Top 10s

Top 10 BEST Budget Sports Bikes of 2020

Full-fat Sports Bikes are the dream but there are excellent value options fraction of the price too - these are the best Budget Sports Bikes of 2020

It’s easy to assume that, going by the latest superbikes, with their sophisticated electronics and cycle parts, mind-warping 200bhp+ performance and, often, the £20K price tags to match, that most sports bikes are out of reach for those with more modest budgets.

But while that’s true of the crème de la crème, machines like BMW’s latest S1000RR, Ducati’s glorious V4 Panigale and even the latest and greatest from Japan, such as Honda’s new £20K Fireblade, there are still plenty of machines with sporty attitudes and racy full fairings that can give a great introduction to sports bikes and that can cost for as little as under £4K new. 

And we’re not talking about 125s either. Don’t believe us? Here’s our pick of the Top 10 new budget sports bikes currently available…

Honda vs Kawasaki | Kawasaki Ninja 650 vs Honda CBR650R | Visordown.com

10 - Lexmoto LXR 380 (from £3699)

The latest from best-selling budget brand Lexmoto, whose bikes are designed in Europe but built in China, is also their biggest yet for a marque that has plied its trade on offering affordable 50s and 125s. The LXR 380 is not only the largest but the most powerful bike the brand has so far produced, marrying a new liquid-cooled, parallel twin engine built by Zongshen with the existing tubular steel trellis chassis and sporty bodywork from Lexmoto’s LXR 125. 

As such it has sporty-looking inverted forks and twin wavy front discs, a six-speed gearbox and produces a claimed A2-licence compliant 40bhp at 9000rpm, which the firm says is good enough to result in a top speed of 91mph and return 80mpg. 

That might not quite match up to the performance of, say, Kawasaki’s Ninja 400, but with that bike almost £2000 more expensive, this is a worthy entry point for those on a budget.

9 - Suzuki GSX250R (from £4299)

If we’re being brutally honest, the GSX250R, as introduced in 2017, is a bit ‘all mouth and no trousers’ – in other words, more show than go. That’s because, despite being a 250cc twin it’s actually derived from the conspicuously lacklustre 250 Inazuma commuter and so produces a fairly weedy 25bhp (remember when Suzuki 250 twins, ie the RGV, produced around 60bhp? How times change…). 

But if your journeys don't require that top end oomph and you take into account the GSX costs well over a grand less than most rivals, maybe it doesn’t matter. 

What the GSX does do is: look every inch the mini-MotoGP bike is its Team Suzuki blue livery; prove itself to be a doddle to ride for A2 newbies or those stepping up from a 125; give a credible introduction to sports bike handling and riding posture and prove very cheap to run by returning around 80mpg. 

So if you don't mind it looking the part more than demonstrating it, the Suzuki GSX250R is still a worthy addition to the class.

8 - KTM RC390 (from £5299)

Now we’re starting to get talking. Austrian dirt-bike experts KTM are nothing if not performance driven and despite their off-road and adventure heritage are now starting to take sports bikes by storm, too – as its recent wins in MotoGP prove. 

However, following the untimely demise of the RC8, its sportsbike offerings have been limited to the RC390 - its fully-faired version of the 390 Duke single-cylinder supermoto - a machine that admittedly is getting long in the tooth but is due for a big update in the next few months.

Until then, however, the recipe remains as tempting as ever, namely: a punchy, 44bhp, single cylinder motor; ultra-compact and light tubular trellis chassis adapted from that of the RC125; decent quality cycle parts (ie wheels, brakes and suspension) and… that’s about your lot. 

The result is Moto3-style slim and compact (so steer clear, taller chaps); ultra-light and punchy performance and incredibly instant and nimble handling. Smaller capacity, lightweight sports bikes don’t get any more nimble, in fact, and, if you fit, it’s an absolute hoot to ride and a great introduction to sports riding.

7 - Yamaha R3 (from £5548)

When it comes to sub-500cc, A2-licence compliant sports bikes there seems to be two schools of thought – ultra lightweight single cylinder machines such as KTM’s RC390, or more meaty, substantial and rev-hungry twins, such as Kawasaki’s Ninja 400 or, here, Yamaha’s R3. The R3 was first introduced in 2015 alongside the MT-03 roadster, received its first major update in 2019 and is intended as an A2-compliant stepping-stone between Yamaha’s A1 YZF-R125 and its four-cylinder R6 600. 

It does that job well, too. It looks great, being every inch the ‘mini-Rossi replica’, without being extreme or impractical; is relatively easy and straightforward to ride; its clean-revving, 321cc parallel twin delivers a respectable 41bhp to a throaty soundtrack and the improved suspension and sportier riding position delivers an engaging, sweet-handling experience that’s a great introduction to sports bikes. As a first taste of sports bikes, there are few better…

6 - Ducati SuperSport (from £11,995)

OK, a 12 grand Ducati may be stretching the definition of ‘budget bike’ somewhat, but as the SuperSport is intended as an introductory bike to Ducati sports machines - rather than sportsbikes, per se - we still thought it worth a mention here. 

The SuperSport was introduced in 2017 as a real-world, road sports machine and also as the cheapest sports bike in Ducati’s line up. It’s powered by a retuned, 113bhp version of the 937cc V-twin from the Hypermotard fitted in a chassis that, while typical Ducati quality, is also more upright and unintimidating than the Bologna firm’s more hard-core sportsters. The result, unless you’re a track day fiend or racer, is actually probably all the Ducati sports bike you ever need. 

