Suzuki Katana 2020 Review
By Alan Dowds
- Looks great in the flesh
- Daft fuel capacity
- Old tech
The Suzuki Katana: Retro, Iconic and Adrenaline Tonic
You’d need to have spent the past decade or so in a coma to have missed the popularity of modern retro bikes. People love the look and feel of a bike from the 1970s or 80s, but with the performance, reliability and capability of a modern machine. The obvious candidates are the Triumph modern classics – the Bonneville and Scrambler model ranges, plus the Royal Enfield 650 twins, BMW’s RnineT, Ducati’s Scrambler, Kawasaki’s Z900RS and Yamaha’s XSR900.
And this, the Suzuki Katana. A fairly faithful remake of the original GSX1100 Katana from the 1980s, it’s aimed firmly at the nostalgia sector of the market – the guys and gals who lusted after the big air-cooled dinosaur from 1981.
The similarities are more than skin-deep too. The original Kat was based on the Suzuki GSX1100 superbike, with a set of slick bodywork penned by a design house in Germany, Target Design. This modern take, parked up in front of me outside Suzuki HQ, is also based on an existing bike, this time the GSX-S1000 super naked. The engine, chassis and electronics are all straight from the GSX-S, with only the neu-Kat bodywork and tweaked riding position as the main differences.
Why not also check out our own interpretation of the Suzuki Katana Concept bike in partnership with Kardesign back in 2016 and see how close we came.
I’ve spent a fair bit of time on the GSX-S, and had a long-term test bike for a season a few years back, so there’s plenty that’s familiar about the Katana. The GSX-R1000-derived engine is genuinely good – a strong, lusty lump with grunty, old-school power delivery and a lovely roar. It’s not got the silly peak power output of something like the Yamaha MT-10, and is certainly down on the bigger 1100cc lumps of the Ducati V4 Streetfighter or Aprilia Tuono 1100 – but all those bikes are much pricier beasties, aimed at a different sector.
On the motorway back to London from Suzuki’s Milton Keynes HQ, the Katana works well for an essentially-naked machine. The test bike has the small optional windscreen so there’s a bit of wind protection, and the riding position is relaxed and comfy enough. The lack of cruise control stands out a bit on a brand-new 2020 bike, and you’re on your own through the average speed camera zones. On the other hand, the windblast once you get into triple figures is significant, so you’re not likely to stray too far over the limit without realising it, as you can do on a faired superbike.
What's it like once it's settled in?
Over the next few weeks, I get on great with the Katana. Riding on some twisty back roads for pics, it’s nimble enough and the slightly staid suspension package does a good job. The Katana isn’t super light – 215kg is a hefty kerb weight for a naked machine these days – but you don’t notice it on the move. The engine is a peach once you crack on, and it really reveals its superbike roots once you pass 8k on the rev counter. The upright riding position makes it a bit of a wheelie machine too (if that floats your boat), the Dunlop tyres were great on the warm, dry late-summer tarmac we mostly rode on, and the Brembo front brakes are more than up to the job.
The Katana has a big butt... I mean but...
There is one big ‘but’ when you speak about the Katana though, and it’s the shockingly small fuel tank. You can fit just 12 litres of unleaded into the big silver Suzuki, and considering the size of the thing, it’s amazing how they’ve managed it. Sitting on the bike, the ‘tank’ cover under your chin looks big enough for a Dakar-replica capacity. But there’s barely enough petrol to hit 100 miles if you use all that lovely GSX-R1000 engine’s performance. Suzuki’s claimed consumption of 53.3mpg will get you more than 135 miles, but in the real world, I ended up filling the Katana up far too often for my liking. While we’re having a moan, the available tech is fairly basic: no quickshifter option, no cruise control, and a rudimentary traction and ABS setup.
So – the new Katana works well as a handsome, mid-level super-naked roadster. It looks much better in the flesh than in pics, and the styling definitely grew on me over the few weeks I spent with it. It’s decently-priced (though not a massive bargain) at around £10,500, and is rare enough on the road that you’ll stand out from the crowd.
As an homage to the original Katana, Suzuki’s done a decent job. On the downside, the fuel capacity and basic tech do mark it down – and it’s hard not to wish that Suzuki had made a better fist of things there. A 16-litre tank and some modern electronics, with the solid performance and great looks of the Katana would lift it right near the top of the class, making it a much stronger option for retro fans.
Forgotten what the old one looked like? Don't worry, we've already considered you might want to see them side by side ;-)
Call BeMoto on 01733 907000 to talk about your Suzuki motorbike insurance with a specialist.
Like most of the fundamentals of the Katana, it’s the same as the GSX-S1000 motor: a variant of the legendary 2005 GSX-R1000 engine. It’s been tweaked for modern emissions compliance and makes 150bhp. There are no surprises in the layout – it has 16 valves, double overhead camshafts, inline-four cylinders and water-cooling. The peak power figure is okay, but it’s short on modern technology aids – you don’t get a quickshifter, wheelie control, launch control, cruise control, ride-by-wire throttle or any of that flashy stuff.
Again, it’s the same as the GSX-S1000 frame – an aluminium twin-spar setup, with the very pleasant swingarm off the 2016 GSX-R1000. Won’t win any awards but does a good job.
There’s a fully adjustable 43mm USD front fork plus a preload/rebound damping adjustable rear monoshock, both by Kayaba. You’ll see a theme emerging here – it’s all pretty decent if a little steady.
Smart cast monobloc Brembo front calipers with 310mm discs and a standard ABS installation. No cornering functions or other bells/whistles.
There’s a neat LCD dashboard with useful trip functions, gear indicator, fuel gauge and the like but Suzuki’s only paid for a black and white licence, so no colour. Simple three-level (plus ‘off’) traction control.
There’s a range of styling bolt-ons for the Katana, including a dual-colour seat, carbon front mudguard, flyscreen, carbon engine covers, coloured Brembo calipers, heated grips, crash protectors, tank bag, extra graphics kits, wheel stripes and tank protector. All available from your local dealer.
£10,499 on the road as of December 2020
Engine: DOHC 16v, inline-four, l/c, 999cc
Bore x stroke: 73.4x59mm
Compression ratio: 12.2:1
Carburation: fuel injection, 44mm dual-valve throttle bodies
Max power (claimed) 150hp@10,000rpm
Max torque (claimed) 79.7ft lb@9,500rpm
Transmission: six-speed gearbox, slipper clutch, chain drive
Frame: aluminium twin-spar
Front suspension: 43mm USD KYB fork, fully adjustable
Rear suspension: aluminium braced swingarm, KYB monoshock with rebound damping and preload adjustability
Brakes: twin 310mm discs, four-piston Brembo radial calipers (front), 250mm disc, single-piston caliper (rear), Bosch ABS.
Wheels/tyres: cast aluminium)/Dunlop Roadsport 2, 120/70 17 front, 190/50 17 rear
Kerb weight : 215kg
Fuel capacity: 12 litres
Colours: silver or black
Equipment: Three-stage traction control (plus off), ABS.