New and improved Z900 sees Kawasaki make a good streetfighter even better
As it was, the Kawasaki Z800 had very little faults. It had a punchy 806cc in-line-4 heart and Kawasaki’s predator-inspired ‘Sugomi’ styling, aggressively so. Good match. However, it didn’t take long before the Z800 was overshadowed by its segment rivals and even by its own Z1000 sibling, resulting in this new and improved Z900 replacement for 2017.
First shown during EICMA in Milan back in 2016, Kawasaki had endowed the Z900 with improvements all around to make it better than the Z800 it replaced. After a weekend’s worth of riding it recently, we’re glad to report Kawasaki has truly elevated its streetfighter mojo with the Z900.
At first glance, the Z900 is easily dismissed, or mistaken, by many as its predecessor. Perhaps the absence of LED daytime running lights (DRLs) or even position lighting upfront encourages that impression. Study the details closely, though, and the Z900’s more rounded and smoother lines become clear. Thankfully, the predator-like stance and silhouette remains unchanged. And even in the company of its current crop of rivals, we’re sure many can appreciate the Z900’s simplicity.
At 795mm, the Z900’s seat height isn’t too tall for most, so it’s easy to leg over and get comfortable behind that decently large 17-litre fuel tank. Life in the hotseat is pretty straightforward as all the controls are right where you’d expect them to be, with this bike’s standard ergonomics calling for a more upright and comfortable riding position. You wouldn’t be crouching as much as you would astride a Ninja ZX-6R supersport.
What’s neat too is the digital instrument display that’s identical to the unit found on its novice-friendly, smaller Z650 sibling. Novel analogue-style rev counter aside, this monochromatic panel is rich with essential information such as speed, gear position, fuel level and consumption as well as temperature readings on top of having two trip computer functions. Overall, there’s equipment here to satisfy any rider on any kind of ride.
The differences with its predecessor only become apparent when you thumb the start button and get going. For starters, the Z900 packs a larger, new 948cc in-line four-cylinder heart that’s actually a downsized Z1000 motor. It healthily delivers 123bhp and 98.6Nm of torque to the rear wheel through a 6-speed return manual and chain-drive setup.
Crucially, the new heart delivers better mid-range torque and revs higher than the Z800’s 806cc mill. It also easily brings this streetfighter’s claimed 210kg kerb weight up to speed more quickly and smoothly than what its predecessor’s powerplant could manage. We easily we hit triple digit speeds in just the first three gears.
The only downside to this package is the absence of a quick gearshift and, perhaps, a menacing exhaust soundtrack. You can thank strict new Euro 4 noise and emissions standards for the latter, but it’s easily remedied by the Akrapovič slip-on or full-system exhaust kits which are available in Kawasaki’s accessories catalogue. This bike deserves it, really.
The absent of a quick gearshift, on the other hand, is concerning, but it isn’t necessarily a deal breaker given just how light and easy it is to modulate the clutch lever. You could still do clutchless upshifts nonetheless, and there’s no harm in refining your throttle blipping and clutch downshifting skills with this bike. Getting that right is rewarding and adds to this bike’s riding fun.
The weekend warrior will find the Z900 is an easy bike to go corner carving up and down the Ulu Yam-Genting route on Sunday mornings. Much of this boils down to the improved chassis hardware, namely the suspension and brakes. Even though the dampers are noticeably softer than the Z800’s, the spring setup feels well balanced. Kawasaki didn’t compromise on riding fun here, and we love how refined this Z900’s ride feels overall compared to its predecessor.
With the anchors, Kawasaki has done well too. The twin semi-floating 300mm discs plus quad-piston callipers up front and 250mm disc and single-piston calliper setup at the rear offer adequate bite without needing much tug on the levers. Crucial here is the presence of ABS, meaning you’ll be able to keep this bike in control should the hairiest of situations arise – and they will at the speeds this streetfighter is able to hit.
Absent wind deflection and somewhat passable pillion seat comfort aside, there’s indeed enough to love about the Z900’s overall package. We’ll agree it isn’t the sexiest, best sounding or even the most agile of the lot. But it’s well equipped, relatively versatile and, more importantly, very affordable – its base price is RM49,158, without insurance and registration.
To put it in perspective, that price makes the Z900 significantly cheaper than most of its European rivals. Moreover, this bike boasts better ride and handling than any of its similarly sized and priced Japanese rivals that we’ve ridden too. This really is a watered-down Z1000, and in a good way at that too.
All this bike needs is an exhaust kit, flyscreen and perhaps, for those who frequently take long rides, a set of soft panniers. The Kawasaki Z900 streetfighter can almost do it all. It’s worth a serious look.
||948cc, liquid-cooled DOHC in-line four-cylinder, 123bhp, 98.6Nm
||6-speed return, manual
A watered-down Z1000 that’s versatile, fun and affordable
OR TRY THIS: Yamaha MT-09
Cheaper and equally good triple-cylinder alternative, but no ABS