Writing about bikes for 20 years. Published in dozens of titles on five continents. Mildly obsessed with discovering how things work.
When Kawasaki brought back the W800 back to the market for 2019 after two years of emissions-law-enforced exile there was something a little odd about its line-up. While the range included two new models - the W800 Street with pulled back bars and stubby fenders and the part-faired W800 CAFE – there was no direct replacement for the original, retro W800 itself.
For 2020 that hole in the range has been plugged with a bike that shares all the technical upgrades that were made on the 2019 W800 Street and CAFE models, but features the original, old-school looks of the previous generation.
We actually revealed Kawasaki’s plans to introduce this bike as long ago as July, and it seems our information at the time was spot-on. The new model, simply called W800, features the same 47hp, 773cc, bevel-drive-cam parallel twin as its sister machines, with Euro4 emissions compliance and the now-mandatory ABS fitted, bringing with it a rear disc brake to replace the old model’s antiquated drum.
The styling is pure W800; apart from the new LED headlight, shared with the Street and CAFE models, it’s hard to tell the new model from the old generation or even the W650 that preceded it. Indeed, it’s a look that harks back to Kawasaki’s earliest, BSA A7-derived W-series twins of the mid-1960s.
Updates go deeper than the engine’s emissions; the frame is the same stiffer design introduced with the Street and CAFE models last year, and the forks are thicker 41mm units. Where the other two derivatives have an 18-inch front wheel, the 2020 W800 reverts to a 19-incher, as well as bringing back the long, chrome mudguard that sits above it. Kawasaki has also added a retro, chrome tank badge. It’s simply ‘W’, with the same branding repeated on the clocks – you have to look to the back of the ‘tuck and roll’ seat to find the word ‘Kawasaki’.
One note is that the W800, as it stands, may turn out to be a one-year-only model. The 2020 bike’s engine, like that of the Street and CAFE models, is Euro4-compliant but hasn’t yet passed Euro5 testing. Nominally, new models introduced for 2020 must be Euro5, but Kawasaki has skirted that requirement by tacking the W800 onto the existing type-approval of the W800 Street and CAFE. Existing type-approved models are supposed to comply with Euro5 after 1st January 2021, which could prompt further changes in a year’s time.
The 2020 Kawasaki W800 range will start from £8,499.
The new W800 will be available from November 2019.