Reborn and retro-inspired Suzuki Katana lands in South Africa

04 July 2019 - 12:45 By Denis Droppa
The 21st century version of a bike that helped inspire modern motorcycle design. Picture: SUPPLIED
The 21st century version of a bike that helped inspire modern motorcycle design. Picture: SUPPLIED

If you were a motorcycle-loving teenager in the 1980s, chances are you had a poster of the Suzuki Katana on your wall, right next to other eye candy such as the Lamborghini Countach and Olivia Newton-John. 

When it was launched in 1981 the Katana looked like it had just zoomed in from outer space with its futuristic styling. With a design as sharp as the Samurai sword it was named after, it helped set a new template for motorcycle design, a transition from the square and classical bikes of yesteryear to what have become today’s super aerodynamic superbikes.

One of its key styling features was that the seat was stepped lower than the fuel tank, which meant the rider sat “in” the motorcycle rather than on it, as was the norm.

The new version is brought into the 21st century with features such as LED headlamps and tail lights, ABS brakes and traction control. Picture: SUPPLIED
The new version is brought into the 21st century with features such as LED headlamps and tail lights, ABS brakes and traction control. Picture: SUPPLIED

The range-topping Katana GSX 1100S also hit the street as the world’s fastest mass-production bike at the time, ensuring the radical looks had matching performance.

Now the Katana has been reborn in a modern incarnation and it’s just gone on sale in SA priced at R184,950.

With styling that pays homage to the original 1981, including the distinctive two-tone black and grey colour scheme (which Suzuki calls Metallic Mystic Silver), the new version is brought into the 21st century with features such as LED headlamps and tail lights, a digital instrument panel, ABS brakes and traction control.

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Classed as a naked streetfighter in the same realm as the Kawasaki Z900, Triumph Speed Triple and Yamaha MT-10, the new Katana is based on Suzuki’s GSX-S1000 with power supplied by the 999cc four-cylinder engine from the 2005 GSX-R1000 (K5) superbike.

With outputs of 110kW at 10,000rpm and 108Nm at 9,500rpm, it is a “street-tuned” engine designed to provide broad low-to-mid range power and torque.

The LCD instrument cluster packs a wide range of information, including gear position, lap time and traction control. Picture: SUPPLIED
The LCD instrument cluster packs a wide range of information, including gear position, lap time and traction control. Picture: SUPPLIED

It has a Low RPM Assist system that automatically adjusts engine revs to help prevent stalling when starting off or riding slowly. This makes it easier to pull away from a standstill or manoeuvre through heavy traffic or crowded parking lots.

A compact and lightweight chassis, with a dry weight of just 215kg, is engineered to provide agility, ease of control and a fun-to-ride character whether in city traffic, highways or on winding roads.

The relatively low 825mm seat and slim design helps make it easy for the rider’s feet to reach the ground, and the upright riding position is designed for comfort.

The three-mode traction control system allows the rider to switch between sport, regular, and wet riding conditions, and there’s also a slipper clutch for more robust riding.

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