KAWASAKI NINJA 1000SX (2020 - on) Review
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£500|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
Before this 2020 Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX, the Z1000SX was a phenomenal success for the firm: their biggest-selling bike in the UK for the past decade, and Europe’s top-selling sports-tourer for at least the past three years.
The Ninja 1000SX carries over the Z’s magic mix of sporty style, plentiful power and undemanding versatility, then fixes a few of its shortcomings. The biggest single improvement is handling – the Z1000SX had horribly heavy steering at low speed and flopped reluctantly into turns, especially on its OE tyres.
- Related: 2021 Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX colours
But all that’s been fixed for the Ninja. From mini-roundabouts in town to tight mountain roads to wide open countryside sweepers, the new 1000SX steers as easily and accurately as anything.
The improvement comes down to either the new tyres (a model-specific ‘G’ version of Bridgestone’s S22) and/or some small tweaks to steering geometry (the Ninja has half a degree less rake and 4mm less trail than the Z).
On top of that, the Ninja adds a few new hi-tech features, including cruise control, a two-way quickshifter and a colour TFT dash – and all come fitted as standard, not accessories or options that cost extra.
Last but not least, the Ninja’s more comfortable too, thanks to a thicker and wider seat that not only feels a plusher place to sit, but also lifts the rider up, creating a fraction more legroom.
So that’s sharper steering, more modern sophistication and a touch more comfort, without compromising the fundamental sports-touring recipe that made the Z1000SX so popular. And all this costs just £700 more than last year’s Z, meaning the Ninja continues to undercut rivals.
Today we're riding the new Kawasaki Ninja 1000 SX, an updated version of the Z1000SX. There’s sharper steering, more comfort, and new tech in the way of cruise control, a two-way quickshifter and a colour dash. For more, click here: https://t.co/bvszogtjzQ pic.twitter.com/zlF3B7QsGq— Motor Cycle News (@MCNnews) February 3, 2020
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
The Z1000SX could feel a little harsh over bumps, but the Ninja seems more supple. Technical differences are only very slight – there’s an extra slit in the damping pistons inside the forks, which allows more oil to flow and softens low-speed compression.
At the rear of the bike, Kawasaki say they’ve "fine-tuned" the shock, but the unit itself is the same as before. Perhaps they’ve just had a fiddle with the preload and/or rebound damping adjusters…
Whatever the truth, the end result feels pretty good – plenty of support from the front while stopping sharply, no ungainly pitching around when cornering or accelerating hard, and generally pleasant bump absorption.
Brakes are unchanged from the Z1000SX, with a pair of powerful four-piston Tokico one-piece calipers up front. There’s plenty of feel for the front tyre too, and if it all goes wrong the backup plan is Kawasaki’s clever cornering ABS system, which adjusts its behaviour when you’re leant over to help you keep on your intended line.
EngineNext up: Reliability
Many inline-fours have a revvy power delivery, needing to be worked hard to release their potential. Not so the Ninja 1000’s. It’s virtually identical to the long-stroke 1043cc motor from the Z1000SX (which itself dates back to the 2010 Z1000), with a fat, flat torque curve, loads of midrange, and close ratios giving any-gear, any-rev, any-speed flexibility.
On open roads you can sit in third, fourth, fifth or sixth gear and it all feels equally natural. In top, you can drop as low as 20mph and it still pulls cleanly. If you want to feel the Ninja’s sporty side, it’ll scream on to 11,000rpm and deliver a claimed 140bhp – which is more than plenty.
Technical changes are tiny. Camshaft profiles have been modified to reduce the engine’s mechanical noise, but don’t appear to affect performance. Intake funnels have been altered too, with shorter trumpets for the outer pair of cylinders – Kawasaki say this suits the new 4-into-2-into-1 exhaust and reduces emissions.
As before there are two power modes: Full, which does what it says; and Low, which has a milder response and limits output to 75% (105bhp). These are now paired to one of the traction control’s three settings and pre-packaged into four intuitive riding modes: Sport, Road, Rain and a customisable Rider setting.
Overall, the Ninja 1000SX’s motor won’t implode your brain and turn your eyeballs inside-out like a ZX-10R or H2 SX, but it remains an easier, more useful, more forgiving and more rewarding engine on the road.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
There’s no reason to imagine the fundamental build quality will be any different from the previous Z1000SX, which scores exclusively four and five-star reviews from MCN-reading owners.
