2019 Kawasaki Z400 Review: The Ninja Stripped Bare
The 2019 Kawasaki Z400 ABS is yet another feather in the already burgeoning Z family cap, joining the Z125 Pro, Z650, and Z900 variants. Stepping up against a wide variety of lightweight naked offerings—BMW G 310 R, Benelli Tornado TNT300, Honda CB300F, Husqvarna Svartpilen 401, and KTM 390 Duke—the Z400 fills a crucial role in the Z lineup.
The Z400 is nestled between the raucously fun Z125 Pro and the dashing middleweight Z650, providing an accessible point of entry, in terms of finances and performance, to the two-wheeled world.
Directly based on the excellent Ninja 400, the Z400 takes what we loved about Kawasaki’s whipper-snapper of a supersport, ditches the full-fairing, and delivers all that canyon-carving fun in a more ergonomically friendly package, all for under $5,000.
We put the 2019 Kawasaki Z400 through its paces in some of our favorite Southern California haunts and, without further ado, here are the Fast Facts.
1. Kawasaki’s 399cc parallel-twin engine is an absolute blast. First seen in the Ninja 400, the stellar lightweight powerplant delivers a claimed 28 ft/lbs of torque at a lofty 8000 rpm. Coupled with brisk throttle response, the Z400 has a puckish performance edge to it that new riders will find exhilarating yet easy to manage, while experienced pilots will relish twisting the throttle and sending the rpm gauge flying. Trot along at low rpm or wring it out—the Z400 offers smooth, tractable power anywhere in the rpm range, making it suitable in the city or out in the canyons.
2. The Z400 might be a lightweight machine, but it’s still meant to be heard. Over the past few years, Kawasaki has focused on giving riders a more visceral experience when on two wheels, as evidenced by the harmonically tuned pipe on the little Z’s big brother, the Z900RS. What can be heard when riding is often just as important as what can be felt. Thanks to the large airbox and the downdraft intake, you’ll be able to listen to the wee-Z’s growl as the intake gulps in the air when you twist the throttle.
3. Lightweight exhaust helps reduce heft on the 2019 Z400. Kawasaki engineers wanted the most optimized path from the cylinder heads to the muffler to minimize excess material, inevitably keeping the weight down. Beyond that, large diameter heater pipes were used to coax more power out of the motor, giving riders plenty of grunt at low rpm around town. Since the Ninja 400 and the Z400 share components, this observation stands between them—riders with larger boot sizes might find that the muffler placement conflicts with their right heels.
4. The six-speed gearbox in matched with an assist-and-slipper clutch. It’s the perfect pair for riders new and old. The Z400’s clutch pull is downright effortless requiring just one finger, which those of us who deal with urban environments appreciate. Adding to that is the friendly friction zone, helping newly minted riders launch from stops easily. Shifts are accomplished with confidence, whether you’re strafing your way to the office or having some fun on the backroads clicking into the next gear. When the pace picks up, or you get a bit overzealous with your downshifts, the slipper function prevents wheelhop, keeping you out of the dirt.
5. Naked and upright—the way sport on the street should be. The Z400’s more relaxed ergonomics are perfect for all day riding, and the most pronounced difference between this and the Ninja 400. It has been specifically designed to cater to those that felt the Ninja was a step too far in the supersport realm, but don’t let that fool you—it’s still easily hustled around in the corners. While seat-height remains a hair below 31 inches, the Z400’s handlebar height has been raised nearly two inches, offering a neutral and slightly forward-canted riding position that keeps weight off your wrists. The handlebars are also a bit wider, allowing even more leverage on a machine that requires almost no input.
6. First-time riders will be confident in the 2019 Kawasaki Z400’s saddle. One of the many goals Kawasaki aimed for was a narrow profile, and that’s for a good reason – it helps keep the overall figure of the bike much slimmer. With its naked styling, the Z400 is a svelte machine that will have riders with shorter inseams firmly planting their boots on the ground at a stop. Better yet, I didn’t become uncomfortable, even with a bit of knee-bend of my 32-inch inseam. Of course, leggier riders might feel differently, but that’s what you get for winning the genetic lottery and being tall.
7. The key to the Z400’s success is in the trellis frame’s geometry. With an impressively short sub-54-inch wheelbase and steep rake of 24.5 degrees, the Z400 is delightfully nimble and exceedingly agile, and a physically small motorcycle. Those qualities can help the rider to be in total command of the motorcycle, regardless of where or how they’re riding. Keen spec-sheet warriors will notice a 0.2-degree increase in rake compared to the Ninja 400. That’s because the Z400’s softer springs make the chassis sit a bit lower in the suspension stroke.
