Designed from the ground up to be your “I wanna have fun” bike

LISTEN 07:23

Kawasaki doubled down on its dual-sport lineup for 2020 with the all-new KLX230 and KLX230 ABS. Set up primarily as an off-road machine complete with knobby tires and long-stroke suspension, it also carries all of the requisite equipment to qualify as a street-legal machine that’ll go just about anywhere, trail or tarmac.

  • 2020 - 2021 Kawasaki KLX230
  • Year:
    2020- 2021
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    single cylinder
  • Displacement:
    233 cc
  • Price:
    4599
  • Price:

Kawasaki KLX230 Design

  • LCD display
  • KX-inspired ergomonics and styling
  • New large headlamp
  • New electric start
2020 - 2021 Kawasaki KLX230
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2020 - 2021 Kawasaki KLX230
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Kawasaki leans heavily upon its world-famous KX line for design inspiration, and that leads to very aggressive lines and attitude that accentuates its off-road chops to the Nth degree.

A tripleclamp-mount fender on the KLX230 rides between front fork gaiters that set the tone. The gaiters protect the swept area of the long-stroke front forks, and by extension, the front fork seals as well.

A rally-style headlight housing protects the new, larger cyclops halogen headlight with stubby standoff turn signals and a set of mirrors to complete the front-end street-legal gear. In profile, the flyline carries the merest suggestion of a fuel-tank hump, and the seat comes forward almost all the way to the steering stem to extend the usable seat area and unlock some extreme fore-and-aft weight shifts for technical work.

Sideplates just below the seat bring the suggestion of MX-style numberplates – just without the actual numbers – and out back it sports a combo mudguard/plateholder with the rearward lighting up top tucked under the tip of the tail. Bodywork is kept to a minimum, mainly just a set of cheek fairings that funnel air across the cooling fins, so the innards leave little to the imagination.

Kawasaki KLX230 Chassis

  • New steel perimeter frame
  • Bosch dual-purpose ABS
  • New 37 mm long-travel fork
  • New large-diameter wheels
2020 - 2021 Kawasaki KLX230
- image 947835
2020 - 2021 Kawasaki KLX230
- image 947823
2020 - 2021 Kawasaki KLX230
- image 947833

A new lightweight, high-tensile tubular-steel perimeter frame provides the main structure on the KLX230. It’s built with a narrow waist that is easy to grip with your legs under way and confidence-inspiring at stops. This is something the bike needs given its lofty but relatively low 34.8-inch seat height that accommodates the 8.7-inch and 8.8-inch suspension travel on the front and rear, respectively. While a full-on MX bike may have 12-inches of travel or more, the nearly nine-inch travel on the KLX230 is enough to tackle some pretty serious terrain without jacking the seat up to the nosebleed section.

The box-section perimeter frame’s steering head sets a rake angle of 27.5 degrees with 4.6 inches of trail over a 54.3-inch wheelbase to fall towards the nimble end of the spectrum. All-around disc brakes provide the stopping power with a dual-piston caliper and 265 mm petal-cut disc up front opposite a single-pot anchor and 220 mm petal disc.

Laced wheels round out the rolling chassis with an 18-inch rim out back and a terrain-busting 21-inch wheel up front.

Kawasaki teamed up with Bosch to turn out the dual-sport ABS feature that introduces a delay to all interventions so you can slide just a skosh during off-road turns while it maintains its street utility.
Frame: High-tensile steel, box-section perimeter
Rake/Trail: 27.5°/4.6 in
Front Suspension / Travel: 37 mm telescopic fork/ 8.7 in
Rear Suspension / Travel: Uni-Trak® linkage system and single shock with adjustable spring preload/ 8.8 in
Front Tire: 2.75 x 21
Rear Tire: 4.10 x 18
Front Brakes: Single 265 mm petal disc with a dual-piston caliper (ABS: with Dual Purpose ABS)
Rear Brakes: Single 220 mm petal disc with single-piston caliper (ABS: with Dual Purpose ABS)

Kawasaki KLX230 Drivetrain

  • New air-cooled 233 cc thumper
  • New electric start
  • New six-speed transmission
  • No-frill direct control
2020 - 2021 Kawasaki KLX230
- image 947834
2020 - 2021 Kawasaki KLX230
- image 947826
2020 - 2021 Kawasaki KLX230
- image 947822

The factory wanted a relatively simple, air-cooled engine that was easy to use and maintain for the KLX230, so it built the 233 cc thumper that serves as the beating heart. A single over-head cam times the twin-poppet valvetrain and helps keep the top-end light and uncomplicated. Induction control falls to the 32 mm Keihin throttle body with DFI fuel delivery, but that’s the extent of the electronics. There is nothing in the way of ride-quality or safety electronics available beyond the optional ABS feature.

No frills, just direct control and and honest feedback to throttle inputs.
Engine: 4-stroke single, SOHC, air-cooled
Displacement: 233 cc
Bore x Stroke: 67.0 mm x 66.0 mm
Compression Ratio: 9.4:1
Fuel System: DFI® with 32mm Keihin throttle body
Ignition: TCBI Electronic Advance
Transmission: 6-speed, return shift with wet multi-disc manual clutch
Final Drive: Chain

Kawasaki KLX230 Price

2020 - 2021 Kawasaki KLX230
- image 947831
2020 - 2021 Kawasaki KLX230
- image 947829
MSRP is $4.6k without ABS and $4,9k with.

