2020 Kawasaki KLX230 First Ride Review

First test of Kawasaki’s all-new small-bore dual sport.

Riding the 2020 Kawasaki KLX230 in Jacksonville, Oregon.
Riding the 2020 Kawasaki KLX230 in Jacksonville, Oregon.Kevin Wing

Kawasaki introduced a new dual sport motorcycle to its KLX lineup for 2020 with its KLX230. The concept for the bike when designing it from the ground up was to create a light, maneuverable, and powerful dual-purpose bike, with usage intended to be 40 percent in town such as neighborhoods and back roads, and 60 percent on unimproved country roads, dirt roads, and trails.

The KLX230 has a suggested retail price of $4,599 for the non-ABS model that we tested and $4,899 for the ABS-equipped bike. According to Kawasaki, a target customer of younger, less experienced riders who are on a budget and seeking a dual-purpose bike that is lightweight and easy to ride on the street and in the dirt. Plus, experienced street riders seeking a new off-road experience with a smaller-displacement bike that is easy to ride both on and off road.

2020 Kawasaki KLX230 Engine

The KLX230 is an all-new dual sport model in Kawasaki’s KLX lineup for 2020.
Left: The KLX230 is an all-new dual sport model in Kawasaki's KLX lineup for 2020. Right: The KLX230's powerband is similar to that of a trailbike with a linear power delivery and an impressive amount of torque for a small-bore four-stroke.Kevin Wing

The KLX230’s powerband is similar to that of a trailbike with a linear power delivery along with an impressive amount of torque for a small-bore four-stroke. It builds power consistently right off idle and up into the higher rpm. It reaches the rev limiter fairly quickly due to how well it pulls through each gear; in which case, shifting frequently is important, especially if you’re riding somewhat aggressively. Whether on or off road, the only time the engine’s small displacement is apparent is when climbing long, gradual ascents, and this is when the need to be in the proper gear is most important. On the pavement, the top speed we were able to reach while holding the throttle wide open in sixth gear was 75 mph.

2020 Kawasaki KLX230 Suspension

The Showa suspension offers superb bump absorption and does a commendable job of soaking up potholes, and providing comfort on washboarded dirt roads.
The Showa suspension offers superb bump absorption and does a commendable job of soaking up potholes, and providing comfort on washboarded dirt roads.Kevin Wing

The KLX230 comes with a nonadjustable Showa 37mm telescopic fork and a Showa shock that is adjustable for spring preload, which offer 8.7 inches and 8.8 inches of travel, respectively. Being that the bike is designed to be ridden on mostly fire roads, easier trails, and the street, both ends are on the soft side, namely the shock. The Showa components offer superb bump absorption and do a commendable job of soaking up potholes and providing comfort on washboarded dirt roads.

The only time the suspension’s soft setup becomes a minor issue is when riding bumpy trails, where the shock is susceptible to bottoming out on sudden impacts such as small G-outs. With no clicker adjustments on the shock, a stiffer spring rate would be the go-to option for those who intend to ride the bike in terrain rougher than beginner-level trails, fire roads, and the pavement.

2020 Kawasaki KLX230 Chassis/Handling

The KLX230 is plenty capable in stock trim and an ideal bike for a casual dual sport rider to use around town and explore mild trails and fire roads.
The KLX230 is plenty capable in stock trim and an ideal bike for a casual dual sport rider to use around town and explore mild trails and fire roads.Kevin Wing

Matching its easy-to-ride engine and supple suspension components is a neutral-handling chassis. The KLX230 is an easy bike to ride that is very predictable, yet reacts well to rider input by being easy to lean both in the dirt and on the street. Some of the KLX230’s nimble handling quality that can be attributed to its 54.3-inch wheelbase—which is only about 2 inches longer than the KLX140G trailbike. Despite its full-size 21-inch front and 18-inch rear wheel, the KLX230’s short wheelbase and more compact overall design makes it feel relatively small in comparison to a full-size dual sport bike like the KLX250. In no way is this a negative quality; it just means that it’s better suited to riders who stand less than 6 feet tall.

Like the KX motocross models, the KLX230 features agreeable ergonomics with a narrow radiator shroud area, flat seat, and comfortable rider position. The 240mm front and 220mm rear disc brakes both work well, providing ample yet predictable stopping capability. The dash display is also simple and easy to read with a speedometer, tripmeter, fuel gauge, clock, and indicator lamps. For those looking to modify their KLX230, Kawasaki Genuine Accessories offers a multitude of optional parts including black rims, a rear carrier, skid plate, frame covers, a tapered handlebar, handlebar pad (for the stock bar), hand guards, and a helmet lock.

2020 Kawasaki KLX230 Overall Impression

On the asphalt, the top speed we were able to reach while holding the throttle wide open in sixth gear was 75 mph.
On the asphalt, the top speed we were able to reach while holding the throttle wide open in sixth gear was 75 mph.Kevin Wing

With a user-friendly power delivery, comfort-oriented suspension, and a somewhat compact but comfortable cockpit, the KLX230 is an ideal bike for a casual dual sport rider to use around town and to explore trails and fire roads. While it's plenty capable in stock trim, more advanced-level or heavier riders who plan to ride it mostly off road could add stiffer spring rates to the fork and shock, and swap the stock tires out for DOT-approved knobbies to get even more performance out of the bike. All in all, Kawasaki did a great job of designing and building a bike that checks a lot of boxes in the dual sport category, and is enjoyable to ride regardless of whether you're on the dirt or the street.

Gearbox

The KLX230’s powerband is similar to that of a trailbike with a linear power delivery and an impressive amount of torque for a small-bore four-stroke.
The KLX230’s powerband is similar to that of a trailbike with a linear power delivery and an impressive amount of torque for a small-bore four-stroke.Kevin Wing

TECH SPEC

Being that the suspension is set up on the soft side, when riding bumpy trails, the shock is susceptible to bottoming out on sudden impacts such as small G-outs.
Being that the suspension is set up on the soft side, when riding bumpy trails, the shock is susceptible to bottoming out on sudden impacts such as small G-outs.Kevin Wing
PRICE $4,599
ENGINE 233cc, air-cooled, single-cylinder four-stroke
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/chain
MEASURED HORSEPOWER N/A
MEASURED TORQUE N/A
FRAME Steel perimeter
FRONT SUSPENSION Showa 37mm telescopic fork; 8.7-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Showa shock adjustable for spring preload; 8.8-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE 2-piston caliper, 240mm (non-ABS model); 265mm (ABS model) disc
REAR BRAKE 1-piston caliper, 220mm disc
WHEELBASE 54.3 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 34.8 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 2.0 gal.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 291 lb. (wet, non-ABS model); 293 lb. (wet, ABS model)
AVAILABLE Now
CONTACT kawasaki.com