KAWASAKI Z900 (2020 - on) Review
- A superb naked roadster
- Now fitted with traction control
- New TFT dash adds plushness
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
A smarter, more colourful dash and the safety net of traction control are the only discernible improvements to the riding experience, but that’s no bad thing because the 2020 Kawasaki Z900 is still a superb naked roadster. This bike replaces the 2017 Kawasaki Z900.
Watch: 2020 Kawasaki Z900 video review
The Triumph Street Triple and Yamaha MT-09 usually steal the limelight in this class, but the quality Kwak is smooth, refined, well balanced and satisfying. Despite new mapping it still has snatchy low speed throttle manners, tyres are average at best and a quickshifter would be nice, but it’s every bit as fast and fun as a super naked in the real world, at a fraction of the cost.
Once you've read this review and our owners' reviews, it might be worth joining an online community to meet likeminded people. We'd suggest the Z900 Worldwide Forum is a great place to start.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
Dunlop’s new Roadsport 2 tyres are average at best – fine for normal riding, but quickly lack grip when you lean on them. Even after a hard ride they’re lukewarm to the touch. The frame is strengthened around the swingarm pivot, but it’s hard to feel any difference in isolation but handling is sweet.
The Z900 might weigh a relatively bulky 210kg, but it’s nicely planted, balanced and lithe on the move. Steering has easy poise and there’s lots of meaty, tactile stopping power at both ends, but the front brake lever is too far away, even on its minimum span adjustment.
EngineNext up: Reliability
Exhaust and mapping are new to satisfy Euro5, but the Zed’s traditional 948cc inline four-cylinder motor is unchanged and makes the same 124bhp and 73ftlb of torque. But that’s no bad thing as this is one of Kawasaki’s most enjoyable engines with perfectly judged gearing and a thick wodge of unruffled oomph from tickover to its 10,500rpm redline.
The throttle is light and easy, the soundtrack dark and raucous and there’s so much grunt on tap you rarely need to use the bottom three gears. Kawasaki claims smoother fuelling, but It still jolts on and off the power at low speed.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
It doesn’t look hugely different to current model and like all Kawasaki’s naked Zeds (Ninjas are faired) it features the Japanese firm’s divisive 'Sugomi' styling. The Z900 now has LED lights all round, restyled tank and headlight shrouds and a new bellypan.
Build quality is still excellent with deep bodywork and engine paint finishes and lots of thoughtful attention to detail including wavy discs, 'Z' shaped rear light and shaped bar ends. Accessories include a lower seat, luggage, crash protection, USB and 12v sockets and screen. Zeds are built to last, so don’t expect any reliability problems.
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Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
With capacity slowly creeping up over the years the 'mid Zed' is as near as dammit a 1000cc, so insurance won’t be as cheap as it was in its Z750 days, but servicing is spread over generous 7500 mile intervals and overall you get a lot of bike for little money.
MCN250 verdict: Kawasaki Z900 vs BMW F900R vs Yamaha MT-09
By Simon Hargreaves
In February 2020 MCN pit the Z900 against its closest rivals, the all-new BMW F900R and the excellent Yamaha MT-09. All three bikes scored four stars, and it was seriously tough deciding a winner.
Here Bruce, Justin and I are in early spring showers, making sure we know what we’re dealing with on a trio of mid-priced, mid-capacity naked bikes. A few years ago we’d have just got on and ridden. Now, traction control, rider modes and TFT screens with Bluetooth integration have filtered down to more everyday motorbikes. BMW’s F900R is a case in point.
All new for 2020, the F900R uses a beefed-up F850GS parallel twin making 103bhp, doing away with its 800cc predecessor’s vestigial conrod balancer and 360° interval, switching instead to the same 270° interval and twin balancer shaft as pretty much everyone else. The base-model F900R starts at £8660 but this £9880 SE-spec bike adds Comfort and Premium packs on top, meaning it comes with everything from pannier rails and cornering ABS to full dynamic traction control, heated grips, remote key fob, cornering lights... and the 6.5in TFT colour screen from the flagship S and R series.As supplied, it’s £11,315.
