Over the past few years, the market for low-capacity adventure based bikes has been heating up as more and more manufacturers see the attractiveness of an A2 certified small adventure motorcycle for the general public.
In 2017, Kawasaki was one of the first to capitalise on this burgeoning market with the Versys X 300.
Kawasaki Versys X 300 Review
The smallest of Kawasaki’s Versys adventure bike range, the Versys X 300 started off with the same responsive 296cc twin cylinder engine found in the Ninja 300. A good start with an engine known for its reliability.
The engine itself has a smooth power delivery all the way through the revs unlike its single cylinder competitors, however it only really gets serious around the 8,000 rpm mark.
On faster roads, it’s undoubtedly enough power to enable the Kawasaki Versys X 300 to achieve the speed limit, but don’t anticipate much more, especially while overtaking on open highways.
It’s something you should plan out rather than just flicking the wrist back on a split second decision. When you do push the revs close to the 10,000 rpm and beyond limit you can start to feel through the handlebars along with some buzz coming through the pegs.
This can be solved just by changing the sprocket ratios but beware, as you’ll be sacrificing acceleration to achieve it.
Comprised of a pair of dual-piston Nissin calipers hugging a front 290 mm disc and a rear 220 mm disc, the braking system on the Kawasaki Versys X 300 sounds good on paper but didn’t live up to name or expectations.
The actual stopping power was enough, even with the small 290 mm disc but their main let down was the lack of feel, with the initial bite and the feeling through the front being disappointingly wooden.
The rear felt even worse, with very little connection in feel between the pedal and wheel. They do work and will stop the bike every time, but the absence of sensation does make you lose a bit of confidence to push things a bit.
The 41 mm nonadjustable forks provide 130 mm inches of travel, and the Bottom-Link Uni-Trak adjustable shock offers 147 mm, and both ends are sprung well enough to tackle bumps and uneven surfaces without any drama in any riding conditions.
The stiffness of the suspension setup, combined with the new lightweight chassis, translated nicely in the turns, the bike feels nimble and tracks true enabling smooth tip-ins and swift side-to-side transitions.
The Kawasaki Versys X 300 low-cut tapered seat design ensures that it is easier for riders with short legs to reach the ground when fully mounted. This upright seating is intended to provide the lowest seat height possible to counter the long travel suspension.
This is a great initiative by Kawasaki, however the low seat height isn’t without its drawbacks; due to the low height it lacks padding and feels extremely firm. Taller riders will certainly want to consider a cushion or sheep skin to help out here.
Despite the low seat height, the upright riding position makes for great visibility when riding around town as well as being surprisingly comfortable off the tarmac. On simple green lanes it certainly feels capable enough providing you don’t start asking it to do rough and rocky terrain since the suspension, which is ideal on the roads, just wouldn’t keep up.
The Kawasaki Versys X 300 is definitely not a dual sport bike and makes no claim to be one, but having said that it does come with spoked wheels which is a nice surprise as many adventure bikes tend to have cast wheels with only the more serious off-roader sporting spokes these days.
When choosing the wheels for the Versys, Kawasaki made an interesting decision. By choosing a 19/17 arrangement over the more common 17/17 setup, the Kawasaki Versys X 300 was able to employ a wider variety of tyres, especially dual sport or tyres suited for moderate off-road use.
The Kawasaki Versys was helped further by having the larger front wheel for when it gets taken off the tarmac for those bigger bumps and unlevelled ground.
The looks of the Versys X 300 are different to its larger capacity siblings but styled to look like a larger bike. The tall windshield is perfect for those longer journeys and offers ample wind protection.
The headlight and fairings have the same distinct combination of rounded and angular lines that the ER6F and Ninja also have. For me there’s also a hint at the older KLR650 styling in there too.
The dash itself is nice and simple, with a big, clock style rev counter, a digital mph display, plus various nice to know indicators such as two trip meters and mpg displays. It also includes economical riding indicator so you can see how fast you’re burning through your fuel as you’re having fun.
The good new is that the Kawasaki Versys X 300 comes with a generous fuel capacity of 17 litres for uninterrupted long distance riding and fewer fill ups.
Kawasaki Versys X 300 Specifications
Engine: 296cc twin cylinder engine
Max Power: 40 bhp / 29.3 kW @ 11,500 rpm
Max Torque: 26 Nm / 19.2 lb ft @ 10,000 rpm
Gearbox: 6-speed manual
Top speed: 80 mph / 129 kph
Fuel capacity: 17 L / 3.7 US Gal
Seat height: 815 mm / 32.1 inches
Wet weight: 189 kg / 416.7 lb
How much does the 2023 Kawasaki Versys X 300 Cost?
A 2023 Kawasaki Versys X has been announced for North America with a new pearl matte sage green and metallic matte carbon gray livery.
Pricing is $5,899 without ABS and $6,199 with ABS.
The manufacturer’s suggested retail price in the UK in 2020 (the last time it was available in Europe) was £5,149. There are still plenty of second-hand low mileage options available in Britain currently between £3,800 – £4,600 depending on the model year and condition.
Here is a wonderful example of a Kawasaki’s lightweight motorcycle in the more unusual black colour with a heap of extras including heated grips, tall screen, crash bars, hand guards and a convenient rear carrier. Its ready to tour at £4,395.
With the Ninja 400 also hitting the market next year, maybe we’ll get lucky and Kawasaki will consider transplanting the engine and relaunching the Versys X in the UK.
When the Kawasaki Versys X 300 was introduced back in 2017, the low-capacity adventure bike market was, to put it bluntly, virtually non-existent. And yet the big green factory took a chance and created a reliable machine that would go on to be many people’s first adventure bike.
However, in 2023 the options that are available to someone with an A2 restricted licence, or are just looking to downsize are growing more numerous by the minute. Sadly, this means that the Kawasaki Versys X 300 has now been significantly overshadowed.
There are now several bikes that are more powerful and better equipped that would be a much better choice than the Versys X 300 because it is neither a true dual sport nor a specialised tourer.
The Honda CRF250 Rally and 300cc version or Royal Enfield Himalayan are ideal options for anyone who wants to spend a lot of time off-road. For a street blaster or something a bit sportier, there is the KTM 390 Duke and Honda’s CB500F and CBR500R.
And if you’re looking for an adventure style bike that will do a little of everything just like the Kawasaki Versys X 300, you are well and truly spoilt for choice at the moment; with the Benelli TRK502, Voge 500DSX, KTM 390 Adventure, BMW G310GS, Sinnis T380 and Honda CB500X, and there are more and more hitting the markets each year.
It’s a real shame Kawasaki hasn’t recognised the shift and pushed the Versys in the same direction. If you bought one, you’d undoubtedly get a nimble handling lightweight motorcycle, but you’d also be left with the uneasy sensation that you might have had something better.