First Ride

Kawasaki Kawasaki Z900 (2020) Review

The Kawasaki Z900 gets traction control and multiple power and riding modes for 2020, Visordown went along to the launch for a taster

Details
Manufacturer:
Kawasaki
Category:
Naked
Price:
£ 8899
Overall
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

WITH over 30k bikes sold in the last four years, Kawasaki’s Z900 is a key bike in the company’s line-up; it’s a stepping stone for those moving up through the ranks of the Team Green catalogue, and an ideal machine for those stepping down from the litre sports bikes.

Kawasaki Z900 Video Review

With such an important motorcycle, it’s no surprise to see that the tweaks to the latest machine are minimal. Some subtle styling tweaks and new colours give little clue that this is the 2020 version. They also don’t hint at what now lies beneath the skin of the bike – that’s where the real magic has been worked.

Kawasaki Z900 price and colours

The new Zed’ is available in four colours options:

  • Metallic Graphite Grey / Metallic Spark Black (as abve)
  • Candy Lime Green / Metallic Spark Black
  • Pearl White Blizzard / Metallic Spark Black
  • Metallic Spark Black / Metallic Flat Spark Black

Pricing for the new bike is £8,899 OTR. A PCP deal on the new bike can be had for £145 p/m based on a £1517 deposit – T&Cs apply.

2020 Kawasaki Z900 engine

The heart of the machine is a DOHC, 16-valve, inline four-cylinder unit. It’s pushing out 123hp which peaks at 9,500rpm and 72ft-lb of torque at 7,700rpm. The engine starts to really come alive above 5k, eagerly rushing up to the 10k redline. For those times when bouncing off the limiter isn’t required, the Z900 will happily waft you through villages in the higher gears with no bother. The spread of torque is acres wide, with more than enough on offer to allow you to pull away from walking pace in third gear. Kawasaki’s engineers have worked hard to improve the throttle feel and fuelling of this bike over the old version and it’s markedly smoother, more sure-footed and refined than before. The transition from closed throttle to open and vice versa is smooth, with no glitches or fluffs from the fuel injection system.

The engine of this bike is a bit of a tale of two halves, and it makes this such a good bike to live with, in the real world. That same engine that can be firing you to the top of a mountain pass one minute can be trickling through a village the next. It’s like an MMA fighter stepping into the ring in a brand-new tuxedo – quiet and sedate one minute but more than ready to get up to mischief should the mood take it.

With the latest raft of Euro regulations seemingly taking all the fun – and noise – out of motorcycling, it’s refreshing to see that Kawasaki has gone about the Z900 revamp in another way. Instead of muting the exhaust like some manufacturers have they’ve actually tuned it. And it sounds bloody awesome. Kawasaki probably isn’t going to like me saying this but I’m not sure I’d even bother with an aftermarket can – the standard bike’s baritone howl above 4k rpm is backed by a brass ensemble of lovely howl and in my mind is good enough already!

Internally the new engine is very similar to the previous model, although some adjustments to the fuelling and the clutch damper springs are claimed to have smoothed out acceleration and deceleration – although to really feel that we’d need a back-to-back test.

Suspension and handling

Front suspension is a set of 41mm USD forks with rebound damping and spring preload adjustability – the rear shock has the same level of adjustment available. One thing I noticed about the new bike when comparing like-to-like with the old is how much more stable it felt when you were transitioning weight from the forward and back. The old bike wasn’t particularly bad in any way, maybe a tad to much dive for my liking, but the new bike is another level in that respect. The work done here is purely how the bike is tuned and set up from the factory.

While the new suspension relishes a brisk ride up a twisty road, I’m happy to report that it’s lost none of its plushness, as the bikes rides bumps in the road impeccably. Even some ill-placed potholes on the inside of a medium speed righthanded hairpin couldn’t rock my Kawasaki-shaped applecart – there aren’t many bikes that can get away with that!

If there was one negative aspect of the handling it was down to the level of grip and feedback offered by the OEM hoops. The Dunlop Sportmax Roadsports never really seemed to heat up and have a weird almost wooden feeling. If I was going to own a Z900 I’d be swapping those out for some stickier items before too long.

Brakes

Up-front is a four-pot Nissin caliper and 300mm disc, with a 250mm disc and sliding caliper down the business at the rear. The brakes on the outgoing Z900 weren’t really in need of more bite or feel so it’s no surprise that they are the same as the outgoing machine. That doesn’t mean they don’t warrant a mention though as they are very good. It’s a bike that doesn’t need the latest Brembos, radial this and monoblock that, the stoppers on the Kawasaki are more than up to the job and even after some extremely hard still refused to give me a spongy lever!

