I've pondered good starter bikes for some friends and my brother recently and on my short list are most of the mentioned bikes: Ninja 500 and 250, Bandit, etc.
The one other bike that comes to mind is the Buell Blast, since I completed the MSF course on it. It is small and low to the ground, cheap if you buy them slightly used (dime a dozen), the power is, how should I say... not intimidating, but adequate for a new rider. Pretty sure they are somewhat reliable, too.
Just my 2 cents