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KAWASAKI NINJA 1000SX (2020-on) Review

Published: 06 February 2020

Updated: 06 February 2020

Not just a Z1000SX with a new name, the Ninja 1000SX steers more crisply, is more comfortable and feels classier

Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX on the road

Not just a Z1000SX with a new name, the Ninja 1000SX steers more crisply, is more comfortable and feels classier

Overall Rating 4 out of 5

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.

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).

Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX side view

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.

Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5

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.

Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX right side

Engine 4 out of 5

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.

Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX exhaust

Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5

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 4 out of 5

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.

Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX TFT dash

Equipment 4 out of 5

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.

Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX seat

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 2020
Year discontinued -
New price £11,145
Used price £11,000 to £11,200
Warranty term Two years
Running costs
Insurance group -
Annual road tax £91
Annual service cost -
Performance
Max power 140 bhp
Max torque 82 ft-lb
Top speed 155 mph
1/4-mile acceleration -
Average fuel consumption 43 mpg
Tank range 180 miles
Specification
Engine size 1043cc
Engine type liquid-cooled, 16v, inline four
Frame type aluminium twin-spar
Fuel capacity 19 litres
Seat height 835mm
Bike weight 235kg
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

History & Versions

Model history

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.

Other versions

None

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Photo Gallery

  • Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX on the road
  • Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX front
  • Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX turning left
  • Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX turning right
  • Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX side view
  • Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX TFT dash
  • Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX exhaust
  • Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX seat
  • Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX right side
  • Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX static
  • Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX front right quarter
  • Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX rear right quarter
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