Motorbike

Kawasaki Brands Hatch GP: Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R review (2019)

Visordown attends Brands Hatch GP race circuit and gets to grips with the new Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R (2019)

THE NEW Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R has already impressed us with its slick dynamics and eager, rev-happy engine out on the road but with its DNA very much honed on track, it seems only right that we experience it in its full open-throttle splendour at Brands Hatch the Ultimate Ninja Experience track day masterclass.

With these being 'mysterious times' for the 600cc supersport segment as Euro 4 and 5 regulations hover hammers over the final nails in its coffin, the chance to unleash this race-bred beast on one of the world's most iconic circuit's is a treat that may not be as frequent in the future. At the very least, the Ninja ZX-6R is an excellent advocate for the Supersport 600 (636cc to be exact) class.

What is the Kawasaki Ninja Experience?

Ultimate Ninja Warrior on wheels? There's no wild acrobats or flinging yourself at walls here, but the chance to hit speeds well beyond the road legal limit makes any track day for a big must-do for any biker and better still if it's an endorsed in-house manufacturer one. Available at a number of venues across the UK, the Ultimate Ninja Experience will see you build up your speed and confidence to get the best from the Ninja ZX-6R in ways you won't on the road. Better still, Superbike legend Chris 'Stalker' Walker and 2018 British Superbike Champion Leon Haslam will be guiding you to ensure you hit each apex and maybe get a knee down.

What is the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R like to ride?

The honest and revvy 636cc, inline 4, four-stroke motor kicks out 130HP - with RAM air-induction swelling it to another 6HP at high speeds. Max torque is 71Nm at 11,500rpm.

Engine power delivery is silky smooth despite the urgency that comes with stretching the revs redline to 15,000rpm.

Lining it up for a perfect exit out of Clearways and into the banked home straight at Brands Hatch in fifth gear, full throttle, I still couldn't find the rev limiter. This motor doesn’t stop revving, and it’s very content with being ragged. 

On the upshift the gearbox works a treat with the factory fitted quick shifter, and despite me slamming through the box thinking I am a fraction Jonathan Rea on the downshift, it slipped into gear each and every time. A handy addition to the gearbox is a slipper assist clutch, which kept the tail planted on heavy downshifts into fast sweepers. 

Suspension 

The big piston Showa fully adjustable 41mm forks upfront feel awesome right out of the box, as does the rear fully adjustable Showa mono-shock. The set up is firm, but not too stiff, and combined with the Bridgestone S22 rubber the forks provide great feeling and feedback. Swinging into Paddock Hill Bend, I clipped a footpeg on the tarmac and felt the front and rear begin to squirm, but corrections are easy to make quickly, even in the most extreme conditions.

Find out more about GB Racing engine covers here.

Handling 

The handling of the Ninja ZX-6R is a highlight of the entire bike. I understand why so many people get hooked on the 600cc class of motorcycle. It’s light, flickable and stable - everything you want in a supersport. Even hard on the brakes trail braking into Druids, the Ninja ZX-6R turns in beautifully, only slightly washing wide when I ran out of talent quicker.

You need to be thinking about it in order to really unsettle the Ninja ZX-6R on track, its poise and balance flattering my ability somewhat. As I skated through the gravel trap courtesy of my self-inflicted footpeg drama, I couldn't help but think how well the bike was taking what is potentially the hardest day of its 'life' in terms of speed. Regardless of my off-road excursion, Kawasaki has definitely honed the ZX-6R to excel in this environment. Whilst banked over, you can twist the throttle open and the bike tracks the desired line with no tail-happy moments whatsoever. Needless to say, Kawasaki has created a brilliant easily ridable package.

Brakes

The Nissin 4 pot radial-mounted front calipers grasping 310mm semi-floating discs stop the Ninja on a dime. The feeling provided by the radial-pump master cylinder is exceptional too. Although the ZX-6R doesn’t have cornering ABS its KIBS (Kawasaki smart braking system) kept me safe from washing out the front, and it’s only noticeable by a subtle bit of feedback from the brake lever. 

At the rear sits a 210mm disc with a single-piston Nissin caliper on a slider. The feeling at the foot lever wasn’t to my particular taste, but this is genuinely the only bugbear I have about this little green gem of a motorcycle.    

How much does the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R cost?   

Available in two colours - standard hallmark green and black - or upgrade a small premium for the Performance Package. As a comparison, a stock 2019 Yamaha R6 will set you back at least £11,799, making the Kawasaki the more desirable option on paper.

