First Ride: 2012 Suzuki Inazuma 250 review

Suzuki’s new commuter twin is a return to innocence

THE long-neglected lower end of the non-learner motorcycle market is now starting to properly simmer, with Suzuki’s new Inazuma 250 turning up to the Honda CBR250R and Kawasaki Ninja 300 party.

Compared to the other two sporty-looking bikes, you might be tempted to call it the Suzuki Unazzuming. Indeed, Suzuki announced its arrival to the public via a small picture on their website, and the media launch was one of the most low-key in a while. But that very simplicity and lack of frills is, in fact, the USP of the bike.

Lots of people ride small-capacity bikes and scooters to work everyday year-round and if your commute is not mostly a motorway blast, 250s are a good enough balance of enough power to not be left in the urban dust, four-limb involvement for a spot of fun, and low running costs and insurance. But it’s still an easy trap to dismiss them as not being big or sexy enough.

So to get into the right mental zone for this test, I undertook the most rigorous preparation possible: I commuted by public transport for a fortnight. Two dozen Tube, Overground and bus journeys later, I was not only considerably lighter around the wallet area, but far more sleep-deprived, weatherbeaten and frustrated. But I was also ready, nay, gagging, to jump on the Inazuma. That morning, as the key went into the barrel, the sun seemed brighter and the gleaming little twin represented freedom.

Though ‘just’ a 250, the Inazuma is a substantial-looking bike. Unashamedly copying the lines of the 1340cc B-King, the Inazuma looks muscular enough to demand a second glance. Even though its engine is a fraction of the B-King’s in size, it doesn’t look weedy, managing to pack the chassis in a fairly respectably.

The jury’s out on the ‘shoulder pads’ housing the indicators and bulking out the front, though – they look okay from afar, but look wierder the closer you go. The bulky theme continues with the oversized front mudguard and higher-than-average-profile front tyre. And while the headlight’s bug-eyed looks make for a face only the B-King could love, it does have a strong, wide throw of light.

Twin exhausts are a classic look – though on the flipside you’re guaranteed to damage at least one if you have a prang. They also steal a few inches from a tight parking slot (been to Westminster lately?).

Sat on the Inazuma, it feels big enough. Though at 5’7” I’m a certified shortarse, I still expected both my feet to be flat on the ground, but my heels were just a few mm off the ground, thanks to the width of the seat rather than its 780 mm height. For pillions, that width translates to comfort, but for me, as a short rider, it was a minor gripe. Anyone 5’8” or above will be fine, though.

Looking over the 13.3-litre tank (and those shoulder pads), the straight, high clip-ons and comprehensive instrument console (digital gear indicator, digital speedometer, etc), it feels like a bigger bike, not only physically but also in terms of build quality, with plenty of aluminium bits. Budget bike it may be, but it really doesn’t look or feel cheap at all.

Starting up and setting off is underwhelming; with a soft, airy engine note and a short first gear, you want to change up to second almost immediately. The 248cc, liquid-cooled, parallel-twin engine is not very interested in life below 4,000 rpm. Though the first two gears will take it up to 30 and 50 mph respectively if you’re the redlining kind, under more normal usage, you’d either want to burble along sedately in second gear (which is comfortable for the 8-26 mph band) or try to maintain a bit more momentum, in which case the rowing between the bottom three gears in dense city traffic can get tiring after a while. It's a good thing the clutch action is ultra light and the gearbox smooth. 

The important thing, from the point of view of a commuter machine, is that the Inazuma never feels overwhelming or intimidating. The riding position is natural and the power delivery predictable, and thanks to the bike’s visual heft, other motorists give you a bit more ‘proper biker’ respect, which always helps.

On clearer stretches and on open roads, the Inazuma becomes a bit of a ’Zuma, zipping along merrily as it gets a chance to flaunt its 24.6 bhp. Between 5,000 and 8,000 rpm is when it’s on song, and staying in that zone using fourth and fifth gears makes progress down A-roads briskly satisfying. Sure, motorways are not the natural environment for a 250, but it’ll sit at 70 mph quite comfortably all day in sixth gear. Right up to the 85 mph indicated top, the 183 kg Inazuma feels stable and planted. Of course, being a naked, it’s your comfort levels against windblast that will determine how sustained your higher-speed journeys are.

Given the bike’s purpose, it’s unsurprising that handling is decent but not brilliant. The softly-sprung Inazuma is happier soaking up bumps than hustling through corners; that said, the RoadWinner tyres that seem to be par for the class are grippy enough to retain confidence on winding country roads at 60-65mph. The 290 mm front disc does enough to keep you out of the way of idiots who don’t understand the purpose of turn signals, but a few dabs of the rear 240 mm disc are often called for as well. An ABS option would not go amiss.

Economy being one of the key planks of a commuter machine, the Inazuma is frugal with fuel. Despite a fair bit of thrashing, including motorway stints and lots of redlining for speed runs, it returned us 140 miles from 10 litres of fuel, or 63 mpg. It would certainly give a more mindful owner 70-75 mpg, for a real-world tank range of about 220 miles. The fuel warning indicator comes on quite early, with a good 50 miles left in the tank, so don’t panic when you see you’re down to one flashing bar.

Finally, what’ll it cost you to ride away on an Inazuma? A £3,408 tag makes the Suzuki offering the cheapest major-brand 250 around, on par with the Hyosung GT250 (£3,399) and £548 less than the non-ABS CBR250R (though you do get a fairing for the extra dosh). For anyone looking for a cheap and uninhibited way to commute, the Inazuma 250 is a sound introduction to the simple joys of motorcycling. 

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