KAWASAKI Z H2 SE (2021 - on) Review
- Ballistic supercharged Z H2 gets the suspension it deserves
- Luxurious super-naked for the road, rather than the track
- Proof wildly powerfully bikes can also be usable and friendly
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£40|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
This is the Kawasaki Z H2 SE and it’s quite possibly the best bike in Kawasaki’s range. It’s also positive proof that you can have a bike with the performance to turn your brain into scrambled egg without having to tolerate a track-focused chassis or unfriendly ergonomics.
- Latest news: Kawasaki Z H2 SE unveiled
Any bike fitted with a supercharger is clearly A Very Good Thing Indeed. You can keep all your adjustable riding modes, pretty colour screens and light-up whatnots. For me, nothing equals the thrill of forced induction, from the chirping, whistling and whooshing Star Wars soundtrack to the phenomenal throttle response and unparalleled midrange drive.
Anyone who’s sampled Kawasaki’s supercharged Z H2 will know exactly where I’m coming from; the boosted 197bhp inline four stuffs your belly with butterflies from the moment the garage door swings open.
At £16,050 on the road the standard Z H2 is not flawless, though. Despite being eerily smooth, a doddle to ride, nicely screwed together and bristling with of-the-moment tech, the big naked is let down by its suspension. Or to be precise, the rear shock. Things are tickety-boo in normal riding, but tramp on and the shock stands out as the weak link in Kawasaki’s otherwise high-class chain.
Which is why the SE version features electronic semi-active suspension. Also boasting one-piece Brembo brake calipers swiped off the faired H2, it’s available only in wondrously sparkly Golden Blazed Green and Metallic Diablo Black, and it sets you back £18,500 ready to play.
I already rate the regular Z H2; I’ll take proper engineering over gizmos any day, and its supercharged engine is a modern marvel. And in SE form it’s better still. With improved suspension action, ride quality and, crucially, handling prowess when pushed, Kawasaki have fixed the only real flaw with their blown naked.
What the Z H2 SE isn’t is a ‘pure’ super naked like a Ducati Streetfighter V4 S or Aprilia Tuono V4 Factory. It isn’t based on a superbike, doesn’t have a hard focus and still hasn’t the outright handling potential of these racier rivals.
But what these rivals don’t do is offer the Kawasaki’s sense of luxury, day-to-day usability or, of course, it’s astonishing and addictive supercharged engine. The SE is a road bike for road riders, and the way it delivers smooth, comfy progress punctuated by hilarious spurts of shocking acceleration is of far more use than chassis feel around Misano. And when I do want to crack on it has as much handling as I’ll ever use on the road.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
Like the cooking version, the Z H2 SE is easy to ride and accommodating. Its chassis rolls and turns with fluidity (once the front tyre is up to temperature, before which the steering drops in a touch like an old Z1000SX), and it’s friendly and pleasingly usable.
The SE retains the secure and inspiring feel of the less expensive version on wide, fast A-roads too, sweeping cleanly through turns. Where it differs is in ride quality. While not quite as plush as the sports touring H2 SX SE, the semi-active Showa forks and shock give the upgraded naked a slightly more supple ride; you sense the superior damping.
And the difference is pronounced on dancing B-roads and bumpy backlanes, the SE dealing with imperfections and retaining its poise and steering accuracy where the regular Z H2’s rear end becomes crashy and the handling a little vague.
They call it KECS, or Kawasaki Electronic Control Suspension. It’s a Skyhook system with chassis position continually referenced to an imaginary point above the bike. Damping changes are made using data on wheel travel, road speed, acceleration and braking.
Suspension settings are tied to three riding modes – Sport, Road and Rain. The SE is noticeably firmer in Sport, the chassis gathering itself ready to get down for business, while Rain mode puts it at its softest. Road, predictably, is where the handling has the best all-round feel and behaviour.
Any difference from the uprated front brake calipers is harder to detect, but this doesn’t matter as there’s certainly no shortage of bite or stopping power.
EngineNext up: Reliability
The merest hint of gas and, seemingly in any gear and at any revs, the supercharged 998cc inline four instantly turns your surroundings into a smeared blur. Its midrange response and dimension-shifting thrust are unequalled, the Zed wasting everything with each whoop-inducing taste of forced induction torque. The rush is so addictive…
Yet despite this nuclear potential the blown motor is super-smooth and extremely well-mannered. The abrupt fuelling step that plagued the first H2 is nothing but a fading memory, the twistgrip on the Z H2 SE delivery predictable response, and the engine is a pussy cat in town and whirrs soothingly on a motorway.
