Revamped And Reintroduced To The US Market

Kawasaki pulled the KLX250 out of the mothballs, updated it and released back into the domestic market for 2018. This comes on the heels of a three-year break, over which the KLX250 became kind of like the Loch Ness Monster, much discussed but rarely seen. Among the improvements are updated looks, revised suspension components and electronic fuel-injection that replaces the old Keihin carb from the previous generation. So, better looks, better ride and better performance in a market that hasn’t been glutted with KLX250 models for a few years. It looks like it could be a grand slam for Kawi here, but we won’t know for sure until the Spring sales numbers roll in, so meanwhile, I’m going to take a good first look at the new KLX250s and see how it stacks up against the now-entrenched competition.

Continue reading for my look at the Kawasaki KLX250S.

  • 2018 Kawasaki KLX250S
  • Year:
    2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    single cylinder
  • Displacement:
    249 cc
  • Price:
    5349
  • Price:

Design

2018 Kawasaki KLX250S
- image 734408
There's a grab strap at the intended break between the rider's and passenger's area and a slight rise up the subframe to the rear of the seat, but otherwise the rider is free to shift weight fore and aft on the seat for technical work.

Though by definition a dual-sport is supposed to be nearly as capable on the road as it is off, much like the enduro class most of them look a lot more like a dirtbike than anything meant for the streets. A 21-inch, laced front wheel leads the way between usd cartridge forks with a tripletree-mount fender to manage the fling from the front hoop. Fork guards protect the swept area of the fork tubes to prevent the seals from being chewed up by the road grime and grit that it is bound to meet.

An angular headlight housing protects the cyclops beam with a pair of standoff turn signals set wide enough to meet U.S. lighting regulations for street-legal use. A vestigial flyscreen provides some protection for the fully digital instrument cluster but little else, and since there’s no windshield either, no matter what kind of weather you have, you’re going to get all of it.

Moving aft, a tall fuel tank dominates the upper lines ahead of a steep drop to the bench seat. There’s a grab strap at the intended break between the rider’s and passenger’s area and a slight rise up the subframe to the rear of the seat, but otherwise the rider is free to shift weight fore and aft on the seat for technical work. Well, all the way back to the rear fender-mounted toolkit anyway. All-in-all a very dirt-tastic looking machine that only gives itself away as street-worthy by the street flats on the hoops and the turn signals.

Chassis

2018 Kawasaki KLX250S
- image 734402
With 10 inches of travel up front and 9.1 inches out back, there's plenty for all but the most aggressive riding on rough terrain but you should probably leave off the Jeremy McGrath-style jumps.

The frame is built with box-section members for the upper area of the perimeter frame with tubular members for the double cradle, all out of high-tensile steel. An aluminum, D-section swingarm completes the bones with a light but strong construction meant to help minimize unsprung weight at the rear wheel. Kawi’s own Uni-Trak system mounts a single, coil-over, gas-charged shock with a 16-position compression- and rebound-damping adjuster on its remote-mount reservoir. The cartridge-type front stems don’t get the full spectrum of adjustments, but they do carry the 16-position compression-damping feature and provide a supple ride with 10 inches of travel up front and 9.1 inches out back. That’s plenty for all but the most aggressive riding on rough terrain but you should probably leave off the Jeremy McGrath-style jumps.

The suspension travel drives seat height up to a smooth 35-inches tall, tiptoe country for most and too tall entirely for shorter riders, but that’s to be expected, especially with the 11.2 inches of ground clearance. Steering geometry lists a 26.5-degree rake with 4.1-inches of trail for crisp steering on or off the blacktop.

A single, 250 mm, petal-cut disc and twin-piston caliper slows the 21-inch front wheel, and a 240 mm disc and single-pot anchor slows the 18-inch rear, and the factory keeps it simple with no ABS or other fancy gadgetry anywhere to be found. Just honest, raw feedback and control.

Frame Type: Tubular, semi-double cradle
Rake / Trail: 26.5°/4.1 in
Front Suspension / Wheel Travel: Telescopic fork/10.0 in
Rear Suspension / Wheel Travel: Uni-Trak® swingarm/9.1 in
Front Tire: 3.00-21 51P
Rear Tire: 4.60-18 63P
Front Brakes: Single disc
Rear Brakes: Single disc

Drivetrain

2018 Kawasaki KLX250S
- image 734380
The electrofusion process bonds steel and molybdenum particles to the cylinder wall for a porous finish that conducts heat like a boss and retains oil far better than even a fresh cross-hatch finish.

Kawi’s 249 cc thumper makes its return in the 2018 KLX250, but it ditched the old Keihin constant-velocity tomato can for an electronic fuel injection system that sports a 10-hole nozzle that is meant to optimize atomization and flame-front propagation. A DOHC times the four-valve head, and here we find another Kawi nugget in the Automatic Compression Release that holds open an exhaust valve until the engine fires up. Good thing too since the liquid-cooled engine has a tendency to be a bit cold-blooded, even in moderate ambient air temperatures, thanks to its pair of high-capacity Denso radiators.

