Kawasaki vs Honda

If you are in the market in search of a superbike then you have probably encountered a product from Kawasaki or Honda. Choosing between the two is more about learning the philosophies that guide their designs.

There is nothing as exhilarating as going to a racing track and witnessing superbikes passing you by at breathtaking speeds. The thrill and adrenaline are what lead many to purchase superbikes.

The decision isn’t as straightforward as many think. Firstly, the top superbike companies have over the years taken time to refine their products. This means they have a bike for almost every category.

Honda is a company that has an edge in both vehicle and motorcycle designs. They have a presence across the globe. Kawasaki bikes are well loved across the world and the company has subsidiaries across the world.

This review of Kawasaki vs. Honda explores some of the factors that make these iconic brands at the forefront of consumers’ minds.

What are the differences between Kawasaki and Honda?

Model Kawasaki Honda
Performance High performance superbikes Wide category of bikes
Affordability More costly Bikes for the masses
Production Moderate Eleventh largest automaker
Reliability Limited service centers Centers across the world

Kawasaki vs Honda – How they differ

Performance

Kawasaki is a common name whenever you hit the racing track in the superbike category. The name is so synonymous with speed and aggressive looking bikes that it is not unusual to find most bikers having some variant of the Kawasaki bike.

In the 90s the race was on for the fastest production bike. In 1999, Suzuki shocked the world when it produced the bold, candy red and fierce Hayabusa. This bike had both speed and good looks.

It hit a high speed of 300 km/h and every bike maker was soon testing the next fastest production bike. Suzuki crown to the top was short lived when Kawasaki unveiled the monster that is the H2R.

This bike comes with carbon fiber frame that makes it very light. Underneath the seat you get a 998cc supercharged that enables the bike to reach top speeds of up to 400 km/h.

The H2R is the track only variant while the H2 is the street legal bike. Compared to the Honda, the Kawasaki has the most product range when it comes to superbikes. These bikes are marketed under the Ninja series.

Suzuki has been responsible for producing bikes for the masses. In fact it is the world’s largest producer of automobiles based on production. It also has subsidiaries across the world.

Reliability

Kawasaki bikes are more reliable than Suzuki bikes. The technologies used to construct some of these bikes are breathtaking and the latest. A closer examination of any Kawasaki bike with a Honda will reveal a refined focus on detail with some of the latest biking technologies like traction control, quick shifters and ABS as standard.

However, Kawasaki lacks a global presence unlike Honda. You will find a Honda subsidiary in almost all parts of the world. The same cannot be said of Kawasaki. This lack of global presence may pose some challenges for Kawasaki when it comes to finding spare parts.

Product range

Kawasaki is best known for its expansive superbike range. You will always find a Kawasaki bike in the 300cc, 600cc and 1000cc category. The bike maker also has a cruiser by the name Vulcan S that has become quite popular among classic bike lovers and is posing a serious competition against established brands like Harley.

Today, Kawasaki holds the title for the fastest production bike in the H2R and they’re very few serious contenders. Honda is into production of almost into everything. They will manufacturer automobiles, four wheel drive vehicles, ATVs, wheelchairs among other electronics. The company has presence in more countries than Kawasaki and in Japan it controls a lot of the automotive industry.

Kawasaki vs Honda Overview

Kawasaki  Overview

When Kawasaki started manufacturing motorcycles it as under their military wing called the Meguro. The company had bought out the company but they later changed its name to Kawasaki Motor sales.

In 1962, the company was producing single cylinder bikes of 250cc before the ventured into four stroke bikes. This really changed for Kawasaki when they introduced the Z1 in 1973.

The bike had a DOHC 903cc four cylinder engine that spared a war of speed wars amongst its competitors. Today, Kawasaki boasts of their hyper performance super bike the Ninja H2R. This bike always turns heads in most racing tracks and the company has continued improving the bike design year after year.

Kawasaki also has a wide range of dirt bikes and street bikes in its portfolio. The bikes lead in their respective category and you will not miss a superbike suited for your unique needs.

Kawasaki Ninja 650

The Ninja 650 has been defining Kawasaki range of bikes for decades. It is a bike most loved by superbike racing fans across the world. In India, the bike has had widespread acceptance helping Kawasaki push their sales in the region.

