TopSpeed’s 2020 Kawasaki Streetbike Buying Guide
Kawasaki is the Johnny-come-lately of the Japanese Big Four having come onto the scene in the early 1960s. Like the other domestic manufacturers, Kawi started out as something other than a bike builder. In this case, it was the Kawasaki Aircraft company that got the ball rolling when it procured the Meguro Manufacturing marque and its motorcycle operations. This merger gave rise in 1963 to the Kawasaki-Meguro Works that was destined to become the modern Kawasaki Motorcycle Co., Ltd that expanded with factories around the globe under the Motorcycle and Engine wing of the Kawasaki Heavy Industries umbrella.
While Meguro already had several decades of experience, it was the 125 cc B8 that would herald the partnership, but the relationship would soon come entirely under the control of the Powers-That-Be at Kawasaki. The BSA-based Meguro K1 and Kawasaki W1 models rolled shortly thereafter to put the burgeoning brand on the map.
In the late ’60s Kawi entered the enduro-bike arms race with its domestic competitors expanding its footprint beyond the streets. “Let the good times roll” is the official slogan, though around these parts you’re as likely to hear Laissez le bon temps rouler.
Kawasaki Intelligent Anti-Lock Brake System: (KIBS) Kawi’s top-shelf ABS that marries ABS- and engine-control units for detailed analysis and incredibly incremental levels of intervention. Superior to the vanilla ABS system that appears throughout the lineup.
Kawasaki Quick Shifter: (KQS) An electronic system that monitors the shift lever and intervenes to provide clutchless shifts up and down the range. On upshifts it cuts the ignition to allow the sliders to disengage and re-engage without throttle adjustment or clutch actuation. The downshifts come with an automatic engine governor that sets the RPM at the ideal point for clutchless operation.
Kawasaki Cornering Management Function: (KCMF) This feature bundles Inertial Measurement Unit-enhanced traction control, wheelie prevention and Riding Modes to deliver tuneable chassis behavior.
Electronic Throttle Valves: This system works through the ride-by-wire throttle control and Electronic Engine Control Unit. It reconciles the difference between rider demand and what the engine can smoothly put out to deliver seamless transitions and tractable power
Kawasaki Launch Control Mode: (KLCM) Revs the engine and holds it at a pre-launch level and increases the RPM when it detects that the clutch has been released. Throttle control is automatic; all the rider has to do is hold it wide open at the grip and the Launch Control will handle the rest to deliver launch-specific traction control to help you stick your holeshots.
Ergo-Fit: Kawasaki’s variable seat-handlebar-footpeg system lets you dial in the final shape of your rider’s triangle to suit your body type.
Kawasaki Electronic Control Suspension: (KECS) Electronic sensors monitor suspension position, speed, and stroke to deliver dynamic damping modulation under way for a superior ride to even the most adjustable conventional suspension.
Kawasaki 2020 Models
The famed Ninja range is comprised of Kawasaki’s Sport, SuperSport, and HyperSport lineups to cover a variety of bases from entry-level sport riding up through commuting and all the way to the track. These are Kawi’s sportiest machines for the most aggressive riders, and many pack the absolute best electronics the factory has to offer. Prices range from $4,999 to upwards of $55,000.
At the bottom of the hierarchy in Kawasaki’s sport stable is the entry-level, 399 cc Ninja 400 that comes in both an ABS and non-ABS version. The factory added a KRT model this year that sports the brand’s race-team livery for you race fans out there. Electronics are minimal, and the slipper clutch and ABS option are about it.
In the middle of the range, the updated-for-2020, 649 cc Ninja 650, 650 ABS and 650 KRT takes care of business and adds the self-regulating Dual Throttle Valve technology to the mix. Sticky Dunlop Sportmax Roadsport 2 hoops round out the rolling chassis this year to improve handling.
