The small engine motorcycle market share is split between luring brand new riders and attracting more seasoned ones who are looking for an economical riding experience.
It’s a marketing sector with plenty of sharp-eyed competition from the Honda CBR250, Kawasaki Ninja 300, KTM RC390R, and Yamaha R3. All the bike manufacturers know “First Bike” owners often exhibit brand loyalty when they move up.
Well, Suzuki wants a piece of that pie.
The new-for-2018 Suzuki is powered by a 248cc fuel-injected SOHC twin with a claimed output of 24.7 horsepower. The 17.4 lb.-ft. of torque peaks at 8,000 rpm with the rev limiter hitting at 10,500. It’s the same basic motor used in the entry level GW250, but according to Suzuki, the racier Gixxer engine has been redesigned for better 15-55 mph performance with roller rockers and a refined cylinder head with narrow-waisted valve guides.
The ergonomics are good. The 31-inch seat height is easy to flat foot, the bars are a comfy reach and I sat high enough for a clear view in traffic. An adjustable front brake lever makes it easy for hands of any size to safely modulate the necessary squeeze. The brakes work well but a prudent rider will cover both stoppers.
Around town, it’s a good ride. There’s enough power to handle the urban crush and safely duel with distracted city traffic. It’s narrow enough to lane-share and easy to park.
In the canyons, on tight and hilly asphalt, it’s a capable ride if you rev it hard, use the gear box, and conserve corner momentum. But you will not be making a serious impression on any big bore machines. However, the smiles are genuine when you get an apex just right. The steering feels light despite the wheelbase being a tad longer than its class competition.
It’s on the freeway where the quarter-liter displacement reared its minimalist head and made me wish for more. At times, I felt caught in the multi-lane current.
The six-speed trans can keep the pot on the boil but compared to its stronger class competition (all over 300 cc), the bike feels a little down on power. You will need to ruthlessly rev it if strong highway miles are your jam.
I’m 6-foot and weigh 210 pounds in full leathers and I found top gear at 9,000 rpm to be 73 mph and, by then, the motor was out of breath. There’s not a lot of upper rev range left for freeway protection so slicing/dicing through urban clutter requires planning. I briefly touched 83 mph on a long downhill in a tuck.
But high revs certainly didn’t hurt the fuel range. With four gallons of 83 octane aboard, mileage never dropped below 70 mpg, despite some miles of freeway flog. That’s a solid 250-mile range and, for an average commuter, four gallons a week sounds sweet.
Suspension is an economical KYB set-up fore and aft. It’s tractable enough with non-adjustable front forks and a single rear shock with seven cam-ring settings. On smooth asphalt, the budget KYB kit worked fine but both ends quickly got cranky when the pavement roughened up. Adjustment of the rear shock requires removal of both seats and battery. Since I did not haul a passenger in SoCal freeway traffic, the factory standard setting worked well.
What the 250R lacks in displacement, it gains in rider information and details. An odometer with two trip meters, a low fuel light, and an oil pressure light are basics these days, but the reverse-lit LCD instrumentation on the GSX-250R also includes an oil change/service reminder, a programmable shift light, gear position indicator, clock, average fuel consumption, and coolant temp. Nice.
The headlight is halogen while tail light, position lamps, and indicators are a modern LED tech touch. The 10-spoke cast 17-inch wheels with petal-edged rotors wrapped in racey-looking IRC rubber add a cool sport-bike image. The single front and rear discs provide decent braking since the wet curb weight is a tick less than 400 pounds.
Visually, the bike punches above its weight class. My hooligan friends were surprised at its 250-cc displacement during a quick walk-around. According to Suzuki reps, the genetics of the new GSX-250R is aligned more with the softer ergonomics of its Katana lineage than the hard-core and race-y Gixxer posture. They call the 250R, “sporty and aggressive with a futuristic flair” and it surely looks the part.
It’s a good value for the price if you treat the bike in its design envelope. Ride it enthusiastically but know its limitations and that will make the GSX-250R a fun ride. But gimme another 200 cc, please. I spent an inordinate amount of time at 9000 revs. Suzuki is priced at $4,499. Freight and mark-up bring dealer price to $5,439. Tax and license are extra. It’s a good value for a bike with a balance of practicality and performance.
— Joe Michaud, Motor Matters
Copyright, Motor Matters, 2018