2014 Kawasaki Z800 Test Ride Review
2014 Kawasaki Z800 – Click above for high resolution picture gallery

Kawasaki Z800 Review

Bike Tested: 2014 Kawasaki Z800

Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 8,95,220/-

The Kawasaki Z800 is one of the best middle-weight bikes in the world and looks terrific.

The quest and craze for speed and performance from motorcycles in India is undoubtedly there but the options are few in the middle-weight segment. The other craze in India is of course for 4-cylinder bikes and although the options are plenty here, everything costs above Rs. 10 lakhs. So can we get the best of both worlds? A middle-weight bike with a four banger? Kawasaki has replied in the affirmative with the launch of the Z800, the cheapest 4-cylinder motorcycle you can buy in India today. This naked beast sure has the goods on paper with appealing specifications and an attractive price (for a CBU) but does the Kawasaki Z800 have the muscle power to quench our horse power hunger?

Motor Quest: The Kawasaki Z800 was launched in 2013 as a successor to the Z750, which was launched in 2004. The Z750 replaced the ZR-7 and the Z-series lineup dates back to 1974 when the Z400 was launched.

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The Kawasaki Z800 is a very muscular bike with chunky body panels

Styling – The Kawasaki Z800 has evolved from the Kawasaki Z750, the model it replaces. The styling of the old Z750 was quite attractive but the new Z800 takes the design a step further. You won’t disagree with us if we tell you the Z800 is the most attractive looking naked motorcycle in the market (after the Z1000 of course). This was something which was proven when we were riding on the road as people turned and glared eyes on the Z800 with utter want. But where the Z750 was rather sedate in appearance, the Z800 is outright mean and aggressive in a very good way.

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Notice the attention to detail on the Z800 with the Z print on the seat

First things first, the Kawasaki Z800 is quite a compact motorcycle but in spite of its smaller dimensions, the bike looks outright mad. The styling is so futuristic and the Z800 has no qualms in flexing its muscles for that macho appeal. The double triangle shaped headlight takes centre stage and gives the Z800 that street-fighter appearance unseen in other bikes from the same segment. The raised tank, exposed body bits and Z print on the seat reveal the attention to detail Kaawasaki designers have gone to make this motorcycle an eye-ball magnet.

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Although compact in size, the Kawasaki Z800 does have massive presence

The in-line four’s quad exhaust pipes meet one single muffler neatly and is visible from certain angles. The single sided exhaust has twin outlets which gives a unique look. The chunkiness is most apparent when you see the bike charging in your rear view mirror and once gone, you will appreciate how the tail lights have two ‘Z’ in them (facing opposite to each other). In fact the attention to styling elements is so vivid that even the rear view mirrors have a unique shape of their own (more on them later). The Kawasaki Z800 is definitely one bike which makes a strong styling statement and in spite of it being devoid of what we Indians love the most (full fairing), the street presence is simply incredible.

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Instrument cluster is divided into three parts with all digital display which is well laid out

Instrument Cluster and Switch Gear – Being a Kawasaki, quality is splendid and there is nothing to fault with the fit and finish of the Z800 which has well put together switch gear (there is a hazard light button too, a feature which was missing on the ZX-10R). This Kwacker comes with a funky looking instrument cluster, similar to what we recently saw debut on the Yamaha R125. No doubt, the console looks like a million bucks and has been divided in three parts. The centre has the vertically stacked tachometer which although super cool to look at, isn’t of much use in the real world as the revs rise quickly and the increment markings on the console is of 2000 RPM. The left part of the console has a temperature meter, clock, odometer, two trip meters while the right has the speedometer, fuel level indicator, range and eco mode indicator (no gear indicator is a shocker). The digital display is surrounded by tell-tale lights on either sides with neat buttons for the trip function.

2014 Kawasaki Z800 Road Test
Upright seating with wide handlebars give the Z800 comfortable ergos

Ergonomics – In spite of the form over function principle used on the Z800, this Kawasaki has a very comfortable riding position. The handlebars are wide and the seating position is upright which can be a bit of a bother if you are not used to such a riding position, you do get used to it after sometime on the saddle but be prepared to face heavy wind blast on your chest at high speeds. A pillion rider on the Z800 isn’t a good idea even though the rear seat is reasonably large and the hidden grab rails are functional but the bike has way too much poke for anyone to cope up with when you mash the throttle. The uniquely shaped mirrors don’t give a good view of what’s behind and more often than not, you will be getting a glimpse of your jacket and not of the road.

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The 806cc, 4-cylinder engine produces 113 horses and 83 Nm of twisting force

Performance and Gearbox – Thumb start the Kawasaki Z800 and all the four-cylinders wake up with the sort of refinement that will leave you in disbelief. The motor is smooth sounding with absolutely no vibrations at idle. Get going and the first thing you would realise is that the half clutch system makes life tough when ambling around city traffic as the clutch deactivates very late resulting in you either revving the motor and scaring other motorists away or stalling and embarrassing yourself silly. But once you get the hang of it, riding the Z800 in the city isn’t a tough task as the motor is more than up to the task to crawl at low speeds without heating much and the gearing is short.

