Road test: Kawasaki 400 Ninja

Motoring journalist Andy Russell rides the Kawasaki 400 Ninja...

I’m a great fan of 400 motorcycles and put it down to an age thing.

When I was a teenager (you can now work out my age roughly!) I was lucky enough to own what has gone on to become something of a legend – a yellow Honda 400 Four F2. I rode one recently and still loved it.

At the time, 400 motorcycles were hugely popular, with all the Japanese manufacturers getting in on the act with twin, triple and four-cylinder models, both two and four-stroke. Kawasaki had both a two-stroke triple and four-stroke twin and then four-cylinder models.

So I was thrilled to climb aboard the latest Kawasaki 400 in sporty Ninja guise, priced from £5,499 – there’s now also a naked Z400, from £4,999.

It’s a much more modern bike than my 400 Four but, after a ride on twisty country roads, it left me feeling like a teenager again.

It’s a little bike with a big character, a true sports bike with taut, agile handling and a snappy, rev-happy twin-cylinder 399cc engine. This A2-friendly bike may produce only 45PS but it’s so much fun extracting every bit of power from it.

It pulls willingly from low revs but is equally at home spinning towards the 12,000 rpm red line in the lower gears and feels much quicker than it really is. The result is you can have a lot of fun without doing silly speeds.

It’s light and nimble so no need to shed too much speed into corners and is so well balanced that it responds to moving your weight slightly. The ride is slightly firm, keeping you informed what is going on under the wheels, but this is not a bike you are going to ride huge distances on.

The 400 Ninja’s riding position wasn’t an issue with my creaking joints or rotund tummy and, even with my short legs, I could get both feet flat on the ground when stationary. Being compact, it’s also easy to filter through traffic. Those wide mirrors are like a cat’s whiskers - if they fit through a gap, everything else will go through too.

Even if you’ve got a full licence to ride any motorcycle, you won’t feel short-changed on the 400 Ninja for this is a little sports bike that gives miles of smiles.