Paint looks deep, the engine has proven itself reliable over the past decade, and the general sense of fit and finish is excellent. Like the Z1000SX before it, the Ninja will continue to be built at Kawasaki’s Akashi plant in Japan.
We just need more time and miles to see how the new dash, switchgear and quickshifter hold up to long-term use before it deserves the full five stars.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
Running costs should be a fraction lower than the Z1000SX, as service intervals have been extended. To be more specific, the Z’s (largely trivial) 3800-mile service has been dropped completely, leaving owners to deal with just an annual oil service, plus a mileage-based service every 7500 miles. Valve clearances are a generous 26,000 miles apart.
And as for the Ninja’s overall value? Given all the new gadgets (colour TFT dash, cruise control, two-way quickshifter) come included as standard, the £11,145 starting price looks pretty impressive.
That’s less than even the most bare-bones version of BMW’s R1250RS (£12,395) or Ducati’s Supersport (£12,141) and only £500 more than the revvier and less-complete Suzuki GSX-S1000F (£10,645). The only slightly cheeky catch is that the grey paintscheme in the pictures here is £200 more.
Standard spec is high. Even the base-model Ninja 1000SX comes with cruise control, two-way quickshifter and a colour TFT dash with Bluetooth connectivity. And as it has since 2017, there’s also cornering ABS and traction control, as well as piercing white LED headlights.
If you want panniers (and the vast majority of Z1000SX customers did) then the Touring version of the Ninja 1000SX comes with them, plus a taller touring screen and heated grips, and costs £1000 more.
If you want a sportier look, the Ninja 1000SX Performance has a road-legal Akrapovic carbon silencer and a single seat cowl, for the same £12,145. And if you want both pose and practicality, the Performance Tourer version gets virtually the whole accessory catalogue (luggage, grips, exhaust, smoked touring screen, cowl and more) for £13,145.
Beware trying to compare ultimate gadget bragging rights with your BMW-owning neighbour, however. The Ninja 1000SX doesn’t yet offer electronic suspension adjustment, cornering lights, keyless ignition, hill-hold control or official plug-in microwave.
More seriously though, there are still two accessory oversights. The first is that there’s still no option to fit a centrestand – even though there is for the Versys 1000. And Kawasaki still don’t approve the use of three-piece hard luggage at once.
They’re happy for you to fit panniers OR a topbox, but not all together. For a sports-tourer, either of those could be seen as a fairly sizeable shortcoming.
|Engine type||liquid-cooled, 16v, inline four|
|Frame type||aluminium twin-spar|
|Fuel capacity||19 litres|
|Front suspension||41mm forks adjustable for preload, rebound and compression|
|Rear suspension||Monoshock adjustable for preload and rebound|
|Front brake||2 x 300mm discs with four-piston calipers|
|Rear brake||250mm single disc with one-piston caliper|
|Front tyre size||120/70 ZR17|
|Rear tyre size||190/50 ZR17|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||43 mpg|
|Annual road tax||£93|
|Annual service cost||£500|
|Used price||£10,300 - £11,000|
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two years|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||140 bhp|
|Max torque||82 ft-lb|
|Top speed||155 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
|Tank range||180 miles|
Model history & versions
2011 Kawasaki Z1000SX – Fully faired sporty roadbike built around the frame and motor from the loopy Z1000 supernaked, but tamed and re-engineered to serve as a useable all-rounder.
High-rise clip-ons give a comfortable riding position, grunty engine has masses of useful midrange, but it still looks (a bit) like a ZX-10R (if you squint). No electronics, though ABS is an option, while wide accessory panniers need to be clipped to an external tubular steel rail. 136bhp, 81ftlb, 228kg and 820mm seat height. Steers stubbornly at low speed on OE Bridgestone tyres.
2014 Kawasaki Z1000SX – Generation 2 model gets heaps of nips and tucks, including new Tokico brake calipers, stiffer suspension, two power modes, three-level traction control, slimmer flush-mounting panniers, tiny tweaks to the intake cam’s lift and duration, thicker seat padding, a remote rear preload adjuster and more.
Power up to 140bhp, kerb weight up to 230kg. Still steers stubbornly at low speed on new OE Bridgestone tyres.
