Ride Quality & Brakes
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.
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.
Build Quality & Reliability
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.
Insurance, running costs & value
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.