First Ride

Kawasaki Kawasaki Z650 (2020) review

Kawasaki’s latest A2 licence challenger gets the Euro5 treatment, a new easy to read TFT dash, improved comfort and updated styling

Details
Manufacturer:
Kawasaki
Category:
Naked
Price:
£ 6749
Overall
4.5
Average: 4.5 (1 vote)

THE Kawasaki Z650 has been nestled in the Team Green line-up for a few years now, steadily evolving year on year since it took over from the ER6N.

For 2020 the theme of evolution and not revolution still rings true, with a host of subtle tweaks to the bike, helping to bring it up to speed with incoming Euro5 regulations and to make it more appealing to the target audience. There is a new, easy to read TFT dash (lifted straight from the Z900), revised styling that brings the bike inline with the rest of the Zed clan, improved comfort and finally Dunlop Sportmax Roadsport 2 hoops.

Kawasaki Z650 video review:

Kawasaki Z650 pricing and colours

The 2020 Z650 comes in a choice of three colours, traditional ‘Team Green’ Candy Lime Green and Metallic Spark Black, Pearl Blizzard White and Metallic Spark Black and the moody looking Metallic Spark Black option I can be seen riding on the launch. The Candy Lime Green bike comes in at £6,649 while the Blizzard White and Spark Black options are £6,749.

As with any bike aimed at younger, less experienced riders, Kawasaki has drawn up a very enticing PCP deal for the new bike meaning the new Z650 could be in your garage this spring for as little as £105 p/m.

Kawasaki Z650 PCP example

Deposit

Cash Price

Total Credit

Duration

Mileage

Total

Monthly

£1,090.27

£6,796

£5,704.73

37-months

4000

£7,598.27

£105.00

Kawasaki Z650 Engine

Powering the bike is the 649cc, 8-valve parallel-twin engine we can spot in a plethora of machines in the Kawasaki range. It pumps out a healthy 67-bhp at 8,000rpm and 47ft-lb of torque at 6,700rpm. The bike is prime for restricting to an A2 licence compliant 47bhp and can be quickly and cheaply un-restricted once the rider’s training is complete.

We spent the press launch hammering around the very same roads we took to on the press riding launch of the Z900 just before Christmas. The route was the perfect test for the new 650, with tight mountain roads interspersed with fast sweeping sections that allowed us to test the bike’s top-end power. The engine has a lovely excitable character, fizzing its way through the rev-range and into the 10,000rpm limiter. Peak torque sounds like it’s arriving quite late but it’s spread throughout the rev-range nicely, meaning lazy gear selection in the corners doesn’t hamper your progress too much.

One of the nice things about riding a bike built for new and aspiring riders is that some of the systems on the thing are built to a budget. As such, the Z650 features a cable operated throttle and no riding modes or traction control. The lack of these systems on a bike like this means you can wholly focus on the task of riding the bike and getting the most from that sweet revving engine.

Does a bike like this need extra layers of electronics? No, not in my mind anyway. The connection to the throttle is so sweet, you always feel like you know exactly what you’re going to get when you ask the engine a question. The overall engine’s character is like a really excitable puppy that has just spent a month with the world’s best dog trainer. It’s always up for a play but will happily sit down and behave when told to!

Suspension, brakes and handling

The business end of the Kawasaki Z650’s chassis is a Kayaba supplied suspension set up, featuring some 41mm forks up front and a horizontally mounted, backlink shock at the rear. There’s no adjustability with the forks, which do dive a little under very hard braking. For newer riders though, who might not yet be able to explore the bike’s full potential, the chassis is plush and forgiving if ridden at lower speeds. The rear shock features mechanical preload adjustment and is a good mix of comfort and control. Like the rest of the bike, it could have more, but it wouldn’t add to the riding experience in any major way.

The brakes on the Z650 is a set of two-piston calipers from Nissin and 300mm semi-floating discs. It’s a pretty old design but has enough power to shame some top-spec sportsbikes! The feel through the lever is great too, allowing you to accurately trail brake into corners even when the surface was sketchy. It’s a very sure-footed and confidence-inspiring system to use, perfect for a new rider moving up from the 125cc ranks.

The rear brake on the bike is again from the Nissin range and seems to have almost as much bite as the front. It’s handy for tightening the bike’s line in one of the many switchback hairpins we rode on the launch, not to mention for slow speed control around town.

The only negative I found with the braking system was that the ABS could get caught out by small undulations in the road surface when braking hard. On a couple of occasions, it’d cut in eagerly as the front tyre hit the bump, losing some of the pressure from the lever and forcing you to grab another handful of the front brake. It’s a minor thing and most probably won’t encounter it, happening only twice on the fast road rides over the two days.

