You didn't think Kawasaki was going to stay out of the middleweight naked race for very long, did you?
Me either. Which is why it comes as no surprise that Kawasaki has its own entry in the field coming available as a 2016 model: the Kawasaki Z800.
Unfortunately, it appears as if Kawasaki is taking the same route Suzuki took with the GSX-S750 (which I did not like), instead of chasing after the Yamaha FZ-09 (which I did like, once a few flaws were addressed).
The Z800 has been available in Europe since 2013 and, like the Suzuki, features a water-cooled, inline-four engine. Specs are all fairly similar to the Suzuki and are what you would expect from a bike with a 50 cc displacement advantage. Rumored horsepower comes in at about 112, which slightly trumps the Suzuki's 105, but we wonder if you'll be able to tell, given that the Kawi weighs 50 pounds more (510 pounds, full of fuel).
Brakes are a nicer, lighter weight Nissin caliper, but come with smaller 277 mm petal-type rotors (compared to the Suzuki's 310 mm). The 41 mm KYB fork mirrors the one on the Suzuki, but adds adjustable rebound damping to the preload adjustments they share. ABS also comes as standard.
The 2016 Kawasaki Z800 will retail for $8,399 ($400 more than the GSX-S) and, like the Suzuki, be available in every state except California.
I thought the Z1000 was a pretty nice bike, but it's hard to tell if this one will live up to its namesake until we get a chance to swing a leg over one. If they've learned from Suzuki's mistakes, this could be a great bike. Look for a full review in the coming months.