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Kawasaki Z500 (2024) - Review

By Luke Brackenbury

Former PR, Brand & Events manager at Bennetts, Luke has been riding bikes for 25 years – including seven years as a bike journo – he has competed on a variety of two-wheel disciplines and owns an eclectic bike collection.



2024 Kawasaki Z500 Review Details Price Spec_01
2024 Kawasaki Z500 Review Details Price Spec_02
2024 Kawasaki Z500 Review Details Price Spec_03


Price: £5699 / £6,049 SE model | Power: 45bhp | Weight: 168kg | Overall BikeSocial Rating: 3.5/5


There’s nothing sleepy about catching these particular Zeds. Kawasaki has awakened its A2 offering with the new 451cc Z500 and Z500 SE (Special Edition). BikeSocial reviews the naked bike in the twisties and urban conditions. Tiresome? The complete opposite.

For 2024 Kawasaki has made a huge revision to the Z400 and Ninja 400, and they’re now both called 500s (after rounding up the ccs). Sharing the same engine and chassis, the styling and the riding position are what sets them apart. The Z500 is 4kg lighter with no fairing and its Zed aggressive naked styling has softer sprung forks and those single, wide-set bars.

Along with the new Eliminator 500, Kawasaki is pushing hard to provide new riders and those who prefer a smaller displacement with bikes that can help grow confidence and also reward those with riding experience. The competition in this capacity and price segment is huge, but Kawasaki was keen to remind BikeSocial that - in the face of emerging marques with keen prices and eye-catching styling - they have a proven and trusted brand with a wide range of established dealers and a four-year, unlimited mileage warranty.

With the price point and the riders they’re aiming at, we predict many Z500 owners will use their bikes as year-round commuters as well as weekend weapons. BikeSocial travelled to Alicante in Spain to ride both the Z500 (and Ninja 500) on 90 miles of sunkissed, well-surfaced roads and through towns and villages. Although not exactly the same as a cold and wet Britain, it would give us a chance to see just how we far can push them and our luck.


  • Attractive price

  • Engine performance

  • Build quality

  • Soft suspension

  • Cramped for taller riders

  • Braking performance

2024 Kawasaki Z500 Review

First ride of the lightweight, A2-friendly naked. We put it to the test on winding roads and through towns in sunny Spain.


Review – In Detail

Price & PCP
For and against
Engine & Performance
Handling & Suspension (inc. weight & brakes)
Comfort & Economy


2024 Kawasaki Z500 Price

A keen price (and design) are key in this capacity segment in order to get the attention of riders. Kawasaki offers two models of the Z500; the base model (£5,699) and the Special Edition “SE” (£6,049 or £6,156 on the road) model that we tested. The majority of the bikes offered in the UK will be the SE version, so that’s what we’ve focussed on here and will detail later what the extra £350 gets you.

In terms of finance offers, Kawasaki UK offers a 37-month personal contract plan (PCP) for the Z500 SE with a £1,196.92 deposit, monthly repayments of £79, and an optional final repayment of £3,334 (or trade towards a new bike…).

Bikes are in dealers (with decent amounts of demo models) at the end of March 2024. There’s one colour available for the ‘base model’ and two choices for the SE.

  • Kawasaki Z500 - Metallic Spark Black / Metallic Matte Graphene Steel Gray

  • Kawasaki Z500 SE - Candy Persimmon Red / Metallic Flat Spark Black / Metallic Matte Graphene Steel Gray or Candy Lime Green / Metallic Spark Black / Metallic Matte Graphene Steel Gray



2024 Kawasaki Z500 Engine & Performance

This engine is also used in the Ninja 500 and isn’t all new, but Kawasaki’s aim was to increase the performance of the trusty parallel twin at lower and mid rpm with ‘creamy torque’ (their words, not ours!). To do that there has been a host of changes to the internals, but the headline being that the Z400’s 399cc engine received an increased stroke to bring it out to 451cc - there’s no substitute for cubes!

Bigger crank counterbalance weights aid smoothness and make the engine less ‘free revving’, which is good because you had to rev the nuts off the old bike to get it motoring. Helping to smooth out the torque curve out are left and right intake funnels at different heights.

Inside the plated bore engine (same manufacturing method as the ZX-10R & ZX-6R) is a newly designed crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons, and balancer shaft to reduce vibrations. It’s definitely a less ‘buzzy’ engine than the previous version on the Z400, but we found that held at 6,000rpm long enough (which would be rare) there’s an uncomfortable vibration in lower gears.

Performance wise, this smoother engine has plenty of shove low down in the rev range to make light work of nipping through traffic and pulls hard enough even when you’re a gear (or two too high). Even labouring the engine by leaving it in top gear through a particularly twisty section of roads surprised me by how well it still pulled. It’s quiet, though - too quiet.

If you’re an experienced rider used to bigger machines, this engine isn’t going to take your breath away; BUT you can thrash it and still have fun (I very much did and I’ve had an unrestricted licence for 23 years…). The performance is a massive step over the 400 - massive - but still totally negates the need for traction control or different power maps.

Despite the Z500 having the lightest cable clutch we’ve ever experienced thanks to the new dual-cam Assist & Slipper Clutch, clutchless up and down shifts and a few through-the-gearbox wheelies (Kawasaki closed a road for us) didn’t see a single false natural all day, so it’s a solid box of cogs. Ratio wise, they’re nicely spaced but I was surprised the final gearing is the same as that on the Ninja 500; a tooth or two higher on the rear sprocket would make acceleration a lot more fun at the sacrifice for top speed.



2024 Kawasaki Z500 Handling & