Head to Head: Old CBR250RR vs New CBR250R
The previous model CBR250RR was produced as a scaled down supersport bike, it was a true “race replica’ (hence the RR moniker).
It featured a highly tuned, liquid-cooled, 4 cylinder engine, with four 30.5mm carbs producing a massive 45hp and sported technology like gear driven cams and a 6 speed transmission. It revved to an astronomical 19,000rpm. It featured large front forks with a pre-load adjustable rear shock and twin 276mm front disk brakes with twin 2 piston callipers.
The old bike had a high tech alloy frame which gave the bike excellent rigidity and kept weight down to a svelte 142kg (313lb) dry weight. The bike’s full fairing bodywork was reminiscent of the larger capacity race bikes of the time. Everything about the bike from its high revving powerful engine, to its aggressive riding position and race styled fairings screamed race replica.
It is an all purpose machine, and a true rider’s bike. Even with its small engine and, by today’s standards, low power output, it’s an engaging ride and exhibits fine balance, urgent power delivery and, in the right hands, is still a very capable machine. It was a very expensive bike when new and appealed to buyers looking for a premium ‘road racer’ who were prepared to pay for features normally reserved for larger capacity sports bikes. A testament to its success is a strong re-sale value and high demand in the learner-legal market where good condition, original examples still fetch over $7,000.
The new CBR250R is a completely different proposition. It’s Honda’s re-entry into the 250cc sports bike market. A market which has shifted somewhat since the 90s. There’s no mistaking the new CBR for a larger capacity bike (as is often done with the old bike, with many mistaking it for a 600). At first glance it’s immediately obvious this bike is targeted at new riders, or commuters with some sporting intentions. The riding position is far more upright than the old bike, with bars mounted higher and closer to the seat.
It’s not just looks and ergonomics that have changed either. The old bike’s screaming 19,000 rpm, 4-cylinder, twin cam, carburettor fed 45hp engine is gone. In its place is a new single-cylinder engine (a point of difference to the parallel twin found in the current Ninja 250).
The new engine puts out just 23hp and has to push around a 153kg (337lb) dry weight. Gone are the race inspired twin front disks replaced by a single 296mm front disk with twin piston caliper. Gone is the beautiful aluminium frame repalced by a more conventional steel frame.
However, the bike does have some good points. The carburetors have been replaced with electronic fuel injection with closed loop 02 feedback and a catalytic converter to meet current emissions standards, it retains a 6 speed transmission and also offers optional ABS, a first for a 250cc sports bike.
It’s clear the new CBR250R is built to compete against Kawasaki’s popular Ninja 250R. There are a number of points of differentiation between the two. There’s the twin cylinder in the Ninja, single in the Honda. Carburetors for the Ninja, EFI in the Honda. Power output is similar with a slight edge to the Ninja in top speed and in handling and braking performance. One would surmise with the introduction of EFI that the CBR would make for a more reliable and economical riding experience.
In riding the new CBR it’s immediately obvious that it’s not targeting the same market as the old RR. The riding position is much more upright (favourable for commuting), it contains more modern instrumentation (like a fuel level gauge) and the bike overall feels nicely made. Taking off from a stop its low down torque advantage is felt, but this quickly tapers off to less-than-inspiring upper rev performance.
Whereas the old CBR screams towards its red line, the new CBR launches with an initial burst of torque before lumbering towards its much lower red line. Pluck another gear and that surge of torque starts again, and again tapers off higher in the rev range. The bike handles quite well and soaks up small bumps and road seams without any problem. Its performance is probably best described as ‘adequate’ for a 250 but certainly not inspiring when you want to push a bit harder.
Is it a valid competitor for the popular Ninja 250? Probably.
Both the Ninja and the new CBR are not targeted at hardcore track riders, but rather at beginner riders who want a commuter with a bit of sporty flair to it. The addition of EFI and optional ABS may make it more desirable to some riders who value economy and reliability over outright performance.
Is it a competitor or successor for the old CBR250RR? Not really.
They are completely different bikes targeted at completely different riders. The new CBR compared to the old MC22 is like trying to compare a Mitsubishi Mirage with a ‘sports’ body kit to a Lancer Evo RS track car. They are just not in the same ball park and each suits completely different people.