Suzuki launches new Katana

Back to the future with a blast from the past.

When the new Suzuki Katana was unveiled at the 2018 Intermot show in October, opinions were sharply divided. Katana devotees both loved and hated it as did those who weren’t Katana fans. Reminds me of the reception the original Katana experienced!

There are a lot of faithful Katana lines such as the cut in the tank, the shark nose, two-toned seat, rectangular headlight and even the half-moon front fender. But Katana devotees will find points to criticise. To me, it seems the designers were trying too hard and made the design too complex.

No matter what you think of the rebirth of the venerable 1980s “Katana” name and the neo/retro styling, the 2020 Suzuki Katana ($18,990 ride away with 12 months’ rego) is a highly polished rider’s delight.

It includes some neat modern features such as full LED lighting and a remote rear fender. However, the biggest change is straight bars instead of clip-ons, making it much less ergonomically painful to ride than the original. In fact, with its narrow seat and upright stance, it is extremely comfortable in the saddle, although the wide tank does splay your knees, so it could be painful for some people with hip problems.

The real delight of this bike is in the motivation: the 999cc engine and six-speed transmission. It’s simply so silky smooth with thick, creamy torque and a super-slick foolproof gearbox. This combination virtually makes it like an automatic; just slip through to sixth gear by 60km/h and twist the throttle. No need to shift gears. It will pull from 2500 revs in sixth at 60km/h to 4500 revs at 100km/h and on to dizzying revs and go-straight-to-jail speeds.

My only concern is the heavy cable clutch which is non-adjustable. Although it does have a clever low-rev assist feature which adds 500 revs as you let the clutch lever out. It prevents embarrassing and potentially dangerous stalls if you’ve filtered to the front of the traffic! It’s a delight to use in stoop-start traffic. There is also an easy-start function where you just hit the ignition and it starts on its own.

On the media launch through the border ranges of NSW and Queensland, most of the riders stopped changing gears after a while and just used fifth or sixth for everything. Yet it delivered electrifying throttle response and rapid acceleration when you started tap-racing on the gear shift. Around town the bike feels docile, tame and very controllable.

The engine is Euro4 compliant and no doubt will be updated for Euro5 within the next couple of years. It burns lean and blows a fair bit of heat on to your left foot in heavy traffic. The biggest drawback is the limited 200km maximum range from the 12-litre tank.

It features three-stage traction control that can also be switched off, all on the fly. In town, the Katana is light and nimble and easy to slice through traffic with its tight turning circle and wide bars. That also makes it great for twisting roads, although you don’t need to manhandle the bike to change direction. It feels very light and the fully adjustable suspension (except for rear compression adjustment) is firm, but fair.

The big 310mm dual disc brakes have plenty of bite with good feel through the controls, although the ABS was a little jerky. The Dunlop RoadSport 2 tyres are specially made for the bike. They feature a tread pattern that looks like it has been cut with slashes from a katana, but they heat up quickly and have excellent grip even on damp roads.

There is a long list of accessories including carbon bits, a black and red seat, protection, heated grips, smoked windscreen and red Brembo callipers.

Conclusion

I’m no Katana devotee and the looks don’t really appeal to me, yet I was won over by the ease of riding this bike both in the city and country. There may be more appealing neo/retro bikes on the market, but this is the rider’s delight of the pack!

Price: $18,990 ride away
Engine: In-line 999CC 4-CYL, liquid cooled, DOHC
Transmission: 6-speed with back-torque limiting clutch
Front suspension: 43mm KYB fully adjustable inverted forks
Rear suspension: Link type shock with adjustable rebound and spring preload
Front brakes: Brembo radial-mount monobloc calipers, 310mm DICS with ABS
Rear brakes: Nissin single piston calipers with ABS
Power: 110kW @ 10,000 rpm
Torque: 108NM @ 9500 rpm
Colours: Metallic mystic silver/ glass sparkle black
Seat: 825mm
Length: 2130mm
Width: 835mm
Height: 1110mm
Wet weight: 215kg
Wheelbase: 1460mm
Fuel capacity: 12 litres