8. The streetable suspension received an update for the Z400. We see the Ninja’s non-adjustable 41mm Showa fork and the spring-preload capable linkage-assisted KYB shock return, but Kawasaki did soften the spring rates a bit. The Z400 is positioned as a street bike exclusively and, to that end, engineers ran with marginally softer fixed rates springs to deal with that lifestyle. In practice, the Z will gobble up potholes without translating too much harshness to the rider. More importantly, and when we were maniacally whipping the wee-Z up Palomar Mountain, it held its lines It did not seesaw under braking or acceleration and enjoyed a spirited pace on the edge of the tire.
9. Above all, lightweight bikes need to handle well, and that’s precisely what the 2019 Kawasaki Z400 ABS does. Small inputs get big reactions, creating the perfect 369-pound riding petri dish where new riders can develop their skills. The Z400 is a motorcycle that will grow with them. For more experienced riders, they’ll be grinning from ear to ear, as they wrangle the Z400 through the canyons, using the 3.7-gallon fuel tank as a sturdy anchor while flicking the Z400 from side to side.
10. Dunlop Sportmax GPR-300 tires are great rubber. In the past, manufacturers would often pinch pennies for these more affordable machines and use low-performance bias-ply tires. Instead of going in that route, Kawasaki has opted for 110/70 and 150/60 Dunlop GPR-300 rubber that performs quite well on the street. The Dunlops offer more than enough grip and feel in a variety of conditions, while keeping the cost low.
11. Sporty alloy wheels return with the Z400. It wasn’t all that long ago that motorcycles in the category were typically left out in the cold when it came to the niceties of styling. Luckily, those days seem to be falling by the wayside, and with the 17-inch alloy wheels, Kawasaki is giving the prowling little Z400 some edge to it, while also increasing its overall performance.
12. If you’re going to ride quickly, you better be able to stop quickly. Simple, yet effective 310mm semi-floating disc working in conjunction with a Nissan dual-piston caliper takes care of duties up front. In the rear, a 220mm disc is clamped upon by another Nissan dual-piston caliper. Feel at the lever is commendable, even though we’re talking about cheaper axial mounted components. Still, they are offering up plenty of power for the riding the Z400 is designed to do. ABS is standard, as it should be for this class of bike. In fact, a non-ABS version won’t be available in the US.
13. A tasteful analog dash gets the job done. Based on the Z650’s dash, the Z400’s LCD analog dash has helpful readouts such as a fuel gauge, gear position indicator, live and average mpg, and more.
14. If you want an entry-level bike that handles well and delivers thrills on par with more expensive motorcycles, the 2019 Kawasaki Z400 might be for you. There’s no doubt that Kawasaki got it right with its new 400 platform. The engine has enough performance to keep most seasoned riders happy, while novices won’t find it overly intimidating. The chassis is stable, compliant, and incredibly agile, making it an excellent option for motorcyclists across the skill spectrum, while still being a comfortable motorcycle. Mixed in with all those positive attributes is the aggressive styling that’s inherent to the Z family, giving the motorcycle a bit of a devilish edge and making it appear more mature. All that, while still being financially accessible to younger buyers.
- Helmet: Arai Corsair-X
- Jacket: Alpinestars GP Tech V2 Tech-Air Compatible
- Gloves: Racer Mickey
- Jeans: Alpinestars Crank
- Shoes: Alpinestars Faster-3
2019 Kawasaki Z400 ABS Specs
- Type: Parallel twin
- Displacement: 399cc
- Bore x stroke: 70.0 x 51.8mm
- Compression ratio: 11.5:1
- Valvetrain: DOHC, 4 vpc
- Fueling: EFI
- Cooling: Liquid
- Transmission: 6-speed w/ Positive Neutral Finder
- Final drive: Sealed chain
- Frame: Steel trellis
- Front suspension; travel: Non-adjustable 41mm KYB fork; 4.7 inches
- Rear suspension: Linkage-assisted, spring-preload adjustable KYB shock; 5.1 inches
- Tires: Dunlop Sportmax GPR-300
- Front tire: 110/70 x 17
- Rear tire: 150/70 x 17
- Front brake: 310mm petal disc w/ two-piston caliper
- Rear brake: 220mm petal disc w/ single-piston caliper
- ABS: Standard
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 53.9 inches
- Rake: 24.5 degrees
- Trail: 3.6 inches
- Seat height: 30.9 inches
- Fuel tank capacity: 3.7 gallons
- Curb weight: 364 pounds
2019 Kawasaki Z400 ABS Colors:
- Candy Lime Green/Metallic Spark Black
- Candy Cardinal Red/Metallic Flat Spark Black
2019 Kawasaki Z400 Price:
- $4799 MSRP