The Kawasaki Z650 is a middleweight naked bike that targets both new riders as their first big bike and experienced riders who want to tap into useable power.
Overview and History
In 2017 the Kawasaki Z650 replaced the outgoing ER-6n series. The Z650 was built to have more of an edge, an aggressive presence and to directly compete with Suzuki’s easy-going workhorse Sv650 and Yamaha’s hyper naked MT-07.
While the new Z650 used a similar 659cc parallel twin engine like the previous ER-6n that is pretty much where all similarities between the two bikes ended.
The Kawasaki Z650 was significantly lighter than its predecessor, it had an all new frame, new swing arm, slightly different ergonomics, a slipper clutch and a whole new style.
In short Kawasaki had modernised the ER-6n to tailor their middleweight naked to a new audience and the overhauled aggressive styling was a big part of this.
Today the 2023 Kawasaki Z650 remains a firm favourite in the middleweight 650 cc class, it is sharper than ever, with hearty performance that will satisfy most riders.
Design and Aesthetics
What stands out the most about the Kawasaki Z650 is the bike’s design, it integrates aggressive lines with smooth curves for an aggressive, slick aesthetic.
Minimalistic was the approach from the design team and today’s Z650 takes that to the next level, it really is just the bare bones.
With that said, the angular tank, sharp headlight, tapered seat shape and the under engine exhaust do more than enough to give the Z650 character, a dominating stance that excels in both what is there and what isn’t.
Kawasaki built the Z650 with a Sugomi presence. Sugomi is a Japanese term that describes an intense energy given off by a person/object that can be felt by others.
For those looking for more retro naked bike, the Z650RS pays homage to the original 1976 KZ650.
The 2023 Kawasaki Z650 comes in two colorways in the US:
Metallic Matte Graphenesteel Gray/Ebony – Only available for the ABS version
Metallic Spark Black/ Metallic Flat Spark Black – Only available for the non-ABS version
In the UK the Z650 again comes in two colorways however, rider preference is more important here as the Z650 comes standard with ABS regardless of paint scheme:
Metallic Matte Graphenesteel Gray/Ebony
Metallic Phantom Silver/ Metallic Carbon Grey
Frame – Lightweight trellis frame, high-tensile steel
Front Suspension – 41mm telescopic hydraulic fork
Rear Suspension – Horizontal back-link with adjustable preload
Front Brakes – 2 x 300mm petal-style discs, 2 piston calipers
Rear Brakes – Single 220mm petal-style disc
Rake – 24 degrees
Trail – 100mm/ 3.9″
Wheelbase – 1410mm/ 55.5″
Length – 2065mm/ 81.3″
Height – 1064mm/ 41.9″
Width – 764.5mm/ 30.1″
Wet Weight – 187kg/ 412.3 lbs
Seat Height – 790mm/ 31.1″
Ground Clearance – 130mm/ 5.1″
Fuel Capacity – 15 liters/ 4.0 Gal.
Engine and Performance
Aside from its dominating presence the Kawasaki Z650’s strong point is its sporty engine performance.
This is an engine that all riders can enjoy and make the most of, it packs strong torque and strong mid range acceleration.
Low down power ensures quick take-off’s to burst away from traffic, and the powerful mid-range means that you can get up to speed and really make the most of the empty backroads.
Dual throttle valve technology is utilised for optimum perforamance and rideability. The result of the dual throttle valves is a super responsive throttle that does exactly what you want it to do efficiently.
Smooth yet strong power is available at the twist of your wrist, however, the bikes tuning means that it inspires confident connected handling for riders making the Z650 a great first bigger bike.
On the flip side of that too the Kawasaki Z650 can be an exciting ride for more experienced riders who really just want to have some fun, blasting from a standstill and working the gears to get to the red line.