The Big Kahuna of this family tree is the Ninja 1000SX that added the Electronic Throttle Valve feature, quick-shifter, TFT instrumentation, and integrated riding modes to this year’s model. Power comes from a 1,043 cc four-banger, and a robust electronics suite gives you the tools to tailor your riding experience. The rider’s triangle is such that you can tuck in for speed or push off for a more relaxed posture.
|Ninja 400||$4,999, ABS: $5,399||399 cc|
|Ninja 400 KRT Edition||$5,199, ABS:$5,499||399 cc|
|Ninja 650||$7,599, ABS:$8,199||649 cc|
|Ninja 650 KRT Edition||$7,399, ABS: $7,799||649 cc|
|Ninja 1000SX||$12,399||1,043 cc|
The supersport range encompasses the midrange street/track bikes in a trio of base models. Unlike the industry norm, Kawi’s SuperSport line includes a liter-plus engine at the top end and isn’t limited to the 600 ccish range. I’m talking about the drag-tastic Ninja ZX-14R that boasts a monstrous 1,441 cc mill with a race-centric electronics suite for backup.
Even the middle-model ZX-10R qualifies as a liter bike with its 998 cc powerplant and advanced electronics. The only “true” supersport in this branch is the ZX-6R with its 636 cc engine that is closer to the industry average for the bracket, and even the bottom-end bike comes with an impressive electronics bundle. Top-shelf suspension is a constant across the board. These are all rollovers for MY20, but the KRT versions and their racing livery are now available in the U.S. if you’re into that race-life look.
|Ninja ZX-6R||$9,999. ABS: $10,999||636 cc|
|Ninja ZX-6R ABS KRT Edition||$11,299||636 cc|
|Ninja ZX-10R||$16,099||998 cc|
|Ninja ZX-10 R KRT Edition||$15,399, ABS: $16,399||998 cc|
|Ninja ZX-14R ABS||$14,999||1,441 cc|
The H2 SX SE+ serves as Kawi’s flagship Ninja model. It blends racing tech and road-tripping features to make it fit a variety of uses from drag racing to sport touring. A supercharged, 998 cc inline-four engine puts the “sport” in whatever you choose to use it for, and this chassis carries better-than-average electronics and suspension that lend complete control over the ride quality and safety aspects.
|Ninja H2 SX SE+||$25,000||998 cc|
Like the SX variant, the H2 and H2 Carbon rock supercharged, 998 cc four-bangers, and come with full-spectrum electronics suites. These stoplight burners bring track-like performance to the streets through top-shelf suspension, an optimized Trellis frame, and windtunnel-tested bodywork. Bluetooth connectivity networks bike-to-phone to unlock a handful of useful functions. New for this year, the H2 siblings will roll on Bridgestone RS11 hoops to make the connection to the concrete.
|Ninja H2||$29,000||998 cc|
|Ninja H2 Carbon||$32,500||998 cc|
Kawasaki pulls out all the stops with its unrestricted Ninja H2R. This monster is a track-only bike that unleashes the full 305 horsepower potential of the supercharged liter engine and backs it up with the toppest-shelfest electronic features and suspension components that the factory has to offer. A limited-release model, the order period for the 2020 models has closed.
|Ninja H2R||$55,000||998 cc|
Kawasaki dips a toe in the skinny-dipping pool with its naked “Z” lineup. The range spans from the Z125 PRO mini-naked pit-bike model up through the Z H2 HyperNaked with the Z400, Z650 and a variety of Z900 model in between. It even boasts a retro-tastic UJM standard in its ranks to appeal to buyers with old-school tastes. Since bodywork is kept to a minimum, the Z line tends to have an industrial look about it.
Kawasaki Z Naked
Built for the entry-level, the Z125 PRO carries over into 2020 with the same 125 cc engine, four-speed manual transmission and plucky panache that endeared it to the masses over the last few years. Next up is the Z400 ABS that serves as more of a full-size beginner’s bike as opposed to the compact Z125, but it’s still a fairly uncomplicated machine as it rolls with nothing beyond ABS in the electronics suite.
That starts to change somewhat with the Z650 line that rocks refreshed styling with a new LED headlight and new color Thin-Film-Transistor for this year. A slipper clutch and Dunlop Sportmax Roadsport 2 hoops add a bit of extra traction insurance to this mid-range ride.
