When Kawasaki announced the 2017 Z125 PRO, it appeared to be a direct response to the Honda Grom, which had been introduced to the U.S. market back in the 2014 model year. When Gabe tested the Grom, he found it a fun, unintimidating mount that might be the perfect entry point for new riders, particularly at the relatively affordable U.S. MSRP of $3,199. Frankly, we had no idea whether the Grom would sell in significant numbers.
Well, the Grom has sold very well and, according to Kawasaki, it is the second best selling model in the “small street” category, behind Kawasaki’s own Ninja 300. Other bikes in this category include small displacement models from Honda and Yamaha, for example. Kawasaki wants a piece of the action, and the result is the Z125 Pro.
The Z125 PRO is an extremely compact and light (claimed curb weight is 225 pounds with a full two-gallon gas tank) motorcycle with a low seat height (30.7″), powered by a 125 cc air-cooled SOHC single. Kawasaki claims that the fuel injected engine is “tuned for responsive acceleration” with power delivered through a four-speed transmission utilizing a manual clutch (just like the big boys).
The 12″ wheels are cast aluminum and carry 100/90 and 120/70 tires front and rear, respectively. The non-adjustable inverted fork is 30 mm in diameter, and the single rear shock (offset and without linkage) is angled to offer some progressiveness and offers four-position preload adjustment.
The Z125 PRO features a steel backbone frame and a box-section swingarm. There are disc brakes front and rear, with a single 200 mm disc in front and a 184 mm in back.
Kawasaki went to great lengths to style the Z125 PRO to resemble its larger naked siblings, the Z1000 and Z800. Instrumentation on the little Z125 PRO is impressive and thorough with a very legible analogue tach and a high contrast LED screen containing loads of information … even a fuel gauge and a gear-position indicator. Nice details include a sculpted two gallon gas tank with excellent knee cut-outs and petal-shaped brake discs. The underslung exhaust adds to the upscale design. Your sense of style may differ, but we find the Z125 PRO modern and sharp looking.
Kawasaki has priced the Z125 PRO at $2,999 in the United States … undercutting the Grom by $200. Compared to the Grom, the Z125 PRO has similar engine displacement, but a significantly larger bore and shorter stroke. The Grom has wider tires front and rear and a shorter seat height (29.7″). Both bikes are four-speeds, and the Kawasaki has a significantly larger gas tank (2.0 gallons vs. 1.45 gallons). Claimed curb weight is the same for both bikes (225 pounds). Suspension travel is identical for both bikes (3.9″ in front and 4.1″ out back).
Together with a shorter stroke, the Kawasaki engine has a higher compression ratio than the Grom (9.8:1 vs 9.3:1). We have not done a comparison, but we would not be surprised if the Kawasaki has higher peak horsepower than the Grom. The Z125 PRO redlines just south of 10,000 rpm.
A Kawasaki representative told me at the press launch that a surprisingly diverse group of customers has been buying the Honda Grom. Both new and experienced riders. Riders who like to race their friends in parking lots, and retired riders who want a lightweight bike to carry on the back of their motorhome. Racers who want a pit bike. Demand seems diverse, and somewhat unpredictable, but the Grom market is expanding and Kawasaki expects that it can feed this market with significant numbers even if it does not take sales away from the Grom, i.e., this market will continue to grow quickly.
We tested the Z125 PRO through the streets of San Francisco one morning last week, followed by a late afternoon ride on nearby Treasure Island. The Z125 PRO is not freeway legal in California, so we stuck to city streets and boulevards — even sampling the famous steep hills of the City. With several 200+ pound journalists attending (including yours truly), it seemed as if we were all constantly WFO. The Z125 PRO never blinked.
We never opine regarding long-term reliability after a single ride at a press launch, but after watching this aggressive group of riders perform stoppies, wheelies, drag race launches, burnouts (yes, burnouts!) with frequent redline-limiter bounces, I was impressed. We were switching bikes all day, and I fully expected the clutches to be fried on some of them that were more thoroughly abused, but it didn’t happen. If I had to guess, the Z125 PRO will likely be bomb proof over the long haul.
I was also very impressed by the suspension action. The small, narrow tires encountered very rough roads (including several square-edged potholes) throughout the day, but both the fork and the shock absorbed the punishment surprisingly well … feeling both plush and controlled. Together with very nimble, but stable handling, these little bikes were a blast to ride.
There is more leg room than you might expect on such a small motorcycle, and the seat provided good comfort and decent support throughout the day. I might have liked the bars to be a little bit taller, but that could be easily changed with an aftermarket unit (more about that later). We rode the bikes through a timed course on Treasure Island late in the day, and my initial efforts to ride “supermoto-style” with my inside leg extended were frustrated by the low bars.
New riders will have to get used to a relatively abrupt clutch engagement, but at least it was consistent throughout the day. The transmission shifts well, although shift lever travel is fairly long and finding first gear at a stop sometimes required rocking the bike forward or backwards. None of these were significant issues, however.
The brakes were plenty strong, and the front brake, in particular, offered very good feel. If you like to perform stoppies, or if you would like to learn how, this is an excellent bike. The Honda Grom has a larger 220 mm front brake disc with a dual-piston caliper, but I don’t recall that brake being any stronger than the one on the Z125 PRO. Overall, the Z125 PRO seems to have plenty of braking performance given the weight of the motorcycle. There is a relatively generous passenger seating area (for such a small motorcycle) and passenger pegs. Although we didn’t test with a passenger on board, Kawasaki says the Z125 PRO has an ample GVWR of 578 pounds.
We found the instrumentation legible, and it was nice having a gear position indicator. I’m not sure I ever saw the fuel gauge move … not surprising given the 2.0 gallon tank and rated fuel economy north of 100 mpg.
Aftermarket suppliers are already busy producing exhaust pipes, handlebars, anodized bolt-ons and other products for the Z125 PRO. The Honda Grom has spawned a customization demand that we never saw coming, and Kawasaki is ready for something similar with regard to its new model.
The 2017 Kawasaki Z125 PRO is a well finished, refined package for a first year model. It looks like a lot of motorcycle for $2,999, and after riding it hard (even racing it at the end of the day) we can say that it performs well for its category, and will give the Honda Grom all the competition it can handle. It is available in two colors (both shown), including Candy Lime Green and Metallic Graphite Grey. The Z125 PRO should be in U.S. dealers this month. Visit Kawasaki’s web site for additional details and specifications.
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