2018 Benelli TNT 135 vs 2018 Kawasaki Z125 Pro Test
The motorcycling landscape has evolved over the past decade. In the early- and mid-2000s, superbikes reigned for many.
Since then, things have changed.
Many riders, new or old, are getting back to the basics with affordable, lower displacement machines.
It comes as no surprise that some of the top selling motorcycles on the market include the 2018 Kawasaki Z125 Pro.
However, a new challenger has arrived. It’s an Italian competitor, by way of China—the 2018 Benelli TNT 135.
The Italian-designed, Chinese-manufactured Benelli TNT 135 aims to capitalize on the recent little-bike trend, and does so by giving riders a bit more in all areas of the spec sheet.
The Kawasaki Z125 Pro is at a disadvantage as far as specs go. Even if the Benelli fits the bill as the “cheater” bike of the class (which includes the Honda Grom, it wasn’t available for the comparison) there could be some areas where it slips up in this comparison.
On the engine front, the Benelli TNT 135 takes a clear lead with a 135cc SOHC four-valve, dual-spark powerplant. Maximum power output is a seemingly modest 11.3 horsepower at 8500 rpm and 7.4 ft/lbs of torque at 7000 rpm, but you will get a machine capable of over 70 mph, although it’s still not freeway legal because of its sub 150cc displacement.
Winding up the Benelli TNT 135 is as friendly as one would expect, having enough pep in its step to romp around town with ease, while still allowing beginner riders to find their footing concerning its balanced throttle control and five-speed gearbox.
The Kawasaki Z125 Pro readies up to the line with a 10cc disadvantage, along with a two-valve head and one fewer cog in the gearbox.
OK, this is turning into something of a David vs. Goliath fight, but bear with me. The Z125 Pro’s smooth throttle and predictable power delivery make it an everyman or everywoman’s bike—the learning curve is virtually non-existent. Oddly, the throttle actuation felt better here.
Although Kawasaki North America doesn’t publish HP and torque figures, enough Googlefu will reveal that the Z125 is down approximately two points of horsepower and a single point of torque, give or take—and it’s felt.
What is evident between the models is the rideability of the Z125 Pro, and that’s most obvious with its ultra-light clutch. The Benelli TNT 135’s clutch felt heavy-handed in comparison.
Although the Benelli packs more punch, I found myself tooling about in the parking lot whacking wide-open throttle on the Z125 Pro, trying my best impersonation of Jonathan Rea. For the record, it was a bad impersonation.
When in the saddle of either machine, their sizing difference becomes quite apparent. Physically more substantial, the TNT 135 has a seat height of 30.7 inches and is paired with riser handlebars that keep your arms low, but not overly so.
Combine those attributes with more legroom, and the TNT makes for a more typical motorcycling experience. There is with much less knee-bend and knees banging the bars, even though the Z125 boasts an inch-taller seat height.
Those ergonomic differences set the bikes apart in other ways too. The Z125 Pro’s small cockpit makes it seem like the more fun-loving machine.
The Z is compact—cramped if you’re above my 5’ 10’’ height—and ready to take to the sky off the nearest curb cut, while the Benelli is more spacious and practical.
Tipping-in either of these machines is an effortless affair, but even in that regard, they do have their unique flair. The Benelli is more stable than the Kawasaki, thanks to its 1.5-inch longer wheelbase.
When cruising about town and making slow speed turns in parking lots or neighborhoods, the Benelli has the confidence of machines outside its class. The TNT 135 is balanced and doesn’t ask much input from the rider.
Much of the same can be said of the Z125 Pro, and though it features a shorter wheelbase of 46.3-inches, it had an expected snappier response in its steering without becoming nervous. For the sportiest riders, you’ll have a bit more cornering clearance on the Benelli before finding the footpegs or kickstand.
The TNT 135’s ride quality is a cut above the Z125 Pro due to the beefier suspension. The Benelli has a 41mm inverted fork, and a spring-preload and rebound-damping adjustable cantilevered shock, while the Kawasaki makes use of a 30mm inverted fork and shock with only spring-preload adjustability.
With the Benelli’s nearly five inches of travel compared to the four inches for the Kawasaki’s suspension you’re less likely to bottom out over harsh bumps, and it aids in that stable nature of the TNT 135. Of course, the Kawasaki’s fork is gold and thus, “more better,” as the kids say.
Out on the streets, much less energy is transferred through the chassis when in the Benelli’s saddle, so while I might miss the rambunctious handling abilities of the Z125 Pro, the TNT 135 does come out on top.
