What you certainly don’t want it to be is confusing. So, let’s get that bit cleared up straight away: the new Kawasaki Z900, far from some kind of retro reincarnation of a ‘70s classic motorcycle, is simply intended as a bigger, better replacement for the Kawasaki Z800.
As a result, a new seven-strong Z-Series has become available with the Z125, Z250SL, Z250, Z300, Z650, Z900 and the Z1000 as range topper, all of which is a bit neater and cohesive all round.
The Z900 name for the new motorcycle is more coincidence than reinvention. The new motorcycle, however, remains hugely important to Kawasaki. In fact, on the basis of pre-order, this newcomer is expected to be one of the firm’s biggest ‘big-bike’ seller this year.
It’s worth noting here that this whole intermediate naked-bike class has become one of the most competitive. Not only there the Kawasaki Z900 but there’s also the new Suzuki GSX-S750, the Triumph Street Triple 765 and the hugely popular Yamaha MT-09, not to mention niche exotics like the MV-Agusta Brutale 800 and Ducati Scrambler.
Refreshingly, though, Kawasaki’s approach has been quite simple and straightforward. The Kawasaki Z900’s engine rather than being an enlarged Z800 unit, is actually a sleeved-down Z1000 engine. The result, a swept capacity of 948cc, is a big 142cc up on the Z800’s 805cc and helps explain its power boost from 113 to 123 horsepower, the largest in the class – not to mention extra midrange performance.
The chassis is simple, too. In a quest to correct one of the biggest criticisms of the old Kawasaki Z800 – weight – an all-new tubular steel frame inspired by that of the Ninja H2R has been created which reduces things by an impressive 13.5 kilograms.
Elsewhere there’s plenty to please as well; the typical Kawasaki Z-series love-it-or-hate-it styling is at least softened by genuinely quality finishes, textures and details. There’s half-decent suspension which includes preload and rebound adjustable forks, new five-spoke alloy wheels and a stylish new LCD instrument dash that pleasingly new includes a gear indicator. Conspicuously, however, and possibly done to both differentiate the Z900 from the Z1000 and help make it cheaper, the Kawasaki Z900 has not electronic rider aids, of course it has ABS, but no rider-modes and traction-control.
What’s broadly similar to before, though, it the ride. On board the new Kawasaki Z900 it is still a slightly larger, heavier, more potent machine than most of its rivals. Yes, peak power is greater, its midrange better, its acoustically-enhanced exhaust note about 6000rpm is amazing. If you’re in the mood the Kawasaki Z900 is a proper streetfighter. When pushed though more nimble, the Z900 still can be strenuous through the twisties – far more so than any of its rivals.