KAWASAKI Z125 (2019 - on) Review

Highlights

  • Cheap to buy and run
  • Modern aggressive styling
  • Unintimidating for new riders

At a glance

Owners' reliability rating: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
Annual servicing cost: £120
Power: 15 bhp
Seat height: Medium (32.1 in / 815 mm)
Weight: Low (322 lbs / 146 kg)

Prices

New £3,799
Used £3,000 - £3,800

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
4 out of 5 (4/5)

The Kawasaki Z125 naked roadster was launched alongside its also all-new faired Ninja 125 sportster in 2019 and marked a return to the 125cc A1 licence class for Japanese firm after a 25-year absence, apparently after an 'extensive' market research program by its R&D team revealed a hunger for bikes in this segment.

The two bikes share the same four-stroke engine and rolling chassis but the dramatically-styled naked version benefits from a taller, more upright riding position, 2kg less weight and a slightly lower price, all making it even more tempting to first-time riders.

Kawasaki says the two bikes mark the beginning of a new, stronger focus on the European market. At the heart of both is an all-new liquid-cooled, four-stroke single-cylinder engine which Kawasaki says delivers a mixture of midrange and top end, and with close to the legal limit of 15bhp on offer, it’s certainly one of the more attractive A1 propositions currently available.

Both bikes also feature a tubular steel trellis frame of the type Kawasaki also use on its H2 flagship supercharged models – although this is more conspicuous on the naked Z125 than its faired Ninja counterpart. The styling of both bikes also apes that of Kawasaki’s larger capacity Z roadster and Ninja sports machines, meaning street-cred a plenty for new owners.

Due to its more relaxed riding position, with higher bars the Z125 is the most user friendly of the pair. Its wider mirrors are also more effective, the riding position roomier, it’s £300 cheaper new than the faired version and its naked looks are bang on trend, too.

Best of all, though, at around £3500 new at launch and starting at £3799 in 2021, the Z125 remains the cheapest of all the mainstream Japanese naked 125s, including Suzuki’s GSX-S125, Honda’s CB125R and Yamaha’s MT-125, making it, not just a brilliant first time introduction to biking, but brilliant value as well.

The Kawasaki Z125 Performance takes this naked bike's sportiness to the next level by adding some optional extras such as an Arrow end can to pep the bike up a bit. 

Watch: Kawasaki Z125 video review

In this video we review both the Kawasaki Z125 and its faired sibling, the Ninja 125. Tester Adam Child gets to grips with these two learner-friendly motorcycles on the launch. Find out which one he prefers and whether he reckons you should pick one over the impressive competition. 

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Although bargain priced and inevitably built down to a price, both the naked ‘Zed’ 125 and its sports Ninja 125 sibling use an attractive tubular steel trellis chassis modelled on that of Kawasaki’s range-topping H2 supercharged super naked.

And although the 125 machines’ suspension is a little basic, with conventional, rather than fashionable inverted telescopic forks up front and only pre-load adjustment on the single rear shock, the combination works well and Kawasaki don’t appear to have cut costs.

Both ends are on the firm, sporty side but they also have progressive damping and aren’t simply uncontrollable springs at either end like some ‘budget’ 125 machines have.

The naked roadster has a taller riding position than its Ninja sibling but the 815mm seat makes the Zed easy enough to manage. It’s at home darting between traffic and making light work of heavy congestion.

But for a naked, lightweight machine its stability is excellent – even when pushed beyond its design parameters. The sporty set up even works around town, taking speed humps and large potholes with relative ease and comfort.

Thankfully, Kawasaki haven’t economised on the Zed’s tyres either. Decent Dunlops front and rear give more than enough grip and feel for this type of bike on the road. And even the ABS assisted brakes are more than adequate.

Comfort is good, too. Owners report they can ‘ride for ages without needing a break’.

Overall, the naked Kawasaki should prove popular not just with individual first-time bikers but also with riding schools up and down the country – it’s not just affordable, effective and stylish, it’s also user friendly and a doddle to ride.

MCN Senior Road Tester Adam Child riding the 2019 Z125

Engine

Next up: Reliability
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Both of Kawasaki’s new 125s, the roadster Z 125 and the sports-styled Ninja 125, are powered by the same, new, water-cooled, four-stroke, single-cylinder engine which is loosely based on that of the old Ninja 250SL.

Its peak power of 14.7bhp, or just shy of the 15bhp A1 maximum, comes in at 10,000rpm, which is just 500rpm short of the redline while its maximum torque of 8.7ftlb arrives at 7,700rpm.

Overall, to get the most out of the engine you have to disregard any mechanical sympathy and thrash the poor little thing to within an inch of its life, as is the case with most 125s. However adequate, easy travel does take place lower down the rev range.