"You could stand here all day listing the spec," says Bruce. "And we want to get going, please." We saddle up and ride. I take the Kawasaki and continue my spec talk in silence. The Z900 is updated for 2020, now also with traction control, riding modes, a flagshipstyle 4.3in colour TFT dash, and costs £9045.
But under the skin the Z900 has important chassis tweaks that Kawasaki kept quiet about. The previous Z900 sat the rider low in the bike with a 785mm seat height and with soft suspension, which gave the Z a strangely relaxed, wafty ride out of keeping with its revvy, frenetic, 123bhp inline-four power delivery. The new bike lifts the rider up to 820mm with a fatter seat, stiffens suspension, jacks the back up with a shorter rear suspension tie-bar, and wears Dunlop Roadsmart II tyres instead of awful Dunlop D214s.
So never mind about traction control and fancy new dials – what matters is the Z is now a fully fledged, sporty naked with a chassis and riding position entirely in keeping with its smooth, high revving, 123bhp engine output. As we batter along the back roads near Silverstone, skirting puddles and black mastic strips, the Z900 shows off seriously competent high-paced handling, careering along with a sure-footed intent the old bike would struggle to match in the wet. The new, tipped-up riding position feels much more compact and puts me totally in touch with the front-end feel; it’s quite a revelation. I’m impressed. The Zed would be awesome on a trackday.
Having said that, just like Kawasaki’s previous Z900 I still can’t see the dash, no matter how fancy, without tipping my head forward. I’m not the only one surprised by the Z900’s new sportiness: "As long as the roads are smooth it’s good," says Bruce. "It’s set up like a sportsbike, to damp small movements, not big ones. The motor is very inline-four, turbine smooth, and you can cane it and don’t feel like you’re giving it any pain. It picks up speed very quickly and is faster than it feels."
After a fuel fill-up on the M40 services and waiting for 20 minutes for Justin who, despite riding the MCN250 more times than anyone and having a satnav on the Beemer, still heads south instead of north on the motorway, I sling a leg over BMW’s new F900R. It’s physically bigger than the other two and, although it’s a stretch to wide bars and is an elbows-out riding position, the BMW immediately feels like a grown-up compared to the zany misbehaviour of the Kawasaki. It’s refined, unfussed, steady-as-she-goes. The rough edges are smoothed out – the engine spuds away with a buttery mashing, all thickly fluffy, and suspension movement is equally even-tempered.
There’s plenty of performance but you have to look for it because the F900R’s parallel twin isn’t a naturally exciting motor. And the F900R’s chassis is equally well-mannered. Ride quality is flawless, caressing bumps away, and with a steering damper fitted the BMW flows into turns with a gentle, barrelling lilt. Try riding the F900R with as much aggravation as you can (and we do!), but it’s resistant to mischief. Notwithstanding the Kawasaki’s superior screen, the BMW is the one you’d pick to while away the miles on a motorway. Or, it would be if its 13-litre tank didn’t need refuelling every 90 miles.
We’re almost at the halfway point on the MCN250, and it’s my turn on the Yamaha, unchanged for 2020 and coming in at £8745 – which includes traction control and a quickshifter. But I’m reluctant to give up the BMW’s heated grips and serene roadholding, because I know what the 113bhp MT-09 is like. It’s a handful; wild power delivery, tricky throttle, wayward suspension. But watching the other two bouncing around on the Yamaha’s shock, and having done a few miles myself, we stop and add a turn and a half of rebound damping at the back. It makes a huge difference. Without the back end pumping like a pogo stick the chassis is settled; less skittish and with more feel from the – admittedly still light – front-end. The bike is more planted and predictable.
Yamaha seem to have dialled out the MT-09’s throttle snatch, too. This bike has none of the irritating snappiness I remember; on Standard setting it’s still quick on the draw, but benign. Plugging into the MT’s forward stance, feet set back on the rearward pegs, and unleashing the majesty of the triple is utterly beguiling and mesmeric; it’s an instant thrill; a sudden snap of focus from the BMW’s fuzzy, dreamy drifting. My eyeballs bulge and at the first junction I start babbling excitedly at Bruce and Justin through my chinbar. It’s like a mainline shot of caffeine, and makes the return leg of the MCN250 a blurry riot of gargling inline triple charging off leaving the other two in its wake. By the time we get back to MCN HQ I feel like doing a victory lap on the Yam. It’s that good.
