm at 10 000rpm.
Induction: Electronic fuel-injection with two 32mm throttle bodies.
Ignition: Digital electronic.
Clutch: Cable-operated multiplate wet clutch.
Transmission: Six-speed constant-mesh gearbox with final drive by toothed belt.
Front Suspension:37mm conventional cartridge forks, non adjustable.
Rear Suspension: Uni-Trak single shock, five-way adjustable for preload.
Front brakes:296mm petal disc with dual-piston floating calliper.
Rear brake:220mm petal disc with dual-piston floating calliper.
Front tyre:110/70 - 17 tubeless.
Rear tyre:140/70 - 17 tubeless.
Fuel tank:17 litres.