By Nigel Paterson. Photos Paterson & Suzuki
Australian Road Rider attended the recent launch of the Suzuki Katana we’re impressed! Make sure you get issue 153, out in November, for the full, detailed test…
It’s Suzuki’s neo sports machine, an old name and updated style wrapped around a long-stroke Suzuki in-line four cylinder engine.
Designed more for cities and weekend fun than tracks or touring, the 2020 Katana makes a lot of sense these days.
It’s sporty but comfortable, good looking but practical – to a point.
When the first Katana models appeared in the 1980s they were radical departures from what we’d had prior. Styled from front guard to rear tailpiece, the Katanas weren’t actually anything super-special from an engineering point of view – all the early models were heavily based on other Suzukis – but they were very special to look at. Much the same can be said about the new machine, despite launching in August 2019, is considered a 2020 model.
It’s very similar to the GSX-S1000, sharing a similar motor, chassis and suspension.
A modern sportsbike
The Katana is effectively a naked sports bike. Sure, it seems to have a half fairing, but it’s a styling exercise – there’s no effective weather protection and probably little aerodynamic difference between the Katana and a naked bike.
The chassis and swingarm are based on the GSX-R1000 sportsbike, an engine based on an even older GSX-R motor (although it shares few, of any, parts) and styling based on some European ideas on what a new Katana could look like.
In many ways what we’ve ended up with is a machine very similar, in practical terms, to the GSX-S1000. But where the GSX-S has quirky, modern styling the Katana is deliberately out there, retro good looks around a modern chassis, engine, suspension and electronics.
Suspension, electronics and extras
The Katana features fully adjustable front forks, a single rear shock adjustable for preload and rebound damping. It’s reasonable kit: not top-shelf, but pretty good, and if you expect better on a bike costing less than 20 grand you’re hard to please.
The launch was just a single day’s ride, and the roads we rode certainly worked the suspenders hard, but there was no time to adjust or tweak.
Helping the suspension out is traction control with various settings for different conditions, and it can also be switched off. The ABS isn’t switchable.
Interestingly, there are no riding modes.
The bike features modern instruments which are very comprehensive, yet quite small, making reading some of the information while moving quite tough.
You can make the Katana your own with a variety of practical options and accessories which are priced well – I especially like the red Brembo calipers.
On the road
The Katana is a pretty compact 1000cc naked, but it’s not tiny – I was comfortable enough, although the footpegs are sportsbike-high and a little rearset.
The one-piece traditional handlebars are surprisingly conventional, but they are very practical, creating a sporty riding position that doesn’t put heaps of weight on your wrists (unlike many old Katanas).
If you’re a city dweller the Katana slices through traffic like… a sword through butter. It’s narrow enough to filter easily, the wide ’bars make manoeuvring easy and the generous bottom-end torque make getting off the line easy and quick.
Out in the countryside the Katana handles well for a naked all-rounder is reasonably comfortable doing so. Doing a few 60-90 minutes sessions across a day’s ride on the Katana is easy on the body and a fun way to spend a day.
Somewhere along the way you’ll need to refuel, for a 12 litre tank won’t get you very far, despite the Katana’s frugal consumption. Design constraint got in the way of building a bigger tank, so 12 litres is what we’ve got, so you might find yourself refuelling more than your mates.
Another traditional touch is pillion passenger strap… they are truly awful things, but I can’t recommend the Katana to anyone who carries a passenger regularly anyway – probably better back-seat accommodation than a GSX-R, but you’d have to be enthusiastic.
The original Katana models were only available in silver, although the pop-up headlight model in the mid 1980s had some colour variation.
The new model is available in black or silver.
Priced at $18,990 ride away, the new Katana is selling really well, with pre-sales prior to release high – the first shipment almost sold out. How much of that is history – people wanting something new with Katana style – or just demand for a machine which does what the Katana does with some style – remains to be seen.
I liked the Katana. It’s fun, reasonably priced, good looking and capable. It’ll do what’s in its design brief capably, but not so much outside that – touring and long distance rides will be inconvenient.
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