Ride Quality & Brakes
The biggest changes for this bike came with the chassis, in the form of updated, top-spec suspension and brakes. The 41mm big piston forks' are ZX-6R-alike, but retuned with separate function.
The brakes have also been enlarged by 10mm to feature 310mm petal discs. It also featured the same monobloc radial calipers from the Z1000SX. If anything, the Zed’s ride, steering, braking and whole blend of practicality and entertainment are better yet.
A compact riding position
The compact riding position, new quality suspension (which is on the ‘buff’ or taut side of comfortable), plus divinely precise and confidence-inspiring steering, makes a mockery of the Kawasaki’s apparent size and help endow the Zed with truly great street handling.
I use the word 'street' deliberately. Around a track, it’d probably be too hefty and laborious, but on the road, at normal, brisk or even serious licence-losing three-figure speed, it’s sharp and utterly planted.
It's also responsive without being twitchy or frisky, engaging and thoroughly entertaining - right down to the fierce but finessed, one-finger brakes.
Kawasaki refined the 2014 Z1000 rather than radicalising it. Throttle response was enhanced via a tweaked EFi/ECU and revised intake funnels, while extra mid-range grunt was gained with no top end loss through new cams and oval header link pipes.
The previous bike was always a grunty smoothie anyway, but that was then made better than ever in 2014, with it easily pulling away from as little as 2500rpm and there on delivering progressive, glitch-free turbine drive. This is all accompanied by a lovely, acoustically-enhanced induction howl - indicative of performance Kawasakis.
At the time, we couldn't think of a better, more enteraining and useful, four-cylinder street bike, despite having no electronics provided - because none were needed!
Build Quality & Reliability
Being a proven lump, with quality parts, should mean reliability’s not much of an issue here, while the overall standard of finish and accessories makes earlier Zeds seem tawdry. The styling of this machine is far more in keeping with a £12,000-plus bike rather than one starting at £9500.
There’s the eminently tactile raised metal tank badge, the seat fabric’s ‘Z’ motif (in fact subtle ‘Z’ design motifs are everywhere), the classy paint and the variety of finishes and materials are mouthwatering.
MCN readers' owner reviews show next to no complaints of mechanical issues, however there have been some reports of corrosion when ridden through winter, so give yours regular cleans if used year-round.
Insurance, running costs & value
Sure, some naked bikes are fancier and techier, such as the early KTM 1290 Super Duke R, but the the Zed’s still well under £10,000 in a class where some, madly so, are now edging £14,000 (the KTM is a prime example of this).
Yep, that's right, in 2014 you could have a fabulously refined, useful, characterful and fast roadster with bang up to date suspension and brakes for nine-and-a-half grand.
What's more, we at MCN also reckon this Zed was a great rival for the ever-popular Triumph Speed Triple range and made the more performance-focused Speed Triple R look extortionate.
Not to mention the 'uber' expensive supernakeds like the late V-Twin and early V4 powered Aprilia Tuonos and aforementioned KTM Super Duke, which appear unnecessarily extravagant by comparison.
Although the basics of an alloy twin-spar frame and hefty, 1043cc transverse inline-four remain unchanged from the previous model and there’s no electronic rider aids - like some of its rivals - the suspension and brakes were top drawer.
There are also enough posh bits to satisfy the biggest accessory snob: including the clear master cylinder fluid reservoir, the radial pump lever, two-tone mirrors, new LCD display (despite lacking a gear indicator and having a baffling twin digital tacho) and more.
Like all full-fat Zeds, there are also a raft of after market extras to kit your bike out with, including lightweight carbon wheels, full-sytem exhausts and power commanders. There are also a mountain of bolt-on parts available through the MCN Shop, including crash protection from R&G, sintered racing Brembo pads and Puig screens.