2020 Kawasaki KX250 First Ride Review

The 2020 Kawasaki KX250 may look similar to the 2017 to 2019 model on the outside, but Kawasaki gave attention to the areas that most needed improvement—the engine and suspension. (Drew Ruiz/)

The latest-generation Kawasaki KX250 was introduced in 2017. The year after that, Kawasaki made several changes to the engine to bring back some of the hit in the powerband the prior-generation bike had. The engineers made some internal setting changes to the Showa suspension components in 2018 as well. The bike was improved, but it still lacked top-end power in comparison to the competition and the fork felt harsh in the initial part of the stroke.

Related: 2019 Kawasaki KX450 Dyno

The 2020 Kawasaki KX250 may look similar to the 2017 to 2019 model on the outside, but Kawasaki gave attention to the areas that most needed improvement—the engine and suspension.

The 2020 Kawasaki KX250 may look similar to the 2017 to 2019 model on the outside, but Kawasaki gave attention to the areas that most needed improvement—the engine and suspension. (Drew Ruiz/)

The 2019 model was identical with the 2018 bike, save for the color change on the lower portion of the radiator shrouds and the “F” being dropped from its name. For 2020, Kawasaki has given the engine a slew of updates in an effort to increase high-rpm power and has spec’d new KYB suspension components. It also made a few minor revisions to the chassis. Kawasaki invited us to Castillo Ranch MX in Los Alamos, California, to ride the 2020 KX250, and we came away pleased with its performance after our first day of testing.

Kawasaki has gone away from the Showa Separate Function Fork (SFF) and Showa shock that were used on the 2017 to 2019 model and has spec’d the 2020 machine with a KYB 48mm coil-spring fork and KYB shock.

Kawasaki has gone away from the Showa Separate Function Fork (SFF) and Showa shock that were used on the 2017 to 2019 model and has spec’d the 2020 machine with a KYB 48mm coil-spring fork and KYB shock. (Drew Ruiz/)

Engine

The engine may look the same from the outside, but significant changes lie inside—the most significant being the valves are now actuated by finger-followers, more aggressive camshaft profiles, larger valves, a 1mm larger bore, 1.4mm less stroke, a 1mm larger throttle body, a revised piston crown for increased compression, and a shorter intake funnel. Also, Kawasaki informed us the rev limit has been increased by 650 rpm over last year’s model.
 
When kickstarting the bike, we noticed it required a more forceful kick compared to the 2019 model, most likely due to the increased compression. The bike still kicks fairly easily, but we noted it took a few extra kicks to fire to life once it got hot. The engine retains the crisp power delivery and good midrange of the prior bike, but pulls noticeably harder and longer on the top-end, which enables the rider to hold a gear longer and without the need to shift excessively to keep the bike in the meat of the powerband, as was the case with last year’s model. With the meat of the powerband being shifted higher in the rpm range, we noticed the new KX250 has slightly less bottom-end power, but it’s more than a worthwhile trade-off for the newfound high-rpm pulling power. The green machine retains its easy clutch pull too.

With the slew of changes made to the engine, the KX250 pulls harder and longer on the top-end.

With the slew of changes made to the engine, the KX250 pulls harder and longer on the top-end. (Drew Ruiz/)

Suspension

In addition to going away from the Showa Separate Function Fork (SFF) and Showa shock the 2017 to 2019 model used, Kawasaki has spec’d a new KYB 48mm coil-spring fork and KYB shock with higher spring rates. The fork is up from 9.4 N/mm to 10.0 N/mm, and the shock has been increased from 52 N/mm to 54 N/mm.
 
The KYB fork is a remarkable improvement over the Showa SFF unit as it offers a much plusher feel, is more progressive, and doesn’t have any harsh spots throughout the stroke. It’s a bit on the firm side though. On our first day of testing, we found good results with going four clicks softer on the compression, which gave the fork more comfort on braking bumps yet retained good bottoming resistance on jump landings. The KYB shock worked well, and we left the clickers in the stock position on our first day of testing.

The KYB fork offers more comfort than the prior Showa fork, and has good bottoming resistance.

The KYB fork offers more comfort than the prior Showa fork, and has good bottoming resistance. (Drew Ruiz/)

Chassis/Handling

The 2020 KX250 features lower front engine mounts that now use a stud bolt design, a 250mm rear brake disc, a revised rear brake master cylinder and brake line, and now runs the same front brake pads as the 2019 and 2020 KX450.
 
The chassis may be the least-changed part of the KX250, but that’s not a bad thing as it’s one of the most neutral-handling, easy-to-get-used-to bikes in its class. It has narrow radiator shrouds, and a slim midsection and side number plate area. The stock Renthal 971-bend handlebar is tall in relation to the seat height; we would prefer lower mounts or a bar with less rise. The seat is flat, which complements the slim bodywork in that it makes it easy to move forward and back on.

The KX250 retains its neutral-handling, easy-to-move-around-on chassis.

The KX250 retains its neutral-handling, easy-to-move-around-on chassis. (Drew Ruiz/)

Overall Impression

Kawasaki took the feedback from the media and its consumers, and improved the KX250 in the areas that most needed attention—the engine and suspension. While it may look similar on the outside, this is a book that should not be judged by its cover as 2020 marks the biggest performance increase the latest-generation KX250 has received. We were hoping it would come with electric start for MY20, but have to imagine it’s coming in the near future. We will spend more time testing the KX250 leading up to the 2020 250F Motocross Shootout and will have a full review of the bike prior to then as we learn more about it, but we can confidently say after our first day of riding it that it’s a noticeable improvement over its predecessor.

With better high-rpm power and a plusher fork, Kawasaki has an improved 250 four-stroke motocrosser for 2020.

With better high-rpm power and a plusher fork, Kawasaki has an improved 250 four-stroke motocrosser for 2020. (Drew Ruiz/)

Gearbox

Helmet: Fox Racing V3
Goggle: Fox Racing Vue
Jersey: Fox Racing 360
Gloves: Fox Racing 360
Pant: Fox Racing 360
Boots: Fox Racing Instinct

TECH SPEC

PRICE $ 7,799
ENGINE 249cc, liquid-cooled, single-cylinder four-stroke
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 5-speed/chain
MEASURED HORSEPOWER N/A
MEASURED TORQUE N/A
FRAME Aluminum perimeter
FRONT SUSPENSION KYB 48mm coil-spring fork adjustable for compression damping and rebound damping; 12.4-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION KYB shock adjustable for spring preload, high-/low-speed compression damping, and rebound damping; 12.2-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Nissin 2-piston caliper, 270mm disc
REAR BRAKE Nissin 1-piston caliper, 250mm disc
WHEELBASE 58.3 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 37.3 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 1.7 gal.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 231.4 lb. (wet)
AVAILABLE Now
CONTACT kawasaki.com

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