2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400 | First Look Review

The 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400
The 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400 KRT Edition.

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 Versys-X 300 first ride review

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The 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400
The non-ABS version of the Ninja 400 is available in this Candy Plasma Blue color scheme.

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.

The 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400
The 2018 Ninja 400 ABS comes in any color you want, so long as it’s Metallic Spark Black.

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).

Check out more new bikes in Rider’s guide to new/updated 2018 motorcycles

9 COMMENTS

  1. I’m a long time rider, currently own a Monster1200R, and a DRZ400SM, supermotard.
    Because I no longer ride big miles, with most of my trips under 100, and usually less,
    I may be selling the Monster, and buying another small bike – a new Kawasaki Ninja 400,
    to go with my DRZ.
    I really like the lower power approach, where you can wring its neck, without
    danger of wheeling….
    Any thoughts on the Ninja 400?
    Positioned as a beginners bike, but we all know that these bikes can be loved by experienced
    riders like me.

    H

    • Well, I sold my 2015 ZX10R and my Ducati Monster 796 but I kept my 300. It’s now got Ohlins on front and back, Woodcraft clip-ons and rearsets, some EBC pads and Galfer lines, and some sticky Bridgestone’s, it’s quite the scalpel for legal speed driving…

  2. I am also looking for a new but smaller bike, not a bigger on. I have had darned near everything including big touring rigs and at 68 years old I think a sporty 400 cc bike would be a real hoot.

  3. Ok , I’m now waiting for the replacement of the Versys 300 .
    That probably why Kawa designated this bike the Versys ” X ” , awaiting for a 103 cc displacement boost . No need to rebadge.

  4. I too have owned a wide range of bikes and want something light and sporty that doesn’t weigh a ton and that you can throw around. The 400 looks like the answer. I’ll still keep my Concours for the highway though.

  5. Kawi really raised the Small Class sport bike bar when they Intro’d the 300. Now that so many others have A. Joined the fray and B. raised their anty I’m surprised Kawi threw down the gauntlet this quickly. They “sat on” the little 250 for what?…20 yrs? As previously stated…this 400 should be a HOOT to ride! With 44 ponies it’s more than an old 650 Triumph…although at the 10k HP max, I expect it to be a little “buzzier”! I’ve still kept an old ’86 250 around and it’s a fun little scooter to ride. I suspect this 400 will add about 75% to the “Fun Factor”!
    Having read the early reviews of the 300 Versys and how versatile that is as an entry level ADV bike…even with it’s more revvy RPM range, this 400 engine Could also be an instant class leader in the “affordable Adventure” segment! Either model may be the perfect partner to my KLX400?

  6. Unfortunately , I think they going to keep the ” X ” at 300cc for a while cause the motor mount aren’t the same with the 2018 Ninja400 . Just hope they didn’t going to keep the Versys 300 at 300cc as long as the previous Ninja 250 was .

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