Kawasaki put the cat among the pidgeons with the new Ninja 400, and now it is joined by a Z400, offering a streetfighter themed nakedbike version with all the performance and extra attitude. Review: Kris Hodgson, Images: Kris Hodgson, Jeff Ware
When it comes to the learner segment, there’s some incredible competition, and the addition of the Z400 now offers a smaller capacity alternative to the restricted 600 nakedbikes, while boasting comparable levels of power, if not quite the torque.
As a step up from the outgoing Z300, the Z400 offers an incredible upgrade, which mirrors the transformation that the Ninja 300 undertook when it became the Ninja 400.
As someone who’s happily lived with a Ninja 400 for nine months, I have to say that the big comparison to me is between the two 400s, but check out the tech breakout below for the run down from Z300 to Z400.
A futuristic package which tones down the usual Z-series DNA and has more in common with the Z900 (or Z650) than the Z800 or Z1000, the Z400 runs a compact dual headlight setup in the single unit, with LED headlights, alongside ABS, an assist and slipper clutch and streetfighter themed LCD dash.
Jumping on board you’re greeted by a compact package, with a low seat height at 785mm, as well as a shaved down seat which further minimises that reach to the ground and helps ensure a thin feel between the knees.
The flat handlebars are mounted to a different top triple-clamp with risers compared to the Ninja 400, with ‘bar mounted mirrors, while the overall finish quality really is exceptional for the price-point. The green across the radiator shrouds is also a sticker to match the green bodywork, while it’s a nice deep silver fleck black paint across the rest of the bodywork.
Combined with a blacked out engine, the Z400 offers a real streetfighter inspired styling package, and that carries across into the feel of the bike and ride. Fire the 399cc parallel-twin to life and the exhaust certainly isn’t the most impressive, but the clutch is super light and Kawasaki have done an exceptional job with the electrickery in ensuring the Z400 is as difficult to stall for new riders as possible.
This ensures an easy transition onto the power, particularly considering how strong the low to mid-range torque is from this powerplant. You could almost take off from a flat standstill at idle, it’s that well fuelled, so if you’re terrified of the embarrassment of stalling, first off – don’t be, and secondly – consider this machine.
Leaving the bike in first will however quickly reveal how short that particular gear feels thanks to the final gearing as well, but thanks to all that torque the Z400 will happily roll around in second for essentially everything. In fact knocking it up a gear or two for gentle cruising is never a problem and there’s still good throttle response and power delivery, even if the biggest reward is really taking advantage of that mid-range.
The one area I do notice the 399cc parallel twin gets a little out of shape is on a closing throttle, when it transitions onto engine braking, which can be a little bit harsh, however this can be ridden around by simply being a bit more aggressive on the blip on downshifts, with this mainly occurring when gently rolling off the throttle at cruising speeds.
While a bit of finesse certainly helps in keeping the Z400 engine smooth, the reward is an exceptionally punchy low to mid-range, which never tapers off but instead gets a little bit flatter right up in the rev range, with the Z400 capable of catapulting you well past the speed limits regardless of where you are.
I’d still firmly state the Z400 is a great beginner option, but there are some less powerful options out there for those who aren’t after maximum performance in the segment, or alternatively just want something a little less intimidating. The Z400 is not a machine you’ll quickly find lacking, at least not if you’re being honest about your skills as a rider, and what’s remotely legal on the roads.
That’s not to say the Z400 is intimidating – it’s all relative I guess – as it exudes that light streetfighter feel, with a great low centre of gravity and easy to handle overall package, while still not looking too tiny. That makes for a forgiving machine to the uninitiated, even if there’s some pretty spectacular performance between your legs. It also combines with the flat ‘bars and general ergonomics to create a neutral, upright package – more-so than the Ninja 400 – that is comfortable in all aspects but the seat (after long periods).
There’s also no doubt the Z400 is a little more everyday-road orientated than the Ninja 400, and while the brakes are the same exceptional units, offering great control and feel, the suspension on the Z400 feels a lot softer through the initial stroke, which comes at the cost of being a little harsher as you run out of travel. For general riding this offers a slightly more comfortable ride, with a little less comfort and compliance when you’re pushing hard as the bike pitches.
Still, even over the really rough surfaces, pushing a bit harder over towards the edges of the tyre, the Z400 offers good feedback and stability, in spite of feeling like a super short wheelbase machine, and even with a bit of kick from the rear I was having plenty of fun.