With the engine flat-out and the rider tucked in out of the breeze, the digital LCD speedo indicates 72mph, which is a fraction less than its Ninja 125 sports sibling due to its lack of bodywork and thus poorer aerodynamics.

In the real world, with more normal riding, there isn’t much left after 55mph and overtakes have to be planned – although the Z125 is still more than happy to buzz along at an indicated 60mph. But below that the new Zed is more than capable of embarrassing dawdling traffic as long as you keep the revs buzzing, which does result in some vibrations.

2019 Kawasaki Z125 on the road

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
5 out of 5 (5/5)

The build quality, detailing, finishes and general reliability records of nearly all modern Kawasakis is almost without exception beyond criticism with ‘Special K’s standards having made a noticeable step up in recent years – and the Z125, although a relatively simple, budget-priced, novice offering, is no exception to the rule. 

Owners generally are very impressed with their bikes with one commenting, "Excellent build quality. It feels well put-together and reliable…"

Better still, many of the Z125’s (and Ninja 125’s for that matter) mechanicals and components are derived from those of the Ninja 250SL, which was introduced, back in 2015.

That bike has proven perfectly reliable and durable over the years since with no mechanical concerns cropping up so we’ve little reason to suspect the lower power, less-stressed 125 versions will be any different.

The Z125’s motor, as mentioned earlier, is also derived from that of the 250SL with the major difference being its smaller cylinder dimensions. That means engine reliability shouldn’t be a problem as long as the Zed’s serviced and maintained properly (although that’s not always a ‘given’ when it comes to novice, ‘first-timer’ bikes).

Many of the Zed 125’s chassis and suspension parts are identical to the 250, too. The bodywork, such as it is, all fits together nicely, paint and metal finishes are good and the switchgear and LCD instrument display, while hardly cutting edge, have a solid, quality feel about them.

However, with all that said, considering the Zed 125’s newness, it’s also important to say that Kawasaki’s naked 125 is also still so new it’s impossible to be 100% certain about its likely reliability record. As we write, all current examples are still only a year old with still fairly small mileages. In five or 10 years time it might be a completely different story.

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
3 out of 5 (3/5)

The upfront value and low running costs of Kawasaki’s new Z125 are one of its biggest attractions. On the one hand it’s a stylish, ‘mini Z1000’ with most of the appeal and performance of, say, Yamaha’s class-leading MT-125

On the other hand, however, the Kawasaki is also one of the cheapest offerings of its type, certainly among the leading Japanese manufacturers.

It’s almost £1000 cheaper than the Yamaha (although the MT-125 is admittedly newer and better equipped). And, when you’re 17 and starting out in biking, that sort of saving (which could be spent elsewhere on, say, insurance or bike clobber) is important.

A cursory glance at any McDonalds carpark will tell you that the KTM Duke 125 is a popular option with today's teens. The Duke looks agressive and has quality components like WP suspension plus later versions get a full colour TFT dash with Bluetooth connectivity.

Kawasaki Z125 turning left

What's more, if you're considering a new 125 in 2020, the Duke is priced pretty much the same as the Zed (depending on your configuration).

The most manageable and affordable naked 125 from a mainstream manufacturer is the Suzuki GSX-S125. Its low 785mm seat and 133kg weight mean it's a doddle for the inexperienced and Suzuki regularly have great deals available, too.

If you're not a new rider, but are looking for a 125 for commute duty, the slick and sophisticated Honda CB125R could be for you. The Honda doesn't have the sporty street cred of some of the competition, opting for a neo café styling with retro and modern elements sitting side by side. 

The Kawasaki is virtually as good to ride as the more expensive competition and makes a great learner machine with a price that is simply too good to be ignored. However, it’s also worth mentioning here that not all Z125s are created equal.

The cheapest version is the green variant but if you want the metallic black/white or even metallic black/black options, they’re both £100 more – a premium that is unlikely to be recovered when it comes to selling the bike on.

The Z125 should be cheap to run, too. Ridden gently (unlikely, we know) it should return over 80mpg, insurance is no worse than any other bike of this type, annual servicing won’t break the bank at around £150 and the little Kawasaki’s appetite for consumables such as tyres, chains or brake pads is minimal, too.

Equipment

3 out of 5 (3/5)

This is the one area where the more affordable Z125 stands out as being different to some of its more premium priced opposition.

Although ABS comes as standard on the little Kawasaki, as do its petal brake discs and digital clock, the Z125 hasn’t got all the ‘bells and whistles’ of some rivals – although it does have most of the things you actually need.

So, although its LCD screen is clear and looks cool when you fire the bike up, it’s nowhere near as fancy as those on the Yamaha and Honda and lacks a gear indicator (although you can buy an aftermarket one from Kawasaki), there’s no fuel consumption indicator and no average speeds. Nor is there any Bluetooth integration of the type you get with the KTM Duke 125 or Aprilia Tuono 125.

