First Look: 2011 Honda CBR250R

Honey, I shrunk the RR!

Where recent Honda releases like the over-engineered, over-priced DN-01 and auto-shifting VFR1200F have seemed out of touch with reality, Big Red's first new-for-2011 model, the ultra-accessible CBR250R, seems right on the mark for America's post-recession economy. Cheap, efficient and eminently practical, the quarter-liter CBR seems to suit the needs of both entry-level riders and frugal-yet-fashionable commuters.

Unlike its primary competition, Kawasaki's carbureted, parallel-twin Ninja 250R, the CBR250R features a fuel-injected, single-cylinder powerplant. The all-new, liquid-cooled, 249cc engine is influenced by Honda's four-stroke motocross machines and uses a modern, four-valve, DOHC head and a counterbalancer to reduce vibration. American Honda didn't disclose horsepower or torque projections, but European distributors are claiming peak output of 26 bhp and 17 lb.-ft. of torque, which puts it in the ballpark with the Ninjette's 25.6 bhp and 13.1 lb.-ft. as measured on our rear-wheel dyno.

Curb weight, claimed to be 368 lbs. with ABS and 359 lbs. without, should likewise be comparable to the Ninja 250R's measured 377 lbs. You read that correctly: Honda's Combined ABS is optional, a first on a bike this small. A simple tubular frame forms a solid foundation, tied to a box-section steel swingarm by Honda's Pro-Link rising-rate suspension linkage. The 37mm fork is non-adjustable, though the single shock offers five preload settings. The sporty bodywork borrows liberally from Honda's full-sized CBRs, as well as the flagship VFR1200F.

Honda hasn't announced an MSRP yet, but expect it to be close if not equal to the Kawasaki's $3999 price tag. Manufacturing in Honda's Thailand facility will reduce production costs. Such favorable specifications suggest that the CBR250R has all the makings of a sales success. The smaller CBR125 is consistently one of the best-selling bikes of any displacement in Europe-in fact, it's the best selling bike in the UK-and Kawasaki's Ninja 250 was one of the very few bikes that continued to post decent sales in America through the recent economic downturn. Here's hoping this new entrant blows the quarter-liter sportbike class wide-open in America, and we'll have the option to buy a Suzuki GSX-R250 and Yamaha YZF-R2.5 next.