The Reinterpreted “Samurai Sword” Heats Up The GSX-S Stable

LISTEN 10:01

Suzuki reaches back all the way to the early ’80s for the design inspiration behind the new 2020 Katana GSX-S1000SM. The reinterpreted “samurai sword” serves as a sportier alternative to Suzuki’s GSX-S1000 platform for those who are looking for an everyday ride with roots. Modernized looks pair with a modernized drivetrain in an attempt to revive the line, and of course, it rocks the expected ride-quality adjustments that are nearly ubiquitous at this point even if they aren’t quite guaranteed in this genre.

  • 2020 Suzuki Katana
  • Year:
    2020
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Model:
    Katana
  • Engine:
    inline-4
  • Displacement:
    999 cc
  • Top Speed:
    160 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    11399
  • Price:

2020 Suzuki Katana Design

  • LED lighting
  • LCD instrumentation with adjustable LED backlighting
  • Blackout styling
  • “Peak-hold” function
2020 Suzuki Katana
- image 832138
2020 Suzuki Katana
- image 832134
It's easy to see shades of the original in the design in its cutting-edge styling and attention to aerodynamics.

The original Katana 1100 rolled off the assembly line and into pop-culture way back in 1981, and it quickly became a household name because of its cutting-edge design and attention to aerodynamics in an era dominated by relatively boxy designs. It’s easy to see shades of the original in the design in the 2020 Katana, especially since it arguably falls within the “naked” sub-genre even if the family eventually grew to include superbike-style body enclosures by the time it was retired in 2006. The radical design change brought with it improved aerodynamics that lowered drag and increased penetration to make it the fastest production bike in the 650 cc bracket, and the new version looks like it tries to emulate the earlier form.

A set of pointed cheek fairings brace the cyclops headlight with a short flyscreen to finish off the entry. The headlight itself is comprised of a quartet of LED emitters set in an over-under configuration to split the night while it keeps the front end looking fairly clean. Too bad the factory used standoff-style blinkers that look like they’ll carry away the first time you drop it in the parking lot.

Behind the short stock flyscreen is an all-in-one LCD instrument cluster to deliver all the pertinent metrics with a “Peak Hold” feature that tracks your high-rev events and marks the high points on the bar-graph tachometer readout. The handlebar carries some lift in its upright sections, and it’s clamped to the bike via short risers to put the pilot’s hands much closer to center than you’d get from clip-on bars.

Sure, you can still tuck in over the 3.2-gallon (U.S.) fuel tank if you want/need to, but the rider’s triangle allows for a fairly upright riding posture, and that’s one of the main points that turn this streetbike into a commuter that’s in direct competition with Suzuki’s own GSX-S “standard” family.

The tank gives the Katana a range-per-fillup in the hundred-mile range, so you can probably go ahead and forget about any serious long-range work.

The scoop-shaped seat slings the rider’s butt at 32.5 inches off the deck – about right for a one-liter streetbike – and there’s an elevated p-pad with fold-up, subframe-mount passenger footpegs to finish off the passenger’s amenities. Also typical is how the taillight defines the terminus of the subframe, but that’s just the beginning. The plateholder and rear turn signals ride on a one-arm hugger with a second hugger-style fender mounted to the swingarm to complete the coverage, and you can go ahead and pencil me in as a fan ’cause I love a clean rear end like that.

2020 Suzuki Katana Chassis

  • Bosch ABS
  • Bodywork takes design cues from the legendary 1982 Katana
  • Comfortable and sporty riding position
  • Nimble handling
2020 Suzuki Katana
- image 832145
2020 Suzuki Katana
- image 832136
2020 Suzuki Katana
- image 832146
The suspension is better than the GSX-S1000, but a lot of the bike feels the same.

An extruded-aluminum, twin-spar frame serves as the main structure for the Katana with a gull-wing swingarm to articulate for the rear wheel. Inverted, 43 mm KYB stems float the front end with the full trinity of adjustments and 4.7 inches of travel. Out back, the progressive-link monoshock delivers adjustable preload- and rebound-damping features with only 2.48 inches of travel, so you can probably go ahead and forget about jumping the tracks in town with this thing.

Curb weight measures in at 474 pounds and the engine means serious business, so the Katana comes with some solid anchors to deal with the potential energy. I’m talking about dual, 310 mm discs up front with Brembo Monobloc calipers that rock four 32 mm pots in an opposed-piston configuration, just like the Gixxer 1000. Bosch ABS comes standard to help you safely get the most out of the brakes. A pair of 17-inch cast wheels round out the rolling chassis with ZR-rated rubbers in a 120/70 up front and 190/50 out back.

