Kawasaki bikes enjoy a loyal fan following. Most Kawasaki owners won’t switch bikes easily, and this is with good reason. These Japanese motorcycles have always been built with unique identity, DNA if you may, with a special something that’s experienced in the feel riders take home from every ride. Much of the soul behind Kawasaki’s lineage comes from their Z series bikes, starting 40 years ago in 1972 with the Z1, a motorcycle ahead of its time, armed with an 82bhp, 900cc in-line, four-cylinder engine that was good for over 200kph and ushered in the superbike era, along with Honda’s equally famous CB750.
History done with, let’s focus the spotlight on the modern day Z800, a mean, macho and brawny street-naked that Kawasaki has just introduced in India.
The new Zed is a muscular motorcycle, that looks a million bucks even standing still, just like bigger brother the Z1000. Similarly well proportioned, the 800 lacks the outstanding looking front headlight snout that comes with the far more pricey 1000, although that isn’t to say the Z800 doesn’t have a handsome face, for its still a big head-turner in its own right. The headlight shines bright at night, with a nice spread of light, and you can’t miss this motorcycles funky, tri-pod LCD instruments cluster. A cascading tachometer takes up pride of place, with information including a speedometer, odometer with dual trips, fuel-gauge, clock, engine temperature and an economy indicator all present.
The Z800 comes nice mirrors, snug palm grips, and easily mastered switchgear, with all the essentials in place. It’s a pity Kawasaki hasn’t equipped the Z800 with a reach adjustable clutch lever, as available with the front brake. Both levers look smart in buffed alloy.
The Z800 tank runs into a set of neat cowls, that meet arms encircling the motor, and other minimal bodywork includes a neat tank, with good inner thigh support recesses, a belly-pan, as well as sleek side and flank panels. The new Kawasaki’s ‘Z’ theme extends to its LED tail warning lights and riding saddle.
Quality is top notch, leaving no stone unturned as are fit-finish and attention-to-detail, however, on the flip side, the Z800 is presently only available for India in the one rather gloomy dark shade seen here.
The Z800 is set to win many an Indian heart, being amongst the most affordable of all in-line, four cylinder superbikes available here for now. It’s a four-stroke, 806cc, liquid-cooled and fuel-injected engine, with typically short-stroke bore and stroke dimensions. The Z800 is good for 111.4bhp at 10200rpm, and though this doesn’t feel just quite as fierce on the go as the massive 140bhp output by the Z1000, it’s still more than sufficient for every situation, on any Indian road. Max torque is 8.5kgm available at 8000rpm, and these numbers aside, we found the Z800 makes a refined and in-line four typical, smooth machine, with excellent mid to top end power delivery.
That’s helped by elongated intake trumpets, where the inner two are longer, and outer set more compact. Similarly, the Z800 exhaust pipes curve visibly forward to gain a few inches in length, before smoothly swooping back to the stubby, low set single exhaust box. Throttle response is cracking, thanks to healthy, 34mm wide throttle bodies and the Z800 enjoys a linear and wide powerband. You’ve got enough power to hammer out of corner exits with gusto, but may need to wind revs up slightly before you reach all of the Zee’s performance potential. Once there however, the Z800 is capable of effortless 150kph cruising, with plenty of power in hand, and a top speed in the vicinity of a true 230kph.
Clutch feel is adequate, while the Z800 comes with a six-speed gearbox that shifts effortlessly, whether banging up or down the box. The bike can sometimes feel short geared, but you soon realize this is due to the engine being so flexible, and a smooth runner in higher gears even at low speeds.
The Z800 isn’t a light bike, weighing in at a portly 231kg, but once off the blocks and on the move this new Kawasaki feels quite maneuverable, no, not the most agile bike for city traffic, but nice and stable at high speeds on a highway. The seating position is comfortable enough, with a passably upright riding posture, and a slight lean towards the flat set, narrow feeling handlebars. The frame doesn’t feel as rigid as available on the faster Z1000, and at rear you have a steel fabricated box section swingarm. Suspension is adjustable at both ends, the rear sitting off center to accommodate the exhaust canister, and the Z800 feels a more comfortably sprung motorcycle compared to the Z1000, with its nice ride quality. The 800 also comes with sure footed, confidence inspiring cornering capabilities. Likewise, the brakes offer powerful bite, and stop the big bike well. Four pot calipers chomp on twin 310mm petal discs in front, and ABS is standard on the Indian bike, working flawlessly at all times.
Overall, the Z800 comes together as a powerful, hard to beat naked streetfighter package from Kawasaki, at a relatively sensible price point of Rs 8.05 lakh (ex-showroom, Pune), thanks to being imported into India from Thailand. The latest Zed does its legendary lineage proud, for think in-line four naked bikes in India, and the Z800 it is today that perches a winner right at the top of our list.