Kawasaki Z650 (2020) - Review

Kawasaki Z650 (2020) - Review


If you were to ask a hundred people what they wanted from a beginner's bike, I'm pretty sure that the resultant list would read something along the lines of: an affordable price to encourage people into biking; a light clutch for ease of use; a low seat for confidence; a low bike weight for manoeuvrability; a flexible engine with enough power to be thrilling, but not so much that it becomes intimidating; an easy and light gear change for when you need to make some progress; a comfortable riding position to ease the strain on your wrists… the list goes on. However, if we stop to think, surely these are all features that we should want from any bike – not just your first one.

Kawasaki have aimed the 2020 Z650 at the beginner market, and brought us a bike that ticks off all the key ingredients of a beginner bike, but have added in a great big dollop of style and a sprinkling of funky features. All of which, blended together in the 'Sugomi' food mixer, give us the beginner bike that could well be all the bike we'll ever need.



2020 Kawasaki Z650 Price

The 2020 Kawasaki Z650 arrives in showrooms at the end of January 2020, with a recommended retail price of £6,649 for the Candy Lime Green/Metallic Spark Black model, or £6,749 for the other two colour-schemes, Pearl Blizzard White/Metallic Spark Black and Metallic Spark Black.

In a fiercely competitive segment, this puts the zed bang in the middle, price wise – more expensive than Suzuki's SV650, cheaper than Honda's neo-retro-oh-so-cool CB650R and perhaps more tellingly, just a gnat's chuff cheaper than the current king of the hill, Yamaha's MT-07.

Despite being three or four hundred pounds more than the outgoing model, it still makes the Kawasaki highly affordable and great value for money.

Don't believe me? Well, the original Z650 was launched way back in 1976 at an r.r.p. of £1,075. Wind on the clock a few decades and that equates to a 2020 price of around £7,500. "Ah…but…" I hear you say, "the original was a four cylinder, not a twin." Agreed, but it still had 3bhp less than the new model, made 6 less torques, weighed a whopping 30 kilos more, and was unreliable to the point where the standard Kawasaki warranty at that time was just 6 months!

If that’s not convincing enough, with typical PCP rates, you could now be riding the 2020 Z650 for a grand down and less than £25 per week.



What's new on the 2020 Kawasaki Z650?

As with the recently revised Z900, the key mechanical update is driven by emissions and the ever-nearer spectre of Euro 5 legislation. This manifests itself on the Z650 as a larger capacity catalytic convertor and revised silencer design including a slightly shorter end can.

As you would expect on a 2020 bikes, the LCD dash has been replaced with a bright new 10.9cm TFT Screen. In addition to the crucial info such as speed, revs and a gear indicator, the screen is also switchable to show riding data such as oil temperature, average and instant fuel consumption, and range. It’s a welcome addition to the bike, and one which puts the Kawsaki ahead of the competition (for now, anyway).

On the styling front, the bike gets some tweaks and tucks to the headlight shroud and radiator cowls, giving a slightly more aggressive stance, but also bringing the bike firmly into the family styling ethos which Kawasaki call 'Sugomi'. To quote Kawasaki 'Sugomi describes core performance and styling elements found in Kawasaki’s Z supernaked models… Sugomi is also evident in their sharp styling, dynamic crouching form, and distinct silhouette'. Got it? No, me neither, so I just typed 'Sugomi' into a well-known translation service and it came back as 'amazing'. Perhaps it’s a classic case of lost in translation, or maybe Kawasaki have more faith in the concept than we thought.

Finally, stock tyres have been revised for 2020 with the previous Dunlop Sportmax D214s being dropped in favour of Sportmax Roadsport 2s, the more sport orientated Roadsports giving a lighter feel to the bike and more confidence in cornering.


Kawasaki Z650 (2020) Walkaround & Review | So much more than a beginners bike?

We attended Kawasaki's European launch of the 2020 Kawasaki Z650 in northern Spain and steal a few minutes away from the crowds to take a look around the bike and see what's been changed for 2020.



The middleweight naked patch is always a fiercely-fought category, especially considering the naked sector is now the best-selling sector in the UK, outselling adventure bikes by a ratio of 1.7:1. It's also a sector that has long been dominated by one bike – Yamaha's sublime MT-07 – which, despite being on the market since 2014 and receiving minimal updates since, was still the 10th best-selling bike in the UK last year (2019).

If the Yamaha isn't your cup of tea, then maybe the Honda CB650R hits the spot. With its revvy inline four, it might be seen as the more serious choice of the group, especially when comparing power figures, but it can be bought in A2 compliant form and on the road where peak power and revs are less important than torque and handling, fits nicely into this group.

