New “ZAPPER” Debut!

2019 KAWASAKI Z400 Riding Impression Test (Part-1)

  • 2019/6/24

KAWASAKI has recently released 2019 Z400, as a derivative model of Ninja 400 which has been very popular since its full model change in 2018. It has been six years since KAWASAKI released a naked model in 400cc class as ER-4n, dropped in 2013. The light body with its chassis same as Z250 released at the same time, would bring about a special image in speed for Z400.

TESTER: Yuichi OYA : Moto Journalist who loves 2-cylinder, no matter whether it is domestic or not, and no matter it has any displacement, keeps enjoying moto life formerly with a boxer twin and now with a parallel twin with 270-degree crank.

Light, compact and impressive engine characteristics

”What a light one!” was the first impression with surprise. In addition, it’s quite enough compact as a 400cc model with a common body to the younger brother 2019 Z250, in contrast to the ER-4n (with a water-cooled parallel twin-cylinder either), dropped from the lineup 6 years ago, which was based on the older brother ER-6n. The Z400 is a successor model of the Z300 which has been sold since 2015 in the global market. Also the Z400, with the nominal weight of 166 kg, is overwhelmingly 37 kg lighter than the ER-4n with 203 kg.

The 398 cc water-cooled parallel two-cylinder engine, common to the base model Ninja 400, runs practically from a little under 2000 cc around idling. Also it increases its torque softly with pronounced throbs from 4000 to 6000 rpm to bring about a real pleasure to control acceleration and deceleration in the streets. The diagonally-mounted ellipsoid throttle valves  would make its response accurate right after opening the throttle. Furthermore, the 6-gear cross ratio transmission and the Assist and Slipper Clutch with light lever touch make it easy to ride with a great joy in the streets, where it requires frequent gear changings.

[IN STREETS] Lightweight body makes its handling confident

The Z400 is lightweight and has light and smooth operation system enough to enjoy active stop-and-go.

It’s also good at handling. The Z400 gets some natural rudder angles in response to the tilt of the body, that can be flexibly controlled with a wide handlebar. Compact riding position and overwhelming lightness also contribute to the handling, so that the Z400 has exactly  the  same manner in the streets as Z250. In addition, it is quite good at handling in the parking place. It is enough light with wide steering angle from 35 degrees each from side to side to turn in a small radius or to cut the wheel quickly. It can be quite attractive for a small rider with less physical power.

It is also quite good at rear-braking controllability which can be frequently used especially in the streets. And even the front single disc brake shows off an appropriate braking force.

Easy to cruise at high speed with excellent basic body design

After passing through the streets, the Z400 went through an interchange to the highway. It got much acceleration with the throttle widely open in the junction section, enough to make it loose without even thinking. It might not be powerful by judging from data, as the maximum power of 48ps not reached an upper limit for this class. However, it was very fast to reach 12,000 rpm (at the start of red zone) with the excellent setting of overall ratio, and it seemed as if it had been a higher grade. 

The lightness of the body contributes effectively to this acceleration performance. With keeping that in mind, it is very impressive to be a light naked model enough to be excellent in straightness at high speed. It would happen to work with the front and rear suspensions and to bend the frame in its own way when it gets disturbed by passing a gap or by a gust. However, no disturbance can be found on the running line, with the arrangement of each wheels being stable properly. Then it has a superb balance of straight line stability and mobility enough to change the lanes easily with a slight trigger to the handle.

[ON HIGHWAY] Even naked model has an effective windbreak!

The meter cover and the shroud contribute not only to its styling but also the reduction of wind against rider. Also it has an excellent functional design for such as a good fitting feel of legs.

There are still more impressions about this model. The naked model without any cowling must fight against the wind pressure, so that the driving fatigue should be accumulated for a rider. The Ninja 400, the base model of the Z400 should be strongly recommended to riders who have many times to drive on the highways.  However, this Z400 has an unexpected effective windbreak. The overhang of the shroud can reduce air pressure against the legs, and also can the meter cover against the bust. As for this meter cover, a larger one in genuine accessories can also be set.

It might be said that the Z400 is a comfortable high-speed cruising model in so far as it is one of the naked models.

The engine rev reaches about 6,000 rpm at 100 km/h with the 6th top gear. The balancer brings little unpleasant small vibration to rider and the comfort cruising can be expected with a comfortable beating of 180-degree crank. Although the suspension itself would not be of high quality, there’s no feeling to press human body while passing a huge gap. The Z400 could be the one to ride a long touring.

Wide range of handling makes everyone ride with each skill

The Z400 is just in its element when it runs on the winding road. It has not only a tolerance and a confidence enough to make a turn with every riding style but also a potential ability to turn quickly by applying a proper load. Those characteristics are common to the sworn brother Z650, with which the Z400 gets an active drivability for rider with the lightness and the compactness of the body. The fact that the wheelbase of the Z400 is 35 mm shorter and the tyres are 1 size thiner than those of ER-4n might cause its easiness to lean and turn the body and its high turning performance.

