Kawasaki ushers the future of streetfighter design with its menacing-looking Z1000 ABS ($11,999). In contrast to the European replica racers, the Z1 sources a purpose-built 1043cc Inline Four. An ultra-compact aluminum chassis wraps up and over the engine helping to create a more intimate riding experience.
Looks-wise the Kawasaki is easily the most aggressive and the first topic of discussion everywhere we rode. Highlights include the compact but very powerful headlamps, tidy tail section and beautifully embossed seat cover.
“They definitely came at it pretty aggressively and threw something on the market that is going to stand out at the dealership,” says guest tester, Alex Dunstan. “The looks are a little hit or miss. I think some guys and girls are going to love it, and some are going to be like, ‘whoooa’. I happen to be in the latter category [laughs]. But I do applaud Kawasaki for taking risks and the nice attention to detail—the seat has a nice pattern on it, which really stood out a lot.”
Although it appears the smallest physically, a trip to the scales proves otherwise with it weighing the heaviest at 485 pounds. That’s five more than the MV and 28 more than the lightweight BMW. Though, to be fair, engineers did an excellent job of hiding its beer belly through the combination of a short wheelbase (56.5 in.), low center of gravity, and slim riding position.
(Top) The Z1000 is powered by a purpose-built 1043cc water-cooled Inline Four. It has plenty of low-end and mid-range power but doesn’t have the top-end muscle to run with the faster bikes. (Center) The Z1000’s ABS system worked well and was capable of stopping the motorcycle in a shorter distance than the BMW’s ABS. Problem is it can’t be manually disabled. (Below) The Z1000’s instrumentation is basic but legible. However it lacks adjustable engine power modes and traction control as offered on its competitor’s platforms.
In spite of its compact stature, the Z1’s cockpit is tolerable. It sports the second-lowest seat height (32.1 in.) and offers the shortest reach to the handlebar. While the ergos aren’t as roomy as the ultra-comfortable BMW or Aprilia, they also weren’t as cramped as the short-rider friendly Brutale.
“It’s a great around town bike,” says Dunstan. “[But] when we picked up the pace in the canyons the bike just didn’t respond as well. Entering corners the throttle was very sensitive and the suspension is soft, and the two of those things together gave it a little bit of wallowing and bucking through the corner.”
More aggressive suspension settings (increasing spring preload and slowing down damping) did wonders for increasing handling prowess in the canyons, and on track—but it isn’t enough to mask its overall deficiency. Overall ride quality is yet another strike—especially over bumpy pavement which wears out the rider faster.
“Coming into corners the thing was just wiggling around and never really felt too planted,” agrees, Cycle News test rider, Jason Abbott. “When you’re going through corners you want to be confident and I wasn’t confident in the Kawasaki in its handling.”
Despite not employing Brembo braking hardware we were pleased with the stopping performance and overall sensation of its Tokico-sourced anchor system, with it ranking comparably to the more premium-looking set-up on the MV. Problem is the ABS can’t be easily turned off which is a hassle for riders that appreciate the ability to lock-up back wheel—if needed. However, the functionality of the ABS is well-calibrated and superior-feeling to the BMW. It also netted a 6.3-foot shorter stopping distance from 60 mph.
In the engine department, the Kawasaki impressed—especially in terms of its fat spread of mid-range power and overall thrill factor. It’s also smooth and relatively free of unwanted engine vibration. Although it employs a relatively ordinary Inline Four configuration, it was rated as the most playful (amongst the Inlines)—a feat itself as the engines in the Brutale and BMW are certainly no slouches when it comes to excitement.
Preload: 4 (Turns in)
Compression: 3.5 (Turns out)
Preload: 2 (Turns in from stock)
We especially love the howl of the intake whenever the throttle is wacked, yet the exhaust note remains discreet enough as to not attract unwanted attention. During sound testing the Z1 tied the Brutale for being the quietest at idle (84 dB) and at speed (94dB) it was well below the attention-grabbing Aprilia (103dB) and BMW (102dB).
On the dyno, the Kawasaki’s mill generates a thick spread of low-end and mid-range power. It peaks the earliest at 7600 rpm—making it very well suited to general road riding. It also offers the third-most muscle well ahead of the MV and only one lb-ft less than the racy-feeling Aprilia. However its soft rear suspension and touchy immediate throttle response was a bit troubling for the majority of our testers.
(Top) The Z1000 is a typical Japanese bike in the fact that it has few quirks and is easy to get up to speed on. (Center) At a full sport pace the Kawasaki’s chassis doesn’t have the same level of composure as the other more expensive bikes. (Bottom) The Kawasaki has one heck of an engine. We love its strong bottom-end and mid-range power. It’s plenty playful and fun to ride, too.
“It was a little bit hard hitting right off the bottom which made it a bit difficult to keep the front wheel on the ground,” thought guest test rider, Nathon Verdugo.
“The motor is super fun to ride, but it’s kind of herky-jerky on the bottom end—off the throttle and back on the throttle, it will kind of jump around,” Abbott agrees.
In terms of top-end horsepower the Kawasaki ranks at the back of the pack doling out just over 123 ponies at the back tire. That’s 15.22 hp less than the 35cc larger MV and over 27 fewer than the class-leading V4R.
The transmission feels tight with a short lever throw and close spacing between each of its six forward cogs. However, it’s missing both a quickshifter, and a slipper clutch, which results in un-wanted rear wheel chatter during hasty stopping maneuvers. Acceleration testing demonstrates that the Z1000 had the slowest 0-60 time (3.73 seconds). It also took the longest to sprint though the quarter-mile, while carrying the lowest trap speed.
But at the pump the Z’s engine was less thirsty, knocking out the most miles per gallon of fuel consumed (37.3 mpg). That helped boost its useable range to 167 miles despite offering the least gas payload (4.5-gallon tank).
You’ll be hard pressed to find a Japanese Inline Four with a more playful tune than the Z1000. Despite that feel-good sound, it is considerably down on top-end power. While agile on city streets, in the canyons its chassis proved to be the least capable. It also delivered the harshest ride over bumps. So despite offering the best value, the Green Machine finishes last.
- Excellent engine sound and character
- Best in class fuel mileage
- Thousands less than the competition
- Chassis offers the least sporting performance
- Suspension has harshest ride quality over bumps
- Significantly down on top-end power
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