Suzuki’s recent successes in the MotoGP World Championship—including the individual and team titles—proved the factory is capable of producing sweet-handling machines that are supremely easy-to-ride and work well in all conditions. The super-naked GSX-S1000, derived from the incredible GSX-R1000, came from that mold. For 2020, Suzuki upped its own ante by revealing a complete make-over of the GSX-S—the retro-styled Katana. It is in addition to, and not as a replacement for, the GSX-S1000.
We get questions about how different the 2020 Suzuki GSX-S1000 is from the new Katana. We grabbed one of each and went riding.
The specifications of the GSX-S1000 and Katana are all but identical. The motor, fuel mapping, chassis, suspension, and brakes are the same on both.
The styling is obviously radically different. The GSX-S is unremarkable looking—not plain, and yet not overly stylish by 2020 standards. In contrast, the Katana takes its styling cues from its 1982 ancestor—a radical, futuristic-looking motorcycle at the time. Suzuki’s new take on the design has been tastefully executed.
If you enjoy random onlookers coming up and commenting on your bike, then you will love Katana ownership; it attracts a lot of attention. Unlike the original 1980s Katana, which was polarizing at the time, we found that the new Katana styling seems to have almost universal approval from young and old alike. It is a look that has finally come of age.
The Katana and GSX-S have noticeably different ergonomics, with the Katana feeling taller and broader than its brother. Both models use a Renthal tapered aluminum handlebar, though the Katana’s bend is higher and wider than that on the GSX-S. The result is a riding position more upright and roomy on the Katana.
At 32.5 inches, the Katana’s seat height is nearly a half-inch taller than that on the GSX-S. That small difference definitely affected Associate Editor Teejay Adams’ comfort when maneuvering in parking lots.
The GSX-S is more compact and quite a bit more aggressive than its sibling. The lower, flatter handlebar of the GSX-S leans the rider more forward, and with a bar width 1.5 inches narrower than the Katana, the GSX-S is ergonomically the more sporting of the two.
Adding to that sportier feeling is the GSX-S1000’s curb weight of 463 pounds with the tank filled to the brim, 11 pounds lighter than the Katana’s 474 pounds. As a result, despite having the same steering geometry, the GSX-S feels slightly sharper on turn-in.
Interestingly, the GSX-S is not only lighter than its sibling, but because it has a larger fuel tank (by 1.3 gallons) that extra 8 pounds in fuel is carried higher up in the chassis. It’s possible this difference in weight distribution may help with the GSX-S’ slightly quicker turn-in as well.
The upside of the extra weight for the Katana is that it feels a little more substantial. It is slightly more planted in corners. These bikes feel stable at any speed and supremely easy to turn. They are agile, neutral handling, and for expert-level motorcycles, they are straightforward to ride.
Both Suzuki 1000s are equipped with the same KYB suspension. The 43mm inverted fork is fully adjustable, while the shock only lacks compression damping personalization. For suspension set up for sport riding, bump absorption is excellent. Both chassis soak up the atrocious surface that seems to be a feature of California roads without upsetting the bike unduly or throwing it off-line in corners. Again, the Katana’s extra weight makes it a little softer and more friendly, but the difference is minimal.
The legendary Suzuki fabulous-in-all-situations handling on both models is aided by the lightweight six-spoke cast aluminum TRP wheels and tires in a 120/70 and 190/50 combination. The Katana gets the newer Dunlop Sportmax RoadSport 2, while the GSX-S1000 gets the lower-spec, OEM-only Dunlop Sportmax D214. Despite the tire difference, there is tons of feel at the front, and traction is never an issue for me on either motorcycle. They both hung in there in some chilly, gusty conditions, as well as gnarly bumps in the canyons. Perhaps the tires contributed to the minor turn-in difference—it’s difficult to isolate that single characteristic.
As I mentioned, the fuel tank capacities are quite different between the Katana and GSX-S. At just 3.2 gallons, the Katana has a limited range that is on the cusp of being irritating. Distance riders will definitely prefer the GSX-S’s 4.5-gallon tank, which offers another 50 miles or so between fill-ups.