2017 Kawasaki Z1000SX – Third time lucky. Gen 3 inherits the ZX-10R’s IMU, which feeds information to the new cornering ABS and traction control. More suspension changes too, including a new shock linkage that drops seat height to 815mm, as well as damping changes at both ends.
New bodywork is an inch wider on each side and screen is 15mm taller for better weather protection. New LCD clocks finally get a gear position indicator. LED headlight is brighter and whiter than previous bulbs. Still steers stubbornly on OE Bridgestone tyres.
Owners' reviews for the KAWASAKI NINJA 1000SX (2020 - on)
7 owners have reviewed their KAWASAKI NINJA 1000SX (2020 - on) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£500|
Looks good but vague turn in to bends gives no confidence,going to change to pilot road 5 if that don’t work I’ll be going back to honda
To much intake noise,makes you think you need to be in a higher gear
Got the tourer but power socket doesn’t come as part of the tourer pack
Superb bike, easily the best I've ever owned. It is both fast, and very comfortable, with a much better riding position than previous bikes. Although heavier than my previous VFR800, as soon as you move the weight goes, and it's easy to flick around.
Ride is very good, have had pillion on back and bike was comfy for the whole journey. Handling is really good, and stable ( lean angle gauge is fun). At very low speeds I personally find it heavy to manoeuvre, probably because the seat height is more than my old VFR.
Pulls like a horse when you want it to, and can easily be ridden sensibly when needed. Quick-shifter is excellent, and makes hard acceleration a whole new experience (to me anyway - my first Q/shifter experience), absolutely love it. Still does feel a bit low geared, which i see other people say too, but then the cruise control takes care of that if you are on a long run, which is another excellent feature on this bike.
Only done 1,500 miles so no comment here, but with history of high sales for years, that says something. Excellent finish on the paintwork especially on the (very) metallic Green.
Only had its first service recently £165 at J.W. Groombridge in East Sussex, who did the service. (Although I felt the cost of the first service was on the steep side, at £160). Cant say much about running costs, as haven't done enough miles.
Panniers on this model are really good - from the small amount I've used them. New TFT dash is really clear - cannot fault it and with the addition of the Kawasaki "Rideology" app that adds something interesting.
Buying experience: Bought from J.W.Groombridge in E.Sussex, and really cannot praise them highly enough, the service was excellent. Very impressed.
Nice overall package in a not so crowded sport touring classic market.
Steering is improved compared to '17. S22 are much better than the pathetic S10 of the '17 model. It is strange that now that the new model is out, only now MCN says that '17 had an "horrible steering"....
140hp are sufficient for the road...
Version: Gray and black
Annual servicing cost: £500
Very easy to ride ,pulls in every gear ,i love the quick shifter,very comfortable on long distances
Very good brakes
Pulls very good loads of bottom end grunt
The 600 mile service is 150 a bit expensive for an oil and filter change
Tft clocks ,quick shifter,cruise control 4 power modes
Buying experience: I got mine from Chris walkers kawasaki, I dealt with Kim there i went in beginning Dec's for the deposit, and payed the rest end Dec they delivered it end Feb, I would recommend them to anyone there that good ,very nice experience
Very good bike only thing is the insurance companies in the OK changing so much more because of the word ninja in it.
It the insurance that get it marked down as I was quoted £400 less for a z1000sx on a 20 plate then the ninja 1000sx just because its called a ninja.
Annual servicing cost: £500
Cannot fault it lovely ride very comfortable
Love the look and quality of finish
Cracking bike, perfect for roads here on the West Coast of Canada (Vancouver, BC). Limited time on the saddle so far, but very enjoyable. Not as heavy as it looks, even with the panniers; easy to move around. Love the new clocks, the quickshifter (still getting used to that...) and the cruise control! Seriously, for the money, Kawasaki Canada should install the LED turned signals...
Brakes are powerful, especially coming from a 2015 Tracer 900. Suspension is good, not too soft.
That's a lot of fun, but nothing really compares to a Yamaha CP3 ;-) Getting used to the lack of low RPM torque.
Absolutely perfect finish. Very visible clocks. Feels solid...
No service yet, but a tad expensive to insure. Goes with the 1043cc territory, I guess.
Panniers are pricey, but reasonable quality. Didn't add anything else so far. Could REALLY use a better windscreen.