Braking componentry is often where manufacturers save in production costs for lower-displacement bikes. The Benelli has larger discs, and a twin-pot caliper in the front compared to a single on the Z125. However, in either case, the braking power is more than enough for the speeds you’ll be hitting.
Stopping ability is an area where the Z125 tends to come out on top. Thanks to its smaller stature, participating in a bit of hooliganism is far easier achieved on the Kawasaki. Additionally, the rear brake placement is easier to modulate. If you’re the type of rider that wants to abuse the brakes and tires, the Kawasaki could be up your alley.
In stock trim, the Kawasaki Z125 Pro and the Benelli TNT 135 are about neck and neck when it comes to fit and finish, with the Kawasaki edging out ahead. Each bike features a simple LCD dash configuration that is clear and easy to read.
The plastic panels mate well, with the Benelli displaying a far more exotic Italian exhaust setup of the two. Yoshimura makes slip-on exhausts for both bikes should more sound and less weight appeal to you—for closed course use only, of course.
Our Z125 Pro KRT Edition comes equipped with graphics lining up with that of the Ninja ZX-6R and more specifically, the ZX-10RR’s of Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes. It’s an upgrade that will cost you an additional $200 over the base price when leaving the dealer, but well worth it in my opinion.
Pricing, of course, is a significant consideration in this category. At $2649, the Benelli will have you scratching your head in confusion, wondering if that price-point could be associated with street-legal vehicles and not an e-mail scam traceable back to your princely distant cousin in Nigeria. The Kawasaki Z125 Pro will set you back $550 more with its base price of $3199.
Japanese manufacturing has traditionally been cheaper than in the United States, but like nearly every appliance and electronic device in your home, it’s even cheaper when made in China.
In this case, the Kawasaki Z125 Pro is made in Thailand. However, Kawasaki is a known quantity in the American motorcycle world and the Japanese company’s reliability ranks among the highest across all motorcycle makers.
For now, the long-term reliability of the Chinese-made TNT 135 remains to be seen. The TNT 135 is manufactured by the diverse Qianjiang Group, which also makes products such as powered garden equipment, generators, e-bikes, scooters, and ATVs.
Finally, in the green corner, we have David, err, the 2018 Kawasaki Z125 Pro. It’s a machine that I skittered across many an empty parking lot under the streetlights, and did so with a smile on my face.
Sure, it doesn’t make as much power, the suspension is slightly softer, and my knees often conflict with the bars. But, just as I felt in 2016 when I first gallivanted across the hills of San Francisco – the Z125 Pro was designed for fun, and the fun quotient is a fierce competitor to go up against.
The spec sheet doesn’t lie when it says that Goliath—make that the 2018 Benelli TNT 135—is the stouter machine of the two. The TNT 135 offers a more traditional motorcycling experience with its more powerful engine and roomier ergonomics, making it a great point of entry for those that are curious about the two-wheeled lifestyle.
Plus, the Benelli TNT 135’s low introduction cost makes that curiosity easily fulfilled for most young people with an entry-level income. It stands as the more practical machine, with its more extended range and capabilities pointing to that fact.
Photography by Don Williams
- Helmet: Shoei X-FourteenBrink TC-5
- Jacket: Alpinestars T-GP Pro Air
- Gloves: Racer Mickey
- Jeans: Alpinestars Crank
- Boots: TCX Roadster 2
2018 Benelli TNT 135 vs. 2018 Kawasaki Z125 Pro Specs
|21 Essential Specs||2018 Benelli TNT 135||2018 Kawasaki Z125 Pro|
|Engine||4-stroke single||4-stroke single|
|Bore x stroke||54.0 x 58.8mm||56.0 x 50.6mm|
|Valve train||SOHC, 4-valve||SOHC, 2-valve|
|Fueling||EFI w/ 28mm throttle body||EFI w/ 24mm throttle body|
|Frame||Steel trellis||Steel backbone|
|Front suspension; travel||41mm inverted fork; 4.7”||30mm inverted fork; 3.9”|
|Rear suspension; travel||Single shock; 4.9”||Single shock; 4.1”|
|Front tire||120/70 x 12||100/90 x 12|
|Rear tire||130/70 x 12||120/70 x 12|
|Front brake||220mm disc||200mm disc|
|Rear brake||190mm disc||184mm disc|
|Wheelbase||47.8 inches||46.3 inches|
|Seat height||30.7 inches||31.7 inches|
|Fuel capacity||1.9 gallons||2.0 gallons|
|Curb weight||256 pounds||225 pounds|
|Price||$2649||$3199 ($3399 as tested)|