New for the 2018 model year, Suzuki has released its quarter-liter sportbike, the GSX250R. Some may say Suzuki is a bit late to the game and ask: Why not a 300? In fact, everywhere I have ridden the GSX250R, fellow motorcycle enthusiasts have asked that question. Suzuki reps tiptoed around that elephant in the room and were quick to mention performance isn’t the main selling point with 250cc motorcycles, even to the point of not providing horsepower or torque numbers. They insisted price, style, practicality, and ease of ownership are where customers are making decisions when purchasing these bikes.
In my opinion, Suzuki has done a great job hitting their intended marks. The new $4,499 GSX250R is a looker. From the GSX-R-derived headlight and taillight to the sweeping aerodynamic lines of the fairings, the little Suzuki carries styling reminiscent of a much bigger and more expensive motorcycle. The 17-inch, 10-spoke rims look great, and the LCD display makes the GSX250R feel a step ahead of the class in terms of finish detailing.
The GSX250R has been described as belonging to the Katana lineage of motorcycles in terms of what the bike means to Suzuki. This harkens back to the 1979 Hans Muth-designed GS1100S Katana, a production bike built to show that Suzuki could build stylistically advanced motorcycles. Katana later evolved into a line of practical, performance-oriented motorcycles that work well in most environments, and that’s how Suzuki wants this new GSX to be viewed.
Pulling from its Katana heritage, Suzuki wanted the new 250 to have that sense of practicality and sport that would appeal to a large customer base. With the 248cc liquid-cooled parallel-Twin engine tuned to deliver power in the low to mid-range, it does a sufficient job around town and through jaunts in the canyons.
In town, the bike pulls quickly through its first gear, and once in second, the GSX250R’s gearing is spaced comfortably apart to make riding around town hassle-free without needing to shift constantly. The transmission feels precise albeit producing a rather loud clunk when dropped into first.
Braking is handled by a two-piston caliper and single 290mm petal-style rotor up front, while the rear uses a single-piston caliper and 240mm rotor. The brakes are adequate when given a firm squeeze, but riders will want to use both front and rear brakes to get the full stopping potential.
Those who have had kept eye on Suzuki’s smaller motorcycles may notice the engine is very similar to what was used in the GW250. You would be absolutely correct. According to Suzuki officials there are three main changes from the engine found in the GW250: the addition of roller rocker arms on the camshaft to decrease friction and raise the rev ceiling, a special finish on the combustion chamber allowing for better oil retention and better sealing (which Suzuki claims should allow for more power), and the valve stems are now waisted to allow more flow into the combustion chamber. There are also different throttle bodies and fuel injectors. With all of these changes, the engine produces power nicely spread across its rev range.
The GSX250R handles well, although the front suspension is rather flaccid. The softness up front paired with a stiffer shock in the rear can cause the chassis to feel unsettled when carrying speed through twisty roads that aren’t perfectly smooth. Although the suspension lacks while riding aggressively, it makes up for it in its commuting abilities, keeping the rider comfortable while soaking up bumps without being too harsh.
Around town, the seating position and 31.1-inch seat height provide all-day comfort and are confidence inspiring for riders of all sizes. There were no complaints from riders of varying height on our press ride.
If you find yourself needing to spend much time on the freeway, however, you may not want to do it on this motorcycle. At 65 mph with my 160-pound frame, engine revs were right around 8,000 rpm. Push that a little higher to match the 80-mph freeway speed of traffic in L.A., and the engine was spinning close to 10,000 rpm, just 500 revs shy of the indicated redline. Wind protection isn’t great, but the slots on the windshield do a good job of reducing buffeting at speed.
While the Suzuki does have the fit and finish of a more expensive bike, it also is, in fact, a bigger bike. The GSX250R carries a 56.3-inch wheelbase, which puts it more than 3 inches longer than many other bikes in the class. This coupled with a 25.6 degree rake lends to the steering feeling a bit slow during quick maneuvers. There is also approximately a 30-lb weight difference between the portly GSX at a purported 392.4 lbs wet versus the rest of the current offering in the 250/300cc class. Sure, those things add to the stability of the bike to a certain extent, however, these characteristics will no doubt be made more apparent once we have the chance to test the Suzuki back-to-back with other bikes in the category. For reference, consider we weighed the CBR300R at 360 lbs; Yamaha’s R3 at 368 lbs; Ninja 300 at 385 lbs.
New riders or riders not looking to make too much of an investment into motorcycling will be happy with the Suzuki’s relatively low price point (due to the motorcycle being manufactured in China) and ease of ownership. Suzuki has made working on the GSX250R easy and convenient with the inclusion of things like screw-and-nut adjusters on the valves, making valve adjustments unintimidating.
Say you don’t want to get elbows deep into your 250’s motor? The LCD display also includes a service interval indicator which alerts you when a service is due and which service is required. These things along with a claimed 76 mpg and 4.0-gallon tank should make Suzuki’s 250 a stress-free and relatively low-cost option for those looking to add motorcycling to their list of hobbies.
Suzuki has made a great-looking bike with the GSX250R, but with the current crop of motorcycles playing in the small-displacement category it will have its hands full when duking it out against the other manufacturers. Keep an eye out for a comparison test coming in the near future.
|2018 Suzuki GSX250R Specifications|
|Engine Type||248cc Four-stroke, liquid-cooled, SOHC, parallel-twin|
|Bore x Stroke||53.5 x 55.2 mm|
|Fuel Delivery||Fuel Injected|
|Transmission||Constant mesh; 6-speed transmission|
|Suspension / Front||KYB Telescopic, coil spring, oil damped; 4.5 in of travel|
|Suspension / Rear||KYB Single shock, coil spring, oil damped 4.9 in of travel|
|Brakes Front||Single disc, Nissin 2-piston caliper|
|Brakes / Rear||Single-disc, Nissin 1-piston caliper|
|Tires / Front||110/80-17M/C 57H|
|Tires Rear||140/55-17M/C 66H|
|L x W x H||82.1 x 29.1 x 43.7 in|
|Seat Height||31.1 in|
|Rake (Caster Angle)||25.6°|
|Fuel Capacity||4.0 gal|
|Fuel Economy||76 (claimed)|
|Wet Weight||392.4 lb|
|Warranty||12-month, unlimited mileage, limited warranty|