Engine – Four-stroke, parallel twin, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
Capacity – 649cc
Bore x Stroke – 83 x 60mm
Compression Ratio – 10.8:1
Cooling System – Liquid-cooled
Starting – Electric
Induction – Fuel injection, dual throttle valves
Transmission – 6 speed
Final Drive – Chain
Clutch – Wet, multi-disc
Average fuel consumption – 54.5 mpg
Max Power – 67.3 horsepower
Max Torque – 65.7 Nm
Top Speed – 122 mph
The Kawasaki Z650 has a balanced suspension package which provides casual riding comfort.
It is more than capable of soaking up the everyday issues that riders face on city streets, and then it is still stiff enough for you to enjoy the twisties.
Being aimed at newer riders more than anything, the suspension is pretty forgiving on the whole, with non-adjustable forks and adjustable preload rear shocks.
In corners the bike feels planted and is easily maneuverable for precision cornering and steering.
One issue that does come up is that under excessive braking the basic forks dive significantly which can be jarring.
When it comes to braking the Kawasaki Z650 has twin petal-discs up front with two piston calipers and a single petal-disc on the rear.
The brakes pack plenty of bite and stopping power which are perfect for everyday riding situations. The petal design is utilized to improve cooling and reduce warping.
In the UK the anti lock brake system comes as standard but in the US you can choose whether you want the ABS or non-ABS version of the Z650.
Experienced riders might get a bit annoyed with the ABS when they are riding with a bit of spirit on rougher roads as it can kick in unexpectedly. It is best to remember the ABS is a safety measure and forgive it for its little intrusions occasionally.
The model also comes with Kawasaki Traction Control which has two modes to pick between; this helps to maintain optimum grip and control of the bike regardless of road surface. Rear wheel sensors constantly monitor wheel speed and adjust when necessary to avoid wheel spin.
Kawasaki have used Dunlop Sportmax Roadsport 2 tires which provide optimum grip attached to 5-spoke wheels that are lightweight and sporty styled.
This combination means higher speed cornering with high performance rubber is simply a breeze.
The wheels are light and aid nimble agile handling along with the chassis, for a dynamic and precise ride. Grippy tires assist with a confident ride and ultimate rider control.
Unlike some modern motorcycles the Kawasaki Z650 isn’t loaded with extra features, in fact it comes with very little, however, as with the aesthetics the lack of features and just the necessities adds to the bikes strengths.
Electronic rider support features include ABS (optional in the US) and Kawasaki Traction Control.
There is also a slipper clutch for more aggressive downshifts and an economical riding mode indicator if you are particularly fuel conscious.
One modern tech feature is the ability to use the Rideology App through your smartphone and connect it to the bike. This allows you to access the bikes service information, create a riding log for each journey, connect your phone up for calls and select which data you want to see on your display.
The Kawasaki Z650 is equipped with a 4.3″ TFT display. The screens background can be adjusted to be either black or white to suit and the screen brightness adjusts automatically
Data displayed includes: a fuel gauge, gear position indicator, Kawasaki economical riding indicator, digital bar style tachometer, digital speedo, dual trip meters, average fuel consumption, estimated range, average speed, battery voltage and even a Kawasaki service reminder and oil change reminder.
Ergonomically the Kawasaki Z650 aims to be as comfortable as possible while still retaining a sporty approach.
You get a very commanding ride position, a thoughtful footpeg position offers a nice relaxed knee bend but the handlebars are slightly forward for sport riding when you want to dig in deep.
Superior riding comfort extends even to the fuel tank, which sits low and is sculpted in such a way that the rider can comfortably reach the ground and grab with their knees for extra support when tackling bends.
The brake and clutch levers are five-way adjustable, so you can make the necessary adjustments for maximum comfort to suit your preferences.
Taller riders might feel a bit cramped on the Z650, it is a compact chassis that doesn’t really accommodate those with longer arms and legs.