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0-100 km/hr takes a mere 3.5 seconds and you can hit 144 km/hr in first gear

The 800cc powerplant outputs 113 PS of power and 83 Nm of torque which gives it stellar performance when you open the throttle. For starters, first gear is good enough for 144 km/hr and that’s largely due to the wider powerband which starts from 3000 RPM to 9000 RPM. Redline comes in at around 12,000 RPM and power delivery is linear but there is a slight buzz on the seat at full pelt near the rev limit. The bike has decent low-end with good mid-range punch but it’s really the top-end where it truly excels. In fact once past 5000 RPM, the real madness begins and the Z800 accelerates to escape velocity speeds with such ferocity it can leave you stunned. The sound which the engine generates is truly charismatic and resembles to a jet fighter like other Kawasaki motorcycles. The fuelling is perfect too as most often seen on Kawasaki bikes. What do you expect from a bike which just needs third gear to whizz past 200 km/hr?

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The in-line 4 engine outputs pure aural bliss and sounds like a jet fighter

With that kind of power on tap, the Kawasaki Z800 is always ready to fly and instantly gets going for a slight twist of the wrist. The ride-by-wire throttle gives it good throttle response but there is a brief lag between no and go. 0 to gale force 100 is achieved in 3.5 seconds. Keep going and you will hit a top speed in excess of 230 km/hr. The best part about the Kawasaki Z800 is that it doesn’t have any sort of traction control, so no matter what the road conditions are, when you open full throttle, you get full power, not retrained access to all those 113 Japanese samurais. In-gear acceleration is stupendous too and you don’t have to downshift to make quick overtaking moves. The 6-speed gearbox is smooth and works in sync with the slipper clutch to enable aggressive downshifts.

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Although heavy, the Kawasaki Z800 offers sharp handling with massive grip

Riding Dynamics – The Kawasaki Z800 is a heavy bike, tipping the scale at a hefty 229 kgs (its key rival the Triumph Street Triple weighs only 183 kgs). The Z800’s predecessor was a heavy bike but Kawasaki has increased the weight by another 6 kgs. However in spite of the added weight, the Japanese giant has managed to get a good balance of ride and handling. The steering is heavy at low speed but the handlebar makes everything easy, as always. When it comes to lock to lock, the ratio is immensely low which makes it cumbersome to ride the Z800 in the city and while taking U-turns. The Z800 is heavy at parking speeds, more so when you want to move backwards specially due to slightly rear biased weight distribution. Braking performance is excellent and the sharp initial bite will catch you off guard at first because we don’t expect strong initial bite from bigger, powerful bikes. The Z800 stops very quickly and ABS is standard, which is much appreciated as globally the bike is also offered sans ABS. High time Kawasaki makes ABS standard on all its bikes in India.

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Ride quality is excellent and so is the high speed stability of this machine

However all that weight does play its part when it comes to highway riding. The Kawasaki Z800 is very planted at high speeds and there is no flailing in spite of the heavy wind blast you encounter at speeds in excess of 150 km/hr. Due to the steering’s design of less lock, taking fast sweepers is child’s play. The Pirelli tyres offer tremendous grip and the motorcycle is quite agile at speed helping you push it aggressively around the bends, although a bit of an effort is needed at low speeds. The suspension is stiffly sprung but ride quality is supple with the Z800 absorbing almost anything in its path due to the bottom-link setup at the rear. In fact the ride quality is simply terrific but the rear suspension isn’t adjustable as Kawasaki feels it has got the right balance which doesn’t need to be tweaked by the rider.

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The Kawasaki Z800 is the most affordable 4-cylinder engined bike in India

Verdict – The Kawasaki Z800 is sure an appealing package. While there is little to fault with this Kwacker, the attractive pricing is the real pull towards this machine. In typical Kawasaki style, the Z800 too excels on almost all fronts and is easily the most affordable 4-cylinder motorcycle in the country. The Kawasaki Z800 has more than enough power than what you would need on Indian roads and for the most part, it feels like a bigger KTM Duke but a one which is thoroughly more refined, better put together, faster, better riding with stupendous brakes. Kawasaki has proved it once again, aggressive street-fighters don’t have to be uncomfortable and the case of the Z800 is so strong that the company has already received 12 bookings in just a couple of months and that’s proof the Z800 has hit the right chord in the Indian market.

The Kawasaki Z800 is an excellent stepping stone to the world of superbikes. It’s fast and fun with enough grunt to munch miles effortlessly. The best part, even after being a CBU, it is still priced attractively.

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The Z800 is a delight for biking enthusiasts with all-round performance to boot

What’s Cool

* Engine performance, refinement and sound
* Well sorted ride quality
* Powerful brakes

What’s Not So Cool

* No gear shift indicator
* Weight hampers manoeuvrability in town
* Kawasaki’s limited dealership network

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Notice the Z on the LED tail lights, looks very unique in the night

Kawasaki Z800 Specifications

* Engine: 806cc, 16-valve, liquid-cooled, in-line four, DOHC
* Power: 113 PS @ 10,200 RPM
* Torque: 83 Nm @ 8000 RPM
* Transmission: 6-speed
* 0 – 100 km/hr: 3.5 seconds
* Top Speed: 232 km/hr
* Fuel Consumption: 18-22 km/l
* Fuel Type: Petrol
* Frame: Tubular backbone steel with engine sub-frame
* Suspension: 41 mm inverted forks (Front), Bottom-Link Uni-Trak, gas-charged monoshock (Rear)
* Tyres: 120/70/17 (Front), 180/55/17 (Rear)
* Brakes: 310 mm dual semi-floating petal discs (Front), 250 mm single-piston petal disc (Rear), ABS

Kawasaki Z800 Dimensions

* Length x Width x Height: 2100 mm x 800 mm x 1050 mm
* Wheelbase: 1445 mm
* Ground Clearance: 150 mm
* Seat Height: 834 mm
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 17-litres
* Kerb weight: 229 kgs

Pictures – Subramanya Kotian