The superbike first saw production in the 1980s but it was in 2006 that it started gaining momentum. Little adjustments have been made on the bike but you will notice improved engine mounting, improved handling and the introduction of anti-lock braking systems.

The Kawasaki features a 649cc engine that is capable of generating 67.2 HP @rpm of 8,000. It has a kerb weight of 193kg and available in lime green, black colors. The Ninja 650 is quite intimidating on the roads due to its menacing look and accentuated curves.

The new 2017 version feels lighter and is designed to compete with rivals like the Yamaha R6. The frame has shed some weight making the bike easy to navigate at high speeds. The ergonomic design makes riding the Ninja 650 a breeze.

Kawasaki Ninja H2

The Ninja H2R is a supercharged superbike that is capable of generating over 310 HP hence making it one of the fastest production motorcycle in the world. The speed is restricted to 249 mph.

The track only variant to the bike is the H2R which is also capable of producing 326 HP at Ram air. When compared to other street legal bikes the H2R is actually 50% faster.

The H2R has a displacement of 998cc and a kerb weight of 216kg. It is available in mirror coated matte black colors that makes the bike quite menacing. Generating 317HP @rpm of 14,000 it is one bike that really stands out at the racing track.

Some changes were done in 2017 that included inclusion of rear Ohlins shock absorbers and a six-axis Bosch IMU. To help you during cornering you have quickshifters and cornering ABS.

The H2 carbon is similar to the H2R but it is the street legal version of the bike. The downside to having this bike is the price you pay for it, otherwise there is little out there that can really compete with the bike.

Kawasaki Vulcan S

This cruiser-style motorcycle was first introduced into the market in 1985. It comes with a 649cc engine that is capable of producing 54HP. The aim of the bike is not to give you so much horsepower for bike racing rather it is for those interested in some laid back racing.

The problem is it has some similar characteristics to other sport bikes in the market. The Vulcan can well compete with other brands like the Hyosung Aquila Pro GV650 or the Harley-Davidson Street 750.

Some of the bikes components are quite similar to the Kawasaki Ninja 650. The fuel tank is tear drop shaped and you get inverted triangle headlamps. The bike has a muscular setting with a low slung profile.

The liquid cooled 650cc engine is capable of 63Nm of torque. Power is transmitted through a six speed gearbox transmission. Power is transferred through a chain drive while you get front 18” telescopic alloy wheel forks and 17” alloy wheel with monoshock for the rear. Braking is ABS with single 300mm discs for the front and the rear gets 250mm.

The fuel capacity is large at 14 liters while the bike weighs 226kg. To make the bike suitable for persons of all heights, Kawasaki have something called the ergo fit. This allows you to adjust the handlebar, three level seat adjustment and foot pegs. The bike is available in black but today they have introduced orange color.

Kawasaki ZX-10R

The ZX-10R is a superbike that only looks great but come with the necessary power to compete with other superbikes in its category. This model features a 998cc inline four engine that is capable of producing 207.2 HP@ rpm of 13,500.

There has been some modifications on the 2020 model including a slight increase in power. The ZX-10R produces 210 of horsepower at RAM air intake. There is little change from the previous model but you will notice some gold paintings on the bikes surface. Power to the ZX-10R is delivered through six speed gearbox that comes with quick shifter.

The electronics on the ZX-10R are better than the previous model as you now have engine brake control, sport traction cornering, three riding modes, electronic throttle valves and ABS.

For the front you get fully adjustable Showa 43mm forks and rear adjustable gas charged mono shocks. This keeps the bike well stable even at high speeds and no matter the terrain you still have a smooth ride. The braking is quite responsive courtesy of front dual semi-floating 330mm Brembo M50 monobloc calipers and rear 220mm single disc and calipers.

The kerb weight for the ZX-10R is set at 204kg and the bike is available in metallic graphite gray and lime green colors. The Kawasaki ZX-10R possess serious competition to the Aprilia RSV4 RR, Suzuki GSX-R1000, BMW S1000RR and the Ducati Panigale V4.

Honda Overview

Honda leads the pack when it comes to motorcycle production. It has been doing this since 1959 and boosts of having sold over 400 million units across the globe. The company has a range of general purpose bikes for the masses and superbikes to compete in various track competitions.