The Z900 has no cornering ABS for 2020 and in my mind, it just doesn’t need it. Adding more electronics when the hardware is this good would only over-egg the pudding. The two-channel system it has is excellent and in its lowest setting sat nicely in the background, only stepping in when the road surface got wet and slippery – exactly what you want.

Equipment

The big news with the new 2020 Kawasaki Z900 is the riding modes, traction control, and engine power adjustability. There are four riding modes, Road, Rain, Sport and Rider, with each offering a different power map and ABS setting. The Rider setting is a configurable option that allows you to set the bike up to your personal preference. I spent most of the day flicking between Sport and Rider as this let me quickly move between low-level traction control and no traction control; great for when we rode down the mountain and encountered some moisture still hanging under the trees.

Riding mode

KTRC

Power mode

Sport

1

Full

Road

2

Full

Rain

3

Low

Rider (manual)

1/2/3/OFF

Full/Low

All the riding modes can be switched between on the fly through the left-hand switch cube, although to add or remove traction control from the Rider mode you have to come to a stop. A nice feature of the new Z900 is that the easy to read and well laid out dash remembers your last riding mode when you turn off the bike. That means no more faffing around between coffee stops to get yourself ready to go – other manufacturers take note!

The new traction control settings come in three flavours - mode one is the least intrusive and is best suited to dry roads and sports riding. Mode two offers a good balance of sports riding and stability and mode three is the most intrusive; best reserved for very cold wet and slippery roads.

The power selection comes in Full Power and Low Power, with Low Power restricting the engine to around 55% of its peak power – around 67bhp.

We like:

  • The engine - tractable, user-friendly and excitable – everything you want
  • Suspension - sporty yet plush
  • High levels of comfort allow all-day riding with ease

We don’t like:

  • OEM tyres lack feel and don’t inspire confidence

Kawasaki Z900 Verdict

After spending two days and over 300km in the company of the new Kawasaki, I’m really struggling to see why I should want a 200hp super-naked. On the stunning roads around Girona and up into the foothills of the Pyrenees, the 125hp Z900 had everything I needed to plaster a massive grin all over my face. It’s a very well thought out and perfectly executed machine, with the tyres being the only negative aspect that I can find. It comes back down to that argument that in the real world, on real roads, having a motorcycle that you can extract everything out of is so much more enjoyable than constantly being told ‘no’ by a bike’s electronics because you asked for 200hp and you can only handle 50hp at that given time! The Z900 is a perfect example of just that.

But is it better than the competition? It’s a close fight but I think Team Green has edged it for me. The Z900 has a level of thrills, usability and comfort that the other machines in the class just don’t have. I’m very much considering asking the good folk at Kawasaki for one of these as my long-termer next year! Get to a dealer to find out about test rides but they should be in before Christmas.

For more info on this and the rest of the Kawasaki range, click here.

Kawasaki Z900 (2020) Specs                                           

DIMENSIONS

Overall length

2,070 mm

Overall width

825 mm

Overall height

1,080 mm

Wheelbase

1,455 mm

Road clearance

145 mm

Seat height

820 mm

Curb mass

212 kg

Fuel tank capacity

17 litres

PERFORMANCE Z900

Max. power

92.2 kW {125 PS} / 9,500 min-1

Max. torque

98.6 Nm {10.1 kgƒm} / 7,700 min-1

ENGINE Z900

Type

4st, 4-cyl, DOHC, W/C

Bore x Stroke

73.4 x 56.0 mm

Displacement

948 cm3

Compression ratio

11.8:1

Fuel supply

Fuel injection (ø36 x 4)

Lubrication system

Forced Lub. Wet

Starting system

EL. Starter

Ignition system

B&C (TCBI EL. ADV. D.)

Transmission

6-speed, return

Gear ratios: 1st

2.692 (35/13)

2nd

2.059 (35/17)

3rd

1.650 (33/20)

4th

1.409 (31/22)

5th

1.222 (33/27)

6th

1.034 (30/29)

Primary reduction ratio

1.627 (83/51)

Final reduction ratio

2.933 (44/15)

ZR900F

3.067 (46/15)

Chassis

Suspension: Front

USD fork spring preload and rebound

Rear

Monshock spring preload and rebound

Wheel travel: Front

120 mm

Rear

140 mm

Caster (Rake angle)

24.9º

Trail

110 mm

Steering angle (left/right)

33º / 33º

Tyre: Front

120/70ZR17M/C (58W)

Rear

180/55ZR17M/C (73W)

Brake: Front Type

Dual disc

Effect. dia

266 mm

Rear Type

Single disc

Effect. dia

216 mm

Latest Reviews

Review
Review
Review
Review

Latest Videos

Feature
Article
Article