2017 Kawasaki Z125 Pro review

'What is that?!' Kawasaki's pint-sized Z125 is even more fun than it looks

The Kawasaki Z125 Pro is everything you'd expect in a good motorcycle, but smaller.
The Kawasaki Z125 Pro is everything you'd expect in a good motorcycle, but smaller.
The Kawasaki Z125 Pro is everything you'd expect in a good motorcycle, but smaller.

Highs

  • Great value
  • Big-bike styling and features
  • Excellent fuel economy
  • Nimble handling

Lows

  • No ABS option
  • Torque band may not be for everyone

I pulled up to a red light on a beautiful summer afternoon, heard a car horn, and turned to see a grinning driver leaning out his window.

“What is that?” he asked. I responded that it was the new baby Kawasaki. He pressed me for details, ignoring the light as it changed to green. I had to cut him off with a wave as I sped off before it changed back again.

This was a regular occurrence during my time with the Z125 Pro, the newest and smallest street bike from Kawasaki. It drew attention from riders and non-riders alike. I got more smiles and thumbs-up than I have with any other vehicle I have ever ridden or driven.

My bike was clad in Candy Lime Green bodywork, but it wasn’t just the color that drew people in. This vehicle recalls the mini bikes many of us grew up around, but you don’t have to be a fan of motorcycles to appreciate its aesthetics and purpose. To my delight, it proved to be even more fun than it looks.

Shrink session

Small motorcycles from the Japanese Big Four have made a serious comeback in the United States. Kawasaki, Honda, and Yamaha all have offerings in the popular 300cc segment (we’re still waiting on you, Suzuki). But it was Honda that truly tested the America’s appetite for tiny bikes by bringing us its 125cc Grom in 2014. It was a runaway success, and it was inevitable that Kawasaki, Honda’s longtime rival, would introduce a contender.

The Z125 Pro sports many features from larger, more expensive bikes. The little bike borrows its styling from the larger members of the Z family of street-fighters, as seen in its fairings, LED taillight, lower cowling, and low-mounted exhaust.

The Z125’s components go beyond looks and bely its price point. Digital fuel injection means easy, reliable starts at the push of a button. Up front, the 30mm inverted fork has nearly 4 inches of travel, while the offset single rear shock has four preload settings. Front and rear petal-style disc brakes lend confident stopping power, and 12-inch wheels with narrow profile street tires contribute to the Z125’s agility.

The air-cooled, SOHC four-stroke motor is mated to a 4-speed manual transmission that is geared towards street performance. The easy-to-read digital display includes a fuel gauge, gear position indicator, trip meters, clock, and speedometer.

Despite its aggressive looks, the Z125 is a comfortable commuter. The seating position is relaxed and neutral, and you don’t need to contort yourself to reach the handlebars or foot controls. At 5 feet 10 inches tall, I was comfortable on the bike, though taller riders might feel cramped.

With a curb weight of 225 lbs, the Z125 is remarkably toss-able and easy to ride. This comes in handy when avoiding road hazards that could spell trouble for the little bike, though it proved to absorb most bumps with little trouble.

A short ride

When I first threw my leg over the bike, I felt I was sitting lower than the modest 31.7-inch seat height would suggest. It was the size of the bike itself that made me feel close to the ground. And once I was on the move, it disappeared from view. I had to tilt my head straight down to see the display, and the mirrors showed as much of myself as the traffic behind me.

2017 Kawasaki Z125 Pro
Albert Khoury/Digital Trends
Albert Khoury/Digital Trends

The clutch had a light feel, and gear changes were crisp. This was a good thing, as I found myself constantly shifting to stay in the power band and maintain speed, especially when going uphill. The gear indicator was a welcome feature in this respect, even with just four speeds to choose from.

The 125cc single cylinder motor sounds like an angry swarm of wasps, which goes well with the bike’s insectoid styling. The thin saddle and ergonomics gave me confidence when taking tighter bends, and the raised foot pegs give decent ground clearance if you like to bring your knees closer to the pavement.

The tachometer needle hits red at just under 10,000 rpm, and the little motor practically begs you to flog it. When you do so, you are rewarded with a buzzy scream as well as a slight kick in power near the top end.

Lower power comes with greater responsibility

Flat out, I was able to hit an indicated 64 mph, and that was on a flat surface with the wind at my back. With a bike this small, your size contributes significantly to performance. Regardless, I spent most of my time below 60 mph, as the bike felt less stable at higher speeds.

Though the Z125 is capable of maintaining freeway speeds, I stuck to local roads. The Z125 just felt a little too small to roll with tractor trailers and SUVs that could move the bike all over the place in their wake.

2017 Kawasaki Z125 Pro
Roberto Coman
Roberto Coman

The bike makes for an excellent runabout. It’s easy to park and maneuver in low-speed traffic, and you don’t need to put your feet down unless you roll to a complete stop. It’s ideal for getting to work or school, or taking a quick trip to the corner store.