It’s harsh to judge the bikes like this because it’s not about a ‘winner’, it’s about describing their characters. But there has to be a ‘winner’, so: "The BMW is good," says Bruce. "Edges are rounded off and it’s civilised, but engine character is everything on a naked and it’s not got enough."
Justin agrees: "To get as much fun from the F900R as the other two, you have to ride it harder than feels right."
"The Kawasaki is much improved," says Bruce. "Sporty, comfy and dynamically better than the MT-09 – but although the Yamaha is twitchy and wayward, it’s so thrilling – it’s the purest motorbike of the group."
Justin again concurs: "I love the thrashability of the Z900 – but the unhingedness of the MT-09 wins for me. It’s a modern LC." Praise doesn’t come any higher than that.
Riding models get their first airing on the Z900. 'Sport' has full power and the least traction control intervention, 'Rain' has reduced power with lots of TC and 'Road' has full power, medium traction - all selectable on the move.
You can mix and match power and traction level in 'Rider' mode for when you want less intrusion from the electronics on a trackday or find yourself on closed road and fancy popping the front wheel up with the clutch, which it’ll happily oblige. An up/down shifter would be nice, but the gearbox and clutch are just as sweet without it.
Kawasaki’s new Bluetooth enabled 10.9cm TFT dash gives the Zed a more modern, colourful and fresher feel. You can choose between a black or white background and both are clear, whatever the light conditions.
The display shows speed, revs, gear position, an 'Eco' riding indicator and the usual trip and mileage information. Pair it with your phone and you can use Kawasaki’s Rideology app to log your journey, remotely adjust display settings and view the bike’s vital statistics including current fuel level, mileage and service schedule. Whether you’ll actually use the app after the novelty has worn off is doubtful.
The Kawasaki Z900 specs don’t include a super naked’s fully adjustable suspension, radial brakes, cruise control or heated grips, but it’s none the worse for it.
New colours for Yamaha XSR900 revealed in 2019
In November 2019 Yamaha announced a pair of new colours for the XSR900 - 80 Black and Racing Red. Find out more here.
Introducing two new 2020 colours for XSR900...— Yamaha Motor UK (@YMUKofficial) November 5, 2019
80 Black is inspired by the original special edition RZ250, which you might know better as the RD250LC!
Racing Red pays tribute to the iconic Yamaha Racing colours of the past. #FasterSons #XSR900 #SportHeritage pic.twitter.com/juj3JbUD1K
|Engine type||Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 16v inline four|
|Frame type||Tubular steel trellis|
|Fuel capacity||17 litres|
|Front suspension||41mm upside down forks, adjustable for rebound damping and preload|
|Rear suspension||Single shock, adjustable for rebound damping and preload|
|Front brake||2 x 300mm discs with four piston calipers. ABS|
|Rear brake||250mm disc with single piston caliper. ABS|
|Front tyre size||120/70 x 17|
|Rear tyre size||180/55 x 17|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||50 mpg|
|Annual road tax||£93|
|Annual service cost||-|
|Used price||£7,600 - £8,900|
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How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two years|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||124 bhp|
|Max torque||73 ft-lb|
|Top speed||145 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
Model history & versions
2017 – Z900 takes over from Z800 (which started life as the Z750 in 2003) with more power and torque, thanks to a new sleeved-down Z1000 motor. H2-inspired chassis is lighter, handling is shaper and build quality improved. No rider aids, only ABS.
2020 – Euro5 updates include a new exhaust and engine tweaks, full LED lighting, a TFT colour dash with Bluetooth connectivity, new Dunlop Roadsport 2 tyres, styling changes and electronic rider aids for the first time, including power modes and traction control.
Owners' reviews for the KAWASAKI Z900 (2020 - on)
1 owner has reviewed their KAWASAKI Z900 (2020 - 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:|
Bike yerk at low speed
Buying experience: Awesome Chris walker Kawasaki