Dawdling gets decent economy, but normal use sees consumption in the low 30s to a gallon – but you’ll forgive iffy fuel figures every time the blower supplies boost.
The gearbox is light and features ratios that extract the most from the engine in road conditions, rather than being configured for hot laps of a track you’re never going to visit. A two-way quickshifter gives clutchless upshifts and downshifts anywhere above 2500rpm.
It’s not the slickest system – the action is fine, but unless you’re riding briskly the shift feels a tad too long in the lower half of the revs. Doesn’t stop you using it all the time, though.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
It’s quite a classy thing, the Z H2. And it feels more sumptuous in SE form with its spangly green paint and suspension with wires dangling out. Switchgear feels good quality and works well, the colour dash is easy to read and loaded with data, and the finish gives a sense of quality, especially with the Kawasaki River Mark badge proudly sat on the nose. Ooh, special.
There are one or two cheap looking fasteners, and owners of Z H2s report that some chassis parts are prone to corrosion if not smothered in ACF-50 or similar. One or two riders reckon the paint is a bit thin too, but the overriding opinion is that the Zed is well made. No concerns over the dependability of the supercharged motor, either.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
The Kawasaki is up there on value, though. First, it’s got just as many whizzbang trinkets and glimmering features, and quality is on the money. Second, this green torquemonster is every bit as exciting as the super-naked opposition but also friendly, easy to use and practical in a way that others aren’t. And third, despite other Kawasakis being a little prone to depreciation the H2 models have pleasing residuals.
But fourth, and most importantly, the Z H2 SE is fitted with a supercharger – and so wins hands-down every time.
Every widget, toy and gizmo box has a big, fat, green tick in it. As well as the new semi-active suspension, the SE is adorned with cornering ABS and traction control, cruise, a two-way quickshifter, colour TFT display showing a myriad of data, phone connectivity, LED lighting… oh, and of course a supercharger.
There’s also a high-quality two-tone perch, that deep sparkly metallic paint, and a neat ‘Z’ shape to the front brake caliper mounts. This last feature might be purely accidental, but it looks cool all the same.
|Engine type||Liquid cooled, DOHC, 16v inline four, forced induction|
|Frame type||Steel tube trellis|
|Fuel capacity||19 litres|
|Front suspension||43mm telescopic fork, semi-active damping|
|Rear suspension||monoshock, semi-active damping|
|Front brake||2 x 320mm disc with four-piston calipers. ABS|
|Rear brake||260mm disc, two-piston caliper. ABS|
|Front tyre size||120/70 ZR17|
|Rear tyre size||190/55 ZR17|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||34 mpg|
|Annual road tax||£101|
|Annual service cost||£40|
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two years|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||197 bhp|
|Max torque||101 ft-lb|
|Top speed||166 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||10.7 secs|
|Tank range||142 miles|
Model history & versions
2020: Z H2 comes chirping, whistling and fluttering out of showrooms. The burly naked uses the supercharged inline four from the H2 and H2 SX but with a revised tune giving 197bhp and delivering maximum torque 1000rpm earlier in the revs. The steel tube frame is specific to the model with a double-sided swingarm, rather than the faired H2’s single-sider.
2021: Spangly SE version released, with semi-active Showa suspension and uprated front brake calipers. Offered in glittering green and black only.
Non-SE variant of the Z H2 has all the same features, only with manually adjusted suspenders and slightly lower-spec front brakes.
Owners' reviews for the KAWASAKI Z H2 SE (2021 - on)
3 owners have reviewed their KAWASAKI Z H2 SE (2021 - 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:||£40|
Annual servicing cost: £3
Worst feature has to be the Huge silencer that looks like its intended for drying washing but there are options for this. A great thing about the exhaust though is that the standard exhaust is very quiet which makes the bike seem almost electric in its delivery. By far the outstanding feature is ease of use, such an easy bike to enjoy and flatters your riding ability with fabulous road manners and immense and instant performance.
Brakes are progressive and superb, ride quality is slightly firm yet magic carpet ride smooth at other times, hard to explain but clearly linked to Skyhook tech and its very, very impressive.
Super smooth in any gear and the bikes stand out feature.
Only given 4 due to a recall that dictates my 1 month old bike will be in the workshop for half a day, it's an engine out task which adds some anxiety.
Run in service is £180 and should be FOC at only 600 miles. Annual service is around £240, expensive for a Japanese bike but in line with BMW prices.
Why give a bike cruise control but not heated grips? Any UK bike should get these as standard. I'd like to see an oem pannier option as many of us use our super nakeds for longer journies, something the Z1000 H2 excels at.