The standard fitment GP-R300 tyres are also a great choice, regardless of the weather – I find myself mentioning this a lot lately – as they are fitted to the sportier beginner options, they are a good all-round option for wet and dry.
Overall handling is also a standout, offering a nimble package for the daily commute, including weaving through traffic, tricky urban conditions and easy U-turns. Filtering would also be an easy chore for those stuck in real grid-lock, with plenty of go to get you away at the front of the lights.
Stability on the freeway is also good and cruising at 110 or 120 is easy and confidence inspiring, and while there’s not the wind protection of a full screen, this particular bike had the Kawasaki accessory screen, while the lack of fairings makes the bike a little less susceptible to cross winds.
The Z400 is also a fun machine to hustle through the twisties or along the good motorcycling roads, with those flat ‘bars offering plenty of leverage for input, while getting aggressive and hanging off the bike a bit is an easy proposition, even for the new rider. The super-light feeling overall package really comes to the fore here, in not only making the Z400 plenty of fun, but also an easy machine to make the most of for new riders, still building those skills.
At the end of the day that’s what I find so great about the Z400 – and this is something shared with a few of the other sub 500cc LAMS options – is I don’t feel like I’m riding a learner machine, in fact if anything there’s a bit more freedom as far as being able to have some fun without going crazy.
I could jump onto the Z400, and the bike felt light but not too small, sporty but not cramped, torquey and nimble and was plenty of everyday fun, even as an experienced rider. The seat could be a bit more comfortable, and that slight roughness on a closing throttle can be annoying, but overall the Z400 is an exceptional option, particularly considering it’s offering the kind of performance we’d expect from a $10k 600cc LAMS machine.
Kawasaki Z400 Second Opinion: Jeff Ware
I had so much fun riding the Z400 and to me, that is what streetfighter styled nakeds are all about. Manufacturers generally get bagged for trying too hard to make a stock bike look like a streetfighter and Kawasaki are not claiming the Z400 to be a streetfighter.
But it looks like one and a very cool one at that, so whether they meant to do it or not, Team Green have done a top job with the Z400, it really looks like a streetfightered Ninja 400.
Kris found the bike big enough, I found it too small for me, with the ‘bars too close and I was wedged in the seating position on that rock hard seat, however, I’m 90kg and 187cm so not the average Z400 sized rider I’d imagine. It is definitely a bike that would suit smaller riders, and I still had a blast on it.
The wide ‘bars, aggressive ergonomics and punchy, low-geared engine makes the Z400 a true hooning machine and for a medium capacity LAMS machine, it really has some serious punch.
Like the Ninja 400, the bike loves to rev and with the upright riding position the sense of acceleration is really exaggerated so the ride is more thrilling than on the Ninja, however, the outright corner speeds and road carving abilities of the sportsbike sibling can’t be matched with the Z400.
The trade off being a more fun point and shoot bike, easier bike to handle in traffic and carparks and generally zipping around the place. It’s just so easy to ride, perfect for a learner or commuter that want to arrive at work with a grin and get home with a smile…
The brakes are fantastic, the gearbox slick, the controls all smooth and the bike is typical good quality from Kawasaki’s LAMS range. I was impressed by the feel and grip on offer from the OEM tyres and to be honest, the only things I didn’t like about the bike was the hard seat and for me, that super soft suspension that would be OK for a rider in the 55 to 65kg range, possibly 70kg, but beyond that it will be quite soft, unbalancing the bike at times, particularly on the brakes.
At just over six grand, the Z400 is priced right, with the accessories fitted to our press test unit, it looks sharp, plus it is a blast to ride and definitely worth testing if you are in the market for a mid sized nakedbike, whether you are a learner or experienced rider.
2019 Kawasaki Z400 Genuine Mods
It’s worth noting this particular Z400 had a fair few genuine Kawasaki accessories added, starting with the Lower Cowling ($396.43 AUD) which I actually mistook for standard equipment. On the pricey side I reckon this mod still looks amazing and is one I’d fork out for.
Also fitted is the ‘Meter Cover’ ($97.28 AUD – great value) or small front screen which adds a good amount of wind protection, which would be my first purchase. There’s also the colour matched Seat Cowl which does remove your pillion seat, and if it is like the Ninja 400 version, needs a special mounting bracket, so isn’t just interchangeable. At $200.57 the price isn’t bad for a colour matched item, as you can buy cheap eBay specials, but normally need to get them painted – what a hassle!
