To properly appreciate the 2020 Suzuki Katana, it is essential to understand its mission. Derived from the Suzuki GSX-S1000 upright naked sportbike, which itself has roots in the 2005-08 GSX-R1000 K5-generation superbike, the new Katana is a more urban-focused motorcycle than the bare-knuckle canyon brawling GSX-S1000, and so we bring your our Suzuki Katana urban review.
Indeed, there is plenty of crossover between the two. They share the same torquey 147-horsepower powerplant, as well as the twin-spar aluminum frame. Still, there are a number of smaller differences that add up to a different motorcycle.
First up, the Katana has a more upright stance than the GSX-S1000, and a seat over a half-inch taller. That gives the city rider a good view of the traffic ahead. The bars are about an inch wider on the Katana, which means more leverage at lower speeds, at the expense of aerodynamic efficiency.
With the different seating position comes revised suspension settings, though the same units are used. That means a plusher ride initially, with the suspension balance tweaked a bit. Also, keep in mind that the extra plastic and other changes make the Katana 13 pounds heavier at the curb than the GSX-S1000, even though the Katana has a fuel tank that is 1.3 gallons smaller (curb weights mean fueled up).
While the motor is the same, the throttle linkage is different. The Katana has a less aggressive feel early on in the throttle throw, with it ramping up more progressively. This soft initial throttle makes the Katana much smoother at city speeds.
Finally, Suzuki puts clearly sportier Dunlop Sportmax D214 rubber on the GSX-S1000, compared to the sport-touring, longer-wearing Dunlop Sportmax Roadsport 2 tires on the Katana.
So, we all get the message. If you’re looking for maximum handling and performance in the canyons, the GSX-S1000 is the way to go between the two motorcycles. However, even though it is important to know the difference between the two Suzukis, this isn’t a comparison, so let’s dig into how the 2020 Suzuki Katana works as intended.
Without any doubt, the 2020 Suzuki Katana is a treat on the streets of Los Angeles. Manageable off the bottom—we have always loved the proprietary Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve throttle bodies—the Katana wakes up to arrest-risking speeds and wheelies at the twist of the wrist. Sure, 147 horsepower is more than is needed in urban areas, but that doesn’t make it any less fun when no one is looking.
Although we usually think of city bikes as smaller displacement motorcycles that rely on light weight and agility, there is still room on the road for a larger motorcycle that has usable power.
It’s not a complete Los Angeles test without runs on Mulholland Drive. It is varied enough that you could do an impressively full review on just the stretch between the Hollywood and San Diego Freeways. The twists and turns have great variety, and the quality of the pavement runs the gamut from track-like to badly deteriorating asphalt.
The Suzuki Katana strikes just the right balance for fun rides through urban canyons. The suspension is supple enough to prevent you from regretting skipping the worst parts of Mulholland Drive, while retaining enough firmness to be fully rewarding when hitting the esses, chicanes, and sweepers on the well-paved portions.
The upright seating position and wide handlebars offer great vision and control—exactly what you need when driveways and poking Priuses are in no short supply. On the infrequent straightaways, enjoy that rush that the Katana’s progressive throttle linkage facilitates.
As a bonus, if you want to take it easy, you can enjoy the spectacular views along the way. The soft power delivery—crank up the three-level traction control to further smooth things out—and compliant suspension let you relax a bit as you sneak peeks in as the opportunities present themselves.
Radially mounted Brembo calipers have all the power you need, yet are never grabby and do not upset the chassis at any speed. When poking around at low speeds, the rear brake has good feel and helps comfortably moderate speed.
Dropping down into busier locales such as the Sunset Strip, Hollywood & Highland, or Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood, your perch allows you a bird’s eye view what lies ahead and plan for it.
You won’t be looking down at the dated LCD dash. It is cluttered, though the speed and gear selection displays are hard to miss among the cacophony.
