Wannabe mini-hoonigan may not have the chops to live up to its persona, but under the attitude there is a very nice bike. Picture: Dave Abrahams
Wannabe mini-hoonigan may not have the chops to live up to its persona, but under the attitude there is a very nice bike. Picture: Dave Abrahams

Cape Town – The Suzuki GW250 Inazuma is arguably the most radical-looking of the fresh wave of quarter-litre streetbikes currently entering the South African market.

Factor in B-King style padded shoulders with faired-in front indicators, a blobby headlight with an inverted top edge and a kicked-up tailpiece with Bandit styling cues, over a pair of short, fat chromed mufflers, and you have a bike that looks as if it’s trying to be cool and instead winds up looking a little silly.

However, She Who Has the Casting Vote took a less analytical viewpoint, saying it was ‘very pretty’; she liked the strong horizontal lines sloping up to the rear. Either way, you’re unlikely to mistake an Inazuma for anything else.

The Japanese seem to have as many words for lightning as the Inuit do for snow; inazuma refers to a bolt of lightning striking a paddy field during a spring thunderstorm.

Aside from the inevitable local political in-jokes, somebody at Suzuki has been extracting the Michael with the naming of this model; our test lightning bolt topped out at a buzzy 10 700rpm, only a needle’s width shy of the red line at 11 000, showing 143 on the digital speedometer.

True speed according to GPS, however, was 132km/h, which translates to a marginally acceptable 10.8 percent speedometer error, although once again, She Who Wields the Voice of Reason pointed out that it was of less account on a commuter barely fast enough to break the national speed limit than on a 300km/h superbike.

SMOOTHLY UNDRAMATIC

Power delivery is, however, very civilised with decent mid-range available from below 4000 rpm all the way to the torque peak at 6500ropm, and smoothly undramatic top-end to beyond the red-line, thanks to an engine balance shaft, and well sorted electronic fuel-injection via 26mm Mikuni throttle bodies.

The official factory ratings for this straightforward, long-stroke SOHC 248cc parallel twin are a conservative 17.8kW at 8500rpm and 22Nm at 6500rpm; we have no reason to doubt them. They reach the 140/70 rear tyre through a six-speed gearbox so light and slick in operation that it’s often difficult to tell whether it has in fact engaged the next gear.

But don’t panic, it always does; the Inazuma didn’t miss a shift throughout the week-long test period of commuting and performance testing, and its gearbox (always the most difficult aspect of motorcycle manufacture to get right) reflects considerable credit on the maker, Suzuki’s Chinese joint-venture partner Jiangmen Da Chang.

Fuel consumption over a week’s hard riding was 4.27 litres per 100km - but that figure should be looked at as a worst-case scenario, as I was mostly either hooning to work before dawn, battling home in peak-hour gridlock at its worst or flat out in performance testing.

Under the fancy styling the cycle parts are industry standard for the class, with a tubular steel semi-double cradle frame carrying non-adjustable 37mm conventional KYB forks, slightly undersprung and underdamped for my 106kg (carry a passenger at your own risk), and a simple rear monoshock set-up adjustable for preload only.

Better-quality fork oil (and maybe some washers to increase preload) would probably improve the front end, but upgrading the rear damping would probably require more expense than can be justified on a budget commuter bike.

CLASSY FLIGHT DECK

Braking components, likewise, were selected from the 1970’s budget-bike bin - a twin-piston Nissin floating calliper on a 290mm stainless front disc and a single-piston calliper from the same maker on a 240mm rear platter.

Once you get past their lack of initial bite, however, they work OK, although repeated hard stops didn’t help. We suspect a change to softer front pad material would improve their response; alternative pads are catalogued by at least two aftermarket suppliers.

Where this bike shows its class is on the flight deck, with straightforward, robust switchgear and neat, stylish and, above all, legible liquid-crystal displays based around an analogue rev counter; there are very good (and very human) reasons why bar-graph and digital rev-counters simply don’t work in the real world.

The instrument panel has a digital speedometer, gear-position indicator, clock, odometer, two tripmeters, a fuel gauge and even a sub-routine that tells you when next the bike is due for service!

It also has a shift light that can be set to one of three modes - NORM, ECO and OFF - at the press of a selector. NORM will shine a big blue-white light at you when the revs hit 10 000, ECO will do so at the optimum change point for the lowest possible fuel consumption and OFF gets the eco-nanny out of your face altogether.

The Inazuma is actually smaller than it looks, but pleasantly comfortable within the limits of its 13.3 litre tank range; both pilot and navigator’s seats are wide and pleasantly padded, although the deeply-dished front seat and unexpectedly short reach to the sporty footpegs leave no wiggle-room whatsoever.

BOTTOM LINE

Suzuki’s wannabe mini-hoonigan simply doesn’t have the chops to live up to its spiky-haired persona, but under the slightly oddball styling there’s a very civilised little commuter bike just waiting to get out; the plain black version sells for R44 900 and the sexy blue-and-white signature Suzuki livery will cost you an extra R2000.

FACTS

Suzuki GW250 Inazuma

Engine: 248cc liquid-cooled parallel twin.

Bore x stroke: 53.5 x 55.2mm.

Compression ratio: 11.5:1.

Valvegear: SOHC with two overhead valves per cylinder.

Power: 17.8kW at 8500rpm.

Torque: 22Nm at 6500rpm.

Induction: Digital electronic fuel-injection with two 26mm Mikuni throttle bodies.

Ignition: Digital electronic, transistorised.

Starting: Electric.

Clutch: Cable-operated multiplate wet clutch.

Transmission: Six-speed constant-mesh gearbox with final drive by chain.

Front Suspension: 37mm non-adjustable conventional Kayaba cartridge forks.

Rear Suspension: Kayaba monoshock adjustable for preload.

Front brakes: 290mm disc with Nissin two-piston floating calliper.

Rear brake: 240mm disc with single-piston floating calliper.

Front tyre: 110/80 - 17 tubeless.

Rear tyre: 140/70 - 17 tubeless.

Wheelbase: 1430mm.

Seat height: 780mm.

Kerb weight: 183kg.

Fuel tank: 13.3 litres.

Top speed (measured): 132km/h.

Fuel consumption (measured): 4.27 litres per 100km.

Price: R44 900.

Bike from: Suzuki South, Cape Town.