The Z900 rolls into 2020 with a handful of improvements that include the addition of Kawasaki’s proprietary traction control (KTRC), Riding Modes, LED headlight, color TFT instrumentation, all hung on a stronger frame with Kawi’s Sugomi styling guiding the final look.
|Z125 PRO||$3,199||125 cc|
|Z400 ABS||$4,999||399 cc|
|Z650||$7,249-$7,349, ABS: $7,649-$7,749||649 cc|
|Z900 ABS||$8,999-$9,299||948 cc|
Kawasaki Z Retro Sport
Kawasaki draws on the spirit of ’73 with its Z900RS model that embodies the classic Universal Japanese Motorcycle with old-school looks and modern underpinnings. Built for the urban commute, the Z900 RS carries over with a 948 cc in-line four, slipper clutch, KTRC, and ABS as the stock ride-quality controls. If classic café racer designs are more your speed, the Z900 RS Café sports a bullet fairing that takes you right back to the sixties and seventies.
|Z900RS ABS||$11,199||948 cc|
|Z900RS Cafe||$11,799||948 cc|
Kawasaki Z Hypernaked
As the all-new-for-2020 “Z” flagship model, The Z H2 has a 998 cc plant fed by a 69 mm supercharger just like the rest of the H2 range, only with less bodywork and a slightly relaxed rider triangle that lets you tuck in for speed or push off for comfort.
Integrated Riding Modes, KQS, KLCM, KCMF, and a slip-and-assist clutch deliver tractable power and extra layers of safety to make this a bonafide streetfighter/stoplight burner to be reckoned with. An aggressive front fairing ensures low-resistance penetration with high-performance Showa suspension and lightweight Trellis frame to finish out the package.
|Z H2||$17,000||998 cc|
Kawasaki’s Supersport Touring line is comprised of a wide range of models to meet the needs of would-be adventure riders, the street-centric Versys family. At the entry-level, the carryover Versys-X 300 brings a Ninja-derived, 296 cc twin and long-stroke suspension that make it tractable and friendly to your posterior on even the roughest roads. You can choose between ABS and non-ABS models, but the rally-style windscreen and rear luggage rack come stock across the board.
The rollover 649 cc Versys 650 ABS is set up more as a commuter in its stock configuration, but the 650 LT is a straight-up sport-tourer with quick-release, 28-liter, hard-side panniers and a top case for ample dry storage, plus stock handguards for comfort.
The king of the Versys line is the 1000 SE LT+ that adds IMU-aided ride-quality controls, heated grips, and an adjustable windshield to the mix. A 1,043 cc in-line four powers the top Versys model, and the factory adds its proprietary Electronic Control Suspension feature to further sweeten the deal.
|Versys-X 300||$5,499, ABS: $5,799||296 cc|
|Versys 650 ABS||$8,299||649 cc|
|Versys 650 LT||$9,199||649 cc|
|Versys 1000 SE LT+||$17,999||1,043 cc|
If you like your retro bikes with a visible pedigree, then the new-for-2020 W800 siblings are made just for you. The base model channels the spirit of the Kawasaki W1 from the ’60s with some decidedly British features that include a strutted front fender, teardrop tank complete with kneepads, parallel-twin powerplant, and bench seat that really sell the classic flavor.
Café racer fans get a real treat in the W800 Café that adds a bullet fairing, bobbed fenders, and generous blackout treatment in a nod to the homemade CR models of old. Vanilla suspension and a dearth of electronic rider aids keep this pair true to their original nature, they even run an air-cooled, 773 cc, bevel gear-drive vertical twin that adds quite a bit to the curb appeal. ABS-equipped disc brakes and a slip-and-assist clutch help you keep it rubber-side down as part of the stock equipment package.
|W800 Café||$9,799||773 cc|
The apex predator of the sport-touring food chain is the carryover Kawasaki Concours 14 ABS. Built mainly for the “sport” aspect, the Concours runs a powerful 1,352 cc engine that benefits from Variable Valve Timing for a broad powerband and ram-air induction for a boost in volumetric efficiency. A windtunnel-tested fairing provides ample ventilation to carry away waste heat, with stock hard-side bags, heated handgrips, and an adjustable windshield to boost its touring chops. The electronics suite is absolutely top-of-the-line, and power makes its way to the rear wheel via a tough and quiet Tetra-Lever Shaft Drive with a slipper-clutch to couple the transmission to engine power.
