Kawasaki fills holes in its going line of entry-level dual sport and off-road motorcycles with three new models, and we rode them all!
Photography by Kevin Wing
Kawasaki has expanded its family line of entry-level KLX off-road and dual sport motorcycles by introducing three new models for 2020. Welcome the street-legal KLX230, and off-road-only KLX230R and KLX300R, which now join the KLX110, 140, and 250 (street-legal) models which are already a part of Kawasaki’s off-road and dual-sport family.
As you can see, Kawasaki pretty much has all of the bases covered now when it comes to filling the variety of needs of those new to the sport or getting back into it. If you have a family that wants to start getting into riding dirt bikes, Kawasaki now has something for everyone, except for, perhaps, the family pooch.
2020 Kawasaki KLX230 Review
The KLX250 dual sport now has a little brother to play around with in the all-new KLX230. Both the KLX250 and KLX230 are pavement-legal, and both bikes are designed for light-duty off-road riding and commuting, but our guess is that most people who are interested in either one of these two motorcycles are more than likely going to spend a majority of their time on the dirt rather than on the pavement, but instead taking advantage of that metal license plate on the rear fender just to get them from one trail to the next, or providing transportation to the local grocery store and back, albeit at home or at the RV park or campground.
You might be asking yourself why Kawasaki would want to have two dual-sport bikes in its lineup that are so closely matched in displacement? Even though they do seem to be quite similar, these are two very different motorcycles. The 230 has a slightly lower (by just .2 inches) seat height and a narrower cushion, plus a two-inch shorter wheelbase and an inch-and-a-half lower overall height, and the 230 is nearly two inches shorter front to back than the 250, which combined gives you the feeling that you’re on a much smaller motorcycle. Both bikes have full size 18-inch (rear) and 21-inch (front) wheels, but the 230 has slightly narrower-profile tires than the 250, which often tends to make the motorcycle react quicker to rider input, thus making the bike feel more nimble and easier to control, depending on the terrain. The 230 is also six to 10 pounds lighter (ABS versus non-ABS) than the 250, so when you add all these things up, the 230 is less intimidating and ultimately easier to ride than the 250, two essential factors when it comes to attracting new, less-experienced or smaller-framed riders.
The more experienced rider, however, will appreciate the KLX250 for its slightly longer wheel travel, increased power, and more spacious ergos.
The 230 is powered by a 233cc air-cooled, SOHC, four-stroke engine, the 250 a 249cc water-cooled, DOHC, four-stroke engine. Both have electric starting, fuel injection, and six-speed transmissions, and both engines are housed in steel frames but unique in design. Kawasaki says the 230 is entirely new from the ground up; in other words, it is its own motorcycle.
Both the 230 and 250 feature linkage rear suspensions and neither are adjustable, except for rear spring preload.
The 230 is offered with optional ABS brakes, the 250 has no such option.
The price difference between the two is significant. The 230 sells for $4599 (tack on another $300 for ABS); the 250 $5399.
The KLX230 is a surprisingly capable motorcycle both on and off the road. It makes enough power to stay ahead of the cars on the pavement and is geared well enough to keep it humming along nicely right around 60 mph; you just don’t want to hang out at that pace for too long, but it’s nice to know that it can do it for a while without feeling too guilty. And Kawasaki did a great job keeping vibes to a minimum, which can be a problem with small-bore singles on the road.
But it’s off the pavement that the little 230 really shines. Basically, this is a nice street-legal dirt bike that isn’t afraid of anything, except for perhaps long, steep and soft hill climbs. It makes respectable power, about what you’d expect from a 230cc four-stroke single, and it’s delivered smoothly and predictably. Throttle response is spot on, and since it’s fuel-injected, there is zero warm-up time. Just hit the button and go.
The suspension is excellent, though a little on the soft side for heavier riders and aggressive riding, in which case it will bottom easily, but aggressive riding isn’t what this motorcycle is all about. Insteads, it’s designed for casual trail and street riding, and when you keep these things in perspective, the 230’s suspension is hard to fault. There isn’t much suspension adjustability (just rear spring preload), so you’re pretty much stuck with what you get.
At a claimed 293 pounds (for the ABS model that I rode), the KLX230 is not exactly a light motorcycle. But for casual trail riding, it’s hardly a factor at all, only when you drop it. For some, picking the 230 back up after a tip-over might be an issue.
Overall, the 230 is an excellent addition to Kawasaki’s KLX lineup, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out to be a big hit with the company.
Kudos to Kawasaki for doing an excellent job filling in the gaps in its off-road/dual sport entry-level line with the KLX230, and 230 and 300Rs. Anyone looking to get into dirt bike riding for the first time or getting back into it again should put these three very good motorcycles on their shopping list. CN
2020 Kawasaki KLX230 Specifications
||Air-cooled, 4-stroke, SOHC, single
|Bore x Stroke:
||67.0 x 66.0mm
||DFI w/ 32mm Keihin throttle body
||High-tensile steel perimeter
||37mm telescopic fork
||Uni-Trak linkage w/adj. spring preload
|Front Wheel Travel:
|Rear Wheel Travel:
||2.75 x 21 in.
||4.10 x 18 in.
||Single 265mm petal disc w/ dual-piston caliper
||Single 220mm petal disc w/ single-piston caliper
|Curb Weight (claimed):
||293.3 lbs (297.7 lbs. CA)