Kawasaki J300 - The Workhorse
Kawasaki’s J300 scooter has been around for almost five years in its current form, which makes it almost ancient in the automotive world. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad piece of kit. On the contrary.
See, when you think about it, if it’s lasted this long without a major overhaul shouldn’t that mean the original design was so good that it doesn’t need a new generation? I mean, think of the Nissan GT-R. That car turns twelve this year and it still gives most supercars a decent run for their money.
Obviously, the J300 isn’t a GT-R. It’s closer to a Corolla, really, in that it won’t set your heart on fire in terms of performance but it will get you where you need to go with pleasing reliability and comfort. Plus, when it needs to, it can get up and boogie more than you might expect.
That comes courtesy of a chunky 300cc engine from Kymco, offering a modest 20kW and 28Nm. It’s connected to a CVT gearbox which makes the first second or so after launch feel like you’re pushing through jelly but as soon as the revs get above about 4000 on the blue-backlit dash, you’re all good to go. And go you shall, at a rate that’s at least surprising, almost alarming for a scooter.
The J300 is no lightweight, with a claimed kerb weight of 191kg, which puts it roughly 20kg heavier than the comparable Ninja 300, but the nature of the CVT means the engine can sit in its powerband for as long as you like. Peak power kicks in at 7750rpm, enough to take the superscoot above and beyond 100km/h with ease. You can even do upwards of 120, if there’s no wind. Small wheels make it a bit wobbly when it blows.
We took it from Pukekohe around the Hunua Ranges before setting back up to Auckland and the J300 was actually quite fun through some of the bendier roads. It wasn’t entirely happy, as you’d expect from a top-heavy commuter but the fact that it could thread bends faster than most cars we saw speaks volumes.
Diving back into the evening traffic was where the J300 really wanted to be, so we indulged. There’s nothing sweeter to a bike rider than meandering past cars and people sweating out rush hour, watching their faces in the wing mirrors; pictures of frustration. Thankfully, despite its size, the J300 isn’t very wide, so most gaps were passable. For general commuting use, the J300 performed as one would expect. It’s a dream, particularly in Auckland where any time spent on the road is a test of patience.
Braking is helped by ABS, a standard feature in New Zealand, with a single 360mm petal disc up front and a 240mm petal disc at the rear. They work well, although you’ll want to use both at the same time if you need to stop in a hurry. Thanks to ABS, you can grab fistfuls of each lever without worrying about the front wheel sliding out or sending you over the bars.
It’s good on petrol too - one tank lasting us a week of short commutes and a return trip from Pukekohe. Unfortunately, the buttons on the dash didn’t seem to cooperate, so we can’t give exact consumption numbers but the tank holds 13 litres and we burnt through a bit over half of that in a week.
The one big irk was, strangely, comfort. Looking at the size of the thing, you’d expect to be riding a cruise ship but for me, at six-foot precisely, my feet were jammed up against the footrests, forcing my knees to be content at exactly 90 degrees. It might not sound like much, and maybe it isn’t, but after twenty minutes you get rather desperate for more stretch room. Pushing the seat back a couple of centimetres would be perfect.
Kawasaki wants these out on the streets and are pricing them accordingly - the better part of seven grand will get you riding. Er, scooting at any rate. You can find second-hand ones for even less.
So no, it’s not a GT-R. What it is is a strong, quiet, Corolla-like two-wheeled workhorse. If it’s fine for you now, chances are it’ll be fine for another ten years.