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Review: Kawasaki Z800
Driven May 2014
Okay, so the industry-wide chanting of praise about the Kawasaki Z1000 refuses to die down. Sure, TopGear played an instrumental part in this chorus as well. Now it’s time to swing a leg over the smaller CBU from the green team – the Z800, to check if it’s a tune worth a hum.
First up, the Z800 doesn’t look as radical and beautifully mutated as its 1,000cc sibling, but it does sport lines that are crisper than a stack of well answered geometry exam papers. The second naked offering from Kawasaki in India looks super compact yet conspicuously attractive from every angle, especially the front.
It sports a forward lunging stance, with an aggressive headlamp unit that sits ahead of a massively contoured tank covered with plastic cladding along its sides. The three-screen digital dash that sits atop the headlight displays engine temp, trip meters, odometer and clock on the left, a digital speedo, range and fuel indicators on the right, and the centre is solely dedicated to the tachometer.
Being completely exposed to the elements, the display was hard to read at some angles under the sun. There’s no escaping those gorgeous quad exhaust pipes that emerge from the engine to merge into twin outlets from one triangular muffler, while the minimalist body panels contribute to the muscular character of the bike. There’s some attention to detail on the tail lamps too – they light up in a double Z design. The Z800 looks menacing, militant and fast. And that’s exactly what it is.
Although it houses a smaller engine, and is way more affordable than the Z1000, the Z800 is nothing short of a mental middle-weight streetfighter.
The 806cc motor produces 111.4bhp and 83Nm of torque in an extremely smooth and linear manner. Thumb the electric start and there’s close to no vibrations at idle. Release the moderately heavy clutch lever and the Z800 pulls off the line in a very poised manner. There’s a strong hum as you climb up the band to 4,000rpm, after which the exhaust note and grunt grow increasingly potent all the way to 7,500rpm. North of that mark, you’ll be clenching your teeth and holding on to the bars for dear life as the Z800 belts out a glorious mechanical roar that will have every animate soul looking your way (or frantically trying to jump out of it).
The gearbox is slick, and like the other big Kawasaki’s, the gearing is tall as well. You can pull away from 35kph in sixth gear without the engine knocking. You really feel like you could potter around in third all day long.
Unlike the Z1000, there’s no traction control or power settings on the Z800, so you have to be careful when putting the hammer down on slippery surfaces. The 800 does come with ABS though, a feature that you will thank your stars for while braking over tricky surfaces. It is very easy getting accustomed to riding this bike.
Dynamically, the Z800 is brilliant. It feels well balanced, and although it weighs 8kg more than the Z1000 (221kg), it feels as nimble and agile at all speeds as its large-hearted sibling. Inside the city, the seating position is comfortable since there isn’t a lot of forward lean on to the flat, wide handlebars, which gives you a fairly upright riding posture. You don’t get fully adjustable suspension on the Z800, but the front and rear, both have adjustable rebound and preload, which felt well set up.
Keeping in mind that the Z800 is not a track-focussed machine, you won’t be dissecting corners with surgical precision. However, the weight of the bike, coupled with its grippy rubber and responsive petal brakes, give you a reassuring feel, while the well-balanced suspension keeps the bike stuck to the road as you push through a tight sequence.
You may have noticed the lack of a wind deflector up front, which means you’ll need to employ some riding measures to ensure that you remain on the bike at speeds in excess of 180kph.
The Z800 may not be as beefy in appearance or as brutally aggressive in terms of performance as the Z1000, but for enthusiasts looking at owning a high-capacity performance bike, what really appeals is its price tag. At Rs8.5 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai), the Z800 is the cheapest in-line four motorcycle on offer in India. What’s strange is that the Kawasaki isn’t available in its traditional Jap green garb – it’s all-black for now. Another catchy tune to hum then.
In-line four, 806cc, 111.4bhp, 83Nm, 6M, Fuel tank: 17 litres, 16.4kpl, Top Speed: 233kph (claimed), Rs 8.5 lakh (ex-Mumbai)
A perfectly priced, sporty and comfortable motorcycle. A stepping stone to the world of high-capacity performance biking.