That just leaves Suzuki's SV650 which, at a full grand cheaper than the Honda, represents great value for money. A little long in the tooth and lacking some of the street cred associated with the rest, the Suzuki is still a great bike to ride, no matter your experience.

Suzuki SV650

Kawasaki Z650

Yamaha MT-07

Honda CB650R


645cc V-twin

649cc parallel twin

689cc parallel twin

649cc inline-four


75bhp @ 8,500rpm

67bhp @ 8,000rpm

74bhp @ 9,000rpm

94bhp @ 12,000 rpm


47.2 ft lbs @ 8,100rpm

47.2 ft lbs @ 6,700rpm

50 ft lbs @ 6,500rpm

47.2 ft lbs @ 8,000rpm


198 Kg

188 Kg

182 Kg

202 Kg

Seat Height





Fuel tank

14.5 litres

15 litres

14 litres

15.5 litres







Power and torque

While power remains unchanged from the 2019 bike at 67bhp at 8500rpm (interestingly, the same revs as the 1976 four cylinder model), torque is affected by the revised exhaust and intake system, losing a single torque from the top end (47.2 ft lbs at 8100), while seeing some slight gains in the mid-range. The punchy parallel-twin will happily spin up to its 10,000 rpm redline, and on the road, this is translated in to rapid, yet effortless progress.



Engine, gearbox and exhaust

While the engine is not as punchy as that of the MT-07, it delivers the perfect blend of smooth and progressive delivery, rewarding the more seasoned rider, while still complimenting and coaxing those with less experience. Low down torque was evident without being overwhelming. Even when provoked with some lazy gear changing, the engine never seemed to struggle or want to stall in the way that for example, a big v-twin might. Initial pick up is also very good, aided by a wonderfully light clutch. You would need to be very clumsy indeed to provoke a stall. The fuelling at constant throttle openings was a little unstable, but I really do have to nit-pick to find any faults.

As you expect from Kawasaki, the gearbox is an absolute pleasure to use – light and precise, with clutchless upshifts being the default rather than a rare treat. While the lack of a quickshifter, even as an optional extra, was initially surprising given its prevalence across the bike market, once riding, I could see why Kawasaki deemed this unnecessary.

The revised exhaust gives a pleasingly rich note through the rev-range without being overly loud or grating.


Kawasaki Z650 (2020) - Review


2020 Kawasaki Z650 Economy

While test launch economy is never a good indication of real world riding, due to the… er, exuberance? of the motoring press, it was interesting that after around 150 miles of twisty  mountain roads, some slower pottering through town and some medium speed passes for photos, we were all seeing consumption figures around the 5.2 litres/100km mark (54-55 mpg at today's exchange rates). While this is a little shy of the officially quoted figure of 62 mpg (figure relates to 35kW restricted bike), a sensible running in period and some considered riding could easily see that improve. Even when making progress though, this gives the bike a 180+ mile range from the 15 litre tank meaning that pee breaks, coffee stops or numb bums will be the limiting factors rather than fuel stops.



Handling, suspension, chassis and weight

Suspension is carried over from the 2019 model, with unadjustable 41mm forks upfront and a horizontal back-link shock at the rear – adjustable for rear preload only – but this is a classic case of avoiding change for change's sake. Someone in Kawasaki's suspension department has been doing their homework and fully deserves a gold star for the Z650.

Handling is just as you would want from a bike – neutral, light and predictable. Even on the patchy, over-banded roads of the launch route, the bike remained stable without feeling sluggish and felt firm and taut but without any harshness found on more sports orientated models.

The steel trellis frame, that has become such a part of the marque since the ER-6 first broke cover back in 2006, despite its many iterations remains fundamental to the bike's abilities. Light, yet strong, the chassis lends itself perfectly to the first-big-bike market, and as numerous TT lightweight wins show, can punch well above its weight.

At 188Kg all up (fully fuelled, ready to ride), the Z650 makes an ideal commuter– light and narrow enough to nip through those tight gaps, while robust and substantial enough to have the street presence to muscle its way through traffic.



2020 Kawasaki Z650 Brakes

As with suspension, the brakes on the 2020 model are unchanged from those of the outgoing bike, featuring twin 300mm petal discs combined with twin pot Nissin calipers up front and single 220mm disc and single pot Nissin unit on the rear. ABS is standard, as required by Euro4.

Feel from the front is good with a light action and firm initial bite without any snatchiness or excessive dive. Combined with the light weight of the bike, the brakes give you that feeling of confidence that no matter how much you may have overcooked it, the bike can, and will, stop quickly enough to avoid a drama. Our test route took in some incredible tight switchback roads which, due to the lazy January sunshine, stayed wet in the shade. In these challenging conditions, the rear ABS was a little too eager to come into play, but on dry roads, a good stamp on the pedal was required to see the same results. Even with the rear chirping into turns, the bike remained stable, predictable and composed, even flattering in some respects allowing even biking newbies (i.e. me!) to brag of 'backing it in'. 


