When Kawasaki launched the rather exciting-looking ZR-7 in 1999, the excitement surrounding this machine soon disappeared as the public grew tired of its low standards. Could the Z750 be Kawasaki's salvation?

by Brett Hamilton

When Kawasaki launched the rather exciting-looking ZR-7 in 1999, the excitement surrounding this machine soon disappeared as the public grew tired of its low standards. Could the Z750 be Kawasaki's salvation?

According to Kawasaki, the generally low standard of the ZR-7 was intended. Not necessarily for the public to hate it, but for this model to be the cheapest 750 on the market. And it was - the ZR-7 proudly completed the 1999 Kawasaki stable, also featuring models such as the Drifter and W650. According to Kawasaki, "1999 was a year of reflection" where they would "look back to the past."

The ZR-7 was a model for any motorcyclist wanting to cover many miles, cheaply. And it was cheap. Costing less than the 600 Bandit and Hornet, the ZR-7 had a definite advantage there, only to lose any advantage by the 13kg extra weight and older (heavier) technology.

It soon became apparent that the ZR-7 offered less than its smaller counterparts and that easy low-maintenance motorcycles were not enough of an attraction for the modern motorcyclist.

Those days are finally over. Kawasaki has stopped delving into their history and is finally starting to explore the future. In fact, with the launch of the Z1000 in 2003, Kawasaki finally started to dictate the future.

Kawasaki has filled the big gaping middle-weight hole in its line-up. Unfortunately for Kawasaki, Yamaha has also launched their Fazer FZ6. However, the Kawasaki should be able to upset the entire class by offering affordable performance. Unlike the ZR-7, the Z750 promises to be one of the most exciting middle-weight roadster motorcycles to be launched in a decade.

Not that the competition won't be stiff. The Suzuki offering of the SV650 might cost more, but its sheer practicality and sublime chassis ensure that the SV is brimming with character.

However, the Z750's trump card is the fact that, unlike the competition, it is based on a rip-snorting bulldog of a machine: the positively addictive Z1000. Where the Suzuki 650 is based on the boring SV1000 and the Fazer on the larger-litre machine, both these models lack character. Despite looking the part, the SV, has a certain cheap air surrounding it, while the Fazer could simply be described as ugly.

And in spite of Kawasaki's Z750 being based on the Z1000, there are some clear and marked differences.

While the 750 still has the highly focused forward stance and narrow, tapering tailpiece, for heightened individuality, Kawasaki has thrown in the ZX-10R's six-spoke rims and a delectable stainless steel exhaust system.

Powered by the same motor used in the Z1000, the power unit is a downscaled 784cc, in-line four-cylinder, DOHC, producing 80kW at 11 000r/min and 75N.m at 8 200r/min. This is considerably more than the 68kW of the new Fazer and 52kW of the SV650. And, this is where the Z750 will dominate the competition as it costs less yet offers greater performance. Even at top speed, the Z is 10km/h faster than the Fazer and a hefty 15km/h faster than the SV.

The chassis is another feature transplanted from the Z1000 is. The cast steel diamond frame used tries hard to look like a beam frame, but this is where the comparison ends.

For the 750 to remain a budget machine, it has been fitted with some rather low-budget components.

Up front, the handling is kept in check by conventional 41mm telescopic forks with no adjustment possibilities. At the rear, a rising-rate monoshock unit with preload and rebound adjustment is evident, and it remains to be seen if these parts will let the 750's overall package down.

The brakes are equally unimpressive with two 300mm discs up front and a single 220mm disc at the rear. It seems that the high-tech trickery will have to remain in the domain of the big boy sport motorcycles, such as the radial calliper ZX-6R and ZX-10R. And, to top it off, just like the Fazer, the 750 features sliding-pin front callipers because they are apparently cheaper. However, working much like an on/off switch, this could make braking extremely unpredictable.

If the Z1000 is anything to go by, the Z750 should be a highly addictive little screamer. Weighing in at 815kg (5kg less than the Z1000) and with dimensions boasting a 5mm lower seat height and a 5mm longer wheelbase, the Z750 promises to be the demon that Kawasaki should have built ages ago.

Whether the Z750 is worth its R70 000 asking price is debatable, but the Kawasaki Z750, despite featuring a smaller capacity engine, is brimming with attitude. And isn't that what naked roadsters are all about?