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KAWASAKI ZX-10R (2019-on) Review

Published: 28 February 2018

Updated: 28 February 2019

A few small updates see the Ninja ZX-10R ready to take on the world’s best.

The Kawasaki ZX-10R in action

A few small updates see the Ninja ZX-10R ready to take on the world’s best.

If you are into circuit riding, the Ninja still delivers on its promise of being the most track-focused of all the Japanese inline four litre bikes.

But on the road this single-minded nature results in a bike whose suspension is horribly harsh on uneven surfaces and whose motor is overly wild when you explore the upper end of its rev range and a bit gutless when you don’t.

But that just makes it a typical Ninja ZX-10R and some riders will love this focused and aggressive nature while others won’t. As always, it will split opinions.

Ride Quality & Brakes 3 out of 5

On a smooth road the Ninja’s track-focus makes it a joy, however throw in a few bumps and it all very quickly descends into a harsh ride that leaves you feeling decidedly battered and bruised with aching wrists.

This is a bike that is far more at home on a track and if you try and take it on anything that doesn’t resemble the tarmac you would find BSB racers riding on you are going to suffer.

That said, when you find that perfect stretch of road the Ninja comes alive and you can see why this chassis has won so many WSB titles. When it’s good it’s very, very, good. When it is bad it’s bloody horrible!

Engine 4 out of 5

With a claimed 200.2bhp, or 210bhp with RAM air, the ZX-10R is packing one hell of a punch and the 2019 update sees its bucket and shim valve train replaced by finger followers.

It is a motor that is very much two-stage in its power delivery, which will either appeal or frustrate. Below 8000rpm it is docile and remarkably civilised, which can either be viewed as relaxed or lacking in drive depending on your point of view.

Get the revs up, however, and the Ninja switches character and goes completely insane and as the rev counter crosses the 8000rpm mark it even turns from orange to red as a warning. 

On the road on the Kawasaki ZX-10R

In this range the sheer ferocity of drive and instant punch takes your breath away as the Ninja delivers exactly the experience you would expect from something with over 200bhp on tap.
On the road this two-stage power delivery means you can easily ride it gently when you want and then dip into the power for a quick shot of adrenalin when the road ahead is clear.
 
The new head makes virtually no difference to the way the power is delivered and will only be appreciated by racers, not road riders – especially as the new red cam cover, which signifies the updated head, is impossible to see behind the fairing!

Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5

This generation of motor and chassis is now effectively eight years old and the introduction of a new style of valve train is unlikely to cause any major issues in the ZX-10R’s reliability.

And anyway, how many road riders will ever stress a 200bhp engine! The build quality seems high.

Insurance, running costs & value 3 out of 5

The Ninja is decent value when you consider what you are getting in terms of technology and track pedigree and it is the only one of the litre inline four Japanese sportsbikes that can genuinely boast race success on a world level. In fact, since this generation was launched in 2011 it has won five of a possible eight WSB titles. 

But by the same token you are getting a bike that has remained visually fairly unaltered over the years and it still lacks a TFT dash and any connectivity or datalogging apps, which does make it seem a little behind the game.

But in terms of pure cash, the Ninja is over £1000 cheaper than the Honda Fireblade and £2000 less than the Yamaha R1. The stock Suzuki GSX-R1000 is £800 less than the Kawasaki, but it lacks some of its track technology.

Insurance group: 17 of 17 – compare motorcycle insurance quotes now.

Equipment 3 out of 5

In terms of sportsbike technology, the Ninja has just about everything with three power modes, five-stage traction control (you have to be stationary to deactivate it), angle-sensitive ABS and traction control, launch control, anti-wheelie, engine brake control and 2019 sees an autoblipper function added to the quickshifter. 

But, and this is a big but, the LCD dash is horribly dated when compared to the current crop of TFT displays and that really takes the shine off the Ninja. To gain semi-active suspension you need to invest a further nearly £5000 in the SE model, which also comes with Marchesini wheels.

Kawasaki ZX-10R dash

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 2019
Year discontinued -
New price £14,499
Used price £14,500 to £15,900
Warranty term Two years
Running costs
Insurance group 17 of 17
Annual road tax £91
Annual service cost -
Performance
Max power 200.2 bhp
Max torque 84.8 ft-lb
Top speed 186 mph
1/4-mile acceleration -
Average fuel consumption 36 mpg
Tank range 135 miles
Specification
Engine size 998cc
Engine type Liquid-cooled, 16v, inline four
Frame type Aluminium twin spar
Fuel capacity 17 litres
Seat height 835mm
Bike weight 206kg
Front suspension 43mm, Showa BFF forks, fully-adjustable
Rear suspension Single Showa horizontal shock, fully adjustable
Front brake 2x330mm discs with Brembo M50 four-piston radial calipers. ABS
Rear brake 220mm single disc with single-piston caliper. ABS
Front tyre size 120/70x17
Rear tyre size 190/55x17

History & Versions

Model history

  • 2004: The first of a new generation of ZX-10Rs is launched and it is typically ferocious and wild! Possibly a little too much…
  • 2006: The Ninja is updated with a new, calmer, model that introduces twin underseat pipes, earning it the nickname ‘the wheelbarrow…’
  • 2008: After riders reject the calmer model of Ninja, Kawasaki go back to the bike’s aggressive roots with a sharper generation that even features a (very basic) form of traction control. And no underseat pipes!
  • 2011: A ground-up new Ninja is launched with a full electronics package and totally new chassis and 200bhp motor. It is the first of the Japanese sportsbikes to properly take the fight to the BMW S1000RR…
  • 2013: An Öhlins electronic steering damper is added.
  • 2016: The Ninja is heavily revised with more liner power, improved traction control, Showa BFF forks, cornering ABS and a quickshifter alongside chassis and styling tweaks.
  • 2017: The homologation special ZX-10RR is launched and features a revised head with space for new high-lift cams and Marchesini wheels.
  • 2018: The ZX-10R SE arrives with semi-active Showa suspension and Marchesini wheels.

Other versions

ZX-10R

Base model gets engine upgrades that take power to 200bhp thanks to reduced inertia and more aggressive high-lift cams. It also gets the KQS bi-directional quickshifter and a new Lime Green / Ebony / Metallic Graphite Grey paintjob.

ZX-10RR

Track-focused single-seat model is limited to 500 bikes, gets titanium connecting rods, track-tuned suspension settings, a 600rpm higher rev limit, and a 1bhp advantage over the R, and lighter forged Marchesini wheels. Available in Lime Green only.

ZX-10R SE

Based on the R model, the SE benefits from Kawasaki’s advanced electronic suspension (KECS), and forged Marchesini wheels, while areas susceptible to scuffing and high-wear are treated to a paint finish that self-heals (Metallic Carbon Grey / Neutron Silver / Lime Green).

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Photo Gallery

  • The Kawasaki ZX-10R in action
  • Cornering on the Kawasaki ZX-10R
  • The Kawasaki ZX-10R dash
  • The Akrapovic exhaust on the Kawasaki ZX-10R
  • The front forks on the Kawasaki ZX-10R
  • Onboard on the Kawasaki ZX-10R
  • Tackling the motorway on the Kawasaki ZX-10R
  • Cornering on the Kawasaki ZX-10R
  • Town riding on the Kawasaki ZX-10R
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