Seasoned readers would know by now that we’ve already taken Kawasaki’s brand new Z250 ABS for a brief spin not long ago. Light, nimble and, now better equipped with ABS, it’s poised to sate the needs of any avid newbie rider with a B2 license.
For discerning newbies and intermediate riders with B-full licenses set for an upgrade though, the news got better as Kawasaki also debuted a Z400 model alongside said quarter-litre offering. Having spent an entire weekend in its hot seat, there’s indeed much to savour.
Replacing the previous Z300 that, essentially, was a stroked-up Z250, Kawasaki took on a different approach when developing this new Z400. In fact, they went at it in reverse, opting to develop the Z400 first before downsizing a B2-friendly Z250 offshoot.
The result spoke for itself right off the bat as we nestled into the Z400’s welcoming 785mm seat and got going. In short, the Z400 doesn’t feel like a souped-up quarter-litre as its predecessor did, proving once again that there’s no replacement for displacement.
You still need to work the throttle to milk out all 48bhp and 38Nm of twist this 399cc parallel-twin has to offer, but it feels so much more rewarding here indeed. Adding to that is the presence of an assist and slipper clutch that makes going through all six cogs a cinch.
Notably, Kawasaki endowed this mill with richer mid-range torque, so you don’t need to red-line this motor often to get the best out of it. It still remains both versatile and efficient for the daily, the latter thanks to an ‘Eco’ indicator in the digital dash display.
We’ve noted the improved chassis geometry and ergonomics in the Z250 prior, and this carries over in the Z400 too. Absent wind protection aside, our only gripes lie in the absence of adjustable brake and clutch levers, but that’s no deal breaker considering their light pulls.
With the previous Z300, the performance gains were marginal over its Z250 twin that it’s stroked up from, thus prompting many to seek thrills elsewhere, and at higher prices. That’s not the case with this new Z400 replacement, and the powertrain isn’t the only thing fuelling this streetfighter’s street-cred.
Of course, power is nothing without control. Kawasaki knows this well enough, hence why they’ve primed the Z400’s chassis with a decent setup comprised of traditional Showa front forks and a gas-charged rear shock, the latter offering pre-load adjustability.
Similar to what’s brimmed in the sport-bodied Ninja 400, the Z400’s suzzies benefit from a softer tune instead, favouring a little more comfort and daily rideability. The way it soaks up bumps and dampens road imperfections is nothing short of impressive as far as bikes of this size go.
Equally impressive are the Z400’s anchors. Halting this streetfighter’s claimed 168kg kerb bulk is a 310mm disc up front and 220mm disc at the rear, both grabbed by dual-piston calipers. It may not sound like much, but they are sufficient, and it even sports dual-channel ABS, which adds greater riding confidence too.
Above all, there’s the Z400’s styling to bask in. Unlike the standard-trimmed Z250, the Malaysian-flavoured Z400 benefits with Kawasaki’s tasty ‘SE’ or Special Edition trim, which brings forth our tester’s striking gray, black and blue colourway.
Other unique SE trim additions include sliders, lower cowl covering the manifold, a slightly larger – and blacked out – flyscreen, and a pillion seat cover. Be warned, that last item might put you in the red with the missus – or girlfriend – as it effectively turns this streetfighter into a single-seater.
Nevertheless, couple all that with the Z400’s predator-like (or Sugomi in Kawasaki lingo) base stance and neat full-LED lighting front and aft, it’s plain to see that this streetfighter has enough ‘show’ to match its ‘go’.
Are there any other quirks? Yes, but just a few. The Euro 4-compliant silencer’s lack of decibels is one, the other being the tiny side mirrors that also have limited adjustability. Those aside, the Z400 is a sweet package altogether, and the RM28,755 base price it rightfully commands is a steal compared to its nearest rival.
This is one machine we reckon many will hang on to for much longer than planned before upgrading to something bigger.
This is one machine we reckon many will hang on to for much longer than planned before upgrading
Pictures: John Tan (JTFrame)
|Style, performance, spec and price||Small side mirrors|
The Zed’s not the only stylish and fun sub-500cc starter around. Here are three more options to consider…
KTM 390 Duke
Undisputed King of Fun in this segment, but neither easy nor cheap to maintain.
Slightly more powerful, but is slightly bigger and heavier, and costs much more.
Benelli Leoncino 500
The only retro-styled alternative in this price range, and it’s Italian (almost).