Oversquare, the plant runs a 72 mm bore with a 61.2 mm stroke, and that brings us to another bit of Kawi’s yummy-goodness: Electrofusion. The process involves bonding steel and molybdenum particles to the cylinder wall for a porous finish that conducts heat like a boss and retains oil far better than even a fresh cross-hatch finish. This replaces the heavy old cast-iron sleeves, and is applied directly to the aluminum bore for considerable weight savings. All the innards come as light as the factory could get them to keep reciprocating mass and associated vibration to a minimum.

Kawi finishes off the drivetrain with a six-speed transmission and chain final drive. Power numbers are still under wraps. Sorry, Charlie...

Engine: 4-stroke, 1-cylinder, DOHC, 4-valves, liquid-cooled
Displacement: 249cc
Bore x Stroke: 72.0 x 61.2mm
Compression ratio: 11.0:1
Fuel System: DFI® with 34mm throttle body
Ignition: Electric CDI
Transmission: 6-speed, return shift

Pricing

2018 Kawasaki KLX250S
- image 734397
Offered in Lime Green or a Camo colorway for $5,349 and $5,549 respectively.

The base-model KLX250 rolls for $5,349 MSRP, and the Camo fetches a couple more Benjamins with a $5,549 sticker. Kawasaki covers your new ride with a 12-month limited warranty.

Warranty: 12 Month Limited Warranty (with optional Kawasaki Protection Plus™ 12, 24, 36 or 48 months
Color Choices: Lime Green, Camo: Matrix Camo Gray/Metallic Matte Carbon Gray
Price: $5,349, Camo: $5,549

Competitors

2017 Honda CRF250L / CRF250L Rally
- image 719864
2018 Kawasaki KLX250S
- image 734410

Seems like everyone making dirtbikes is also in the dual-sport business as well, and this is certainly true for the Red Riders. Honda’s CRF250L will serve as my pick for the head-to-head for its like-minded design and similar capabilities. Honda follows Kawi down the rabbit hole (pigeonhole?) of dual-sport design with a near-identical mudguard arrangement up front, and a similar if more subtle upper line in profile.

Honda’s seat is even more dirt-centric than Kawi’s though, as are its knobby hoops, a clear indication of where the engineer’s focus lies. The CRF sports inverted front forks, but unlike the KLX’s stems, Honda’s are non-adjustable. Honda slips even further at the rear end even if suspension travel falls out at 9.8-inches up front and 9.4-inches out back, and a smaller, 220 mm rear brake disc.

Engine size is nearly exact with a mere 0.6 cc advantage to Honda, but the rest is more or less samey-same across the board from the one-lung layout to the water-cooling and six-speed gearbox. The Red Riders pick up a minor win at the checkout. Because of the slight technology deficit, Honda can afford to turn loose of the CRF250L for $5,149. It’s not much of a difference though, and I say it’s worth it to pay that extra $200 and get yourself the Kawi.

He Said

“Yah OK, so it’s another bloody dual-sport, like the world didn’t have enough already. Sure, the fuel injection is a nice bonus, so is the suspension, but I’m just not as thrilled with Kawi’s returning DS as I thought I’d be. Good news here; it doesn’t matter what I think, the buyers are the ones Kawi has to impress.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, "For folks that might want to consider this as a commuter or to take a friend along for the ride, the two-up seating isn’t very comfortable for the passenger and there really isn’t enough of it for two people. The seat is hard — no surprise there — but for short distances up the road, it isn’t too bad. Like a lot of dual-sports, it isn’t really set up for decent off-road work without a better engine guard and handguards, but as a casual off-roader or commuter, it’s not a bad bike."

Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: 4-stroke, 1-cylinder, DOHC, 4-valves, liquid-cooled
Displacement: 249cc
Bore x Stroke: 72.0 x 61.2mm
Compression ratio: 11.0:1
Fuel System: DFI® with 34mm throttle body
Ignition: Electric CDI
Transmission: 6-speed, return shift
Final Drive: Sealed chain
Chassis:
Frame Type: Tubular, semi-double cradle
Rake / Trail: 26.5°/4.1 in
Front Suspension / Wheel Travel: Telescopic fork/10.0 in
Rear Suspension / Wheel Travel: Uni-Trak® swingarm/9.1 in
Front Tire: 3.00-21 51P
Rear Tire: 4.60-18 63P
Front Brakes: Single disc
Rear Brakes: Single disc
Dimensions :
Overall Length: 86.6 in
Overall Width: 32.3 in
Overall Height: 47.4 in
Ground Clearance: 11.2 in
Seat Height: 35.0 in
Curb Weight: 304.3 lb
Fuel Capacity: 2.0 gal
Wheelbase: 56.3 in
Details:
Warranty: 12 Month Limited Warranty (with optional Kawasaki Protection Plus™ 12, 24, 36 or 48 months
Color Choices: Lime Green, Camo: Matrix Camo Gray/Metallic Matte Carbon Gray
Price: $5,349, Camo: $5,549

References

2017 Honda CRF250L / CRF250L Rally
- image 719858

See our review of the Honda CRF250L.

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: kawasaki.com, powersports.honda.com

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