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

36 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 4.6 out of 5
Engine 4.9 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4.7 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4.7 out of 5
Equipment 4.3 out of 5
5 out of 5

13 May 2016 by Steve1982

Best bike I ever had with superb build quality and stomping engine. Downside was my legs were just a little too short for the seat height, which made the heavy.weight an issue when moving it with my feet. You also have to use the gears more than... Read more expected, although the engine is very powerful, it has long gear ratios and the power is biased towards the top of the rev range, so similar bikes are faster on the top gear roll on. Sadly crashed it 2 years ago on ice, ended up being run over by my own bike and broke most of my ribs. Still miss it badly.

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
Plush as you like, although it's more head down than similar bikes with a harder seat. Brakes are great but can fade when going balls out, they also corrode easily (only part of the bike that does) and are a pain to maintain through winter. Handling is stable but cumbersome on tight twisties.
Engine
5 out of 5
You have to use the gears more than expected, although the engine is very powerful and shoots you into the horizon, it has long gear ratios and the power is biased towards the top of the rev range, so similar bikes are faster on the top gear roll on. Quickest bike I've had off the mark though, mind bending. If you drop the bike and smash a case, good luck trying to find replacements, they'll all be on kit cars!
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
It lived outside through all weathers, not one one bit of rust. Nothing broke and the fit and finish is superb. A 10 years olf bike looked like new.
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
It gets through tyres quicker than most due to the weight and power. Otherwise surprisingly economical.
Equipment
5 out of 5
Fuel guage is awesome, although you often find you have more fuel left than it shows. The calipers are prone to seizing (6 pots) in winter and are difficult to maintain, swap to later model 4 pots if you can. Tyres are expensive, but don't skimp as you really need the grip on this bike.
Buying experience

Bought from dealer for full asking price of £3500 in 2013. They hold the value well and can only go northwards, so hard to find a bargain or even haggle.

4 out of 5

A B2H experience from Norway

16 March 2016 by Kwaktime

Best: Engine. it is just lovely, lovely and more lovely. Suspension has a wide range of settings so should suit most riders if they know how to adjust it. Worst: Outdated gauges and indicators, might be hard to read in some circumstances. Original... Read more saddle is horrible constantly making your pants ride up and cleave yer nuts.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
It is the best on high speed twisties and OK as an all round if you raise the bars a little, install a Corbin saddle and make sure not soot it down by thug around at 1200 rpm at high gears. Pillions will last down to the city center for a fancy latté and not much longer.
Engine
5 out of 5
Perfect.
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
A 5'er if you sort the connector (hardwire it) between the stator and the rectifier.
Value & Running Costs
4 out of 5
Valve jobs is time consuming due to the cramped access, spark plugs also but it is a not too often needed thing.
Equipment
5 out of 5
You got all you need. Consider a 190/55-17 rear for better agility.
4 out of 5

30 September 2015 by jack frost

Pros- I love this bike. It's a gentle giant as far as im concerned. A joy to ride at any speed. In town, on the highway, or on the twisties I just enjoy every second. The handling is way better than I expected, the bike just feels stable and capable... Read more of doing what I ask of it. Cons- This bike is a pain in the butt to work on. Absolutely nothing is simple to work on!. I am educated and trained as an aircraft mech. I've worked on small planes that were easier. To check the air filter you have to remove the front seat, remove the top tank plastic and lift the tank. the remove the air filter bolts and fight to get them out and back in. This requires 2 Allen wrenches, a Phillips screw driver, 10mm socket, 8mm socket, and about 20-30 minutes of your day. The good news is that changing the oil is a snap...more or less. and the battery is accessible without making you cry.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
The brakes could be much better. They aren't the worst however, IMO the go & whoa ratio is off.
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
Not as good as my Honda engine as far as reliability goes...but what is. Other than that this is well built machine that just wants to run. 'nough said.
Value & Running Costs
4 out of 5
Everything is complicated and I don't always have time so off to the shop it goes.
Equipment
4 out of 5
The dash board is horrible. speedo is a hard to read. I spend more time than i want to be trying to determine what my speed is.
4 out of 5

29 September 2015 by Richard Slickman

Fantastic, comfy, if-a-bit-thirsty, sport-touring cruise missile, with personality! Also, a great used bike buy. You can buy one of these in good shape with low miles for under $4k, and it will still rip the face off most liter-class Supersport... Read more bikes, all the while being comfortable and looking rather stylish. No, when the road gets curvy, it will not scrape knees with them, but on the straights look-out. Not sure who wrote the review saying it was slower than the later Blackbirds, as the 12r makes about 12+ more hp at the wheel in stock form than the 'Bird made at the crank. Anyway, if you aren't into dragging your knees around every turn, and just like a big powerful sport-tourer that feels very light on its feet for the weight, and delivers punches like (the old) Mike Tyson when asked, then check out a ZX12R, you will not be disappointed!

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
Nice stock brakes and ride quality. Yes, Brembos and Ohlins would be better, but for the weight and power of this bike, the stock bits are very impressive.
Engine
5 out of 5
Best. Engine. Ever. Rev's like a 600, docile around town at low speeds, quiet through the stock pipe, and at WOT - MY. GOD. POWER. Really fast.
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
Best motor I have ever ridden period. And I have had many.
Value & Running Costs
3 out of 5
Service is a PITA, engine must be pulled for plug changes! Frame makes service difficult. Good thing is you should not need much.
Equipment
4 out of 5
Bike is fairly bare bones. Being a cheap bike, having things like fuel gauge is novel, but the average rider may find the cockpit a bit sparse. Less stuff to break IMHO!
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
-
Read all 36 owners' reviews in full

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 2000
Year discontinued 2006
Original price -
Used price £2,500 to £5,500
Warranty term (when new) Two year unlimited mileage
Running costs
Insurance group 17 of 17
Annual road tax £82
Annual service cost £190
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 - Side view
  • Kawasaki ZX-12R motorcycle review - Instruments
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  • 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
  • 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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