First Ride

First ride: Suzuki Inazuma 250F

If you can live with the styling (and price), Suzuki's Inazuma 250F makes a basic, fun all-rounder

I KNEW the Suzuki Inazuma 250F reminded me of something and then it came to me: Godzilla.

Remember the monster from the early films? Supposed to be scary but just silly, with a fat bum, legs and head? Look at the Inazuma 250F and tell me it doesn't share a touch of that disproportion and misalignment of shape.

When I saw one last year at the NEC bike show, a man from Suzuki politely described the styling as 'challenging'.

It's vaguely comical. And it was with a sense of comedy that my road test of the new-for-2015 model began. Despite having seen it before, I was astonished by the height of the handlebars when the mechanic wheeled the bike out of Suzuki's workshop.

The naked Inazuma 250, on which this is based, has clip-on bars mounted above the top yoke. On this new fully-faired Inazuma 250F, they have been swapped for a conventional, wide bar which rises more than six inches above the top yoke. It's completely incongruous with the ambitiously sporty paint scheme.

The suspension is soft and lightly damped. It's like riding on an under-inflated airbed.

The brakes are spongey and the single front disc and twin-pot sliding caliper lacks power. The span-adjustable lever needs a firm, four-fingered grip, and even then it lacks bite.

The parallel-twin engine is flexible and agreeable though. There isn't much below 6,000 rpm but it pulls earnestly and linearly between there and the 11,000rpm red line. Claimed peak power is 24hp and torque 16lbft.

The modest figures make the Inazuma 250F easily fast enough to keep up with traffic, even on the motorway. In sixth gear, an indicated 80mph equates to about 9,500rpm and the bike will hold the speed consistently with a bit left in the bank for a rainy day. It doesn't feel or sound particularly stressed. It's not vibey, aside from a tickle through the pegs.

An indicated 90mph is achievable. At that speed the Inazuma 250F still doesn't feel particularly stressed but the needle tells you it is, brushing the red line. It hits a rev limiter at about an indicated 92mph.

It also pulls well from 50mph in top, so there's no need to ring out the performance with frequent gear changes. Just sit back and relax.

The bars and fairing may look silly but they make the Inazuma 250F comfortable, with an upright riding position and good wind protection for the rider's body. It feels spacious for a 250, with good leg room, the rider's pegs positioned slightly closer to the front of the motorcycle than the seat.

It's pillion-friendly, with generous leg room for your passenger. The seat is very large and a single unit for rider and passenger...

In town, the Inazuma accelerates from a standstill quickly enough to leave traffic behind at the lights, although you'll be in the upper half of the rev range by the time you're off the clutch. The red line comes at 30mph in first.

Filtering is easy and the large mirrors stick out no further than the bars, giving good visibility with a narrow profile.

The steering lock is very wide and the Inazuma is extremely easy to manoeuvre across and between queuing cars. On a morning of gridlocked London traffic and brittle tempers during the recent tube strike, I did my 11-mile journey to work in the usual 40 minutes... maybe 42.

Fuel economy is exceptional. I got 77mpg, on a mix of roads, calculated from receipts.

The reason the Inazuma 250F makes a bad initial impression is because it is not the motorcycle it looks like it wants to be. It's like the kid who walks with a swagger to look tough. It wants to grow up into a sports bike but never will. It's a commuter, an all-round, basic motorcycle.

Once I'd accepted this fact, I rather liked the Inazuma. There is nothing wrong with the proposition simply of  two-wheeled travel, especially when it's comfortable and fast enough to take you hundreds of miles yet small and agile enough to slice through congestion.

When you stop being surprised by the comedy bouncy ride, it's actually quite good fun chucking the Inazuma around, putting your faith in the Roadwinner tyres and thrashing the friendly engine to overtake cars.

For a while I even forgot about the other glaring issue: it's not just the looks that over-ambitious. The price is too.

Good, basic two-wheeled travel should come at a good, basic price. At £3,999 plus on-the-road charges, the Inazuma 250F is only £350 cheaper than Kawasaki's Z300, which is so much more besides. The Inazuma 250F is only £800 less than Yamaha's R3. They're very different machines but everything about this Chinese-built Suzuki says the price gap should be bigger. Look how the inner fairing doesn't quite fit. Ugly foam fills a large gap around the clocks. Does this really cost only 10% less than a Z300 to produce?

At £3,500 I could recommend the Inazuma 250F. At £4,000, I need a better reason not to take a punt on Daelim's VJF250 RoadSport instead. It's a single-cylinder, not a twin, but it's as fast and flexible as the the Inazuma 250F. Like the Suzuki it's good, basic, fun and practical transport but it only costs £2,799 on the road and it doesn't remind me of Godzilla.

Model tested: Suzuki Inazuma 250F

Price: £3,999

Engine: 248cc, liquid-cooled twin cylinder

Power: 24hp @ 8,500rpm

Torque: 16lbft @ 6,500rpm

Kerb weight: 187kg

Tank capacity: 13.3 litres (2.9 gallons)

Fuel economy (on a mix of roads, calculated from receipts): 77mpg

Seat height: 780mm

Colours: blue and white/black

Availability: now

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