The 2021 pricetag is $4,599 for the non-ABS model and $4,899 for the ABS model. Kawi’s Lime Green livery is the only color combo so far for this machine.

Warranty: 12 Months, optional Kawasaki Protection Plus™ 12, 24, or 36 months
Color: Lime Green
Price: $4,599 (ABS: $4,899)

Kawasaki KLX230 Competitors

2020 - 2021 Kawasaki KLX230
- image 947821
2015 - 2020 Suzuki DR200S
- image 790269

It wasn’t hard to find a competitor for the Kawi. Domestic competitor and fellow Big Four member Suzuki had just the thing with its DR200S that carries directly over from 2019 with the same split personality and dual-surface purpose.

Suzuki DR200S

2015 - 2020 Suzuki DR200S
- image 790270

Suzuki toes the design line with a high, tripletree-mount front fender and headlight housing on the DR200S that cuts a very similar figure to that of the KLX230. Mirrors and front turn signals join a taillight and rear blinkers to meet the street-legal requirements, so much like the KLX, you can ride the DR to your favorite jumping off point for your off-road shenanigans.

The main aesthetic difference between the two is found in the profile. Suzuki has a much more pronounced fuel-tank hump. The seat climbs up the backside of the tank to deliver roughly the same seat length, but the front end of the DR saddle may not be quite as useful as the nearly straight-back KLX.

Laced wheels are a constant across the board, as are the street-knobby hoops and 21-18 rim diameter. Suzuki falls behind a bit in the engine department with a smaller, 199 cc thumper and 5-speed transmission against the Kawi’s 233 cc displacement and six-speed gearbox. The DR takes another hit in the brakes as it has no ABS option, and even runs a drum brake out back. Really guys?

With all that in mind, the DR200S rolls for $4,649, which is a tad higher than the non-ABS KTX230 with inferior brakes and smaller engine, and I expect that to cut into its marketability relative to the Kawi.

Read our full review of the Suzuki DR200S.

He Said

“Yeah, it’s cool and all, I guess I just don’t see the purpose, especially with the KLX250 so close in displacement and already established. Perhaps the factory is learning from its 250 experience and looking to retire same? Maybe so, but if not, I reckon the 230 is going to take a lot of wind out of the 250’s sails.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “If the group you ride with has 450s or bigger, you’re going to have a sad time. If you ride alone or ride with friends on comparably-sized bikes, you are gonna have a blast. The bike is small, lightweight, user-friendly, and reliable. Oh! And it’s too much fun to ride. You’ll be giggling the whole time you’re tearing up the trails. Power is manageable and it’s surprisingly comfortable considering you can use the whole seat. There are pillion pegs, but you’ll be cramped going two-up. If you don’t know your passenger when you start the ride, you’ll definitely be better acquainted when you reach your destination.”

Kawasaki KLX230Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: 4-stroke single, SOHC, air-cooled
Displacement: 233 cc
Bore x Stroke: 67.0 mm x 66.0 mm
Compression Ratio: 9.4:1
Fuel System: DFI® with 32mm Keihin throttle body
Ignition: TCBI Electronic Advance
Transmission: 6-speed, return shift with wet multi-disc manual clutch
Final Drive: Chain
Chassis:
Frame: High-tensile steel, box-section perimeter
Rake/Trail: 27.5°/4.6 in
Front Suspension / Travel: 37 mm telescopic fork/ 8.7 in
Rear Suspension / Travel: Uni-Trak® linkage system and single shock with adjustable spring preload/ 8.8 in
Front Tire: 2.75 x 21
Rear Tire: 4.10 x 18
Front Brakes: Single 265 mm petal disc with a dual-piston caliper (ABS: with Dual Purpose ABS)
Rear Brakes: Single 220 mm petal disc with single-piston caliper (ABS: with Dual Purpose ABS)
Dimensions & Capacities:
Overall Length: 82.9 in.
Overall Width: 32.9 in.
Overall Height: 45.9 in.
Wheelbase: 54.3 in.
Ground Clearance: 10.4 in.
Seat Height: 34.8 in.
Curb Weight: 293.3 lb. (295.5 lb. CA model)
Fuel Capacity: 2.0 gal.
Details:
Warranty: 12 Months, optional Kawasaki Protection Plus™ 12, 24, or 36 months
Color: Lime Green
Price: $4,599 (ABS: $4,899)

Further Reading

Kawasaki

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- image 795478

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TJ Hinton
TJ Hinton
T.J got an early start from his father and other family members who owned and rode motorcycles, and by helping with various mechanical repairs throughout childhood. That planted a seed that grew into a well-rounded appreciation of all things mechanical, and eventually, into a formal education of same. Though primarily a Harley rider, he has an appreciation for all sorts of bikes and doesn't discriminate against any particular brand or region of origin. He currently holds an Associate's degree in applied mechanical science from his time at the M.M.I.  Read full bio
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All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: kawasaki.com, suzukicycles.com

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