KAWASAKI ZX-12R (2000-2006) Review

Published: 23 November 2006

"The best aspects of the Honda Blackbird or Hayabusa, but mixes in a dose of good old fashioned lairy fun"

Kawasaki ZX-12R motorcycle review - Riding

"The best aspects of the Honda Blackbird or Hayabusa, but mixes in a dose of good old fashioned lairy fun"

Overall Rating 4 out of 5

For many owners the Kawasaki ZX-12R combines the best aspects of the Honda Blackbird or Hayabusa, but mixes in a dose of good old fashioned lairy fun. The Kawasaki ZX-12R is a beefy, roomy sports-tourer, with an engine that keeps tempting you to open it up. Decent build quality too.

Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5

For a sports-tourer, the Kawasaki ZX-12R handles very well indeed and it has an unusually steep steering head angle of 23.5 degrees, making the front end feel fairly nimble. The unique monococque frame is certainly stiff and stable enough at high speeds and the brakes – especially post 2004 with radial callipers – allowing the Kawasaki ZX-12R rider to push that bit harder than a Hayabusa owner might dare.

Engine 4 out of 5

Not quite as fast as the later Blackbird, or the `Busa, but the Kawasaki ZX-12R is very close indeed and few bikers can argue with a 180mph plus top speed as being more than enough. Tweaks to the motor in 2002, as well the fuel injection, with more fuel map fettling in 2004 make the later Kawasaki ZX-12R models a little quicker off the mark, or rolling on in the higher gears.

Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5

Early Kawasaki ZX-12Rs lack the more polished finish of the facelifted 2002 onwards Kawasaki ZX-12Rs, but are still durable bikes. The motors are excellent and can easily handle high mileages. The Kawasaki ZX-12R has a bit of a flagship feel and is a cut above the average Kawasaki sportsbike.

Insurance, running costs & value 4 out of 5

The Kawasaki ZX-12R isn’t as fashionable as some other mega sportsbikes and during its production run it struggled to match the success of the Hayabusa and Blackbird. But the Kawasaki ZX-12R is every bit as good a bike to ride and buying one used is a good bet – loads of performance for the money basically. Find a Kawasaki ZX-12R for sale.

Insurance group: 17 of 17 – compare motorcycle insurance quotes now.

Equipment 4 out of 5

The Kawasaki ZX-12R has an impressively large dashboard, but an analogue speedo reading to 220mph is hard to read at any serious speed. There’s a fuel gauge, plus a clock there too. Pillion pad sits beneath the Kawasaki ZX-12R's seat hump, and thanks to an old fashioned side exit exhaust, there’s a stash space under the seat too. No grabrail though, so Kawasaki ZX-12R pillions need to hang on tight to the rider.

Owners' Reviews

32 owners have reviewed their KAWASAKI ZX-12R (2000-2006) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

Review your KAWASAKI ZX-12R (2000-2006)
Summary of Owners' Reviews
Overall Rating 4.7 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4.7 out of 5
Engine 4.9 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4.7 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4.8 out of 5
Equipment 4.3 out of 5
4 out of 5

Budget rocket.

14 July 2015 by Neil Coles

Best features are its 'solid' feel on the road, the sheer power which will make the bike pull like a train in any gear and what I consider to be a very pretty machine. Worst feature is the amount of 'fiddle' involved in doing any service work on the... Read more engine. Just getting to the battery involves removing the seats and tank cover amongst other things.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
The bike is at it's best out on warm, fast, dry roads. It is a big heavy bike, which will do most things pretty well, except taking your Mrs out for a spin. The pillion seat is a definite after thought. You can throw her around if you know what you are doing (the bike that is). It steers well, is stable on the bumpy bits and stops well for an old bike
Engine
5 out of 5
More power and torque than I will ever need. Very smooth too. Can't say anything bad about it.
Build Quality & Reliability
3 out of 5
Very well built and finished. My bike has been well serviced and looked after, yet at just 20k miles, I am dogged with a difficult to solve battery charging problem.
Value & Running Costs
3 out of 5
In terms of power per £, unbeatable. Mine was mint, relatively low mileage and lass than £3k to buy. Not a cheap bike to run. Unless you ride like a total wuss, you are going to need regular tyres and chains. The tyres you can't do a lot about, with the rear being particularly expensive. The chain is doing a lot better with the addition of a Scottoiler. All in all, if you want the kind of power and performance this bike has to offer, you have to accept that it will cost you! I'm not a maniac on the road, but 35mpg seems to be about the average fuel use.
Equipment
4 out of 5
The first bike I have owned with a fuel gauge and a clock. I fell very spoilt in that respect. Fairing does a reasonable job for a sports tourer. Seat is big and comfortable. Bars and pegs are about right for me at six feet. I struggle to read the speedo at anything much over 60mph and the mirrors just about do the job.
5 out of 5

A Big Bruiser with a Heart of Gold.

