Success is imitated, particularly in the competitive world of motorcycle manufacturers. When Honda introduced the Grom in 2014, they tapped into a new market of riders. Perfect for beginners with its 125cc engine and low seat height, it also attracted many experienced bikers looking for a fun-to-ride bike with a different look. Kawasaki followed the Grom with the remarkably similar Z125 in 2018. Comparisons between these two mini-machines go beyond the appearance, so we set out to help you determine which one is the best.
The look is one of the main reasons so many bikers are choosing the Grom and Z125. When the Honda Grom first appeared on the market, there was nothing like it visually. Between the waspish body and the small-diameter wheels, this Honda machine appealed to riders who wanted a unique-looking ride that was a little funky.
Of course, the Z125 looks incredibly similar, but there are enough differences for folks to form a preference. The Grom has a stripped-down style, evoking a naked bike with its more exposed internals and frame. Kawasaki put its own stamp on the look by adding a belly pan and shrouds similar to many of its sport bikes. Functionally, these additions don’t change much as the Z125 is actually lighter than the Honda. As is always the case with aesthetics, this is purely a matter of taste. These are two gorgeous motorcycles and you can’t go wrong with either.
Even serious bikers can’t help but fall in love with the ride quality of the 125cc bike. Neither machine tops 230 lbs, meaning that every motorcycle feels like a monster after riding one of these. They’re both excellent for urban riding, letting you maneuver through tight spaces and lane split with ease. Despite the small size, the Grom and Z125 are designed for a standard riding position. The Honda has a seat height of 30 inches while the Kawasaki reaches 31.7 inches, providing more space for riders to stretch out than you might expect.
With identical suspension setups, the true differences between these motorcycles come down to the weight and tire width. The Grom is barely wider and heavier, just enough to make a difference on these light, narrow bikes. If you’re prioritizing a quickness and agility, the Z125 takes the race by the nose. On the other hand, if you want a more solid base, go with the Honda.
As noted in the section on handling, both motorcycles are suited to driving in the city. Their tendency to sip gas has led to as many sales as their appearance and ride quality. While neither has the fuel capacity for long-distance commuting, both possess jaw-dropping fuel efficiency numbers.
Honda figures the Grom produces about 134 mpg from its 1.45-gallon tank. The Z125 holds two gallons of gas and Kawasaki estimates it provides 135.5 mpg. It should be noted that a practical test from Men’s Journal felt that Kawasaki was being overenthusiastic, with their estimation for the Z125’s mpg sitting in the 80s. The imprecision makes it a little hard to declare a winner. Still, whatever the case for the exact numbers, the fuel economy of these two machines is impressive. If you want scooter gas mileage with a little more get-up and go, these are perfect.
You’re bound to be wondering what kind of power a 125cc engine is worth. The 2019 Honda is rated at 8 lb-ft at 5500 RPM and produces 9.7 horsepower at 7000 RPM. The 2019 version of the Z125 Pro is estimated just a touch lower with 7.1 lb-ft at 6000 RPM and 8.3 horsepower at 7800 RPM.
One of the first questions dealers were asked when the original came out in 2014 was “what’s the Honda Grom top speed?” The anemic powerhouse is balanced by the low weight of these bikes. The Kawasaki Z125 top speed is about the same as the Grom’s, with both coming out at about 63 mph. This is another tie, but both engines serve their real purpose. You have plenty of zip for urban riding, but highways are, for the most part, off limits.
While they may lack the speed and weight that require big-time stopping power, braking is always a concern in tight quarters. The Grom has the beefier rotors with a 220mm in the front and a 190mm in the rear. The slightly smaller 200mm front rotor and 184mm rear rotor on the Z125 still ensure these are brakes on which you can rely. If you’re looking for an ABS option, the Honda is your only choice. Stopping power is a win for the Grom, but it’s definitely a narrow one.
Here is another area where the Kawasaki comes out ahead, but there are still a few caveats. A 2019 Honda Grom runs about $3,399, and if the ABS is appealing, you can tack on another $200. A brand-new 2019 Kawasaki Z125 is only $3,199, with no ABS to increase the price.
Since the Z125 was only just introduced, there are fewer used models available and most are relatively new. Expect to see more Groms at better prices if you’re planning on going the pre-owned route. Because many riders regard these motorcycles as starter bikes, there should be some with lower mileage numbers. As with all used vehicles, make sure you vet the machine thoroughly before you purchase it.
Twins at first blush, the similarities don’t exactly fall away with a closer look. The Kawasaki Z125 is generally cheaper, more maneuverable, and sportier looking. The Honda Grom offers more used models, better braking, and naked styling. Fuel efficiency comes down to whose numbers you’re willing to take.
We’re splitting hairs here, because these are both exceptional compact motorcycles. The lack of a clear winner leaves you the ability to make your choice on the details. Get a Honda Grom with the optional ABS or pick up a brand new Kawasaki Z125 to save yourself a few hundred dollars. There’s no wrong answer here. If you choose the more recent offering, shop Kawasaki Z125 OEM parts for the replacements you need for repairs and basic maintenance.