2016 Kawasaki NInja ZX-10R Review
2016 Kawasaki NInja ZX-10R – Click above for high resolution image gallery

2016 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R Review

Bike Tested: 2016 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R; Road Test No. 734

Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 21,54,232/-

The 2016 Ninja ZX-10R might look similar to the model it replaces but it’s a vastly improved beast

The litre-class segment has become more accessible to Indians as manufacturers are now officially launching their superbikes in the country. Some very prominent brands went through a comprehensive update recently and from Japan, there are two such motorcycles which always come to mind. One is the Yamaha YZF-R1 and the other is the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, the latter being more popular in India due to Kawasaki’s heavy focus on its superbike sales. The update to the litre-class Kwacker sees a lot coming from WBSK but how does this supersport perform?

Motor Quest: Kawasaki launched the ninja ZX-10R in 2004, replacing the ZX-9R with this model. The second generation model arrived in 2008 while the third gen came in 2011. In 2016, Kawasaki unleashed the fourth generation ZX-10R which was launched in India earlier this year.

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The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R gets subtle changes to the styling

Styling – When one looks at the 2016 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, they might mistake it for the old model although the new colour scheme with WBSK badging does give it away. Design wise, there are changes which are rather subtle, like the front fairing has smoother curves, the H2R inspired front mudguard helps in improved cooling and the wider windscreen reduces windblast thereby preventing rider fatigue on high speed rides. The tank remains the same as the old model but Kawasaki has given the ZX-10R an all new rear which is sharper and a bit European in design.

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The rear is much sharper now, resembling a certain European superbike

The Ninja ZX-10R isn’t as compact as before but looks even more splendid now

In terms of dimensions, the 2016 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R has grown in size in length, width and height, it’s also heavier than before. The Showa Balance Free Forks (BFF) stand out as this is the first bike to feature it, the canisters next to the front forks looking very purposeful. So while the new Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R might bear similarity to the outgoing version in terms of styling, the devil is really in the details and boy does it look wonderful.

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The console has been carried over but displays more information

Instrument Cluster and Switchgear – The 2016 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R uses the same all-digital instrument cluster as before or that’s what appears. But there are changes to the LCD and the bike has much more information to offer. The console’s standout is the tachometer and although most of us hate the digital unit, the way it works on the Kwacker is simply amazing. As the revs build, it turns from orange to red. There is the usual clock, odometer, twin trip meters, gear shift indicator, average and instant fuel consumption, intake air temperature, S-KTRC, KQS, KIBS, KLCM, power modes display as well. Everything is toggled using the left side handlebar buttons with a select button. There is no fuel meter but a low fuel warning light does blink when you are nearing reserve.

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Ergos have become more dedicated on the fourth gen Ninja ZX-10R

Ergonomics – The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R is a very sporty bike and in its latest generation, the company has further made it aggressive. You sit in very leaned in which can take a toll on your wrists and shoulders, depending on how used to you are with such a seating position. The footpegs are now higher set and the rider sits with his weight on the handlebar, which adds more weight to the front for added confidence. This isn’t a bike you would like to ride long at a stretch and if you are tall, then you are likely to feel cramped. Ducking below the windshield visor isn’t easy for tall riders and that means a lot of noise in the helmet at high speeds.

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The engine has been carried over but gets a lot of changes to it

Performance – Kawasaki has used the same engine on the 2016 Ninja ZX-10R with no changes to either bore or stroke but the components inside the engine have been updated for improved performance. The ZX-10R’s 1.0-litre mill gets an altered combustion chamber, larger coolant passageways, polished cylinder exhaust ports (previous model only had polished intake ports), titanium valves, lighter crankshaft, heat resistant alloy piston, fly-by-wire throttle, thicker cylinder wall, heat resistant titanium designed headers and a bigger air-box. The 6-speed gearbox is vertically stacked and is a cassette style, offering smoother shifts than before.

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Improved ride-ability comes courtesy of the hardware updates to the 10R

Make no mistake, even though the motor remains the same, the ZX-10R is a missile

The changes to the engine not only improve reliability and rigidity, they also result in the 2016 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R offering a better low and mid-range punch, output figures haven’t been altered although the gearing has been, with the gears being more closely stacked now. First gear is still very tall and can take you all the way to 160 km/hr. Power delivery is linear till 8000 RPM after which madness erupts as a nuclear reaction takes place in the motor, which will pull to its 14,000 RPM redline with such ferocity that you could wet your pants. Of course getting to the rev limit isn’t for the faint hearted and needs balls of carbon fibre.

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Even in Low power mode, this Kawasaki is just too ballistic

There are three power modes – Low (60% power), Medium (80% power) and Full (100% power) and in either of these, the madness is just as vivid. The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R is so quick that before the bike starts to blur scenery at a rapid pace, you let go of the throttle. Fourth gear will see you hit a shade above 270 km/hr and mind you, reaching till there is like a locomotive on steroids, this superbike just keeps going. Even when riding in top gear, a twist of the right wrist is all that’s needed to take off in a jiffy. Riding in the city is no trouble at all either but in first gear, the motor can be a bit jittery due to the tall gearing. The bike sounds absolutely bonkers past 10,000 RPM and although not important on a bike of this class, the mileage is around the 12 km/l mark.

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Changes made to the chassis make the 10R even better around corners

Riding Dynamics – Kawasaki has made extensive changes to the chassis of the new Ninja ZX-10R which features an increased wheelbase, the swingarm is longer by 15.8 mm while the headstock has been moved in by 7.5 mm. The engine is mounted higher up and the electronic Ohlins steering damper gets revised settings to alter the amount of damping based on the speed and degree of acceleration or braking, automatically! There are 5 levels of traction control, the system being based on Bosch’s Inertial Measurement Unit can measure five different axis of movement and then calculate the sixth. What is does is, it calculates angle of pitch, yaw or lean in real time to adapt the amount of traction of braking. The system is claimed to be so accurate that it can also sense changes in road camber or tyre pressure.

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Ride quality is shockingly good for a motorcycle of this class

The Ninja ZX-10R has a ton of electronics and feels glued to the road at all speeds

Out of the 5 traction modes (S-KTRC) – two are for the race track and the third works with racing tyres. The fourth mode is for dry conditions and the fifth is for the wet to prevent slippage. The Quick Shifter (KQS) helps in clutch-less upshifts (not down shifts) while the launch control system (KLCS) ensures you do 0-300 km/hr in the least possible time, provided you have the road. The suspension has been set-up superbly and helps the 10R handle our roads with aplomb. Stability at high speeds is stellar and handling is very sharp with the VFF nitrogen chamber controlling the compressions of the pistons, one can also adjust the compression, pre-load and damping for increased track focus. Increased disc size which are cross-drilled at the front (for better better heat dissipation), Brembo M50 mobobloc callipers, Bridgestrone Battlax RS10 tyres and Kawasaki Engine Braking Control (KEBC) make the ZX-10R stop faster than it goes. The brakes are splendid with the terrific initial bite and amazing feel at all speeds.

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As ridiculous as it may sound, this CBU bike is quite value for money

Verdict – The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R has always been a favourite of ours and when we rode the last generation model, we were happy to ride it on the road. The new motorcycle, although vastly improved, is less of a every day bike and has been made more of a track machine, upgraded significantly to shave of precious seconds every lap. The new ZX-10R is more aggressive although being faster with electronic trickery brings it up with the best of Europe as far as tech goes. Among all the litre-class bikes available in India, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R is still the cheapest and that makes it a very value for money superbike besides being a supremely impressive machine.

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The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R is the cheapest bike in its segment in India

What’s Cool

* Easy to ride superbike with a ton of electronics
* Improved low-end performance makes it easy to ride in the city
* Absolute stellar punch in the top-end, goes crazy between 8000 to 14,000 RPM
* Supremely stable at all speeds
* Sharp handling with good ride quality, has the best of both worlds
* Value for money pricing for a litre-class supersport

What’s Not So Cool

* More track focussed ergonomics makes it difficult to ride daily

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Sign of approval from the Kawasaki SBK Racing Team

2016 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R Specifications

* Engine: 998cc, 4-cylinder, 16-valve, liquid-cooled, DOHC
* Power: 210 PS @ 13,000 RPM
* Torque: 113.48 Nm @ 11,500 RPM
* Transmission: 6-speed with slipper clutch & quick-shifter
* 0-100 km/hr: 2.8 seconds
* Top Speed: 299 km/hr (limited)
* Fuel Consumption: 11-16 km/l
* Fuel Type: Petrol
* Frame: Cast Aluminium
* Suspension: 43mm inverted Showa Balance Free Fork (Front), Horizontal back-link with Balance Free gas-charged shock (Rear)
* Tyres: 120/70/ZR17 (Front), 190/55/ZR17 (Rear)
* Brakes: Dual 330 mm semi-floating discs with 4-piston callipers (Front), 220 mm disc with single piston calliper (Rear), ABS, Kawasaki Intelligent Braking (KIBS)

2016 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R Dimensions

* Length x Width x Height: 2090 mm x 745 mm x 1145 mm
* Wheelbase: 1440 mm
* Ground Clearance: 145 mm
* Seat Height: 835 mm
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 17-litres
* Kerb weight: 206 kgs

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The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R is the first production bike with Showa BFF

Testers’ Note:

“The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R has always been a favourite bike of mine and with the fourth generation model, Team Green has added a lot of technology to the otherwise fantastic package. The motorcycle has come closer to the race track which makes it less usable for the street. There is more than enough performance than you would ever need and the price of the ZX-10R is quite attractive (by CBU and superbike standards).” – Faisal Khan, Editor, MotorBeam.
“The 2016 Kawasaki ZX-10R is a nimble and sharp litre-class motorcycle. The looks grab all the attention it deserves. While the mind-blowing super refined 1000cc engine feels more sophisticated than any other litre-class motor. The amazing electronics and the Kawasaki traction control keep the bike on the ground even when pushed hard! This Kwaker is worth every penny.” – Dhanil Vira, Road Tester, MotorBeam.
“The 2016 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R is something that keeps itself in line with the growing trend to ride with ease. The power delivery isn’t as brutal at the beginning but the bike means serious business in the high rev range. The new electronics package is comprehensive while significant changes in the engine deliver an overall better experience. The handling is impeccable and the bike is very forgiving.” – Adwait Babras, Road Tester, MotorBeam.