The Z125 rear wheel

Although its suspension works well and is more than up to the job, it’s also a fairly basic set-up – just conventional, non-adjustable telescopics up front compared to the fancy inverted forks of the Yamaha and merely preload adjustment available on the single rear shock.

Of course, if you’ve deep enough pockets, some of that can be remedied with aftermarket accessories – but not all. Kawasaki offer an accessory Arrow can, for example. Generally, though, if you’re after fancy 125 class equipment, look elsewhere.

In 2021 a set of new colours was added to the Kawasaki Z125 line-up: green and black, black and white, or just black. 

Kawasaki Z125 in green and black colours for 2021

Specs

Engine size 125cc
Engine type Liquid-cooled, four-stroke single
Frame type Tubular diamond, steel
Fuel capacity 11 litres
Seat height 815mm
Bike weight 146kg
Front suspension 37 mm telescopic fork
Rear suspension Uni-Trak, gas-charged shock with adjustable preload
Front brake Single 290 mm petal disc. Caliper: Dual piston
Rear brake Single 220 mm petal disc. Caliper: Dual piston
Front tyre size 100/80-17M/C 52S
Rear tyre size 130/70-17M/C 62S

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption -
Annual road tax £21
Annual service cost £120
New price £3,799
Used price £3,000 - £3,800
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two years

Top speed & performance

Max power 15 bhp
Max torque 8.6 ft-lb
Top speed 72 mph
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range -

Model history & versions

Model history

  • 2019: Z125 launched alongside Ninja 125.
  • 2021: Range updated with new colours. 

Owners' reviews for the KAWASAKI Z125 (2019 - on)

2 owners have reviewed their KAWASAKI Z125 (2019 - 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.

Review your KAWASAKI Z125 (2019 - on)

Summary of owners' reviews

Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
Ride quality & brakes: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Engine: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Reliability & build quality: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
Value vs rivals: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Equipment: 3.5 out of 5 (3.5/5)
Annual servicing cost: £120
4 out of 5
24 December 2020 by BikerFromGrove

Year: 2020

Annual servicing cost: £100

Best combo of value, ability and looks in class!

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

The tyres stick like the proverbial and the suspension is on the firm side so handling has really allowed for any lack of talent i may have. Bike is bigger than looks on pictures although still compact. I'm 6ft and even though knees are tucked it's not cramped and slightly leant forward, upright position is comfy for hours

Engine 5 out of 5

Pulls really well for a 125! It's quick up to 55-60mph but you do have to work the gears and go missionary from there if you have a headwind. Really easy to get on with and great fun though, i'm 24 and brought a 125 as it's cheap and rarely wanting for more

Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5

Had for over a year and ridden in every weather and abused that poor little single and it's not once complained, engine feels bomb proof. On the downside however the downpipes discolour and bits start to rust very quickly so would recommend regular anti corrosion

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

Paid less than i got quoted for any other non-chinese 125 brand new and was the cheapest to insure in my first year at £780 ( still scandalous! ) Also cheap servicing and to be expected gets great mpg

Equipment 3 out of 5

The digital dash isn't exactly a KTM TFT but it's nicer than everybody says and it's easy to read! Would be nice to have a gear indicator like but it's a £3000 bike so you can't moan. My biggest complaint is the mirrors, they are as much use as a mcflurry lid. Just get a set of bar ends from jump.

Buying experience: Brought from robinsons of rochdale Staff we're all absolutely ace, had a coffee and chat, really efficient, did me a really reasonable deal and threw in my CBT free The instructor on my CBT was also a top bloke and i will most likely buy from them again at swapping time!

5 out of 5
02 May 2020 by Dave w

Year: 2019

Annual servicing cost: £150

An excellent bike to ride . High Revving . Agile you can throw it into corners . Invites you to ride it hard . The bike is easy to ride with a comfortable riding position . The bike has stunning looks especially in the green . If your a beginner you will get to grips with this bike quickly and absolutely love it . The abs is good . Dash layout clear . Only down side is it lacks a gear indicator . You can get one of these on Kawasaki website aftermarket if you need but once your use to it No problem . Excellent build quality . I would recommend this bike all day long . A brilliant 125

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

Comfortable . can ride for ages without needing a break . Suspension feels good as is the stopping power . Feels tight in the corners .

Engine 5 out of 5

High revving , responsive had 74mph down hill . Very happy at 60 65 . More than adequate for a 125 . Not much power low end but when you start getting high up the revs it comes into life .

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

Excellent build quality . Feels well put together and reliable .

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5

Hasn’t got all the bells and whistles as some rivals but has most things you need. Dunlop tyres are decent . LCD screen is clear and looks cool when you fire the bike up . Lacking a gear indicator . You can buy an aftermarket one from Kawasaki site especially for the z125 . Abs is good .

Buying experience: Was up for £3000 Paid 2950 from dealer used with 108 miles on clock . first service for free

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