ZX-6R - £9,499 (Green/Black)

ZX-6R KRT - £9,699

ZX-6R Performance Package - £10,299 (Black)

ZX-6R KRT - £10,499

Opt for the un-Kawasaki but stealthy and understated black variant and you could save £200, or commit to the green machine for a good whack under ten grand, which is excellent value. The pricier performance model (which I rode) has a few extra goodies on it, such as: 

  • Carbon Akrapovic silencer

  • Single-seat cowl 

  • Carbon look tank pads and knee pads

What equipment will my money get me on the ZX-6R?

For the price, the level of tech on the Ninja is very impressive, with such features as: 

  • KIBS - Kawasaki’s Intelligent Braking System 

  • Quickshifter as standard

  • High and Low power selectable engine modes (Low power setting reduces power and torque to 80%)

  • Adjustable shift light

  • Lightweight LED front and rear lights

  • Slipper clutch

  • Adjustable brake and clutch levers 

  • 3 switchable levels of Kawasaki traction control 

We like

  • Good comfortable ergonomics (even for taller riders)

  • Revy and torquey 636cc engine is sublime

  • Handling is natural and intuitive

  • Extremely competitive price point 

Verdict

It remains to be seen whether Kawasaki (and the industry as a whole) will lean away from the 600s as a sector going forward, but there is no doubt this is now an area of expertise for the firm and the latest generation Ninja ZX-6R is its zenith.

At its most basic is a very good bike, but it goes above and beyond in the way it handles, stops, responds to the throttle feels as at home getting from A to B as it does shaving the apex of a country road... or in my case, hammering Brands Hatch.

Indeed, the ZX-6R doesn't need an extra litre, if anything it flexibilty and affinity with this chassis means it is excellent as it is. The Ninja ZX-6R's power and poise makes it a weapon in the right hands, no matter the speed.

Hustling the Ninja ZX-6R around Brands Hatch in perfect conditions was a blast and the finishing touches from our expert guides is a caveat we reccommend for those who want more from thei package. In short, Kawasaki has hit the sweet spot just right.

Full Specifications of the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R

Engine

Engine type Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke In-Line Four

Displacement 636 cm³

Bore x stroke 67 x 45.1 mm

Compression ratio 12.9:1

Valve system DOHC, 16 valves

Fuel system Fuel injection: Ø 38 mm x 4 (Keihin) with oval sub-throttles

Ignition Digital

Starting System Electric

Lubrication Forced lubrication, wet sump with oil cooler

Performance & Transmission

Maximum power 96.4 kW {131 PS} / 13,500 rpm

Maximum power with RAM air 101 kW {137 PS} / 13,500 rpm

Maximum torque 71 N•m {7.2 kgf•m} / 11,500 rpm

Transmission 6-speed, cassette

Final drive Sealed chain

Primary Reduction Ratio 1.900 (76/40)

Gear Ratios 1st 2.846 (37/13)

Gear Ratios 2nd 2.200 (33/15)

Gear Ratios 3rd 1.850 (37/20)

Gear Ratios 4th 1.600 (32/20)

Gear Ratios 5th 1.421 (27/19)

Gear Ratios 6th 1.300 (26/20)

Final reduction ratio 2.688 (43/16)

Clutch Wet multi-disc, manual

Brakes & Suspension

Brakes, front Dual semi-floating 310 mm (x t5 mm) petal discs. Caliper: Dual radial-mount, monobloc, opposed 4-piston, Nissin

Brakes, rear Single 220 mm (x t5 mm) petal disc. Caliper: Single-bore pin-slide, aluminium piston, Nissin

Suspension, front 41 mm inverted fork with top-out springs. Compression damping: Stepless. Rebound damping: Stepless. Spring preload: Fully adjustable

Suspension, rear Bottom-Link Uni-Trak with gas-charged shock. Compression damping: Stepless. Rebound damping: 25-way. Spring preload: Fully adjustable

Frame & Dimensions

Frame type Twin spar, pressed-aluminium

Trail 101 mm

Wheel travel front 120 mm

Wheel travel rear 134 mm

Tyre, front 120/70ZR17M/C (58W)

Tyre, rear 180/55ZR17M/C (73W)

Steering angle, left / right 27˚ / 27˚

L x W x H 2,085 x 705 x 1,115 mm

Wheelbase 1,395 mm

Ground clearance 130 mm

Fuel capacity 17 litres

Seat height 830 mm

Curb Mass 192 kg /194 kg (ABS)

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