Hello from Southern Illinois...
My name is Patrick, I am 54 years old, retiring from my position as a lead custodian with the local school district... living with my 21 year old daughter who is a university junior in a pre-med tech program. I am currently receiving retirement bonuses and refunds of previous the MSF course in 2008 on a new Buell 500 cc, which I kept for 3 seasons; then trading to a 2010 Honda Sh150i for 5 seasons.
I am now looking at the Honda, Kawasaki, and Yamaha 300 cc sport bikes... leaning toward the Ninja and YZF.
Joined forums for both models, and researching what my purchase will be.
I have to agree with your assessment. I have always been a Honda & Yamaha guy, and my older borther was always a Suzuki GSXR guy (R.I.P. bro). I had a 1992 Yamaha FZR600 from 1995-2004, and a 2003 Honda CBR600RR from 2004-2015!
Now, I love Honda's, and they've made a nice bunch of light middleweight bikes-CB300F to the CBR300R to the CB500's. however, the CBR300R is a single cylinder. It is reliable, beautiful, and rides and handles well but just doesn't have the top end or quick juice to get out of bad situations.
If you want to get something just ready, kind of a "turn key" bike, you can look at the KTM RC390. It has a lot of advanced tech on such an affordable bike. If you're not going to spruce up your bike with aftermarket parts like a full exhaust, rear shock, fuel injection controller, etc, it is a bike to consider.
When I was looking myself, I considered the KTM, but it really came down to the Ninja 300 or R3. The Ninja 300 has a slipper clutch and in the beginning of 2015 when the R3's came out, the Ninja 300's could boast of having a huge aftermarket part segment to choose from. Outside, of having a KX125< i've never had another Kawasaki and considered them less reliable or more finicky machines. IN the past, their maintenance intervals were far shorter than other bikes, which was a negative to me. But the Ninja300 is a solid machine. You really can't go wrong.
Based on the DNA of the R1 and R6's success came the R3, and for its first 300 iteration, Yamaha hit the ball out of the park, which was a consensus among most reviewers be it bloggers or bike sites or magazines. The "experts" loved it from the get go. So I decided upon the R3 after lots of research and couldn't be happier. And a little under a year later after they finally shipped, there is a huge aftermarket parts segment for it. There is so much available already to trick it out to the point, its like a mini middleweight race bike.
Either way, you can't go wrong. I'd go with either the R3 or Ninja, but the RC390 deserves some consideration. However, if you do not plan on doing any maintenance and want a KTM dealer to do the maintenance for you, there are not as many KTM dealerships around, obviously.
My 2 cents.