With the launch of the 2017 Kawasaki Versys X-250, its take on the small-displacement tourer, Kawasaki Motors Malaysia has signalled its intention to drum up interest in this market segment, and stamp its authority over the Malaysian motorcycle market as a whole. Retailing at RM23,789 inclusive of GST, this 250 cc-class dual-purpose styled tourer complements the current quarter-litre models in Kawasaki’s Malaysia catalogue.

These include the Z250 and Z250SL naked sports, the motard-styled D-Tracker X and the off-road enduro KLX250, as well as the full-fairing Ninja 250 sports bike. With the addition of the Versys X-250, Kawasaki Malaysia has the most comprehensive range of 250 cc motorcycles locally, designed to suit every riding style and rider.

For the Versys X-250, dual-purpose style touring comes to the 250-class, which is also occupied by the China-made liquid-cooled single-cylinder KTNS RS3. Drawing on the DNA of its bigger siblings in 1000 cc and 650 cc flavours, the X-250 is positioned as a multi-faceted motorcycle designed for short- to mid-ranged commutes and light touring duties.

Using a liquid-cooled parallel-twin that displaces 249 cc, the Versys X-250 is claimed to pump out 33.5 hp at 10,500 rpm and 21.7 Nm of torque at 10,000 rpm. This is not surprising, since the X-250 uses much the same engine as the Z250 and Ninja 250.

Optimised for low-end torque, the X-250’s two-cylinder power plant is fed by dual throttle bodies. 28 mm diameter primary throttle valves are supplemented by two larger secondary valves that measure 40.2 mm, to allow for greater airflow at higher engine speeds.

With drive getting to the ground via a six-speed gearbox, the X-250 comes with a pull and assist clutch, which lowers lever effort and makes the bike much easier to manage in stop-start traffic. That the quarter-litre Versys is designed for urban riders is clear in the seat height, set at 815 mm, which does not make this dual-purpose machine overly tall and should accommodate a wide range of riders.

So, what is the 2017 Kawasaki Versys X-250 like the ride? On the first approach, the rider will be struck by the sheer amount of bodywork on the bike, with huge plastic panels covering the 17-litre fuel tank.

This gives the impression of the Versys X-250 being larger than it actually is. Getting into the saddle, a reasonable amount of fore-and-aft movement can be found, with a prominent step up between the rider and pillion seats.

Standard on the Malaysian version of the Versys X-250 is the rear carrier and centre-stand. The rear carrier is a sturdy affair made from steel with a base plate constructed from the same material in a brushed metal finish, ready to mount a top-box and panniers.

What we did like is the inclusion of the centre-stand, which makes parking the Versys on uneven surfaces easier and safer. This is something not usually seen at this motorcycle price point, since many manufacturers think most riders will dump the centre-stand anyway.

More road-going sensibility includes the ducted radiator fan, designed to push hot air from the radiator downwards and away from the rider when the bike is at standstill or in slow moving traffic. We could not gauge the efficiency of Kawasaki’s patented design due to the inclement weather we faced during our time with the X-250, and an objective observation will have to wait till we get the bike for a proper review.

Setting off on the Versys X-250, the clutch pull was, indeed, feather-light, with two-finger pressure sufficient to bring the lever back to the bar for gear engagement. The gearbox itself was precise, and gear selection was slick with no missed shifts, again, something that is sometimes lacking in budget oriented machines.

Suffice it to say, the X-250’s gearbox took all the abuse we could throw at it during our short media ride, and did not show any signs of complaint. Our designated route for the media ride took us on a mix of highway and plantation roads, and weather was, as mentioned earlier, wet.

On the highway itself, the somewhat tall windscreen was more than adequate to keep the wind off the rider. What we did wish for was for the screen to be adjustable, so as to provide the best possible angle, and suit riders of different heights.

Bringing the Versys X-250 up to top speed was difficult due to the wet roads, but occasional blasts up to 145 km/h – under escort – were seen. Missing from the X-250 is ABS, perhaps omitted due to pricing considerations, which would otherwise have rated the bike more highly in our books.

At highway cruising speed, the Versys X-250 was stable, and sure-footed. Despite the suspension being non-adjustable except for pre-load in the rear, the X-250 showed no signs of weave or wandering, even when leaned over in a corner.

There were one or two points when the rear tyre slipped out on wet road paint, but it was only momentary, and there was no cause for panic. The rear suspension simply pulled the wheel back in line, and the frame and swingarm showed no signs of flex at about 130 km/h.

The route then turned into a plantation road, and we were advised by our off-road guides that conditions were indeed very sketchy due to the rain. Considering that the X-250 was fitted with road tyres, this did not exactly instil us with confidence.

Ploughing through gravel, standing up on the pegs, the X-250 performed well, despite the wrong type of rubber. Tracking through the soft gravel, the bike was easy to control using the wide handlebars. Note, if you’re going to take the X-250 on rough surfaces, invest in a pair of handlebar guards.

Hitting the muddy trails, the X-250 did get bogged down in some areas, but this was in no way the bike’s fault in the least, since the weather was not being co-operative. Let’s just say that if the trail was not wet and muddy, we would have made it through without dropping the bike.

But, the Versys X-250’s forte is not mudding up to the point where the wheel hubs are buried. For general purpose commuting, the X-250 should acquit itself well, with the upright seating position giving a commanding view of the road and traffic.

During low speed manoeuvring, the baby Versys was precise and nimble, taking slow corners with good feedback from the tyres. Despite the lack of ABS, braking was good, with positive response when the brake lever was grabbed hard.

For best stopping though, both the front and rear brakes should be used. This is because the long travel of the 41 mm diameter fork gives too much front weight transfer during hard deceleration and to minimise upsetting the X-250’s stability, both brakes should be applied to keep the bike in balance.

Seat comfort from the slim padded seat was acceptable to the author, although some of the riders did say it was overly firm. Since the ride was much too short to form an objective opinion, comments shall be reserved till the performance of a proper road review.

Again, since the media ride was short, it was much too early to see what the fuel consumption of the X-250 is like, but we can assume the target audience for this dual-purpose machine will put it high on the list.

On other considerations, as a quarter-litre class general purpose machine, the 2017 Kawasaki Versys X-250 acquits itself well, not over-promising anything, and being quite capable within its performance envelope. The upright position and low saddle height will prove popular with many riders who are not interested in outright performance, but want a machine that is suitable for daily riding.

The addition of a pair of panniers and a top box will increase the Versys X-250’s versatility by a large measure, and make the bike suitable for both commuting and light touring. We intend to put some serious miles on the Versys X-250 when it comes in for a full review, and let our readers know how it behaves in the real world.