Kawasaki likes to show off, and the naked Z400 ABS is willing to put it all out there. For some companies this might have been a trainwreck, but not Kawasaki. They know their bikes look good with aggressive, modern and minimalized angular designs. Like any great creator, the engineers and designers at Kawasaki know how to put their appearance a cut above and deliver the style that fans have come to expect from the Sugomi aesthetic. Perhaps Kawasaki itself said it best. This bike is, “Built to be seen.” No matter who is looking the Z400 can deliver more than just ‘skin deep’ results. Elevated curb appeal is only the first impression, but there’s plenty more to enjoy with this sporty bike.
Frame and Body
With its tubular-steel trellis frame just like the Ninja and decorative cheek farings all it’s own, this compact yet surprising green monster is all about form and function. It offers 5.7 inches of ground clearance on the frame. While the Z400 is designed for optimal rigidity, also handles beautifully as a light bike should. It looks like the advanced dynamic rigidity analysis research from Kawasaki really hit one out of the park.
At just under 364 lbs (363.8), everything about the Z400 was designed to be feather light. The naked body has a low silhouette. The lower center of gravity helps create much more precise handling. When combined with the long swingarm, steep caster angle and short 53.9-inch wheelbase the ride is energetic, nimble and smooth.
Engine, Exhaust, Etc.
- Type: 4-stroke, 2-cylinder, DOHC, liquid-cooled
- Displacement: 399cc
- Bore x Stroke: 70.0 x 51.8mm
- Compression ratio: 11.5:1
- Power: 28.0 lb-ft @ 8,000 rpm
- Fuel System: DFI® with 32mm throttle bodies
- Ignition: TCBI with digital advance
- Transmission: 6-speed, return shift
- Final Drive: Sealed chain
- Fuel Tank: 3.7 gallons
The Exhaust, like everything on the Z400, is lightweight. Kawasaki optimized the path from the cylinder heads to the muffler and added large diameter heater pipes for a more powerful engine. The sizable airbox and downdraft intake give good growl as riders throttle. A satisfying sound profile is just the cherry on top in this case.
Getting in the Saddle
The Z400 boasts a nice low saddle that sits just under 31 inches, though Kawasaki has raised the handlebars by a couple of inches and given them a slightly wider spread than similar models. This is likely in response to complaints about the Ninja, but regardless, the result is a nice triangle that lets you sit upright or lean in depending on preference. The gentler forward cant has a good feel and helps keep riders from putting too much pressure on the wrists. Overall the set up gives great leverage with very little input needed.
When it comes to display, Kawasaki went for simple and intuitive. A new large analog tach, vertical gear position display and LCD instrumentation display up front let a rider easily keep an eye on any situation. Additionally, the six-speed transmission with Kawasaki’s exclusive Positive Neutral Finder is expertly paired with an assist-and-slipper clutch that helps prevent wheelhop if the rider gets over-enthusiastic with shifting. What this does is rapidly separate the clutch hub and operating plate, reducing back torque and taking pressure off the plates. The clutch itself takes almost no effort at all to pull so Kawasaki anticipated the possibility of excessive force and compensated accordingly.
Wheels and Breaking
When it comes to how your bike rides there’s nothing more basic than the wheels. For this model Kawasaki took a 41mm telescopic front fork (non-adjustable) and rear shock with five-way preload adjustability and attached it to 17-inch, five spoke alloy wheels. Riders get 4.7 inches of wheel travel for the front and 5.1 inches on the back. The 110/70 and 15-/60 Dunlop GPR-300 rubber was designed with input from the Kawasaki World Superbike Team. Not only does this look great, but it keeps the cost low while providing excellent grip and feel in a wide range of road conditions.
ABS is standard, and none of the US models will be available without it, which is as it should be. The breaks are simple and effective, Up front, there’s a 310 mm petal disk. On the back, a dual-piston caliper pairs with the 220 mm disk to provide more than adequate stopping power.
Final Thoughts – The Right Stuff
Size isn’t everything, but sometimes it really matters. If you’re looking for something inseam friendly for average height riders will love the Z400. Between easy handling, good looks and a price point you just can’t shake a stick at, this bike really proves that great things come in smaller packages. Anyone seeking a starter bike can stop looking, though experienced riders will also love the smooth ride. Likewise, those seeking something speedy and sporty will find their ideal match, but the Z400 makes a great commuter as well. Versatile and rider friendly, what more could you ask for? Oh yeah… good looking too. Kawasaki has it all down to a science while keeping their artistic integrity and that is impressive.