Front suspension: Inverted telescopic, coil spring, oil damped
Rear suspension: Link type, coil spring, oil damped
Rake / trail: 25° / 3.9 in (100 mm)
Front brake: Brembo, 4-piston, twin disc
Rear brake: Nissin, 1-piston, single disc
Front tire size: 120/70ZR17M/C (58W), tubeless
Rear tire size: 190/50ZR17M/C (73W), tubeless

2020 Suzuki Katana Drivetrain

  • 999 cc inline-4 engine
  • 148 hp @ 10,000 rpm
  • 79.66 lb-ft @ 9,500 rpm
  • Slipper clutch
  • Traction Control
  • Low-rpm assist
2020 Suzuki Katana
- image 832139
2020 Suzuki Katana
- image 832133
2020 Suzuki Katana
- image 832132
The factory borrowed the engine from the GSX-R1000K5 and tuned it for even better torque delivery, so you can come out of the hole like a boss.

The Katana runs with a 73.4 mm bore and 59 mm stroke for a total displacement of 999 cc and a smokin’ hot 12.2-to-1 compression ratio. It’s a water-cooled, inline-four cylinder engine with dual-overhead cams. The mill is a high-revving item with 148 horsepower at 10,000 rpm, and 79.66 pounds o’ grunt that cap out at 9,500 rpm, of which 50 pounds are available from 3,500 on up.

A slipper clutch couples engine power to the six-speed, constant-mesh transmixxer and provides some anti-backtorque protection, plus there’s a traction control feature to help you manage the power. That’s particularly important here since the bottom third of the rpm range has a jerky response to throttle inputs, and the TC prevents you from breaking the rear wheel loose by accident.

A low-rpm assist feature helps stabilize the engine rpm when demand overcomes delivery, and Suzuki’s Easy-Start feature delivers one-touch starts through the ECM. As for the fandanglery, that’s ’bout it. You can count on the TC and ABS protection, just without the corner-sensitive aspect. I expect the factory left that stuff on the shelf in a bid to keep the price down.

I haven’t seen actual track times, but if I had to take a guess at the performance based on that of its frame- and engine-mates, I’d put the top speed somewhere around the 160 mph mark.

Engine: 4-stroke, 4-cylinder, liquid-cooled, DOHC
Bore x Stroke: 73.4 mm x 59.0 mm (2.9 in x 2.3 in)
Displacement: 999 cc (61.0 cu. in)
Compression ratio: 12.2 : 1
Power: 147.5 hp (110 kW) @ 10,000 rpm
Torque: 79.66 lb-ft (108.0 Nm) @ 9,500 rpm
Fuel system: Fuel injection with SDTV
Ignition system: Electronic ignition (transistorized)
Starter system: Electric
Lubrication system: Wet sump
Clutch: Wet, multiplate
Transmission: 6-speed constant mesh
Final Drive: Chain, RK525GSH, 116 links

2020 Suzuki Katana Pricing

2020 Suzuki Katana
- image 832149
2020 Suzuki Katana
- image 832141
2020 Suzuki Katana
- image 832140
MSRP for the U.S. market is $13,499.

Available for 2020, the Katana comes in a choice of Metallic Mystic Silver or Solid Black.

Model ID: GSX-S1000SM
Warranty: 12-month unlimited mileage limited warranty. Longer coverage periods with other benefits available through Suzuki Extended Protection (SEP).
Color: Metallic Mystic Silver, Solid Black
Price: $13,499

2020 Suzuki Katana Competitors

2018 - 2021 Yamaha MT-10
- image 758219
2020 - 2022 Kawasaki Z900
- image 871711
2020 Suzuki Katana
- image 832150

There’s no shortage of domestic competition for the new Katana, so I grabbed a Z900 ABS from Kawasaki and Yamaha’s MT-10.

Kawasaki Z900

2020 - 2022 Kawasaki Z900
- image 871707

First up, the Kawi carries itself with an ultra-modern look owing much to the Transformer-like headlight housing that carries dual beams in a side-by-side arrangement. Bodywork is kept to a minimum with very little left to the imagination as far as the frame and drivetrain are concerned. Sure, it looks okay and all, but it lacks the cool factor that the Katana’s bodywork brings to the table.

Yamaha MT-10

2018 - 2021 Yamaha MT-10
- image 799906

The MT-10 leads the way with a robot-like headlight housing more similar to the Kawi than the Suzuki, but the sideplates on the fuel tank make for a nice detail and I think that makes it more interesting to look at than the Kawi. In the suspension we find the Z900 just a skosh below the Katana with adjustable rebound-damping and spring preload all around; the MT-10 alone rocks the full trifecta front and rear. ABS is standard on the Katana and MT-10, but Kawasaki alone gives you a non-ABS option. Personally, I don’t know why you wouldn’t want ABS, but if it’s that important for you to not have it, then it’s something to consider.