22 June 2015 by BigBriWil

Lets face it, these are big bikes, so care is needed when parking, putting on paddock stand etc. Having said that, the weight is low down and balance at low speed is very good. Clutch action is cable and will improve your grip strength, firm might... Read more be a good description and riders with small hands might struggle. Control buttons and switches are basic as is the speedo and rev counter, the speedo dial is hard to read and takes more than a glance to see. All things mentioned are easy to get round with routine maintenance and it must be remembered that this bike is a high performance, good handling machine that is still a 'looker' and is very enjoyable to own.

Ride Quality & Brakes
3 out of 5
You can certainly hustle on this bike but after about an hour your back and wrists do start to ache. Pillion position is good with no complaints from the back! Riding position is 'sporty' the ZX12R is not a tourer for long distances, however the seat is comfortable although you do find yourself sliding towards the petrol tank. My bike has the six pot calipers fitted and are a poor option and have to be checked often for brake dust affecting performance. I had disc warp on both sides and had to change the caliper seals, don't even go down the Kawasaki genuine parts route as they (and other items) are eye wateringly expensive!! I have fitted braided brake pipes to try and improve things but stopping power is only average.
Engine
5 out of 5
Mega engine, I can't really give an opinion because when I bought my bike second hand it was fitted with a full Yoshimura system with Power Commander and K&N filter. My favourite feature is the bikes tractability at low engine revs, up to 4000 revs it is very smooth, easy to ride in traffic just using the throttle. At 4001 however warp speed engages and the engine pushes you forward faster and faster!! I am by no means a slow rider but red lining this bike in any gear is theoretically 12000 revs, good luck trying, you could lose your licence in second gear!!
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
I have covered problems with the bike in the previous section. It is very reliable, well put together and has good quality paintwork.
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
Rear tyre wear is average to poor depending on your right wrist. I've included the cost of tyres, it is to remember that my bike is now 10 years old, it only cost me £3750 three years ago so I have a good back street mechanic do the work on it rather than a dealership that charge high labour costs. Quote for re shimming at 24000 miles was £600.
Equipment
4 out of 5
I have used Metzeler Sportec tyres since I bought the bike, these tyres have good performance and excellent tread depth. I have fitted a double bubble screen as the original does not give much wind protection also a pair of Stomp Grips for the back of the tank to stop sliding back and forwards. Clutch action is cable and will improve your grip strength, firm might be a good description and riders with small hands might struggle. Control buttons and switches are basic as is the speedo and rev counter, the speedo dial is hard to read and takes more than a glance to see.
5 out of 5

Get one while you can

20 October 2014 by Afterburn

Tried a blackbird but they all looked a bit to dull and felt a bit to soggy, then I looked at some busas but they all looked to tired and flakey, then I found the zx12r oh yea she was just right! This bike gets your heart pounding just look at, the... Read more design is an absolute work of art and when you ride one you realise it isnt just dam good looking its seriously quick and very smooth at any speed. The build quality in my opinion is the best in its class its a proper bike that looks big and yet handles like a bike half its size. The zx12r is simply an awesome machine that makes you feel so good you wouldn't believe it.I guess the only negative I can think of is the speedo is a bit difficult to see but once you own one of these macines you really wont give a rats behind. Love It the best bike ever!! :)

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
-
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
5 out of 5
-
5 out of 5