|Concours 14 ABS||$15,599||1,352 cc|
Kawasaki seeks to grab a slice of the American-style market with its Vulcan lineup. From the bobbed, stoplight-burning Vulcan S to the full-dresser Voyager, this family covers a wide range of riding styles. While the rider triangles are tunable through the Ergo-Fit system, the Vulcan range delivers a generally relaxed and upright riding posture with a low seat height – just the thing for a laid-back road trip.
Kawasaki Vulcan Cruiser
The Vulcan S serves as Kawi’s entry-level model within this family tree. It relies on a 649 cc parallel-twin powerplant based on the Ninja engine, and likewise the chassis is also sportbike inspired to deliver a sportier ride than may be apparent at a glance. Bobbed fenders and blackout paint make a strong connection to the old school custom scene, and the teardrop tank seals the deal. The Vulcan S ABS Café adds a bullet-like windshield in yet another café-style model, and of course, the ABS protection makes for a great safety boost.
Next up are the 903 cc Vulcan 900s that step up performance with a trio of sub-models from which to choose. The Vulcan 900 Classic rolls with plenty of old-school cruiser panache in its whitewall tires, faux-rigid lines, laced wheels, and deep-scoop seat. If proto-tourbikes are more your thing, the Vulcan 900 Classic LT resurrects the look of the early fairingless touring machines. The addition of a large windshield, chrome-studded saddlebags, and passenger backrest both sells the image and lengthens its highway legs.
Finally, the Vulcan 900 Custom rolls with a dearth of chrome due to robust blackout treatment and a stripped-down mien. A gunfighter-style saddle gives it a sorta-solo look, and like the rest of the range it displays the same old-school frame geometry with a modern ride.
|Vulcan S||$7,099, ABS: $7,499||649 cc|
|Vulcan S ABS Cafe||$8,099||649 cc|
|Vulcan 900 Classic||$7,999||903 cc|
|Vulcan 900 Custom||$8,499||903 cc|
|Vulcan 900 Classic LT||$8,999||903 cc|
Kawasaki steps into the heavyweight ring with a pair of big-boned bruisers in its bagger-tastic Vulcan 1700 Vaquero ABS and fully-dressed Vulcan 1700 Voyager ABS. Both bikes carry a 52-degree V-twin that delivers grunty performance and look the part since we Americans do like our big v-twin engines.
Kawi’s Advanced Coactive-Braking Technology and ABS provides the traction insurance. Electronic Cruise Control gives your throttle hand a break on long rides though the Electronic Throttle Valve feature does deliver a rather light pull. The stock audio system lets you take your jams with you with plenty of output so you can share them with the rest of the class. As for storage, the Vaquero rolls with hard-side bags, and the Voyager adds a top case to the mix to maximize cargo capacity for longer trips or more meaningful grocery runs.
|Vulcan 1700 Vaquero ABS||$16,799||1,700 cc|
|Vulcan 1700 Voyager ABS||$17,499||1,700 cc|
Kawasaki KLX On-/Off-Road
Kawasaki carries over its KLX250 into MY2020 with its long-stroke suspension and dual-surface tires that hold it in good stead on the blacktop as well as the brown. Power comes from a 249 cc thumper that delivers tractable torque, and since it rocks full lights, mirrors, and a plateholder, you can legally ride on the public roads to get to your favorite jump-off point.
Kawi adds to the dual-sport category with the all-new KLX230 and KLX230 ABS. An air-cooled, 233 cc engine delivers the goods, and like its big brother, the 230 rides on long-stroke suspension components that’ll take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’. Mirrors, blinkers, headlight and taillight make it street legal, but the overall design is very dirt-centric.
|KLX230||$4,599, ABS: $4,899||233 cc|
|KLX250 Camo||$5,599||249 cc|
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