Road Test: VFR800 VTEC vs. ZZ-R1200 vs. FAZER 600

Three different bikes, three different prices and three different ways to sports, tour and commute. These bikes are living proof that in the world of motorcycling, you can indeed have your cake, take it to the South of France and eat it...

Posted: 21 April 2008
by Bertie Simmonds, Gus Scott, Simon Bowen, Daryll Young

With the budget Fazer 600, the luxurious Honda VFR800, and the vast Kawasaki ZZ-R1200 you have three slightly different takes on the do-it-all theme. And by do-it-all, we're talking here about bikes that can sports, tour and commute in equal measure.

They'll take you solo through the bends with a smile on your face wider than the Nile. Then, when the holiday season shows up you can chuck some luggage and a passenger on the back and head for the sun. The daily commute's a doddle too thanks to Japanese build quality and fairly frugal fuel consumption figures - providing you have puritanical control of your right wrist.

The Fazer FZS600 has been around since 1998, meaning used examples fall into the sub-three grand bracket. It's a gem of a bike with features you'd expect to see on a bigger machine - two trips, fuel gauge, clock, underseat storage, a proper pillion perch, unburstable (ex-Thundercat) motor with near perfect carburation and decent build quality.

So good was the original back in '98 that the only changes since have been a bigger fuel tank in 2000 (making 160 miles before reserve a regular possibility) and then sleeker bodywork and an even bigger tank. It's little wonder the Fazer sits near the top of this year's best sellers list.

The VFR meanwhile has been around since 1986 and has been the definitive do-it-all bike ever since, featuring a smooth V4 motor with a unique sound and build quality to die for - even now the last of the 750 versions go for three or four grand, while the first of the 800s start around £4,500.

This latest version takes the VFR back to its roots with radical new styling (thankfully the single-sided swingarm stays) and a complete chassis and engine makeover. There's also Honda's patented VTEC system in there too which gives a performance kick in the pants at 7,000rpm. Sales figures show it's still a favourite too, with 1,250 finding their way out of dealers already this year.

The ZZ-R has been around almost as long. The original 1100 was launched back in 1990, undergoing a major overhaul in '93 and then remaining pretty much the same, until the birth of the 1200 incarnation this year.

Pre-'93 models will be pretty scruffy by now as the ZZ-R's weight and power combo puts its components under some serious abuse, but the post '93 models are much better put together, as well as having a twin-ram-air snout which made them the fastest things on the road until the advent of Honda's Blackbird in '97.

For 2002, Kawasaki moved the ZZ-R away from their own ZX-12R and made it more of a (very fast) sports tourer than a flagship missile, and it seems to be working because despite not being in the showrooms until late March this year it's already shifted 400 units.

So we took them for a day's thrash through Northamptonshire, put in the commuting miles for a couple of weeks, loaded them with all the luggage we could find and revved the nuts off them whenever we got the chance. And here's what we reckoned... Bertie

Click to continue to the Yamaha Fazer 600 review

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