250 SML Shootout In-Depth | 2022 Kawasaki KX250
TEST RIDER SCORES: 2-3-1-2-2-2
Last year’s SML Bike of the Year, the KX250 returns unchanged for 2022 and is – of course – an excellent machine in bone-stock trim. Though the bike does not pack a massive punch down low (and no current 250s do, now that the YZ250F changed its powerband approach in 2021), the finger-follower valve train and cylinder head design yields massive mid-range and top-end power that is nothing short of exhilarating. Though two optional ignition couplers yield big changes in the bike’s power delivery, the fact that they must still be physically removed and replaced is a negative when the competition all has bar-mounted switch controls. The Kawasaki clutch and transmission performance are superb, as the bike changes gears seamlessly and the coned-disc spring hydraulic clutch resists fading under abuse and transfers maximum power.
The Kawasaki suspension package is, for the most part, excellent, as great balance, comfort, and control were reported by all test riders. Only one felt that the settings were soft but noted that it affected only comfort, not confidence.
Handling is also excellent, as the Kawasaki has a long, stable feel at speed yet tips into corners surprisingly well and makes directional changes with ease. The green machine is slim between your legs and boasts the most adjustability for the rider compartment, as it is the only bike with an optional footpeg height setting.
TEST RIDER FEEDBACK
“I tried all of the mapping couplers and found that they all have distinctly different personalities. The aggressive white coupler is by far the most effective and exciting, as it hits hard and pulls strong all the way through the powerband.” – Humberto Baca
“I love the Kawasaki’s handling and suspension package. After setting the sag for me, I felt right at home on the bike and never needed as much as a clicker adjustment. The bike corners great, it jumps well, and handles predictably in the rough sections of the track.” – Humberto Baca
“For me, the Kawasaki is the nimblest bike with the lightest feeling on the track. The bike handles amazingly well everywhere, and I think it has the best rider triangle and ergonomics. Except for the levers. Toss the skinny levers!” – Kordel Caro
“The Kawasaki engine is free-revving and very powerful, topped only by the KTM. The aggressive white mapping coupler was by far the best, and the bike is super impressive as a whole. A pinch more low end would make it perfect.” – Kordel Caro
“Kawasaki’s power is awesome. I went straight to the white coupler and fell in love with the power delivery. I think the only thing I would do to the bike is an aftermarket exhaust to improve upon the raspy exhaust note the KX has.” – Chase Curtis
“Easily one of my favorite handling bikes in stock condition. It is amazing to me how light feeling the chassis is while being so predictable and confidence-inspiring. The fork and shock are exceptional, but they lack a little hold up at high speeds in comparison to the Yamaha.” – Chase Curtis
“Kawasaki’s powerband is fun, peppy, and exciting! While many manufacturers are gravitating towards smoother, broader powerbands, the KX250 offers a refreshing hit out of the corners, especially when the white coupler is installed.” – Pat Foster
“The Kawasaki suspension is so close to being amazing. The initial stroke is plush but a little too plush… I end up in the harsh part of the stroke a little early, and as a result, I needed to add some compression to hold it up and some rebound to slow some of the excess movement.” – Pat Foster
“The Kawasaki has very good throttle response off idle, but the powerband really shines in the mid-range and top-end! The white coupler (aggressive) is absolutely the best setting as everything happens in a hurry.” – Rene Garcia
“I love the way the Kawasaki corners. It leans over nicely and stays leaned through the corners without oversteering. The bike handles great and has just the right amount of chassis flex. This is hands down my favorite bike in the shootout.” – Rene Garcia
“The Kawasaki is simply awesome with a solid engine, great suspension, and confidence-inspiring handling. If it had just a tad more low-end power, it would be the perfect 250.” – Donn Maeda
“What a long way the KX250 has come. While I was riding the green machine, my mind wandered to the days of the strategic alliance Kawasaki and Suzuki 250s, both of which were miserable machines.” – Donn Maeda