The handling of the Z650 is one of its standout features though as it is supremely flickable and great fun to ride. At just 188kg wet, it’s very good-natured around town, and out on a twisty road it’ll flick from ear to ear with almost telepathic ease. Mid-corner stability is great and there is more than enough lean angle to be had to allow for knee skids and scraped pegs should you want to.

Comfort

Helping to add to the bike’s versatility is its high level of comfort when riding fast or just cruising down the motorway. It’s a bike that you feel like you sit in and not on, with the deeply sculpted fuel tank offering you ample support to hang well off the side in corners. The bars fall back slightly to meet you, leaving you leaned ever so slightly forward, sharing your body weight across the upper body and backside. I’m more than confident that I could ride a Z650 for a full day with any complaint from my legs, back, arms or 5’7” frame.

For taller riders, the high pegs and low seat might make the machine feel a bit cramped over longer distances but fear not. Kawasaki will spec the bike with an optional high seat that adds about 20mm to the bike and makes it feel roomier and more spacious.

Equipment

The cockpit of the Kawasaki Z650 is furnished with one of the best TFTs to grace a motorcycle and is a new addition for this year. It’s lifted from the Z900 and is clear and easy to read in any conditions. It’s also extremely well laid out and not over complicated, meaning when you glance down at the dash on a fast road, your eyes aren’t dancing about the place trying to search for the information you need – other motorcycle manufacturers take note!

Within the slinky looking TFT are some trip meters, odometer, range to empty, average MPG, current MPG, and engine temp. Cycling through the options is done via the buttons on the bottom left and right of the unit.

A nice touch (and something that will probably get the kids excited about buying one) is the inclusion of a Bluetooth connectivity module, allowing you to hook the bike up to the Kawasaki Rideology app. Once done (the process is very quick and simple), you can tailor the dash settings to your individual requirements, view riding data and start a new ride. Now the bike will track you route, monitor your speed and work out your average over the day. It’s a neat feature and I like that Kawasaki has included it on the bike already. No running to the dealer and paying them to unlock something on the bike that’s already there!

For those worried about GCHQ spying on your riding habits, you needn’t. All the data is personal to you and protected by GDPR. And if it’s that much of a problem for you – just leave it turned off or keep it legal!

We like:

  • Sweet handling and that’ll astound new riders and excite the experienced
  • Punchy engine with decent levels of power and torque
  • Comfort should make all-day riding a doddle

We don’t like:

  • ABS is a tad eager
  • The suspension felt under-damped when pushing on hard

Kawasaki Z650 verdict

Over the two days of riding the Z650 on the fantastic roads of Girona, I never once longed for a bigger, more powerful or more highly spec’d machine. While a 200hp supernaked would’ve been fun, I’d rarely have had the chance to exploit what the bike had inside.

Riding the 650 though meant I could do a couple of things: Firstly, I could extract everything that little engine had to offer. And secondly, I could focus on getting the right line for the corner I was in, maximising the exit and getting a decent run to the next bend. It’s riding bikes like this on roads as we did, that allows you to focus on the basic things required to be fast and smooth on the road. A bigger, more powerful bike would just haze the view and you’d constantly be keeping the bike in check rather than enjoying the machine that’s under you.

So, I guess the £6,649 question is would I buy one. Yes, in a heartbeat. And that’s me talking as an experienced riding, not a new pilot looking for a first steed. And I’m not saying it isn’t ideal for new riders either because it is. It’s exciting to ride, comfortable, well spec’d and overall, great value. All the things a new rider would want. I also think that it’d take a newly qualified rider a long time to grow out of the Z650, it’s a bike that could teach them so many good lessons about riding a motorcycle well.

 

Kawasaki Z650 Specs

Engine

4-stroke, 2-cylinder, DOHC, liquid-cooled

Displacement

649cc

Bore x Stroke

83.0 x 60.0mm

Compression Ratio

10.8:1

Maximum Torque

48.5 lb-ft @ 6,500 rpm

Fuel System

DFI® with Keihin 36mm throttle bodies

Ignition

TCBI with electronic advance

Transmission

6-speed, return shift

Final Drive

Sealed chain

PERFORMANCE

Front Suspension

Telescopic fork

Rear Suspension

Horizontal back-link with adjustable preload, swingarm

Front Tire

120\70 ZR17

Rear Tire

160\60 ZR17

Front Brakes

Dual 300mm petal-style discs with two-piston calipers

Rear Brakes

Single 220mm petal-style disc

DETAILS

Seat Height

787mm

Curb Weight

188kg

Fuel Capacity

15l

Special Features

 Rideology the App Smartphone Connectivity, TFT Instrumentation

Color Choices *Metallic Spark Black

Metallic Flat Spark Black *Metallic Spark Black

Warranty 12 Month Limited Warranty

2020 Kawasaki Z650 Video Review | Visordown.com

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