Is it middleweight madness or a usable, everyday machine for both newbie and experienced riders? Kawasaki recently introduced a new addition to its already formidable range of motorcycles …
Step aside Yamaha 600 cc Fazer and Suzuki SV 650: the new Kawasaki Z750 is set to be a real crowd pleaser filling the middleweight gap as a cheeky yet addictive alternative.
The Z750, almost a dead ringer for the Z1000, may well take the middleweight class by storm. Easy to ride, powerful and nimble, it replaces the not-so-old, yet dated ZR-7, an unimpressive motorcycle to say the least.
The ZR-7 was a close replica of the larger ZRX 1200 stablemate. But it proved to be extremely unpopular, due to its total lack of usable power. It just didn’t have the same sex appeal as its replacement.
It’s easy to be sceptical when media kits exaggerate the thrill factor of a new model, creating hype that stirs through the industry.
But for once, the hype has been on the button: the Kawasaki Z750 is superb. It oozes appeal with its `dog-fighting` stance, enticing one to climb on and head for the hills.
Overall the Z750 doesn’t look the middleweight budget part. It sports a similar frame to the Z1000, has wheels similar to those of the flagship ZX10 R due to hit our shores soon, and shares the same sleek tank and tail unit with its big brother. The black swingarm and magnesium-look covers on the engine add to the overall appearance of this sporty model.
The only noticeable differences that the Z750 has over the Z1000 are the lack of polished rims, the smaller engine, lack of radiator shrouds, a lower specification 4-1 exhaust system and the telescopic front suspension. The Z750 has a uniquely designed front fairing to make it easily distinguishable from the Z1000, and it lacks the diminutive screen that seemed to be more for show than for effect.
The seating position of the Z750 feels almost identical to the Z1000. Its small clocks protrude slightly from the relatively compact shield. The dials, although small, are easily read, but it does take some time to get used to the digital rev counter. It is not as easy to note the bar graph display as it would be to see a red needle climbing around the white background of a set of regular analogue instruments.
The seat height is perfect, a mere 815 mm, making it easy for the vertically challenged to sit comfortably without having to stretch their toes for balance at standstill.
The usual lights and buttons are lined up in front of the rider when the ignition is turned to the on position. The clocks go through their motions of counting up the rev indicator before dropping back down to zero.
The fuel injection, a Keihin 34 mm double-butterfly system, gives off a slight whine and then settles, indicating that it’s all systems go.
Hit the starter button and, yee-haa: we have ignition. The Zed fires into action with a distinctive growl from its muffled 4-into-1 exhaust system.
Head out, find a few twisties, flick left, hang it right, then through to the next apex – the nimbleness of the Z750 seems unparalleled. The wide, flatter handlebars are almost like those of a motocross bike, providing the rider with excellent leverage, a comfortable grasp and the ability to turn with ease at the slightest hint of pressure on the bars.
Out on the suburban roads the Z750 shines. Being a Z1000 motor with a smaller bore, the potential for disappointment was huge. Could less translate into more? With 81 kW (108 hp) and 75 Nm of torque claimed by Kawasaki, the Z750 delivers excellent, smooth and useable power.
The power comes in at around 7 000 r/min, when the 16 valve in-line four produces an unmistakable howl and things really start to become exciting. The Zed propels itself forward through its six-speed gearbox with such tenacity that you’d imagine it to be a bigger capacity bike. The efficiency of the fuel injection, and the dual throttle valve system, certainly play a role here.
With a bike that accelerates faster than other traffic, a decent set of mirrors is a must-have. Kawasaki has fitted a set of long-stalk, slightly squared off mirrors to the bike. They work well if the bike is not travelling above the urban speed limit, but open the throttle and the rear view is just a blur.
The Kawasaki gearbox takes some getting used to. The tendency to miss a gear here and there is largely due to a larger gate between gears in comparison with other bikes. This is easily overcome by making a more positive and slower selection. Finding neutral, however, was a breeze: it was easy to locate even after stopping in sixth gear and then channelling down to neutral.
The Kawasaki Z750 motor is basically a sleeved down version of its hugely popular big brother, the Z1000. This gives the 750 that big-bore torque feeling while offering the smaller bore ‘revability’. It’s what makes the Z750 the most fun to be had on two wheels.
