FIRST TEST KAWASAKI Z900
FIRST RIDE 2017 KAWASAKI Z900 £8249
Can Kawasaki’s all-new Z900 live up to its more famous forebear?
When you call a bike Z900, and in so doing create the first Kawasaki to carry the name since the original Z1-successor from 1976, it had better be good.
What you certainly don’t want it to be is confusing. So, let’s get that bit cleared up straight away: the new Z900, far from some kind of retro reincarnation of a ’70s classic, is simply intended as a bigger, better replacement for its intermediate Zed roadster, the Z800.
As a result, a new three-strong ‘Zed family’ has evolved out of the old ER-6N (entry-level twin), Z800 (intermediate four) and Z1000 (range-topper) into, for 2017, the new Z650 (as we tested before Christmas), new Z900 and the continuing Z1000, all of which is a bit neater and cohesive all round. Got it?
In other words, the Z900 name is more coincidence than reinvention. The new bike, however, remains hugely important to Kawasaki. In fact, on the basis of pre-orders, this newcomer is expected to be one of the firm’s biggest sellers this year.
It’s worth noting here that this whole intermediate naked class has become one of the most competitive. Not only is there the Z900 but there’s also Suzuki’s new GSX-S750, Triumph’s imminent Street Triple 765 and Yamaha’s hugely popular MT-09, not to mention niche exotica such as MV’S 800 Brutale and Dragster. No pressure then.
Refreshingly, though, Kawasaki’s approach has been quite simple and straightforward. The Z900’s engine, rather than being an enlarged Z800
unit, is actually a sleeved-down Z1000. The result, a swept capacity of 948cc, is a big 142cc up on the Z800’s 806cc and helps explain its power boost from 113 to 123bhp, the largest in the class – not to mention an extra wodge of midrange.
The chassis is simple, too. In a quest to correct one of the biggest criticisms of the old Z800 – weight – an all-new, tubular steel frame inspired by that of the H2R has been created which reduces things by an impressive 13.5kg.
Elsewhere there’s plenty to please as well: the typical Zed love-it-or-loatheit styling is at least softened by genuinely quality finishes, textures (note the crocodile skin effect seat) and details (both levers are span-adjustable). There’s half-decent suspension which includes preload and rebound adjustable forks, new five-spoke alloy wheels and a stylish new LCD instrument pod that pleasingly now includes a gear indicator. Conspicuously, however, and possibly done to both differentiate the Z900 from the Z1000 and help make it cheaper (it’s £2K less than the Zthou), the Z9 has no electronic rider aids, excepting compulsory ABS. No rider modes, no traction control, nada. Some might find that refreshing, others might feel deprived.
What’s broadly similar to before, though, is the ride. On board the new Zed is still a slightly larger, heavier, more potent machine than most of its rivals. Yes, peak power is greater, its midrange fatter, its acousticallyenhanced howl above six thou’ more conspicuous. If you’re in the mood this is a proper streetfighter. And though lighter it’s not overtly so. When pushed, though more nimble, the Z900 still can be strenuous through the twisties – far more so than any rival triple.
But that’s picking hairs. There’s also no question the Z9 is more potent, lighter and better than the outgoing Z8. It’s a nicer, probably easier (thanks to a lowered seat) and more explosive bike to ride, yet is also a more pleasing piece of metal. And if all that doesn’t exactly make it a classic Z900, it certainly makes it a worthy Z800 successor.
‘Capacity is 142cc up on the Z800 and helps explain its power boost from 113 to 123bhp’
Lighter and more nimble than before but more of a handful than its triple rivals
The Zed’s looking like a sales hit for Kawasaki
H2 inspired tubular steel frame has shaved weight