Detail touches abound on the Katana that give it a higher level of quality finish than its sibling. This is the first all-LED lit motorcycle from Suzuki, resulting in better-looking turn signals, taillight, and headlight. The instrument meter on the Katana is larger and much easier to read than the GSX-S1000 version—both are LCDs. The Katana plaque on the handlebar clamp adds to the Samurai mystique of the motorcycle.
At $13,499, the Katana is a lot more expensive than the $11,099 GSX-S1000. Despite the added quality of the Katana, that is a lot of coin. Of course, shopping around in the real world can narrow that gap. It’s well worth looking for a dealer with a nice sharp pencil—they are out there.
The two models’ performance difference is almost impossible to discern as both models have the same motor and gearbox ratios. The well-documented Suzuki 999cc inline-4 ‘screamer’ motor, derived from the 2005-2008 long-stroke GSX-R1000, howls out a claimed 147 peak horsepower. That translates to hang-on-for-dear-life acceleration in all gears. Thanks to equalizer pipes in the exhaust header, the motor is also very torquey in the low- and mid-range, and that encourages rapid, tire-squirming corner exits and grin-inducing hooligan behavior (er…but not from me, officer).
Fuel mapping is also the same on these models, with three selectable-on-the-fly traction control levels (plus off). The fueling issues of the first generation of the GSX-S are long gone. With Suzuki’s 44mm dual-valve throttle bodies, both of these motors have elegantly smooth power delivery at all throttle openings, even in the low gears. With the TC turned off, wheelies are easily accessible, and the predictable throttle and linear power delivery allow mid-air modulation so that nice soft landings are the order of the day.
The engine and gearbox are incredibly smooth, so engine vibes and ratio-swapping clunkiness are just not a factor here. With such well-designed units, I’d like to see the GSX-R’s quickshifter on these models, such is their outright sporting capability.
The Brembo calipers at the front clamp down on 310mm floating rotors, and have exemplary feel and stopping power. Both of these bikes have ABS as standard equipment. I discovered how well it worked when braking hard for a slow corner. Hitting an unexpectedly harsh bump at just the wrong moment had the front wheel chirp and slip a little before the ABS brought it back under control. If you ride on the street with any level of aggression, you will be thankful for ABS eventually.
Interestingly, I typically preferred the model I was riding at the time. Both of these motorcycles are comfortable yet serious sportbikes. The GSX-S1000 feels a little more compact and slightly more aggressive. Although I would usually err towards that, in this case, I happen to love the looks of the Katana, and, yes, I’m a bit of a showoff. So, if it’s my money and I can get an attractive price from a dealer, I’d buy the Katana.
Photography by Don Williams
- Helmet: Arai Quantum-X
- Jacket: Dainese Tuono D-Air
- Gloves: Dainese X-Run
- Pants: Dainese Denim Regular Tex
- Boots: Dainese Torque D1 Out
2020 Suzuki GSX-S1000 and Katana Specs
- Type: Inline-4
- Bore x stroke: 73.4 mm x 59.0mm
- Displacement: 999cc
- Compression ratio: 12.2:1
- Valvetrain: DOHC, 4 vpc
- Cooling: Liquid
- Transmission: 6-speed constant mesh
- Clutch: Assist-and-slipper
- Final drive: 525 RK chain
- Frame: Aluminum twin-spar
- Handlebar: Renthal tapered aluminum
- Front suspension; travel: Fully adjustable 43mm KYB fork; 4.7 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Linkage-assisted spring-preload and rebound-damping adjustable KYB shock; 5.1 inches
- Wheels: TRP 6-spoke cast aluminum
- Tires: Dunlop Sportmax D214 (Katana: Dunlop Sportmax RoadSport 2)
- Front tire: 120/70 x 17
- Rear tire: 190/50 x 17
- Front brakes: 310mm floating discs w/ Brembo Monoblock 4-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: 31.9 inches (Katana: 32.5 inches)
- Fuel capacity: 4.5 gallons (Katana: 3.2 gallons)
- Curb weight: 461 pounds (Katana: 474 pounds)
- 2020 Suzuki GSX-S1000 Colors: Metallic Triton Blue; Metallic Oort Gray No. 3/Metallic Matte Black No. 2
- 2020 Suzuki Katana Colors: Metallic Mystic Silver; Solid Black
2020 Suzuki GSX-S1000 Price: $11,099 MSRP
2020 Suzuki Katana Price: $13,499 MSRP