When you think of Kawasaki Motorcycles, your mind is quite likely to wander to the KX range of motocross weapons, the World Superbike Championship dominating Ninja series or even the Tuatara of the motorcycle world – the KLR650 – chugging along as it crosses continents with ease. One thing you don’t usually associate Kawasaki with, however, is the popular mid-sized scooter market.
Words and Photos by Mathieu Day-Gillett
Surprisingly, it is that popular mid-sized scooter market which is where we find ourselves as we step through the 2019 Kawasaki J300 – Kawasaki’s tradition-breaking scooter which is more than just the brand’s first foray into the global scooter market.
When it comes to Scooters, the practical and easy to use corner of the motorcycling world often gets shunned by more traditional motorcycles with more sex appeal. But in times when driving a car for your daily commute becomes even more expensive thanks to rising fuel costs, the scooter’s time to shine is now.
The J300 is a substantial option for the entry-level daily commuter with a decent wheelbase of 1555mm and tipping the scales at 191kg, however, due to the way the bike’s engine, fuel tank and other running gear is all held low in the bike this weight is nearly unnoticeable from the rider’s perspective.
Under the substantially proportioned seat – which offers plenty of real estate for even a passenger – is enough storage to fit a full face helmet and briefcase, however, it would have been nice to have a little more space to accommodate another helmet considering just how tempting the large seat is to chauffeur a friend or colleague around.
With that said, the storage options of the J300 are reasonable, and on top of the under-seat storage, there is a rear carrier which can be utilised as well as a sealed glovebox complete with a 12v outlet for charging accessories. The J300 really does pack in a lot of practicality for its low $6,995 price tag.
Despite its sporty Ninja derived styling, the J300 is surprisingly powered by a 299cc single cylinder engine unique to the scooter as opposed to the 296cc parallel twin of the recently replaced 300cc Ninja as I had assumed would power the J300.
While the sound of a single cylinder may be underwhelming compared to that of a modern parallel twin, the performance of the J300 is nothing to be disappointed in. With 20.5kw of power and 28.7Nm of torque pushing through a CVT transmission, the J300 has no issues with getting off the mark first in traffic light drag races.
Sure, with the engine pushing power through a CVT transmission to the rear wheel it admittedly takes a few revs before the J300 sets off at pace. But like firing a rubber band out of your fingers the Kawasaki launches off from a stop with the analogue tachometer reading just under 3000rpm. It wasn’t long before I found myself holding the rear brake on while I kept the engine just below the takeoff point while waiting at traffic lights, jumping ahead as soon as the light went green.
Naturally, the CVT transmission can make the J300 feel like you are riding a rubber band powered bike once you are moving, as you twist the throttle and wait a millisecond or two for the bike to respond to your request for more go, but once it is delivered the J300 is quite the fun bike to ride.
With some scenic backroads just at my doorstep, the J300 was put to use to go for a weekend explore around the stunning – and predator-free – Maungatautari mountain.
Even when riding at a brisk pace, thanks to that CVT transmission the J300 gets great fuel economy, and with a 13-litre fuel tank there's plenty of time between stops at your preferred servo.
Now, when we think of the natural habitat of most Scooters we think that the majority are purely designed to be inner city commuters with little to no regard for open road prowess, however, the J300 is just as comfortable on the open road as it is within our crowded inner city streets.
While the J300 can boast the usual must-have scooter features such as under seat storage for a helmet and “curry hook”, thanks to that Ninja-inspired fairing the J300 benefits from a decently sized windscreen which deflects the majority of windblast off the rider.
That means that the J300 isn’t limited to just the big cities, and is equally at home on the open road. The only limitation is its small 14-inch wheels which can find themselves overwhelmed on some of our less pristinely maintained surfaces.
Keeping an eye on all the important aspects of the machine is a tidy dashboard, with large analogue tachometer and speedo split by an LCD screen. It is a good looking unit, although functionality is limited and the rider has to take their hands off the handlebar to rotate through the LCDs functions.
For the money, the J300 offers a lot of value compared to the traditional Vespa-wannabe. With its nearest rival priced a full $1000 above it, Kawasaki has gifted Kiwi commuters an appealing alternative to the sea of small used imports which continue to clog up our main arterial routes.
2019 Kawasaki J300 Gallery
PROS AND CONS | 2019 Kawasaki J300
Price: $6,995 + on road costs
Engine: 299cc single cylinder
Pros: Great fuel economy, decent power, substantial enough to comfortably take a passenger
Cons: limited underseat storage, unconventional styling for a scooter
2019 Kawasaki J300 Specifications
ENGINE: Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke single
BORE & STROKE: 72.7 x 72.0mm
COMPRESSION RATIO: 10.8:1
FUEL SYSTEM: Fuel injection: 34mm x 1
TRANSMISSION: CVT with centrifugal clutch
STARTING SYSTEM: Electric
MAX TORQUE: 28.7 Nm @ 6,250 rpm
MAX POWER: 28 PS @ 7,750 rpm
FRONT SUSPENSION: 37mm telescopic fork
REAR SUSPENSION: Twin shocks with 5-way adjustable preload
FRONT WHEEL TRAVEL: 110mm
REAR WHEEL TRAVEL: 100mm
FRONT TYRE: 120 /80-14 M/C 58S
REAR TYRE: 150 /70-13 M/C 64S
FRONT BRAKES: Single 260mm petal disc with dual piston caliper
REAR BRAKES: Single 240mm petal disc with dual piston caliper
FRAME TYPE: Tubular diamond, steel
RAKE/TRAIL: 28° / 113mm
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT: 2,235 x 775 x 1,260mm
FUEL CAPACITY: 13.0 L
SEAT HEIGHT: 775mm
CURB MASS: 191kg
COLOURS: Metallic Flat Anthracite Black /Dark Silver (Special Edition)