2023 KAWASAKI KX450: FULL TEST

In 2019 Kawasaki officially dropped the “F” and introduced an all-new KX450 to the market, receiving praise from most of the motocross community. In the following three years, minor changes were made to the overall platform, but Kawasaki stayed very conservative, not wanting to mess with a good thing. Kawasaki’s new-generation KX450 has never dominated any specific category, but the overall package has been successful. The 2023 model features no changes. Considering that completely new 450cc motocross machines are being released from the competition, is Kawasaki being too conservative?

 

Managing editor Mark Tilley displacing some SoCal terra firma aboard the 2023 KX450 for Ron Lawson’s Nikon camera.


THE GOODS

The chassis returns with an aluminum perimeter frame that features forged, extruded and cast parts while using the engine itself as a stressed member, adding to the frame’s rigidity balance. The swingarm is constructed of a cast front section and twin, tapered, hydro-formed spars with pivot points that focus on center of gravity for balanced handling. Once again Kawasaki uses Showa suspension components on the KX450, with a 49mm coil spring fork with A-kit technology and DLC-coated tubes up front, a Uni-Trak linkage system and Showa shock, also featuring A-Kit technology just like the fork. Braking components are still Nissin with a 270mm petal shape, a Braking rotor up front and a 250mm (largest in the class) version from Braking in the rear.

 

POSITIVES:

  • Easy-to-use power
  • Hydraulic clutch
  • Side-access airbox
  • Electric start
  • Strong brakes
  • High-quality handlebars

NEGATIVES:

  • Weak subframe, rear pipe mount
  • No on-the-fly map switch
  • Loud muffler
Kawasaki was the first Japanese manufacturer to incorporate the use of a hydraulic clutch, and now the others are following suit.

 

Since the introduction of the latest 450 engine in 2019, very minor changes have been made, the most interesting being the introduction of a coned disc or Belleville spring clutch (similar to what has been used by European manufactures for many years) actuated by hydraulic clutch components from Nissin.

Adjustability, as in previous years, is a big part of the 2023 KX450, with adjustable handlebar mounting positions offering two mounting holes with 35mm of adjustability. The 180-degree offset clamps give the rider four different mounting points to choose from. There are also two different footpeg mounting positions—stock and 5mm lower—to suit different-size riders. Graphics are still molded into the plastics, but have been ever so slightly updated for 2021. No major styling changes were made. The bike uses the same plastics that were introduced back in 2019.

2023 KAWASAKI KX450

  • Engine type: Electric-start, four-valve DOHC, four-stroke
  • Displacement: 449cc
  • Bore & stroke: 96.0mm x 62.1mm
  • Fuel delivery: 44mm Keihin EFI
  • Fuel tank capacity: 1.6 gal.
  • Transmission: 5-speed
  • Lighting coil: No
  • Spark arrestor: No
  • EPA legal: No
  • Weight, no fuel: 234 lb.
  • Wheelbase: 58.5”
  • Ground clearance: 13.4”
  • Seat height: 37.4”
  • Front tire: Dunlop MX33S 80/100-21
  • Rear tire: Dunlop MX33S 120/80-19
  • Fork: Showa 49mm, adj. rebound, comp./12.0”
  • Shock: Showa, piggyback, adj.  preload, comp., rebound/12.0”
  • Country of origin: Japan
  • Price: $9299
  • Importer www.kawasaki.com
Unchanged for 2023, the KX450 returns with a proven platform.

 

OVERALL PACKAGE

As we have said before, Kawasaki’s KX450 is one of those rare cases where the overall package performs better than any individual feature of the machine. The KX450 is still not the fastest or most exciting to ride. It doesn’t handle the best, and it doesn’t have bold, new styling. What the KX450 does is perform well in all types of situations for a wide variety of riding styles. Kawasaki still utilizes the same relatively simple coupler system for mapping changes, but in a world of on-the-fly mapping changes, this technology is outdated. If you are looking for all the latest bells and whistles, the KX450 might not be your first choice, but if proven technology and a rider-friendly package are what you are looking for, the 2023 KX450 might be a wise purchase.

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