Buying experience: Dealer sourced at a great price making the bike very affordable on PCP which is my preferred option.
Annual servicing cost: £75
I usually note the bad news first. There isn't much, if any. You'll notice the weight moving her around the garage. Some of the panels might vibrate at low engine speed (just tighten them). Quickshifter isn't very smooth around town....needs to stretch its legs a bit, then very smooth. That said, the down function still isn't, and needs a real push (mine has about 3000 miles on it). However, it is super smooth, has very neutral handling, great brakes, good comfort, and giggly acceleration when you want it. Very nice ride quality, too. I am amazed at the aerodynamics. Even ripping along on back roads at speed, you are really not beat up by the wind blast. In fact, I'd say it rolls right past you - next to no noise or buffeting. Really impressive work there, especially when you look head-on to the bike, and it looks all sugomi-styling, with little attention paid to aero....but, that is false!
Brakes are excellent. Rear brake, even, is quite effective.Destroyed the stock rear tire by hitting a piece of metal debris, had to replace it - but couldn't find the stock Pirelli, so fitted a Bridgestone S22. If anything, that IMPROVED the already excellent ride and handling. So, when the front is done, that will be an S22 as well. Very neutral handling. Kind of a fun lean angle indicator if you want to switch to it occasionally.....last ride got to 46 degrees lean, more to go, doesn't drag anything. You can easily burn a tank of fuel and not feel beaten up. The electronic suspension is excellent. The bike is poised, and doesn't shift weight enough to change handling in (relatively) steep ascents & descents on the rough roads around here. No tendency to push the front at all, as you might expect from a big bike.
The engine's a masterpiece. Superb throttle response, smooth running, dominant power when you want it, quiet burbling when you don't. I kind of want a pipe, but also worry the smoothness might go. Supercharger noises (and stock pipe sound, actually) are rather compelling. If you've not ridden a supercharged bike previously, you won't have experienced anything like it. Certainly not the soundtrack!
It seems to have top shelf build quality. No issues whatsoever. Great looking bike in person, aside from the muffler.
It'll definitely suck down fuel if encouraged, but generally is just fine. Parts are shared with other Kawasaki sportbikes, so same oil filter as ZX-10R/6R, same plugs, etc. Oil change is easy - 20 minute job, don't have to pull any panels. Watch setup, though. It has a larger oil capacity than other Z bikes, but mine was delivered with the smaller Z bike volume of oil in it (so 700 ml down). It also had the Z900's (my old bike, so I know) volume of coolant in it (again about 600 ml down). Didn't hurt the bike, but to have both levels there made me suspect that dealers aren't quite used to working on it yet. That's fine - I do my own work, for the most part.
My complaint here is the electronics control is not particularly intuitive. They certainly work seamlessly, but you will need the owner's manual to figure things out. Also, for an expensive bike, how about some heated grips? They are a plug-in Kawasaki accessory, but do I really need to spend another $400 for them?!The cruise control is absolutely awesome. Never used that on a bike before, and to just kill off the last few miles home on an empty highway, nothing better. I find myself using it all the time, and hadn't given a thought to wanting it on a bike previously. Also, I have to say the headlight is excellent. No issue at all after dark on this bike.
Buying experience: From a dealer - pretty smooth, actually. Salesdude treated me really well, didn't have to spend much time there, and a pretty fair deal out the door.
I would 100% recommend this bike to anyone.
Very good, I have took mine to wales and back from bromsgrove and only taking a break half way but could of easily kept going with out a stop. The brakes on this bike are outstanding, I had a moment on a dual carriageway where a van pulled in front of me without looking and I had to emergency break, it gripped the road so well and held its own.
Very well built and solid.
Not to bad on servicing or running costs. If you ride sensible then you will get a good range on fuel but if you open it up all the time you will be filling it up alot more often.
I just love the look, it sounds amazing to.
Buying experience: I brought mine from a dealer, the first thing they said to me is "if this bike doesnt make you grin from ear to ear after you have test rode it we will be surprised" I was trading in a KTM superduke 1290R gen 1 which was an amazing bike to ride but I have to say I fell in love with the ZH2 with its pure power that is smooth but still aggressive through the gears. That supercharger is something else and the chirp it makes is something that not only puts a smile on your face but has everyone looking at you as you ride passed. I could even say that the bike is almost to much and completely crazy, I have owned a fair few bikes from GSXRs to MT10s etc but the ZH2 has stolen my heart and has given me a few heart racing moments. My advice to anyone is try one out and I personally would be surprised if you did not buy one at the end of it all.