Also included was the Frame Slider Set, which looks great and comes in at $337.81 AUD, which is a fair bit, but I always recommend this kind of protection for new riders. Then there was the Kawasaki Radiator Screen ($77.42 AUD), an ideal option on our mixed roads, as a holed radiator will end your fun very quickly, and for this price it’s an easy choice.
Finally there was the Tank Pad, which protects the tank from zip and button damage, while the Knee Pad Set offers easier better grip of the tank when things get sporty.
2019 Kawasaki Z400 Tech Talk
The Z400’s 399cc parallel twin delivers 33.4kW of power, up 4.4kW from the outgoing Z300, while featuring a more compact clutch down from 1399mm to 125mm, with less rigid operating plates, ensuring a light lever pull.
Numerous weight reduction strategies keep weight to a minimum – despite the larger displacement powerplant, with a clean design trimmed of any unnecessary items, and the slim engine featuring a cooling system with minimised external hoses.
Kawasaki’s advanced dynamic rigidity analysis was used to ensure optimum rigidity with light weight for the trellis frame, with the engine rigidly-mounted and used as a stressed member, with both the engine and frame engine placement was also be optimised. The new chassis features a short-wheelbase/long-swingarm design, complemented by a steep caster angle that aims to deliver light, natural handling. The lightweight design results in a curb mass of only 167kg for the Z400 (3kg lighter than the Z300).
41mm telescopic fork deliver firm yet compliant suspension action, while a 310mm semi-floating front rotor offers sure stopping power, with the latest ABS unit from Nissin. A relatively upright riding position and wider handlebar offer good control, while retaining a dynamic, sporty riding position, and a seat height of 785mm, with a slim design of both the seat (30 mm narrower) and the rear of the engine gives riders an easy reach to the ground – ideal for new and less experienced riders.
In addition to contributing to the Z400’s looks, the newly designed LED headlamp is highly visible and offers significantly increased brightness and a wider illuminated path. Offering an easy-to-read layout, the analogue-style tachometer features a gear position indicator at its centre and sits atop a multi-function LCD screen.
The 2019 Kawasaki Z400 is available in two colour options: Candy Lime Green / Metallic Spark Black, and Candy Cardinal Red / Metallic Flat Spark Black.
2019 Kawasaki Z400 (LAMS) Specifications
Price: $6,299 RRP + ORC
Warranty: Two-year, unlimited kilometre
Colours: Candy Lime Green with Metallic Spark Black, Candy Cardinal Red with Metallic Flat Spark Black
Claimed power: 33.4kW [45hp] @ 10000RPM
Claimed torque: 38Nm [28ft-lbs] @ 8000RPM
Dry weight: 167kg
Fuel capacity: 14L
Engine: Liquid cooled, parallel twin-cylinder, four-stroke, 8-valve, DOHC, 399cc, 11.5:1 compression ratio, 70.0 x 51.8mm bore and stroke, single injector per cylinder, EFI 32mm x 2
Gearbox: 6-speed with Positive Neutral finder
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate with dual action slipper clutch, cable actuation
Chassis: High-tensile steel tube trellis frame with engine as fully stressed member, box-section steel swingarm, Rake: 24.5°, Trail: 92mm
Suspension: 41mm fork, 120mm travel, Bottom-Link UNI-TRAK with 5-way adjustable preload, 130mm travel
Brakes: Single Nissin 310mm semi-floating front disc, Single Balanced Actuation Dual Piston Caliper with ABS, Nissin 220mm rear disc, two-piston caliper. Nissin ABS
Wheels & Tyres: Aluminium alloy, 3.00 x 17in / 4.00 x 17in, Dunlop Sportmax GPR 300, 110/70 – 17 (ff), 150/70 – 17 (rr),
Seat height: 785mm
Instruments: LCD ‘streetfighter’ dash with backlit tachometer
2019 Kawasaki Z400 Gallery
The Verdict | Review: 2019 Kawasaki Z400 (LAMS)
It’s hard to go past the mix of nakedbike styling done well, amazing power and performance from the 399 parallel twin, and sheer value on offer with the Z400, making for an amazing option that brings 600cc performance to the table at 300cc pricing.