KAWASAKI ZXR400 (1995-1998) Review

Published: 23 November 2006

"Refined essence of four-cylinder sportster with all the good and bad that implies"

Kawasaki ZXR400 motorcycle review - Riding

"Refined essence of four-cylinder sportster with all the good and bad that implies"

  • At a glance
  • 398cc  -  62 bhp
  • 42 mpg  -  140 miles range
  • Low seat height (160mm)

Overall Rating 4 out of 5

‘Extreme’ is a word that’s bandied everywhere these days. But when it comes to motorcycling, they don’t come much more so than Kawasaki’s ZXR400. Small (so popular with the ladeez), light, stumpy, extremely revvy and a fabulous handler, the little ZXR is refined essence of four-cylinder sportster with all the good and bad that implies. It’s not big, it’s not particularly clever, but show it some well surfaced bends and it’ll show you how good handling can be.

Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5

Exceptionally firm and taut, the suspension is unyielding and doesn’t compress much even with a heavy rider on board. On smooth roads or track days this equates to scalpel-like precision, but throw in some undulations and the wheels are in contact with the ground about as much as a freestyle snowboarder. It’s a jarring and pummelling ride that makes it hard to stay in the saddle, but then people don’t buy sporting 400s for their comfort.

Engine 4 out of 5

Dinky four-cylinder addictively shrieks and screams and comes complete with the frenzy of a 14,500rpm red line. Nothing much happens below 10,000rpm, so any progress is accompanied by a flurry of revs and a banzai-like howl from the end can. But all this fury is worth it because the little ZXR produces 62bhp, which can propel it to an almost unbelievable 140mph-plus top speed.

Build Quality & Reliability 3 out of 5

It’s all bolted together well enough and (unlike some 600s which, being built down to a price, are often the poor relation of their superbike kin) it gets everything its big brother 750 has. But, as they demand thrashing, servicing and being looked after is critical even though the ZXR is reasoanably robust…

Value & Running Costs 4 out of 5

Even though it’s ‘only a 400’ you still get an awful lot of bike for the money. The ZXR is also one of the best value, most robust of the Japanese 400s, was the one officially imported for the longest period (although watch out for cheaper grey import versions) and posts the highest top speed. Choose wisely (and there’s lots out there) and it’s good value. Find a Kawasaki ZXR400 for sale.

Insurance group: 12 of 17 – compare motorcycle insurance quotes now.

Equipment 3 out of 5

Fairly typical mid-90s Kawasaki fare. Reasonable analog instrumentation squeezes inside the cockpit; half-decent mirrors (the other half show your elbows, natch) sprout off the compact full fairing and so on. That said, for a 400 it’s got everything the 750 version and more have, so is a quality bit of kit.

Owners' Reviews

3 owners have reviewed their KAWASAKI ZXR400 (1995-1998) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

We’re currently improving the way this section works, which means we’ve had to suspend the submission of new owners’ reviews for a short period. Please check back soon.

Summary of Owners' Reviews
Overall Rating 4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4.3 out of 5
Engine 4.7 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 2.7 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4.3 out of 5
Equipment 3.3 out of 5
5 out of 5

Pocket Rocket

24 October 2012 by Anonymous

This is a genuine pocket rocket. It has crisp, precise handling and an engine that is unbelievable. For a 400cc this bike packs quite a punch. The super stiff suspension and very racy position makes this bike highly uncomfortable to ride. You soon... Read more forget about this though as you a propelled to ridiculous speed, ridiculously quickly. Cornering on a smooth road is impeccable and the chassis gives you the confidence to keep pushing it that little bit quicker. Feedback from the tyres is incredibly clear thanks to the super stiff forks and shock. It is quite possible to achieve knee down with a pillion on the back although I would not recommend it (I discovered this by accident). The engine lacks the top end power of a 600cc bike but is more than sufficient to propel you to a genuine 130mph. This in my opinion is more than compensated for by the sweet handling. The engine starts to redline at about 14500 revs by which point the engine is screaming like a banshee. I warn you this noise is addictive. When I bought the bike it had a straight through exhaust on it (no baffles) and you could hear the bike coming from several miles away. The reliability of my bike seems to be pretty good considering that it has 45k+ on the clocks. The dashboard is literally the bare essentials so don't expect any gadgetry. As far as maintenance and repairs go, it is very easy to work on yourself. There is a great website called www.zxrworld.co.uk that has all the workshop manuals for free download. I cannot recommend this bike highly enough. If you can find a good condition example have no hesitation about buying. There will be no disappointment and silly quantities of fun to be had with this bike.