Dream Bike

24 September 2014 by AddersZX12

I think this review is wrong, the ZX12 was much faster than the Bird, and had a better top end than the Busa, Can't say I've ever seen a Busa's tail lights.. but anyways.. this is the best bike I've ever owned and honestly i can't see myself getting... Read more the 14, the 12 looks better.. and just feels better.. none of these electronic traction control settings etc.. the few problems with the 12 are that it's well.. not very economical.. infact you spend more time in the fuel stations than anywhere else, but who cares really.. the feel of the bike and presence is great, mine is a 2000 full power version and pretty much standard tuning wise.. it's a good handling monster for what it is as well as comfortable. The best part is just blowing pretty much anything away without really trying, even high end cars like Lamborghini's etc. The top speed however is around 190-198mph.. I've had a gps verified 194mph out of mine completely stock.. Yes there may have been some tail wind but hey.. the best part is that the speedo was near enough dead on (speedo healer ftw) anyways.. it's great to own a dream bike that lives up to what you expected. 5/5 on everything from me

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
-
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
5 out of 5
-
5 out of 5

jim13

31 August 2013 by jim13

Ihave owned my zx12r since 2002 not found a bike better to ride only cost me for tyres and main service in all those years looked at the zzr1400 but pound for pound i couldn,t justify the price for the better performance if it is a little better i... Read more will stick with my old mate better the devil you know

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
-
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
4 out of 5
-
4 out of 5

Busa Killer!!! :)

13 June 2013 by Osprey11

For start, there is some data that need to be corrected TOP SPEED: 190 MPH FUEL CAPACITY: 20 LITRES FRONT TYRE SIZE: 120/70 x 17 REAR TYRE SIZE: 200/50 x 17 I have a 2000 model and "she" makes me happy every time i ride her!!! I don't... Read more think she's to heavy for mountain roads (my tyres can show that) and off course she's an heavy lady comparing with ZX10's R1's and Gixxers, but in the Hypersport class it has far better handling than a Busa or a Blackbird!! The engine is made of parts from a Nuclear Space Rocket... and after 13 years, it still makes other riders with new sport bikes chill, when they see "her", in their mirrors!! It´s a part of history too, because it was the 1st Hypersport bike of the 21st Century and the last one who had 220mph/350km/h marked in the speedometer!! Be careful with the engine temperature in the 1st models 2000-2001, because the radiator is not big enough and only has one cooler!! In the 2002 model they corrected that by installing a bigger and curved radiator with two coolers! My advice is to change to a water-free coolant product! Other than that it's a nice bike, that ages with nobility, and can be a really good mate in travels (forget the passenger!!).

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
-
Engine
4 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
3 out of 5
-
Equipment
3 out of 5
-
5 out of 5

Finally a bike that I dont make look a 125!

03 January 2012 by scottninja

At 6'4" I have had problems with a lot of bikes instantly being dwarfed when I sit on them. I was concerned that the ZX12r would be too much for my aging body and would not be comfortable especially on long journeys. I have been very suprised to... Read more find it feels great. The bike makes me smile all of the time, except when trying to bleed those front brakes - aaaarrggghhh!!!! Quality is great and handling is superb but then I am not a track day fan therefore probably dont push it enough to detect any short comings. I have wanted a ZZR14 for many years but wanted to ensure I experience the ZX12r before I move beyond it. To be honest I think it will be a while as the Ninja is just great, but perhaps not that great for my Missus - after 2 hours its hell apparently!

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
-
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
5 out of 5
-
3 out of 5

yes its fast but

04 December 2011 by pinkerton2964

The zx12 was my dream bike I had zzr1100s & found the handling a touch awkward as were the brakes.On my first run down a country lane I was impressed it handled amazing for such a big bike riding position was nice and with pirelli corsas it handled... Read more fantastic in the wet very forgiving for such a powerful motor. My brakes were not so good so gave them a rebuild and braided hoses much better but still not great and they fade also the disks don't last that long. My bike had a race can on that was way to loud so I brought a sports can k & n filter & had a power commander fitted and had it set up on a dyno. The problems started when I went to do a Lands end to John o groats with a friend on a Blackbird we went to John o groats from Birmingham by the time we got there it was no longer my dream bike. People only say 1 thing when they talk about the zx12 power this power that but no one talks beyond that as a tourer it is rubbish the fuel range is crap and the seat is very hard. The brakes are poor at speed (6 pots). The engine is great but kills the chain and with no center stand you can't adjust on the go. It says that the engine is not as fast as the busa or bird but I think it's faster than the birds just that it's all top end. The busa is a better tourer and the bird better than that. I managed to swap bikes for a while and the Black bird is a better package. If you want a sports tourer get a black bird if you want a sports bike get an R1 or GSXR1000. If you want power get the Busa it's less peaky and tougher motor although the zx12 has good build quality. tip make sure you have an extension from the battery to charge it as the battery is a pain to get to also the clutch can be a bit fragile.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
-
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
4 out of 5
-
Equipment
3 out of 5
-
5 out of 5

superb

22 November 2011 by emikawasakininja

it is mind blowing an unique misle Read more

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
-
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
5 out of 5
-
5 out of 5

Big ZX12R!!!

