KAWASAKI ZX-10R (2021 - on) Review
- More track focused
- Now with cruise control and TFT dash
- MotoGP-inspired wings
At a glance
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
In a bid to mimic Kawasaki’s WSB success on the road the 2021 ZX-10R gets its first major update since 2016.
- Latest news: Radically restyled ZX-10R looks set to be a winner
- Related: 2016 Kawasaki ZX-10R bike review
Styling, aerodynamics and built-in winglets are new, the engine, chassis, geometry and electronics are tweaked and it now finally has an all-singing colour TFT dash.
But despite already being one of the most cramped superbikes around, the biggest change comes from the riding position which is more race focused than before.
Don’t let that put you off, though, because although it’s now even better on the track, it’s still fantastic in the real world and even has cruise control. It now has all the makings of being able to live with the best of its rivals.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
Revised chassis geometry sees the wheelbase lengthened from 1440mm to 1450mm thanks an 8mm longer swingarm (and 1mm lower pivot) and 2mm greater fork offset.
Trail is down from 107mm to 106.7mm and weight bias is shifted 0.2% to the front. Forks springs are softer (21.0N/mm from 21.5N/mm) and the shock spring stiffer (91 N/mm to 95 N/mm).
The outgoing ZX-10R liked to be loaded-up on the brakes to turn quickly, but the ’21 bike is nimbler with more feel from the front and support from the rear. Stability, braking power and Bridgestone RS11 Racing Street rubber are all superb.
Handlebars are flatter and 10mm further forward, the seat is more steeply angled, pegs are 5mm higher and screen 40mm taller.
All this adds up to a more race bike-like riding position, although the extra wind protection is useful on the road. I’m 6ft 1in and would drop the pegs back down 5mm if I owned one and preferred the old riding position.
My arms are now too straight, I can’t look up properly riding around town and have to crouch down to see out of the mirrors. On track the new ergonomics are an improvement, apart from the high pegs.
EngineNext up: Reliability
Now the ZX-10R’s inline four-cylinder engine meets Euro5 with power and torque remaining at 200bhp and 85ftlb.
Cylinder head porting, throttle valves and an air-cooled oil cooler are new, as is the exhaust, which sounds good for a standard system. The gearbox has lower first to third ratios, the rear sprocket is up two teeth (now 17/41) and there are now seven riding modes: Rain, Road, Sport and four custom settings.
The engine is peaky with soft power down low, but it’s but tuned for lap times and rear tyre life, so those who like power wheelies will be disappointed.
As far as rider aids go the ZX-10R has it all: KCMF (cornering ABS and traction control system), S-KTRC (traction control), KLCM (launch control), KIBS (ABS), KEBC (engine brake control), KQS (quickshifter), ESD (electronic steering damper) and KCC (cruise control) - a top shelf electronics package to rival the European competition, but with a Japanese price tag.
The cruise control makes long motorway rides less painful for wrists and the up/down quickshifter works well, even at low speed.
Traction control is good on the road but still lets the rear spin-up on track in the wet, even in Rain mode, before the electronics eventually chime in to keep everything in check. But ultimately the ZX-10R never steps out of line.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
This generation of motor and chassis can be traced back to 2011 and a quick glance of our owners’ reviews section for that and the 2016 model show nothing but glowing reviews for reliability and durability.
The introduction new valve train and Euro5 tweaks is unlikely to change that and anyway, how many road riders will ever stress a 200bhp engine?
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
The ZX-10R remains good value when you consider what you are getting in terms of technology, speed and genuine track pedigree. It’s the only one of the litre inline four Japanese sportsbikes that can genuinely boast race success on a world level.
The road bikes to beat mostly come from Europe, though, in the form of the BMW S1000RR (£15,590) and Ducati Panigale V4 (£19,995). And despite not having the racing success of the Kawasaki, the Honda CBR1000RR-R (£19,999) can't be ruled out as a road-going superbike either.
Restyled with improved aerodynamics at the top of the list and good looks second the ZX-10R’s new upper fairing creates 7% less drag and built-in MotoGP-inspired winglets increase downforce by 17%, to help keep the front wheel down under hard acceleration at track speeds.
The central ram air intake path has been revised and the old bike’s halogen headlights are replaced with neat new, tiny-eyed LEDs.
It now matches its superbike rivals for bells and whistles, including a full armoury of electronic rider aids, quality suspension, brakes, new cruise control and a fresh new Bluetooth-enabled multi-function colour dash and switchgear, which immediately gives the ZX-10R the more modern feel of its superbike rivals.
|Engine type||Liquid-cooled, 16v, inline four|
|Frame type||Aluminium twin spar|
|Fuel capacity||17 litres|
|Front suspension||43mm Show BFF forks, fully adjustable|
|Rear suspension||Single Showa shock, fully adjustable|
|Front brake||2 x 330mm discs with Brembo M50 four-piston radial calipers. ABS|
|Rear brake||220mm disc with single piston caliper. Cornering ABS|
|Front tyre size||120/70 x 17|
|Rear tyre size||190/55 x 17|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||46 mpg|
|Annual road tax||£96|
|Annual service cost||-|
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two years|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||200 bhp|
|Max torque||85 ft-lb|
|Top speed||186 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
|Tank range||172 miles|
Model history & versions
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.
2019: Updated ZX-10R has more power and a new valve train for more revs, aimed squarely at national and world superbike teams.
2021: First major update since 2016, power stays the same, but the engine is modified for Euro5. Chassis, geometry and electronics are also tweaked, the riding position more extreme and for the first time the ZX-10R gets a colour TFT screen and cruise control.
ZX-10RR: Homologation special (500 worldwide) costs an eye-watering £24,799 and has racier cams, valve springs, pistons, shorter inlet trumpets and rev limit raised 500rpm to 14,700rpm.
Owners' reviews for the KAWASAKI ZX-10R (2021 - on)
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