It's kind of a toss-up on who wins the battle of electronics; it depends on what is important and how much you want to pay for it.

Higher ride-control electronics are a constant across the board. Kawasaki packs on its proprietary traction control feature and variable Power Modes to more-or-less break even, as does Yamaha, but that’s to be expected as those systems become more ubiquitous year-by-year, so all three bikes get credit for keeping up with the times here.

The Z900 produces 123 horsepower and 73.1 pound-feet of torque from a 948 cc, four-banger mill while the MT-10 reports in with 160 horsepower and 81.8 pounds o’ grunt to bracket the Katana more or less in the middle. Suzuki let’s go of the Katana for $13,499, but the MT-10 is a skosh lower at $12,999 and the Z900 ABS is still lower yet with a $9,299 starting price, and that is liable to put some pressure on Suzuki dealers to remain competitive in such a closely-matched bracket.

Read our full review of the Kawasaki Z900.
Read our full review of the Yamaha MT-10.

He Said

“Gotta’ give Suzuki its props; the new Katana has just the right amount of retro-tastic about it. The factory wasn’t as slavish to history as it was for, say, the TU250X for instance, but it still managed to give it the suggestion of the look of the early ’80s. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go feel old because the ’80s is now considered a ’classic’ era.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “I don’t usually go for that angular sportbike look, but the Katana has a sex appeal to it; kind of a future/retro look that I can’t really pin down. The suspension is better than the GSX-S1000, but a lot of the bike feels the same. Honestly, though, 148 horsepower and plenty of torque where you need it, I could almost wish for a bigger fuel tank so it has more range. As a commuter, I can see this being a fun ride to work.”

2020 Suzuki Katana Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: 4-stroke, 4-cylinder, liquid-cooled, DOHC
Bore x Stroke: 73.4 mm x 59.0 mm (2.9 in x 2.3 in)
Displacement: 999 cc (61.0 cu. in)
Compression ratio: 12.2 : 1
Power: 147.5 hp (110 kW) @ 10,000 rpm
Torque: 79.66 lb-ft (108.0 Nm) @ 9,500 rpm
Fuel system: Fuel injection with SDTV
Ignition system: Electronic ignition (transistorized)
Starter system: Electric
Lubrication system: Wet sump
Clutch: Wet, multiplate
Transmission: 6-speed constant mesh
Final Drive: Chain, RK525GSH, 116 links
Chassis:
Front suspension: Inverted telescopic, coil spring, oil damped
Rear suspension: Link type, coil spring, oil damped
Rake / trail: 25° / 3.9 in (100 mm)
Front brake: Brembo, 4-piston, twin disc
Rear brake: Nissin, 1-piston, single disc
Front tire size: 120/70ZR17M/C (58W), tubeless
Rear tire size: 190/50ZR17M/C (73W), tubeless
Dimensions & Capacities:
Overall Length: 83.9 in (2,130 mm)
Overall width: 32.9 in (835 mm)
Overall height: 43.7 in (1,110 mm)
Wheelbase: 57.6 in (1,460 mm )
Ground clearance: 5.5 in (140 mm)
Seat height: 32.5 in (825 mm)
Curb weight: 474 lbs (215 kg)
Fuel tank capacity: 3.2 gal (12 L)
Fuel Economy: 53.3 mpg)
Electrical:
Ignition: Electronic ignition (transistorized)
Spark Plugs: NGK CR9EIA-9 or DENSO IU27D
Headlight: LED
Tail Light: LED
Details:
Model ID: GSX-S1000SM
Warranty: 12-month unlimited mileage limited warranty. Longer coverage periods with other benefits available through Suzuki Extended Protection (SEP).
Color: Metallic Mystic Silver, Solid Black
Price: $13,499

Further Reading

Suzuki

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- image 788898

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TJ Hinton
TJ Hinton
T.J got an early start from his father and other family members who owned and rode motorcycles, and by helping with various mechanical repairs throughout childhood. That planted a seed that grew into a well-rounded appreciation of all things mechanical, and eventually, into a formal education of same. Though primarily a Harley rider, he has an appreciation for all sorts of bikes and doesn't discriminate against any particular brand or region of origin. He currently holds an Associate's degree in applied mechanical science from his time at the M.M.I.  Read full bio
About the author

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: suzuki.co.uk, kawasaki.com, yamaha-motor.com

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