The company is also big in automobiles and is currently the third largest car manufacturer in the world. In Japan, the company is the largest motorcycle company. This success has been extended into India where it also leads the pack. The company is also into other kinds of electronics like robots and aircrafts parts.

Honda CBR500R

The Honda CBR500R was introduced into the market in 2013 during the EICMA show in Milan. It is part of a group of superbikes by Honda like the CB500F and CB500X.

The bike causes heads to turn courtesy of its powerful 471cc liquid cooled DOHC twin cylinder engine that is capable of 47HP and 43 worth of Nm. All this power is delivered through a six speed manual transmission gearbox.

For fuel efficiency the CBR500R comes with a special programmed fuel injection (PGM-FI) system. For the front the Honda has 41mm forks while the rear gets pro-link single shock. The bike is most suitable as an entry level middle cc bike as it is not that aggressive when it comes to acceleration. The bike looks great and makes an excellent choice as a first time superbike for a biking enthusiast.

Honda Grom

The Grom is a 124.9cc motorcycle that has seen global success in East Asia and Europe. In fact the bike was so successful that it won the Motorcycle of the year prize in 2014.

The popularity of the Grom is courtesy of its ability to maintain fuel economy. As gasoline prices keep soaring, the Grom is still capable of maintaining a fuel consumption of 134 miles per gallon and a top speed of 73 mph.

The bike not only looks good but is high enough for most commutes. Weighing in at 229 lbs. the bike is capable of producing 10HP hence offering the rider some agility and handling ability. The bike has received very little recalls unless in 2016 when the American Honda Motor co. recalled it over a faulty fuel pump. The only variant to the Grom is a scooter styled bike that was launched in India in 2016.

Honda CBR250R

If the CBR500R is not to your liking and want something stylish and aggressive looking but with a smaller engine then the CBR250R is your bike of choice. The bike has a displacement of 249cc and this gives it a maximum speed of 135 km/h.

The Honda CBR250R is a single cylinder sport bike with a kerb weight of 167kg. The engine is capable of generating 26HP and 23Nm through the fuel injected 250cc single cylinder engine.

Transmission is through a six speed gearbox and the bike is available in both orange or green colors. For the brakes you get 296mm front discs and rear 220mm.

Honda Activa 125

The Honda Activa is a scooter that has seen a lot of popularity in Asia. You get the bike in three variants with the most popular one been a 124cc single engine that is capable of producing 8.1 HP and 10.3 Nm of torque.

The scooter features an automatic gearbox that makes it easy to learn and navigate through city traffic. You also get front and rear disc brakes that come in handy during emergency stops. The activa is available in 7 colors and weighs just 111kg.

When the Activa has received some upgrades that have defined how it looks and responds. The Activa 5G now comes with digital screen with the speedometer remaining analog.

The headlights have been upgraded to now become LED while you now get a four in one ignition that not only starts the scooter but also unlocks the bike. This comes in handy when you live in an area that is prone to theft.

For the suspension you have the mechanical ones been replaced with a preloaded adjustable. The color schemes largely remain the same but you have the base model coming with drum brakes and steel wheels.

The Activa has become a favorite for those who consider commuting daily to work on scooters. It will help you save on gasoline while enabling escape most of the traffic jams.

Now lets compare these two Kawasaki and Honda bikes

Model Honda CBR500R Kawasaki Ninja 650
Displacement 471cc 649cc
Fuel Tank size 16.7 L 15.0 L
Exhaust Pipes 2 in 1 exhaust Single exhaust
Compression ratio 10.7:1 10.8:1
Lubrication System Wet sump Forced Lubrication
Maximum Power 49.6 HP 67.3 HP
Maximum Torque 43 Nm 65.7 Nm
Maximum Torque @rpm 7,000 6,500
Length 2081mm 2,115mm
Ground Clearance 140mm 130mm

 

Conclusion

Most superbike fans live for the thrill of having their bikes winning in various racing tracks. It is not unusual to find street races pitting one superbike from the other. Kawasaki and Honda have had an edge in the motorcycle category for years.

However, Honda leads in the number of motorcycles sold over the years while Kawasaki leads in producing superfast bikes that are known to win races in most tracks.