The Honda CBR500R and the Kawasaki Ninja 400 are both sub-500cc, sub-50 hp sport bikes that handle well and get excellent speed and acceleration for their size.
Since they are direct competitors, choosing between the two requires a good understanding of their features and specs. So, I created this comparison of the CBR500R and Ninja 400 to help you decide between these two fast but affordable motorcycles.
The CBR500R is the sport-bike model in Honda’s CBR500 line, which features several straight-twin motorcycles.
Honda originally made the line in response to European regulations. With its 471cc engine and 47 hp max power, the CBR500R is just barely under the cutoff for the A2 EU motorcycle license.
Larger, more powerful motorcycles require the full A license, which you can’t get without holding the A2 for at least two years. Basically, by coming in under the cutoff, Honda accessed a larger market in Europe.
Nevertheless, the CBR500R has become a favorite around the world, in large part because it’s really fast for the price. In fact, reaching 112 mph, or 180 km/h, with an MSRP of $7,299, it is exceptionally inexpensive per mph, so it earned a spot on my list of cheap fast motorcycles. It has other great specs too:
- 471cc straight-twin engine
- 419 lbs. curb weight
- 112 mph top speed
- 47 hp at 8,500 rpm
- 72 mpg fuel economy
- Six-speed constant mesh transmission
- Adjustable conventional telescopic front suspension
- Adjustable prolink single-shock rear suspension
- Front and rear wave disc brakes
- ABS standard
Kawasaki Ninja 400
The Ninja 400 is a relatively new bike released in 2018 that Kawasaki, like Honda with the CBR500 line, made to comply with EU motorcycle laws, in this case Euro 4 emission standards.
The Ninja 400 was generally considered an improvement on the 300 because despite having 33 percent more engine capacity, it is actually lighter, weighing just 366 pounds. It also has a lower seat height at just 31 inches, better suspension, and a lighter clutch.
However, the truly amazing thing about this motorcycle — and most Ninjas, for that matter — is the price: $5,699 with ABS. With a top speed of 105 mph or 170 km/h, it’s one of the cheapest two-cylinder motorcycles in price per mph. The rest of the specs are impressive, too:
- 399cc straight-twin engine
- 366 lbs. curb weight
- 105 mph top speed
- 45 hp at 10,000 rpm
- 72 mpg fuel economy
- Six-speed chain-drive transmission
- Hydraulic telescopic fork front suspension
- Horizontal back-link rear suspension
- Front and rear petal-type disc brakes
- ABS available
Honda CBR500R vs Kawasaki Ninja 400 Head-to-Head
The CBR500R and Ninja 400 are similarly sized motorcycles with equally similar specs and capabilities. This can make it a bit difficult to decide which is right for you since they generally compete for the same riders performing the same applications.
To make things clearer, let’s compare them head-to-head in various aspects of riding.
There isn’t much difference, but the CBR500R has a slightly more relaxed seating position with your knees a bit less bent. Its seat is also softer.
Meanwhile, the Ninja 400 has a more aggressive seating position that’s great for cornering but taxing on long rides. Neither is necessarily a commuting or touring bike, but the Honda model is somewhat better in this regard.
Looks and Customization
Winner: Ninja 400
The Ninja line has always been popular for its looks, among other things. The 400, in particular, looks modern and fast, and the line’s long history and wide range mean it has a lot of aftermarket parts for customization.
That said, the CBR500R might still be a good choice if you prefer a more conservative aesthetic.
Winner: Ninja 400
The entire Ninja line are great motorcycles for the price, the 400 no exception. With an MSRP of just $5,699 with ABS, it’s $1,600 cheaper than the only slightly larger CBR500R. Its price/mph of top speed is also lower: $54 versus $65.
Winner: Ninja 400
The CBR500R’s handling is great, but the Ninja 400’s is simply world-class. It’s amazingly lightweight for its engine capacity at less than 370 pounds, has a low center of gravity, and takes corners with an agility that’s unparalleled.
Speed and Power
The CBR500R has a 20% larger engine, so it’s no surprise it’s a bit more powerful. It hits 47 hp versus the Ninja 400’s 45 hp. It has a higher top speed, as well, of 112 mph versus 105 mph.
2023 Upgrades for the CBR500R and Ninja 400
The CBR500R and Ninja 400 are both popular bikes that Honda and Kawasaki are likely to keep in their lineups for the foreseeable future. As a result, they continuously upgrade them to compete for the enthusiastic riders that shop this class and want the most cutting-edge, best-performing model.
2023 Honda CBR500R
The last major upgrade to CBR500R was in 2019, which saw Honda shave several pounds off the wet weight and increase the fuel capacity. The only big upgrade on the 2023 model over the 2022 model is the shortening of the front suspension by a single millimeter, from 296mm to 295mm. This may seem like a small change, but it slightly improves the handling of a bike that constantly has to compete with the agility of the Ninja 400.
2023 Ninja 400
Kawasaki made big changes to the Ninja 400 in 2022. Specifically, it made the engine compliant with Euro 5 emission standards, which raised the price a bit, and announced plans for an electronic version. For 2023, they didn’t make any changes other than somewhat updated graphics on the classic lime green trim.
Because the CBR500R and Ninja 400 are so similar, it may not be obvious which is right for you, and indeed, much of the choice comes down to personal preference. However, I do have some recommendations for specific demographics based on the bikes’ performance and specs:
- Beginners may prefer the Ninja 400 for its lighter weight and better handling. These features make it easier to learn on.
- Neither is a commuter bike, but if you see yourself riding it to work on a regular basis, the CBR500R is a tad more comfortable.
- If you just want the most speed and power possible on a sub-500cc bike, the CBR500R is the better choice.
- For price and value, the Ninja 400 is an incredible bike with great specs and lots of power for a much lower price than similar models.