First Ride

Suzuki Katana (2019) review

We were lucky enough to swing a leg over the new Suzuki Katana at the UK press launch – here’s what we found out!

Details
Manufacturer:
Suzuki
Category:
Modern Classics
Price:
£ 11399
Overall
3.5
Average: 3.5 (1 vote)

THE RETRO re-boot is alive and well in 2019, with most of the top manufacturers having a dabble with the concept; almost always with a fair amount of success. Suzuki’s Katana though is a slightly trickier proposition. All the other retro-remakes we’ve seen so far (Ducati Scrambler, Z900RS, CB1000R) didn’t quite have the same sized boots to fill that the new Katana does!

So, how does a manufacturer go about bringing a classic icon back from the dead? Suzuki’s answer is to take the frame, engine, and wheels from the GSX-S1000 to use as a base. Then get merry with the 80’s bodywork to create a modern take on one of the most iconic Japanese bikes of the 20th century.

Price, colours and availability

The new Katana comes in at £11,399 and is available in two colours, grey (as ridden) or metallic black. The bike is available to order now with pre-ordered bikes getting delivered to customers now.

Engine

The heart of the Katana is the 999cc unit from the K5 GSX-R1000. With a bespoke tune for the machine, it kicks out 150hp at 10,000rpm and 108Nm (80ft-lbs) at 9,500rpm. While those numbers don’t put the Katana in the same league as bikes like the MT10 or Tuono, they do provide more than enough shove to keep all but the most hardened adrenalin junkies happy.

With no riding modes to worry about and a proper throttle – cable, not fly-by-wire – the engine room of the Katana feels analogue, which I like. For a start, the connection with a cable operated throttle, in my mind at least, is always more direct and smooth than an electronic connection. But it also seems more in keeping with a bike that’s DNA can be traced back to a time where air-cooing, wobbly frames and below par brakes were the order of the day!

Retro DNA aside, there is nothing wobbly about the new bike’s setup, on the press ride around the Cotswolds and Warwickshire taking in a good mix of fast roads and market towns, the new Suzuki felt taut but well mannered. With a slightly too firm rear shock and soft front forks being the only fly in my retro 80s ointment.

At 215kg (ready to ride) the Katana’s weight quickly melts away on the move. The 825mm seat height also makes paddling the bike around traffic a doddle, not what you expect for a bike that looks so out of this world!

Suspension

The 43mm KYB forks on my launch bike I found to be a tad on the soft side, with the fork bottoming out a bit too easily for my liking. With the adjustability offered you could dial that out, and while you’re at it soften up the rear shock a tad.

Handling

Out on the twisting roads that led us back to Stratford, the Katana really came into its own. It’s slightly softened power delivery and compliant suspension mean it’s a bike that thrives in a fast corner. It’s got good mid-corner stability and it doesn’t feel as point and squirt as some big nakeds do. The Katana is a bike that will allow you to knit a series of apexes together with grin-inducing ease.

Brakes

With high-spec Brembo calipers and 320mm discs up front, the stopping prowess of the machine was never in doubt! The span adjustable levers meant even my diminutive mitts were comfortable on the bars and the ABS system – non-corning – is one of the smoothest and slickest I’ve used. The only downside is the lack of adjustability within the ABS, some people prefer to switch the system off altogether, on the rain-sodden roads at the start of the launch – I was glad of support!

We like:

  • Styling
  • Comfort
  • Useable power

We didn’t like:

  • Small fuel tank – 12-litres
  • Mirrors are tricky to see in
  • Only two colours – so far

Verdict

Since it’s unveiling a couple of years back, the Katana has divided opinion. From it’s styling to the fact it uses the GSX-S as a base – punters will always find something to disagree about!

I must admit I wasn’t a massive fan of the original GSX1100S, I never really understood why it commanded such a loyal following. So, it’s pretty weird that I am a big fan of the new bike! I like the styling, the bike’s great fun to ride, it’s comfortable. It’s just a shame it isn’t a little more practical.

For me the new Katana sits in a strange class of bike that only really has one use – the B-road blast on a sunny weekend and not much more. The tiddly 12-litre tank means a maximum of about 120-miles between fuel stops – the lack of grab rails and luggage points also put paid to any serious distance work. For me the Katana is like retro styled café racer with 150bhp – and what’s not to like about that?

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