The little green machine really shone when I took it out of traffic and onto some curvy suburban roads. It handled most corners with ease, and could lean when it needed to. When I approached the bike’s limits, I was quickly reminded that this was a modestly priced small street bike, and I should ease off.

The Z125’s components go beyond looks and bely its price point.

The Z125 could bring out nearly anyone’s inner hooligan. At boulevard speeds, it was docile and graciously forgiving. But when things got twisty and fast, all my extremities were put to work, as my hands worked the throttle and clutch while my left foot did a tap-dancing routine on the shifter.

The brakes gave decent feedback, though it shouldn’t take much to stop a bike this small. There is no ABS option, so good brake control is important to keep the rear from sliding out under more extreme conditions. Kawasaki’s 300 Ninja offers ABS as a $300 extra, and as Europe moves to make the safety feature mandatory for its motorcycles, we may see it arrive on our smaller street bikes.

I am bringing up the lack of a passing button to flick the high beams, as this can be found on even the smallest Ninja. Why Kawasaki left it out on this bike is beyond me. I kept my high beams on during the day, but I would have appreciated an easy toggle for night riding. Whether or not it’s often used, it’s nice to know it’s there.

At $2,999, the Z125 delivers good bang for your buck. You won’t spend much to insure it, and you can practically run it on pocket change. I averaged about 80 mpg overall, and I was able to consistently get a range of over 150 miles from the two-gallon tank.

I am a big fan of small bikes, but the Z125 was smaller than anything I was used to. I daresay it was also more fun to ride than most. Though it would make a great beginner bike, I would suggest it’s just as good for veteran riders. Whether your ride is a weekend track monster or a mile-devouring cruiser, your garage and budget should have room for a Z125 addition.

Conclusion

With the introduction of the Kawasaki Z125, there’s never been a better time to get into motorcycling. And if you’re already there, here’s a chance to add a new ride to your stable.

Smart Home

LG is rolling out the barrels at CES 2019 with a craft beer machine

Looking to get into the beer making game? With the help of LG, you can become a brewmaster at home. The electronics maker is rolling out the LG HomeBrew, an at-home beer making machine at CES 2019.
Mobile

5G’s arrival is transforming tech. Here’s everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Smart Home

The best washing machines make laundry day a little less of a chore

It takes a special kind of person to love doing laundry, but the right machine can help make this chore a little easier. Check out our picks for the best washing machines on the market right now.
Cars

2019 Ford Ranger saves fuel without sacrificing towing capacity

The 2019 Ford Ranger marks Ford's long-awaited return to the midsize truck segment, which has seen a resurgence lately. But will being late to the party make Ford's job more difficult?
Cars

Pininfarina Battista is a 1,900-horsepower, 250-mph electric supercar

The Pininfarina Battista will be the first production car from famed Italian design firm Pininfarina. Named after company founder Battista Pininfarina, it has a claimed 1,900 horsepower and a $2.5 million price tag.
Cars

Tesla could show the electric pickup Elon Musk is dying to build in 2019

Tesla has started designing its long-promised pickup truck. The yet-unnamed model will come with dual-motor all-wheel drive and lots of torque, plus it will be able to park itself.
Cars

Allegro.ai is helping Hyundai mine the artificial intelligence gold rush

In November 2018, Hyundai invested in a startup named Allegro.ai. We talked to the company's founder to learn more about what that means for consumers in the not-too-distant futures.
Emerging Tech

With this robotic garage, retrieving your car is like using a vending machine

Remembering where we parked our cars can be a real pain. But what if our cars came to find us, rather than the other way around? A new automated robot parking valet system aims to help.
Cars

Thinking of opting for a car with a diesel engine? Here's what you need to know

Modern diesel-powered models prove that it is possible to build a clean, efficient diesel engine without sacrificing performance. Here's what you need to know about diesel cars, and how they differ from gasoline-powered models.
Cars

Best Products of 2018

Our reception desk has so many brown boxes stacked up, it looks like a loading dock. We’re on a first-name basis with the UPS guy. We get new dishwashers more frequently than most people get new shoes. What we’re trying to say is: We…
Cars

These winter-warrior cars will never leave you out in the cold

Snow can be an absolute pain if your vehicle isn't optimized to handle that sort of terrain. If brutal snowstorms are an annual part of your life, we recommend you pick up one of these winter-ready vehicles.
Cars

2020 Toyota Supra caught hiding in a trailer without a shred of camouflage

Toyota's plan to once again lure enthusiasts into showrooms involves bringing back the Supra, one of its most emblematic nameplates. Here's what we know so far about the upcoming coupe, which Toyota is developing jointly with BMW.
Cars

NYC mandates minimum wage for Uber, Lyft, other app-based rideshare drivers

New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission approved a rule that drivers for companies such as Uber and Lyft must be paid at least minimum wage, even though they are independent contractors. The new pay rate includes operating costs.