In decades past, there was a gigantic push towards higher and higher displacement as the only way to produce more exciting, more powerful, and faster motorcycles. However, in the past few years, manufacturers have realized that you can still make exciting, fast, and powerful bikes with lower displacement through clever engineering and technology.
In 2020, we riders are spoiled with choice. Nearly every manufacturer has a bike with less than 350cc’s that will excite all your senses or a small motorcycle in the physical sense of the word for fun bombing around some side streets. Today, we bring you 8 of our favorites for the 2020 model year.
#8: 2020 Honda GROM
Small in both size and displacement, the 2020 Honda GROM is a perfect example of a small bike that gives massive enjoyment. It’s a bit comical as an idea of a mini bike with a 125cc single, but we have yet to see anyone get off a GROM without a massive grin plastered on their face under the helmet.
It won’t break any speed records, it’s good to only about 50 MPH, but it also won’t break the bank like a few of the bikes on this list might. Lastly, it’s a Honda, so you can probably thrash the thing to no end and it’ll just keep running.
#7: 2020 Kawasaki Versys-X 300
Labeled as a “city adventurer,” Kawasaki places its 2020 Versys-X 300 as mostly an on-road adventure bike. That’s not to say that it won’t go off-road at all, nor that it is in any way a weak bike.
What sets it apart from most bikes in the adventure market is its low seat height at 32 inches. This allows both tall and short riders the opportunity to swing a leg over and go for a fun romp around the city streets.
#6: Honda CRF250L Rally
We love the 2020 Honda CRF250L Rally. Inspired by the larger CRF450L Rally, the 250 version brings fun adventure touring to the small displacement crowd. It also brings pedigree in a huge way, as the CRF450L Rally and the Africa Twin adventure bikes were the inspiration for Honda’s 2020 Dakar Rally winning challenger.
Capable of handling serious off-roading and smooth on-road operation, it packs 249.6cc’s of thumping fun. The grin you wear riding this may have some dirt and rocks between your teeth, but that’s the point.
#5: 2020 Yamaha MT-03
In the world of small displacement motorcycles, the 2020 Yamaha MT-03 is a brand new model entering the fray. While the older FZ-03 models were well known, this new model has doubled down on the new parts. The engine is an inline twin borrowed from the YZF-R3 and reworked to have more street-friendly characteristics. The bike has a completely redesigned rear end and swingarm. It gets brand new upside-down forks at the front.
The only reason it does not place higher on the list is the fact that it has the only issue known about the YZF-R3 engine: fuel mileage. The MT-03, despite the tuning efforts by Yamaha’s engineers, does suffer a bit of fuel greed. However, if the counterpoint to that is a powerful, torquey engine that likes to be revved out… I think we can live with it.
#4: 2020 Honda Rebel 300
Honda seems to be locked in on the small displacement market, and the 2020 Rebel 300 is just another feather in their cap. Designed from the outset to be a great introductory motorcycle as well as a great small displacement bike, the Rebel 300 is easily approachable and endlessly fun.
In the 2020 model, Honda has added a slipper and assist clutch, reducing clutch level pressure by 30% and prevent rear-end skids during downshifts, which can be a little hard to control on a cruiser. Also, we really like the LED headlight design, with a retro round like look but modern LED power.
#3: 2020 Suzuki GSX250R
A nearly perfect bike for the small displacement crowd, the 2020 Suzuki GSX250R is one of the best sports bikes you can get. It will tour happily through some mountain roads or canyon twisties, it will carve corners on the track, and it will get you to work and back on your daily commute.
As well, because the clip-on handlebars are raised and pushed slightly to the back of the bike, it is comfortable as a sporty standard that is ready to respond to you. Add on to that the pedigree that Suzuki has as both a manufacturer and with their racing teams, and you can be sure you’re on a great bike.
#2: 2020 Honda CB300R
It is rare that a motorcycle can come along and steal a crown from a perennial favorite. However, Honda’s 2020 CB300R takes the throne away from the Kawasaki Z300, nearly two years after the Z300 ended production. Like its predecessor it has shoved off the throne, the CB300R is a perfect combination of edgy styling, great power, superb agility, and undeniable reliability.
The fact that it will also commute without breaking a sweat, and easily cruise at freeway speeds just adds to its all-around appeal. The cherry on top is that it’s a gas sipper, usually getting 180 to 250 miles to a 2.7 US gallon tank.
#1: 2020 Yamaha YZF-R3
Since this list is all about engineering, technology, and deriving the maximum potential thereof, no other bike could possibly take the #1 spot. Yamaha’s YZF-R3, much like its bigger R6 and R1 brothers, constantly evolves, year after year.
For the 2020 year, the R3 has lost a little weight over the 2019 version, but otherwise uses the same 321cc inline twin engine that screams out 50 HP up to a 12,500 RPM redline. If you’re looking for the single best low displacement supersport bike, there really only is one option, and Yamaha is calling your name.