Accessories include 30mm higher seat, panniers and higher 'screen'


Comfort over distance and touring

Kawasaki have revised the pillion seat for 2020, adding some extra padding to the unit to increase comfort, but the rider seat remains unchanged. No bad thing though as the seat is already very comfortable. Slim at the front and nicely contoured it puts you into a comfortable riding position, taking some weight from your wrists, without being too upright or putting undue stress through your behind. With a seat height of just 790mm, combined with that narrow profile, Kawasaki have made the bike accessible to the vast majority of riders. At 5'6", I was able to easily flat foot both feet, and even with the optional high seat option (adding a further 30mm), the bike remained comfortable and manageable.

At motorway speeds the engine is more than capable of maintaining good progress, sitting at around 6,000 rpm at 80mph. With the redline at 10,000, there is plenty is reserve for overtakes and for those planning to take the bike on a few weekends away, a range of luggage comprising soft panniers, a 30-litre top box and a tank bag can be combined with a taller cowl to give the bike some more capacity, protection and comfort (while adding the thick end if £700 to the price).



Rider aids and extra equipment / accessories

In terms of rider aids, the Z650 is definitely in the less-is-more camp, with nothing but ABS and a slipper clutch (preventing rear wheel lock up in the event of a hasty down change). This is far from a bad thing though as the clutch is a joy to use thanks to that oh-so-light action, and the lack of distractions allows you to focus on what a good ride it is.

All switchgear is clear and easily accessible and the TFT is a very welcome addition. Even in the changeable conditions of the test ride, the screen was bright and easy to read with all key information presented in a clean and logical way. My second and last nit-pick would be the lack of an ambient air temperature gauge (useful on frosty morning commutes), but that aside, everything else is present and correct. The TFT can also be Bluetooth connected to IOS and Android phones via the free to download Kawasaki Rideology app, where key ride data can be recorded and stored for later reference. The bike's display will also indicate incoming calls and messages should you feel the need to stay connected while you ride.


Kawasaki Rideology the App - User Guide

This Kawasaki video explains the features and benefits of this exciting new interface between the owner and their motorcycle.


2020 Kawasaki Z650 verdict

If you were scroll back to the top of the page and reread the list we set out there (I'll wait while you go and have a look… ), I think you'll agree that Kawasaki have got everything covered. The end result is a quick yet novice-friendly bike which will match your capabilities as experience develops and reward progress along the way. To call the Z650 a beginner's bike does it a massive disservice. Overall, it’s an incredibly competent and capable machine, delivered in an accessible and user-friendly package, so why is it only beginners that should benefit.


Three things I loved about the 2020 Kawasaki Z650…

  • ease of access
  • intoxicating exhaust note
  • Sugomi looks


Three things that I didn’t…

  • Lack of air temperature gauge (picky, I know)
  • Tyres were not overly confidence inspiring
  • Is it good enough to beat the MT-07?


2020 Kawasaki Z650 spec

New price

From £6,649 (£6,823 as tested)



Bore x Stroke

83.0mm x 60.0mm

Engine layout

Parallel Twin

Engine details

Twin cylinder, 4-stroke, DOHC, 4 valve per cylinder, liquid cooled


67bhp (50.2kW) @ 8,000rpm

47bhp (35kW) @ 8,000rpm - A2 RESTRICTED


47.2lb-ft (64Nm) @ 6,700rpm

42.7lb-ft (58Nm) @ 4,700rpm – A2 RESTRICTED

Top speed

120mph (ish)


6 speed, Chain drive, wet multi-disc clutch

Average fuel consumption

55mpg tested

Tank size

15 litres

Max range to empty (theoretical)

180 miles

Reserve capacity


Rider aids

ABS, Slip Assist Clutch


Tubular high tensile steel, trellis

Front suspension

41mm telescopic forks

Front suspension adjustment


Rear suspension

Horizonal single link, hydraulic shock

Rear suspension adjustment

Preload only

Front brake

Dual 300mm petal semi-floating discs, dual piston Nissin caliper

Rear brake

Single 220mm petal disc, single piston Nissin caliper

Front tyre

120/70 ZR17 58W Dunlop Sportmax Roadsport 2

Rear tyre

160/60 ZR17 69W Dunlop Sportmax Roadsport 2




2,055mm x 765mm 1,065mm (LxWxH)



Ground clearance


Seat height


Kerb weight



Unlimited mileage/2/4 years



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2020 Kawasaki Z650 Walkaround