Though the bars are a bit wide for the most efficient lane-splitting and filtering at stoplights, the Katana is agile enough to work your way between a normal lineup of cars. When the light turns green, of course, it’s time to get as clear as possible from the mob, and the Katana makes that easy. It is a joy to listen to the siren song of the inline-4 (as long as you don’t hear any other sirens!).
The assist-and-slipper clutch’s grasp is not fatiguing, even in heavy traffic. Should a downshift be too aggressive for conditions, the slipper function is a nice bailout.
Just as on Mulholland Drive, rougher roads in the city do not overwhelm the Katana’s KYB suspension, and around five inches of travel at each end helps. The Katana never feels squishy, so your control of the motorcycle is never in question.
Commuting on the 2020 Katana will almost make you look forward to going to work, though it may cause you to skip it altogether. Whether your ride is on surface streets or the freeway, the Katana turns the slog to the office into a fun ride. You can make your way through traffic efficiently, and maybe even show up early. With its upright ergonomics, you can wear a backpack without oppressive pressure on your back. Should traffic breakup, do what you can to avoid a ticket—the Katana will try to tempt you into making a run for it.
For city riding, the 2020 Suzuki Katana has a dual personality, and we love them both. When it’s time to cruise, it is happy to cooperate. Should you feel the need for some speed, the GSX-R1000 derived motor is ready, willing, and able.
We could not resist the temptation to take the Katana through our normal rural twisties. As it turns out, the Katana is also a capable sportbike. It falls more into the category of a gentleman’s sportbike, with the moderate 25 degrees of rake, non-aggressive tire profile, comfort-oriented suspension, and smoothed out lower-rpm power delivery. It’s certainly not slow, especially when you start to let the motor sing in the five-digit register. However, if that’s how you intend to ride, Suzuki will point you at the GSX-S1000.
We love retro-themed motorcycles, especially when they deliver a modern punch. Styled after the revolutionary German-designed 1981 Suzuki Katana, the 2020 Katana gives you the reflected cool, along with the capabilities, reliability, and ease of care that comes with a new motorcycle. No matter where you pull up on the new Katana, its striking appearance will turn heads, though we clearly prefer the Metallic Mystic Silver edition. It may be a bit of a sheep in wolf’s clothing, but the 2020 Suzuki Katana has enough bite that should you need to fight back on the road, it’s ready.
Photography by Don Williams
- Helmet: HJC RPHA 11 Pro Kylo Ren
- Jacket: Cortech Dino
- Gloves: Cortech “The Associate”
- Pants: Dainese Tivoli Regular
- Shoes: Sidi Doha
2020 Suzuki Katana Specs
- Type: Inline-4
- Bore x stroke: 73.4 mm x 59.0mm
- Displacement: 999cc
- Compression ratio: 12.2:1
- Maximum power: 147 horsepower @ 10,000 rpm
- Maximum torque: 80 ft-lbs @ 9500 rpm
- Valvetrain: DOHC, 4 vpc
- Cooling: Liquid
- Transmission: 6-speed constant mesh
- Final drive: 525 RK chain
- Frame: Aluminum twin-spar
- Front suspension; travel: Fully adjustable 43mm KYB fork; 4.7 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Linkage-assisted KYB shock w/ adjustable rebound damping and spring preload; 5.1 inches
- Wheels: Cast aluminum
- Tires: Dunlop Sportmax Roadsport 2
- Front tire: 120/70 x 17
- Rear tire: 190/50 x 17
- Front brakes: 320mm floating discs w/ Brembo Monoblock four-piston calipers
- Rear brake: 240mm disc w/ Nissin single-piston caliper
- ABS: Standard
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 57.5 inches
- Rake: 25 degrees
- Trail: 3.9 inches
- Seat height: 32.5 inches
- Fuel capacity: 3.2 gallons
- Wet weight: 474 pounds
2020 Suzuki Katana Colors
- Metallic Mystic Silver
- Solid Black2020 Suzuki Katana Price: $13,499 MSRP