YZF-R3 vs Ninja 400
The entry-level sportsbike class is hugely competitive with many capable options at different engine sizes, configurations, and price points.
Two that are right up there and leading the pack are the Kawasaki Ninja 400 and Yamaha YZF-R3.
Both motorcycles are very similar sub 400 cc parallel two-cylinder engines that are light and adorned with attractive sporty looks that resemble their larger siblings.
You may be reading this and considering either one and want to know how they accelerate and compare with each other from 0-60 mph 0-100 km/h top speed and so on.
In the meantime, here we will compare them both, so I’ll get straight into the performance comparison of the Ninja 400 vs YZF-R3.
Ninja 400 vs YZF-R3 Power and Torque on the Dyno
– Ninja – YZF
Kawasaki’s Ninja 400 has a 78 cc engine capacity advantage and it certainly shows on the Dyno as is evident in the below graph comparison.
The Kawasaki Ninja 400 is a 399 cc parallel two-cylinder engine making a claimed 49 horsepower and 28 ft/lb of torque.
On the dyno, the rear wheel figure is an impressive 44 horsepower and 26 ft/lb of torque which is not far off what Kawasaki claimed at the crank.
Remember typically we can expect to lose between 10-12% through transmission losses when power is transferred from the crank to the wheel.
The Yamaha YZF-R3 on the other hand has a smaller 321 cc parallel two-cylinder engine making a claimed 41 horsepower and 22 ft/lb of torque.
On the dyno, at the rear wheel, the Yamaha YZF-R3 can muster 37 horsepower and 20 ft/lb of torque.
How both motorcycles deliver their power is pretty similar and smooth though, the Kawasaki Ninja 400 does not look as smooth on the dyno but the little peaks and troughs are by and large not felt on the road as such.
The Yamaha YZF-R3 makes great power and is a good little engine and is stronger than the Kawasaki Ninja 300 which preceded the Kawasaki Ninja 400 though it can’t really make up for its 78 cc displacement deficit to the 400.
To illustrate this, it really hits home when we can see that at 3500 rpm the Kawasaki Ninja 400 makes the same torque as the Yamaha YZF-R3 does at peak.
In isolation, the Yamaha YZF-R3 is quite a responsive little engine with a good spread of power and torque.
However, to really make progress and if chasing equally or faster machinery you would want to keep the engine spinning above 7000 rpm where it delivers good performance.
The Kawasaki Ninja 400’s on the other hand has an engine that sits just below the imaginary border of small and big bike engine performance and offers a bigger bike feel when twisting the throttle and is less frantic.
Like the Yamaha YZF-R3, the Kawasaki Ninja 400 does have a sweet spot if you want to get a move on.
This sweet spot is around 6000 rpm and above which is around 1000 rpm lower than the Yamaha YZF-R3.
You can definitely afford it to be lazier with gear shifts when Riding the Kawasaki Ninja 400 as it provides more drive and is less rpm dependent as a result.
Both engines are extremely rewarding and enjoy being thrashed through the gearbox but ultimately the Kawasaki Ninja 400 offers more engine performance courtesy of its extra capacity.
Ninja 400 vs YZF-R3 In-gear thrust/acceleration
– Ninja – YZF
In terms of engine performance, due to its 78 cc engine capacity advantage, it is clear that the Kawasaki Ninja 400 has a major advantage.
The question is: how does the engine performance of both motorcycles look when translated through the gearbox?
As clearly seen, the Kawasaki Ninja 400 dominates the dyno due to making more power and torque right throughout the rpm range and this translated through the gears and on the road too in an equal fashion.
It’s not all bad though for the Yamaha YZF-R3 as due to choosing to run lower gearing this performance gap is closed slightly.
Unfortunately for the Yamaha YZF-R3 as it is a little heavier than the Kawasaki Ninja 400 the little it clawed back through lower gearing has been slightly neutered as a consequence of being a little porkier.
If you compare the first gear of both motorcycles, you can see that the Kawasaki Ninja 400 has a massive advantage.
It produces more accelerative thrust throughout the whole speed range of first gear while also reaching a slightly higher top speed in first gear too versus the Yamaha YZF-R3.
As a result, the Yamaha YZF-R3 has no chance to compete in first gear.
Interestingly though, if we look at second gear, the Kawasaki Ninja 400’s big power and torque advantage are no way near as pronounced.
Acceleration/thrust is remarkably similar with the Kawasaki Ninja 400 having only a slight advantage between 30-50 km/h and from 50-60 km/h and then taking over 65 km/h.
Interestingly below 30 km/h the Yamaha YZF-R6 exactly matches the Ninja 400 for thrust/acceleration despite making much less power and torque.
In third gear, the Kawasaki Ninja 400 re-exerts its advantage but the Yamaha YZF-R3 is not that far off.
But from fourth, fifth, and sixth gear, it’s clear that the Kawasaki Ninja 400 engine offers much more performance and acceleration from any speed if comparing gear for gear.
– Ninja – YZF
|Speed at 5000 rpm||YZF-R3||Ninja 400|
|Speed 1st Gear||15.7 mph||18.8 mph|
|Speed 2nd Gear||21.6 mph||26.8 mph|
|Speed 3rd Gear||29.2 mph||34.1 mph|
|Speed 4th Gear||36.2 mph||41.4 mph|
|Speed 5th Gear||42.8 mph||47.8 mph|
|Speed 6th Gear||49.2 mph||53.2 mph|
In respect of the Yamaha YZF-R3’s competitive second gear performance, this demonstrates that even when significantly down on power and torque, lower gearing can help make up for that fact.
But with lower gearing, the top speed of that gear can suffer versus a competitor with longer gearing unless the weaker motorcycle with the lower gearing revs much higher which the Yamaha YZF-R3 does not.