12 November 2010 by umukoro

In 2002 I jumped on my cousin's ZX12R (2000 A1 Model) & I couldn't believe how comfortable it was & how it handled. So I got my 1st ZX12R (2002 B1H Model). Cut a long story short, I'm now on my 3rd ZX12R (2005 B4H Model). Based on my size/build I... Read more dwarf the R1's, BLADE's & the GIXXER 1000's so the big 12 is for me! Don't like the look of the Busa& the ZX14, to UGLLY!!! The ZX12R speed/power is second to none. Love it, love it, love it!!! I get told that when I shoot off I'm gone & it's hard to catchup & these guys are on 600 - 1000cc. LOL!!! The brakse are very good, even better when/if you change the pads to Sintered ones. Pros: Looks wicked-(people still stop % stare & turn their heads). It's big & it's my size. The power is somthing to respect - trust me!Very comfortable. Handles good. Cons: Fuel consumption is like an alcoholic! What do you expect, it's a BEAST! It eats rear tyres but that depends how you ride. Slightly heavy in weight. Make sure you fit an aftermarket exhaust it will sound wicked!!! Overall, I can't see my self looking/buying another bike for now unless the manufactures design something simialr & better.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
-
Engine
4 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
5 out of 5
-
Read all 32 owners' reviews in full

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 2000
Year discontinued 2006
Original price -
Used price £2,500 to £6,500
Warranty term (when new) Two year unlimited mileage
Running costs
Insurance group 17 of 17
Annual road tax £81
Annual service cost -
Performance
Max power 178 bhp
Max torque 98 ft-lb
Top speed 185 mph
1/4-mile acceleration 10 secs
Average fuel consumption 35 mpg
Tank range 180 miles
Specification
Engine size 1199cc
Engine type 16v transverse four, 6 gears
Frame type Twin spar aluminium
Fuel capacity 25 litres
Seat height 843mm
Bike weight 241kg
Front suspension Preload
Rear suspension Preload, rebound
Front brake Twin 296mm discs
Rear brake Single 256mm disc
Front tyre size 110/70 x 17
Rear tyre size 190/60 x 17

History & Versions

Model history

2000: Kawasaki ZX-12R launched.
2002: Kawasaki ZX-12R updated with new bodywork, ram air intakes, gearbox tweaks, engine retuned for snappier acceleration, crankshaft strengthened. Bike NOT available in typically Kawasaki green paint.
2003: Black and gold and green paint schemes introduced for Kawasaki ZX-12R.
2004: Radial brake callipers fitted to Kawasaki ZX-12R, more fuel injection tweaks to boost throttle response.
2005: No major changes to Kawasaki ZX-12R, all black paint option.
2006: No major changes. Kawasaki ZX-12R discontinued.

Other versions

None.

Photo Gallery

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  • Kawasaki ZX-12R motorcycle review - Rear view
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  • Kawasaki ZX-12R motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki ZX-12R motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki ZX-12R motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki ZX-12R motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki ZX-12R motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki ZX-12R motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki ZX-12R motorcycle review - Instruments
  • Kawasaki ZX-12R motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki ZX-12R motorcycle review - Rear view
  • Kawasaki ZX-12R motorcycle review - Exhaust
  • Kawasaki ZX-12R motorcycle review - Brakes
  • Kawasaki ZX-12R motorcycle review - Instruments
  • Kawasaki ZX-12R motorcycle review - Front view
  • Kawasaki ZX-12R motorcycle review - Rear view
  • Kawasaki ZX-12R motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki ZX-12R motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki ZX-12R motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki ZX-12R motorcycle review - Riding
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