Pocket Rockets | Top 10 Best Budget Sportbikes of 2022

Everyone loves a pocket rocket but which of the affordable, eager-to-please Budget Sportbikes on offer won't leave you feeling shortchanged?

Honda 500cc range gains updates for 2022

We all know the old adage ‘win on Sunday, buy on Monday’ but while many motorcyclists lust after the streamlined, snarling sportsbikes at the top end of the engine bracket, a combination budget, licence and necessity means budget sportbikes are for most the more feasible reality.

That’s not to say you should feel shortchanged by something more modest in the power department for there is an excellent choice of cost-effective, light and eager-to-please fully-faired motorcycles ready to pack a punch above their weight.

With a range of engine sizes and budgets featured here, there is something for everyone, whether you’re turning your first wheel on a 125 or seeking something more mature without breaking the bank.

Read on to find out who will be crowned the champion in our Top 10 Best Budget Sportbikes of 2022 rundown?

10 - Sinnis GPX125 [£3,399]

Burgeoning budget brand Sinnis has been making headway into the growing and increasingly competitive low capacity, low cost end of the market, with the dynamic looking GPX125 its newest offering.

While the fixtures and fittings are assembled in China, Sinnis is actually a British brand, a combination it cultivates to weave British design know-how into cost-effective manufacturing.

It’s an approach that works far more convincingly on the GPX125 than Sinnis’ other offerings, such as the T125 Terrain ADV or the Outlaw cruiser, with the pint-size sportbike showing a flair for design with its rakish profile and smart flourishes, such as its stylish split LED headlight set-up.

It’s certainly not a complicated machine, the GPX125 chugging along with a raspy 12.7bhp from its liquid-cooled engine, while proves both easy to ride and to get comfortable on.

It won’t win you over if it’s in a straight fight with the Yamaha R3 or Kawasaki Ninja 125, but at £3,399 it’s a cheap and cheerful alternative to its key rival, the top-selling Lexmoto LXR.

9 - Suzuki GSX-R125 [£4,699]

Suzuki’s rich heritage in sportsbikes bearing the ‘Gixxer’ moniker needs no introduction with the Japanese company responsible for some of the best-loved and most revered road racers ever produced.

It’s a fondness that extends to the smallest iteration of the franchise, the GSX-R125, which has remained popular enough to outlive most of its siblings as a popular go-to for buyers, particularly those just starting out.

Drawing inspiration from the GSX-R1000, much like its bigger brother the GSX-R125 is not in the first flush of youth, with its last big update coming back in 2018. As a result, it is feeling its age next to many of its rivals here.

However, there remains life in the ‘old puppy’ yet with the pronounced snout and curved fairing arguably more attractive than the GSX-R1000, while it looks resplendent when specified with the blue and silver livery that pays homage to both Suzuki’s racer origins and its title-winning MotoGP effort.

While the Kawasaki Ninja 125 remains better value, the GSX-R125 is a keen - if not terribly refined - performer with its feathery 137kg in weight squeezing every trot from its 15bhp, while robust mechanicals and Suzuki’s no-nonsense engineering offer up valuable peace of mind.

8 - FB Mondial Sport Classic 125 / 300 [£TBC]

If you have a penchant for standing out from the crowd on something gloriously evocative, then historic Italian company FB Mondial have the perfect solution in the attractive Sport Classic, also known as the Pagani 1948.

While the cowled front fairing and porthole headlight might make this more ‘cafe racer’ than out-and-out sportsbike, the Sport Classic is rooted in FB Mondial’s rich heritage of World Championship-winning racers of the 40s and 50s.

The Sport Classic - available with either a 125 or 300cc engine -  looks and feels like a quality product too with neat touches, such as raised tank badges and stylish short exhausts.

The 300cc version feels more mature and refined, even if it doesn’t quite tally with the grandeur of its exterior, but while the Piaggio-sourced 125cc might be a touch too nostalgic for a younger buyer seeking something trendy, nothing else in this sector offers more charm..

7 - CFMoto 300SR [£4,099]

Of the many Chinese manufacturers making in-roads into European markets, CFMoto has been the most pro-active and impressive thus far, with its entry-level sportsbike - the 300SR - a confident offering in a competitive sector.

A company with strong ties to a number of manufacturers, the CFMoto 300SR is something of a mongrel with its Kawasaki engine and KTM mechanicals, while it has even made use of the Austrian firm’s preferred stylist, Kiska, to give it a distinctive and - in our eyes - attractive finish.

It isn’t terribly sophisticated and one can tell it hasn’t gotten hold of the ‘newest’ parts from the Kawasaki bin, but the 29bhp engine is eager and revvy, while the 300SR tackles bends with gusto.

While the fit and finish of Chinese-built motorcycles haven’t inspired confidence in the past, the 300SR feels solidly put together, certainly enough to justify the £4,099 price that puts it well below the equivalent Yamaha and Kawasaki.  

6 - KTM RC390 / RC125 [£5,649 / £5,049]

KTM may have ducked out of the big sportsbike segment - for now, at least - but its smallest offerings, the KTM RC390 and RC125 are still going strong.

Satisfying the demand for its distinctive, low capacity offerings alongside the Duke and Adventure, the RC390/RC125 twins received a much needed update for 2022 with revised styling, tweaks under the skin and more generous gadgetry.