2023 Kawasaki Z650 Pricing
In the US the 2023 Kawasaki Z650 is priced at:
$8,249 with ABS
In the UK the 2023 Kawasaki Z650 is priced at:
The Z650 offers sport riding performance with rider heads up visibility which is why it so firmly suits both new and experienced riders.
Confident low speed maneuvering is aided by a lighter clutch lever feel on the latest model, paired with the low seat height and easy reach to the floor for most, confidence at stops should be at an all-time high.
The Kawasaki Z650 makes it easy to navigate challenging road conditions but is more than up for sport riding on smoother surfaces.
The bike’s lightweight chassis contributes to superior agile handling, feedback from the front is responsive but equally forgiving enough for newer riders to make those slight mistakes that we have all been through.
Around town you can easily weave through traffic, the narrow stature of the bike means tight overtakes are a breeze, navigating the city has never been more fun. The lightweight nature of the bike means it feels like a smaller capacity machine which is why it thrives on city streets.
However, at speed it feels stable, planted to the ground despite being naked. This feature encourages you to keep going through the gears and rev range chasing the red line right to the top.
On the whole Kawasaki Z650 is a pretty comfortable machine, neutral ergonomics means it is a bike suited to a variety of riding styles.
It is meant to be ridden all day, used as a commuter, but also as a bike to take out with your sports bike riding friends on the weekend; the bike could even be loaded up for overnight trips.
The slightly sporty bars might bother some riders in the long run, and as mentioned taller riders might struggle a little bit on longer journeys as it may feel cramped.
Remember though it is a naked bike so there is no wind protection, highway rides might therefore be less fun for those who aren’t super hardcore, but the backroads are more fun anyway right?
Comparison with Competitors
The 2023 Kawasaki Z650 has two main competitors: the Yamaha MT-07 and the Suzuki SV650.
Kawasaki Z650 – $8,249, £7,499
Suzuki SV650 – $7,848, £6,999
Yamaha MT 07 – $8,199, £7,510
In terms of pricing the Kawasaki Z650 is the most expensive option in the US, however, this is justified by being sold as a premium product with top craftsmanship and components.
Kawasaki Z650 – 131 mph, 68 horsepower and 64 Nm of torque
Suzuki SV650 – 130 mph, 75 horsepower and 64 Nm of torque
Yamaha MT 07 – 133 mph, 73 horsepower and 67 Nm of torque
All the bikes are pretty much on par in terms of power and torque produced from the engine, so there isn’t much to split between them. The SV650 is arguably the smoothest of the three bikes, and the Z650 and MT-07 are applauded for their low-mid range power delivery.
The MT-07 has more of a reputation of a hooligan bike than the Z650 (wheelie-monster), but the Kawasaki is thought to have much more precise steering and greater agility.
In a style shootout I think the MT-07 has to take the crown, simply because the MT silhouette has taken the world by storm. The Z650 then should follow as its aggressive lines and big bike looks certainly give it an edge that the SV650 can’t get close to.
You could possibly compare the Triumph Trident 660 with the Z650 as it is a naked middleweight in the same class. The Trident however, costs more money and produces less power so it isn’t quite in line with the Japanese competition.
It does handle very well and oozes class that you can really only get from Triumph but the Z650 offers a lot of bang for the buck comparatively.
Z650 Top Takeaways
The Z650 sits neatly in the middle of Kawasaki’s SuperNaked lineup between the beginner friendly Kawasaki Z400 and the top of the range Kawasaki Z900.
The best way to sum up the Kawasaki Z650 is that it offers everyday versatility for every riding situations. It is best likened to being the Swiss Army Knife of bikes, and with that comparison you know that it is excellent in some things but just pretty good in others.
It excels in its engine performance, styling, lightweight chassis, confident riding experience and its ability to appeal to new and experienced riders. The things that are good but could be leveled up are things like the basic suspension, top end power and overall size to accommodate bigger/taller riders.
Overall though, the Z650 is a great naked middleweight that brings a lot of the class!