[ON WINDING ROAD] Every riding style can be suitable for from beginner to veteran!

Both the link ratio of rear suspension and the performance of shock absorber unit have been optimized to be suitable for the characteristic of “Z” so that the Z400 is more natural and easier to handle than Ninja. And the body without cowling itself makes a light feeling to a rolling motion. There’s no complaint about the front single disc brake in absolute braking force and controllability .

By the way, the superiority of braking performance is one of the important factors to improve running ability on the winding road. Not only a single disc but also a caliper with single-sided 2-piston are equipped for the front brake. At fast there has not been a little concerns about braking in comparison to ER-4n with double discs.However, no problem can be found about its performance and even the single disc can make a great merit to lighten the unsprung weight. The lightness of the brake should be the most important even if it had a risk to fade on a tight and long downhill winding road. Also the latest ABS unit as a standard equipment made by NISSIN works well without any problem. It would be excellent to produce such a product with keeping enough performances and lowering the cost.

As for the engine, it is sure to run fast with the throttle widely open, and the richness of torque in a midium rotational zone makes the body turn vigorously with a tight traction to rear tyre even if it happened a small problem about downshifting. The long swing arm should also contribute to this performance. In addition, the precise response makes it easy to control engine power accurately without any traction control on the rough road. This machine itself has an excellent perfection, that should be quite praised.

Riding Position: Height 175 cm / Weight 62 kg

The seat height of 785 mm is same as that of the Ninja 400. The foot grounding property seems good with a slim shape of seat enough to make each heel grounded and make each knee bent easily. The handle with bar end is 90 mm wider than that of the Ninja 400, which makes easy to handle actively with an upright position.

Details of KAWASAKI Z400


The Z400 succeeds the design concept called “SUGOMI” which is common to “Z” series. The swing arm is made from steel square pipe without any unnecessary gusset. A radiator fan cover is equipped to prevent a rider from hitting hot air at a traffic jam.


Front fork is non-adjustable Φ41 mm upright type. Rear suspension is a linked type monochock with 5-level preload adjustment. Standard tyre is the Dunlop GPR-300 and each wheel has 5 spokes, which is both common to that of the Ninja 400.


The Z400 has a LED Headlight. The central position lamps are lighted with the main key  turning on. The low beam lamp of upper side is lighted with starting the engine. All are lighted with high beam position.


LED tail/brake lamps. Turn signals with filament bulbs.


The fuel tank has a capacity of 14 L with a shape suitable for knee-gripping. The riding seat is suitable for foot grounding by narrowing its shape moderately towards the frontside. The Z400 has a rear styling with some motifs from the Ninja H2 such as tail cowling, which is succeeded by the base model Ninja 400 entirely. The sport type step bar has no rubber parts with a link type shift pedal. The heel plate is also excellent enough to feel at one with the machine.


The Z400 has a bar type handle with cramps on the top bridge, differed from the Ninja 400 with clip-on type separated handles. And the mirrors rightly mounted on the handle have shorter stays to restrain the overhangs from side to side, so that it might be difficult a little bit to look behind.


The meter panel with many functions is designed common to the Z900 and the Z650, in which three design variations of pointer can be selectable.


The 398cc water-cooled parallel 2-cylinder engine which produces 48 ps is common to that of Ninja 400. The layout of suction with down draft structure, the machined balancer shaft and the slipper clutch are equipped.


The common frame to the Ninja 400 has a trellis structure made from steel pipe, which is KAWASAKI’s strong specialty these days. What is the most important is the swing arm mounting plate (ribbed aluminum plate combined on the back of the engine) . The braking system consists of pedal-type Φ310 mm front disc and Φ220 mm rear disc, and each of these is combined with one-sided 2-piston caliper and lightweight ABS unit (both are made by NISSIN).


The tandem seat can be removed with a key-locking, under which two-stage storage space is installed. There are 2 sets of loading hooks (4 hooks in total) and 3 helmet holders attached at the right and left lower parts of the seat and on the left side of the body.

[2019 KAWASAKI Z400] Overall length: 990, Overall width: 800, Overall height: 1150, Wheelbase: 1370, Seat height: 785 (each mm), Curb mass: 166 kg, Engine Type: Water-cooled 4-stroke parallel 2-cylinder DOHC 4 valve, Displacement: 398cc, Power: 48ps / 10000 rpm, Torque: 3.9 kg-m / 8000 rpm, Transmission: 6-speed, Fuel capacity: 14 L, Caster: 24.5°, Trail: 92mm, Front Brake: Φ310mm Single Disc, Rear Brake: Φ220mm Single Disc, Front Tire Size: 110 / 70R17, Rear Tire Size: 150 / 60R17, Price: 667,440 Yen

Written by: Yuichi OYA, Photos by Junya YAMAUCHI


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