A re-designed nose and sculpted fairing gives the RC pair a more angular appearance than before, while KTM has sharpened performance on the road with 44bhp engine making the most of the well balanced handling. 

It’s also surprisingly sophisticated for such a small motorcycle with WP Apex suspension and slick quickshifter giving the RC390 and RC125 a premium feel… which is just as well because at a respective £5,649 and £5,049, it commands a fairly hefty price premium.

5 - Kawasaki Ninja 125 [£4,199]

Its red - or rather - green blooded ZX-10R/RR is a multiple WorldSBK title-winning superstar, so it stands to reason its concentrated Ninja 125 little brother has received some similarly impressive hand-me-downs.

Lightweight and easy-to-ride, the Ninja 125 does a good job of being both simple and involving depending on much you want to push on with its sprightly handling and eager engine.

It’s a fine looker too, especially when specified with the white, black and day-glo orange decals inspired by its race-bred cousin, so it’s no surprise the Ninja 125 is considered one of the trendier options out there.

Better still, at just over £4,000, it is great value for something so well built and engineered.

4 - Aprilia RS125 [£4,850]

Aprilia’s venerable baby sportsbike has been the poster boy of  he segment for decades, ever since its screaming, rev-happy two-strokes of the 1990s tore up the streets and in a haze of smoke and vapour.

Times have changed and today the smallest Aprilia in the range - the RS GP - is an altogether more sophisticated machine, one that draws inspiration from that most premium and honed of the big sportsbikes, the RSV4.

With 14.7bhp, inverted forks and top notch spec, the Aprilia RS125 is desirable, a looker with its distilled RSV4 touches and is sure to put a smile on your face.

You won’t get much change from £5,000 but if you can stretch to it, the Aprilia RS125 is almost neck-and-neck with the Yamaha R125 as the best 125cc sportsbike around.

3 - Yamaha R3 / Yamaha R125 [£5,000 / £5,950]

With a rich and illustrious history of sportbikes stretching back through the decades, Yamaha’s pedigree when it comes to honed racers-for-the-road needs no introduction.

Better still, Yamaha has bestowed upon us its skills and know-how across the board with everything from the flagship R1 to the mid-weight R6 sprinter, right down to its smallest offerings, the R3 and R125.

This ladder approach means buying even the R125 makes you feel like you belong in esteemed company, not least because Yamaha has done a good job tracing the handsome, understated looks of the R1 onto a smaller canvas.

As with every Yamaha, the R125 and R3 are well-engineered, thoughtfully designed and feel like quality products, which goes some way to helping justify the R125’s lofty price tag of £5,000, while the R3 - which offers 42PS to its sibling’s 15PS - is just under £1k more.

A characterful engine and involving dynamics complete a package that will have you feeling like Valentino Rossi in no time.

2 - Kawasaki Ninja 650 [£7,299]

Now, we’ll admit this is perhaps pushing the description of what a ‘budget’ sportsbike is and in reality the Kawasaki Ninja 650 rivals only itself here. 

However, while it is comfortably the most expensive sportsbike here at £7,299, you are getting a lot of motorcycle for your money… so if your budget can stretch to a bit more than the £5,000 that’d get you a top 125cc sportsbike, you could have a meaty 650cc instead.

A more accessible and less intimidating alternative to the snarling Kawasaki ZX-6R, the Ninja 650 combines the sensibilities of a tourer with the pulsating heart of a sportsbike, making it one of the most versatile, dual-personality motorcycles in the mid-range.

The modest design is livened by that familiar green livery, while the Ninja 650 feels every inch the quality product of a manufacturer that knows how to make a good sportsbike.

Indeed, the Ninja 650 feels composed and refined on the straight and narrow, but has a brisk turn of speed and corner when pushing on, helped along by Kawasaki’s punchy 68PS 649cc 

When you consider it falls into a similar range to that of the £8,400 Yamaha R7 and the £10,149 Aprilia RS660, it seems more appropriate to consider the Ninja 650 a value added option if 125 or 300 just doesn’t get the juices flowing.

1 - Honda CBR500R [£6,499]

There is something pleasingly conventional about the Honda CBR500R, largely because it’s actually very conventional in its approach.

Indeed, while motorcycles in the 125, 300 and 600 bracket are commonplace, Honda’s move to strike right down the middle with a trio of 500cc models puts them in their own class, one that borrows the benefits from both below and above to create a superbly rounded product.

The result is the practical Honda CB500F, the brilliant Honda CB500X and this, the sporty CBR500R.

Fulfilling the sportsbike brief without cutting the engine size down to a 300, the CBR500R is the milder-mannered and more usable sibling to the CBR650R. 

Don’t let that evaluation put you off though, for the CBR500R is all the better for it since it emboldens its well-judged engineering by being outrageously fun to ride, feel quicker than its 47bhp might suggest and stay as refined and composed as a much bigger Honda sportsbike.

Better still, when you consider its A2 compatibility, quality feel and the peace of mind that comes with owning a Honda, the £6,499 price tag makes the modest premium over smaller, slower and more basic 125 and 300cc rivals makes it a no-brainer if you can stretch to it.

Frankly, we’re surprised rivals haven’t been content allowing Honda to reap all the rewards of what a 500 can offer…