Overall Rating 5 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 5 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 3 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4 out of 5
Equipment 2 out of 5
4 out of 5

Stunning

23 May 2007 by makemineapint

Since the day I first started getting into motorbikes, the ZXR400 was always the bike I wanted. Saw a few in magazine articles, then a few in the flesh, and they look absolutely stunning. After a few years of pootling round on 125's, I finally bought... Read more one. Everything I'd ever read about was true, the front end is brilliant, superb brakes when they're sorted out, average when in typical neglected condition. The rear suspension is trademark kawasaki hard but it never bothered me too much, I was too busy enjoying the bike. Of all the 400cc's these were always reportedly the fastest, and compared to the NC30's and the like, they are physically large too. The engine always seemed smooth, powerful, always ready, but then having just stepped up from 125cc 2 stroke, it would do! 400cc bikes are great bikes for new riders, something of a stop gap instead of jumping straight on a 600cc machine. They are brilliant for getting some confidence and experience on. Would I have another one? Absolutely, even today they are still one of the best looking bikes around in my opinion, trouble is, after this length of time, many are in need of some money spending on them to get them back up to scratch, but when they work, they work very well.

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

Beautiful looking, but potentially let down by reliability

17 March 2006 by bartelski

I bought a mint-condition 2003 model and was staggered by its speed and handling. I was also reasonably impressed by the build quality. Like everyone says, the front end is planted and truly confidence inspiring. It's the only bike I've ever ridden... Read more that lets you get away with braking mid-corner! The rear suspension's just too hard and no amount of adjustment seems to work. All this aside, I loved that bike and used it everyday for commuting into London, which it managed with no problems at all. For a tiny 400, it was remarkably comfortable (much easier on the wrists than my gsxr 600). And then one day it all went horribly wrong. I started it on a cold morning on full choke, the revs jumped to 4000 (as was usual) and the next thing I know there's an awful rattle. The same day the dealer diagnosed the problem: the cam had become dislodged and wrecked the engine. Apparently, it's not particularly uncommon, regardless of how well you maintain your zxr400! Strengths: Handling, looks, speed. Weaknesses: The one that effectively wrote it off.

Overall Rating 3 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 5 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 1 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
Read all 3 owners' reviews in full

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 1995
Year discontinued 1998
Original price -
Warranty term (when new) Two year unlimited mileage
Running costs
Insurance group 12 of 17
Annual road tax £38
Annual service cost -
Performance
Max power 62 bhp
Max torque 26 ft-lb
Top speed 139 mph
1/4-mile acceleration 12.9 secs
Average fuel consumption 42 mpg
Tank range 140 miles
Specification
Engine size 398cc
Engine type 16v transverse four, 6 gears
Frame type Aluminium twin spar
Fuel capacity 16 litres
Seat height 160mm
Bike weight 160kg
Front suspension Preload, rebound damping
Rear suspension Preload, rebound damping
Front brake 2 x 310mm discs
Rear brake 240mm drum
Front tyre size 120/60 x 17 in
Rear tyre size 120/60 x 17 in

History & Versions

Model history

1991: Model launched.
2003: Model discontinued.

Other versions

None.

Photo Gallery

  • Kawasaki ZXR400 motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki ZXR400 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki ZXR400 motorcycle review - Instruments
  • Kawasaki ZXR400 motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki ZXR400 motorcycle review - Brakes
  • Kawasaki ZXR400 motorcycle review - Top view
  • Kawasaki ZXR400 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki ZXR400 motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki ZXR400 motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki ZXR400 motorcycle review - Instruments
  • Kawasaki ZXR400 motorcycle review - Exhaust
  • Kawasaki ZXR400 motorcycle review - Exhaust
  • Kawasaki ZXR400 motorcycle review
  • Kawasaki ZXR400 motorcycle review
  • Kawasaki ZXR400 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki ZXR400 motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki ZXR400 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki ZXR400 motorcycle review - Instruments
  • Kawasaki ZXR400 motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki ZXR400 motorcycle review - Brakes
  • Kawasaki ZXR400 motorcycle review - Top view
  • Kawasaki ZXR400 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki ZXR400 motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki ZXR400 motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki ZXR400 motorcycle review - Instruments
  • Kawasaki ZXR400 motorcycle review - Exhaust
  • Kawasaki ZXR400 motorcycle review - Exhaust
  • Kawasaki ZXR400 motorcycle review
  • Kawasaki ZXR400 motorcycle review
  • Kawasaki ZXR400 motorcycle review - Side view