It’s brisk and characterful, sweet handling yet practical, sporty and yet still comfortable – and more than anything, affordable. Sort of. A real every day Ducati, in fact. And if you want a little bit more, there’s also the uprated S version with improved Ohlins suspension and quickshifter, for around £1500 more. 

Sure, this may be no true cheap sportster for the first-time rider, but it is the tempting entry point to Ducati's vast range of full-fat sportsbikes if your budget stretches into five figures. Moreover, an update could be on the way meaning great bargains could well be had...

5 - Kawasaki Ninja 400 (from £5599)

Arguably even more desirable than Yamaha’s R3, the Ninja 400 has a long pedigree in the junior sports bike class and a proven track (and road) record. The free-revving twin’s lineage can be dated all the way back to the Ninja 250R of 2008. That bike became the Ninja 300 in 2012, which, with its sharper looks and extra performance quickly gained a reputation as a ’mini ZX-6R’. 

That bike got a thorough update to become the Ninja 400 in 2018, complete with sharper-still ZX-10R-esque looks (even with a racer replica paintjob option), a power boost to 44bhp thanks to capacity now being 399cc, improved chassis and more. 

Though direct, involving, brisk and entertaining, it’s practical and easy, too. It’s sprinkled with quality touches and it looks the bees’ knees. Sub-500cc Japanese sports bikes simply don’t get any sexier.

4 - Honda CBR500R (from £6149)

Now here’s a slightly controversial one, but bear with me. Honda’s all-new, A2-specific three-strong family of 500cc twins was first launched in 2014 comprising the CB500F roadster, CB500X adventure-styled bike and this, the sports variant. All have been updated repeatedly since, most recently in 2019, and have proven hugely successful. 

A large part of the reason for that is their shared 471cc 47bbhp parallel twin powerplants which, by fully exploiting the classification (the rival Kawasaki and Yamaha twins aren’t as big or powerful) makes them the best performing – easy and flexible for novices but also with all the ‘top end’ rules allow. 

The chassis, too, errs on the safe and novice-friendly side of sports but the 2019 update sharpened its looks considerably to look more like a mini-Fireblade, its quality and spec was also improved and the handling is an easy joy that even more experienced riders will be entertained by through the twisties. 

The CBR might not have quite the poster bike appeal of the Ninja 400, but it’s a better all round ride for more people.

3 - Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R (from £9699)

Again, along with the Ducati SuperSport, this is arguably stretching the very definition of ‘budget’. But as the latest version of Kawasaki’s supersport is also by far the cheapest of the surviving, four-cylinder, 600cc supersport breed, it’s earned its place. 

Supersport 600s always used to be the more affordable, practical stepping stone to full-on, 1000cc superbikes and the same is still true today. This latest version of Kawasaki’s long-lived ZX-6R (the model dates all the way back to 1995) was last updated in 2019, and, at well under £10K, is by far the best-value of the surviving supersport 600s – Yamaha’s offering, the latest R6, for example, now chimes in at over £12K! 

For that you get screaming four-cylinder thrills, a full 128bhp, 160mph potential, top-notch fully-adjustable suspension and quality brakes, a decent spread of electronics including two riding modes, and more. Handling is sublime and the overall experience every inch the ‘junior ZX-10R’. 

On the downside, £10K is still a fair bit of money, it’s tiny and cramped, especially for larger riders, and has limited practicality. But if you want a more affordable alternative to the full-on superbike experience, there is another option (see below...)

2 - Honda CBR650R (from £7949)

If you’re after an affordable bike that’s also a decent sportster and a practical all-rounder, they don’t come any better than Honda’s latest CBR650R as most recently updated in 2019. Simply: it’s the only four-cylinder sports bike that’s available at a budget price. 

Introduced as the CBR600F in 2011 and based on 90bhp Hornet roadster mechanicals but with a full fairing and more sporting attitude, it was Honda’s attempt to revive the spirit of the original 1990s CBR600F which achieved a brilliant blend of practicality, sporting entertainment and affordability – which is why it sold so well. 

The modern version recreates that recipe well, even though the sporting bar has been raised in the meantime by ultra-focused, more compromising supersports machines such as Yamaha’s R6. Further updates came in 2014 (to 650cc) and 2017 (extra power and other refinements) and in 2019 was renamed as the CBR650R and gained Fireblade mimicking styling. 

It’s proved a huge success, too, recreating that mix of fun, practicality and value that served the original so well. The difference now is it has literally no four-cylinder rivals. So, if you’re on a budget and want a new four-cylinder honed sports bike, even though the CBR is a little soft and novice-friendly, there really is only one!

1 - Kawasaki Ninja 650 (from £6899)

If Kawasaki’s full-on, four-cylinder ZX-6R is still too much, both as an experience and to buy, thankfully ‘Special K’ has an affordable, more easy-going alternative – but one that still gives plenty of sport bike thrills. 

The twin cylinder, novice-friendly but still 67bhp Ninja 650 has been updated again for 2020 and is the latest version of what started out as the faired ER-6F way back in 2005. 

Three major updates and a name change since it’s now effectively a more grown up, better equipped and sharper-looking CBR500R. It’s 647cc twin cam twin loves revs, is decently brisk and is still the basis for nearly all TT minitwins racers. Its chassis, while nowhere near as extreme and focussed as the ZX-6R, can still be pleasantly hustled yet remains practical and comfortable, too. 

While, best of all, this latest update gives it a more modern dash, revised styling, which apes even closer the ZX-10R, and a throatier exhaust. As an accessible, affordable and stylish step up the sports bike ladder, they don’t get much better than this.
 

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