Higher-revving motorcycles can often run lower gearing vs similar power competitors that rev lower.
As mentioned, in the higher gears the Kawasaki Ninja 400 is dominant at all speed ranges!
For example, if both motorcycles were cruising along at 70 mph/113/km in sixth gear, the Kawasaki Ninja 400 would be operating at around 6600 rpm while the lower-geared Yamaha YZF-R3 would be singing along at 7200 rpm.
Still, despite the lower gearing of the Yamaha YZF-R3 if both were to look for a fast overtake the Kawasaki Ninja 400 would clear off.
To accelerate ahead of a hypothetical slow-moving car as quickly as the Kawasaki Ninja 400 could in sixth gear, the Yamaha YZF-R3 would be required to kick it down to 5th gear which would bring the revs up to 8100 rpm.
If we look at the thrust curve we will see that the Yamaha YZF-R3 in fifth roughly matches the Kawasaki Ninja 400 for thrust/acceleration in sixth.
But it’s only up until around 130 km/h when the Kawasaki Ninja 400 clears off once again.
On the road, pretty much the Yamaha YZF-R3 requires a gear lower (where possible) than the Kawasaki Ninja 400 to keep it in sight.
So be prepared to work that gearbox if you own a Yamaha YZF-R3 and your friend owns a Kawasaki Ninja 400.
Ninja 400 vs YZF-R3 acceleration 0-60 and 0-100
– Ninja – YZF
We have previously tested these motorcycles before and they both achieve very similar times with some slight variations.
It is no surprise that the Kawasaki Ninja 400 is a faster-accelerating motorcycle than the Yamaha YZF-R3.
This is because the Kawasaki Ninja 400 wins on the dyno and is slightly lighter and thus wins also in any hypothetical same-gear roll-on scenario.
Getting them both off the line is not too hard but for the best effect, you need to be pretty abrupt with the clutch rather than slip.
The Kawasaki Ninja 400 achieved a 0-60 mph of 4.07 seconds slightly improving on its previous time.
The Kawasaki Ninja 400 can accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 4.35 seconds for you Aus, Euro, and Canadians.
The Yamaha YZF-R3 for comparison is a whole second behind achieving the benchmark 0-60 mph time in 5.17 seconds and 0-100 km/h in 5.45 seconds.
Unfortunately for the Yamaha YZF-R3, it does require an extra gear change to hit the magic 60 mph or 100 km/h so this does cost it a little time, so clutchless fast gear changes are definitely required.
From 60 mph onward the Kawasaki Ninja 400 extends its advantage as it hits the magic 100 mph in 12.58 seconds which is a tad slower than when we previously tested.
The little Yamaha YZF-R3 went a little quicker than before to 100 mph recording 16.80 seconds but still, it is some way behind the Kawasaki Ninja 400.
60 mph to 100 mph through the gears for Kawasaki Ninja 400 is achieved in 8.5 seconds while the Yamaha YZF-R3 is around 3.10 seconds slower at 11.67 seconds.
The Kawasaki Ninja 400 blasted through the quarter mile in 13.02 seconds at 101.2 mph which is a whole second faster than the Yamaha YZF-R3 at 14 seconds flat with a terminal speed of 94.9 mph.
The Kawasaki Ninja 400 maintains a one-second lead to 60 mph and beats the Yamaha YZF-R3 by one second to the quarter mile too.
The Yamaha YZF-R3 is convincingly beaten from a stop and from a roll if in the same gear at the same speed by the Kawasaki Ninja 400 regardless of gear.
As a Yamaha YZF-R3 rider, your best chance against the Kawasaki Ninja 400 would be from a second-gear roll from around 30 km/h.
It’s from that speed up to around 70 km/h you might be only a bike length or two behind but that’s the best fight that the Yamaha YZF-R3 can put up.
As from there on the Kawasaki Ninja 400 will convincingly walk away from the Yamaha YZF-R3 all else being equal.
YZF-R3 vs Ninja 400 Top Speed
The frontal area of the Kawasaki Ninja 400 is a little larger than the Yamaha YZF-R3 but with an extra 7 hp the Ninja 400 easily beats out the Yamaha YZF-R3 in terms of top speed.
If you are of a petite frame and tuck in tight you can expect to see a real 120 mph out of a Kawasaki Ninja 400 though today, we managed 118.3 mph.
A simple exhaust and tune can have the little Ninja hitting 125 mph and with a tailwind and decline it would even be possible to get to 130 mph which is very impressive for an entry-level 400 cc parallel two-cylinder engine.
The Yamaha YZF-R3 does well and manages 112.1 mph but I reckon 115 mph is doable and likewise, with an exhaust and tune 120 mph is on the cards too.
This is also very impressive considering that we are talking about a two-cylinder 321 cc engine.
The fact that the Kawasaki Ninja 400 is a faster motorcycle both from a stop, in-gear, and top speed should not put you off the Yamaha YZF-R3, as the little Yamaha is fast and offers an abundance of thrills.
Not to mention that it is very much a baby R6/R1 which makes it a great choice if you are a Yamaha fan.
I could say the same about the Kawasaki Ninja 400 and its family tree too while also pointing out that it offers a very similar experience to the YamahaYZF-R3 just a little bit more if you must have the faster bike.
Both are great little machines.
YZF-R3 vs Ninja 400 Acceleration
|SS/QM||14.00/94.9 mph||13.02/101.2 mph|
|SS/KM||26.909/109 mph||25.226/115.5 mph|
|SS/Mile||39.012/111.5 mph||36.690/117.5 mph|
|Top Speed||112.1 mph||118.3 mph|