Pull away from the traffic light with just the slightest aggression and the front wheel soon sits up at about the height your head should be. Arrive at a stop sign, grab a handful of front brake, and feel the rear of the Z750 rise into the air with the poise and grace of a ballerina. Fun! Is this not why bikes were built in the first place?
Bringing the brutish Zed to a rapid halt is performed with such precision and stability that you’d expect to see the same braking system as that on the top-of-the-range ZX10 R. Instead, a set of two-piston Tokico callipers clamp down onto two 300 mm discs up front, and a single-piston calliper paired with a 220 mm disc on the rear.
Stability is key when building a bike of this nature, and Kawasaki has done well to keep the bike’s balance central, enabling the rider to make a more confident lunge for the brakes without causing the bike to nosedive uncontrollably.
The Kawasaki Z750 is fitted with a set of Bridgestone BT 012 tyres. These offered excellent roadholding in dry conditions. There wasn’t much opportunity to ride in the wet, but when you do get caught you want to have confidence in the tyres fitted. These, in conjunction with the 41 mm front telescopic suspension, made for a smooth and exhilarating ride on urban streets.
Kawasaki did not opt for fully adjustable suspension on this model for the front. However, the rear has been fitted with a rising-rate monoshock that has pre-load and rebound adjustments.
There is a reasonably sized fuel tank carrying 18 litres of fuel. On a 750 you’d think that would go a long way, but it’s not the case. Being the smaller brother, the rider’s tendency is to keep the throttle wide open, with hard acceleration from standstill, wheelies, earlier and harder acceleration out of corners – it all takes its toll.
Under these riding conditions the Z750 swallows as much fuel as its bigger brother does. But do we buy motorcycles for their fuel economy? The excitement factor is what it is all about.
Out on the road the Z750 is all about fun. The lightning acceleration and involving handling aspects of this bike make it an ideal choice for anyone wishing to return to biking, for those looking to add to their ‘ideal bikes’ collection or just someone wanting to be a bit of a hooligan. The 195 kg weight of the motorcycle is hardly felt and the balance is neutral, making the relatively high weight of this bike irrelevant.
Practicality probably wasn’t foremost on the designer’s brief, the under-rear seat storage is pitiful to say the least. This long and wide but very shallow compartment doesn’t amount to much – a wallet and perhaps a pair of sunglasses is all that will fit in there.
The keyhole is also awkwardly located under the left side panel below the seat, where it is difficult to locate at first. But as with anything, it grows on you.
In conclusion, this is a very usable, everyday machine for both men and women, and by the looks of the package, Kawasaki have got it right. The Z1000 was already easy to ride, but the smaller bike is even more welcoming.
(Individual scores out of 20)
Engine and Gearbox 17
Out on the road the big-bore feel of the downsized 1 000 cc motor pushes the Z750 with exuberance. The gearbox felt a little suspect at times but finding neutral was never a problem
Handling and Brakes 17
Lightweight handling from a hefty chassis. Brakes showed no fade or deterioration, even after heavy use
Excellent. Comfortable seating position aids manoeuvrability of the Zed
Styling and Finish 17
An almost identical bike to its bigger brother, the Z750 can’t be faulted in styling terms. The paintwork and fittings are all top notch. The hard-to-find rear seat lock is the only concern
At R89 995 the Zed offers big-bore potential at a small bike price
A fantastic bike for both newbie and experienced rider
Vital Specifications- Kawasaki Z750
|Engine||Liquid-cooled, four-stroke, in-line four-cylinder|
|Bore/stroke||68,4 x 50,9 mm|
|Power||81 kW @ 11 000 r/min|
|Torque||75 Nm @ 8 200 r/min|
|Fuel system||Keihin fuel injection|
|Fuel tank capacity||18 litres|
|Frame type||Diamond, high tensile steel|
|Front suspension||41 mm telescopic fork|
|Rear suspension||Bottom-link Uni-track|
|Front brakes||Dual twin piston semi-floating callipers, dual 300 mm discs|
|Rear brake||Single piston calliper, single 220 mm disc|
|Length/width/height||2 080/780/1 040 mm|
|Wheelbase||1 425 mm|
|Rake/trail||24,5 deg/104 mm|
|Seat height||815 mm|
|Claimed unladen weight||195 kg|
Dynamometer figures and graph not available