this would make an excellent learner's 250.
i don't know about the rebels, but i do know that i've always been impressed with the quality honda puts into their motorcycles, even the budget minded models. i do know a rebel 250 won't be fast, will sip gas and is probably going to be very cheap to insure. i can't imagine parts being expensive either. only thing i would do differently is buy a bike that doesn't need any work. you want to ride, not wrench, trust us. even if you think it's a "small project", unless you 100% know you can tackle it within a certain time frame for a certain budget i wouldn't touch it.
what year ninja 250 did you ride? my pre-gen feels just like any ole' UJM, feels just like my old cb450. the new-gen model feels a bit sportier and i found it to be uncomfortable too.