If you’re a fan of small-displacement-but-ridiculously-fun bikes, then the chances are excellent that you got very excited when Kawasaki first introduced the ZX-25R at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show. Enthusiasts all over the world followed announcements regarding this bike closely.
Those of us in the U.S., of course, hoped that we might eventually see the ZX-25R here—but we didn’t exactly hold our breath. After all, too-cool, small-displacement bikes that develop cult followings have mostly found their way to our shores only once they’ve aged into vintage vehicle importability. If it did somehow come through, chances were excellent that it wouldn’t happen right away. (I mean, why would it? If you’re any OEM, the first places you roll out your new bikes are where they’re going to sell in large numbers. That math is pretty clear to see.)
Fast-forward to January, 2023, and U.S. fans have reason to hope anew. According to an executive order issued by none other than the California Air Resources Board, approval has been granted to Kawasaki for a 2023 model with the designation ZX400SP, with engine displacement of 399cc. Kawasaki uses ZX to designate sportbikes in the Ninja family, with the 2023 lineup currently listed as the Ninja ZX-6R, Ninja ZX-10R, and Ninja ZX-14R.
By those examples, it’s reasonable to expect that the ZX400SP model listed on the CARB certification is likely the long-rumored ZX-4R, which is likely based on the ZX-25R that we’ve been admiring from afar for the better part of the past few years.
CARB issued this executive order on December 21, 2022. Currently, Kawasaki has a new model announcement planned for February 1, 2022. The teaser image it’s showing on its website and social media shows two non-motorcycles up front (at least one and possibly both appear to be watercraft), as well as two motorcycles in the back. All of the mystery machines are, of course, under covers so we can’t tell what they are.
At the time of writing, February 1, 2023, is just 11 days away—so we have less than two weeks to wait to see if the ZX-4R is one of the two bikes that Kawasaki plans to reveal for the U.S. market on that day. If it is, there’s absolutely no indication of how it might be priced. Currently, the Ninja 400 starts at an MSRP of $5,299, while the Ninja ZX-6R (which is currently the smallest-displacement Ninja ZX offered in the U.S.) MSRP starts at $10,699. Presumably, the ZX-4R should be priced somewhere in between—but it’s all speculation until it isn’t.
Can we expect the ZX-4R to appear in other markets in the future? It seems likely that it would, particularly given how much more friendly most markets outside the U.S. are for small-displacement bikes. Japanese publication Young Machine speculated that, according to the low emissions numbers listed in the CARB filing, compliance with existing Euro 5 and Reiwa 2 Japanese emissions standards should be a cinch.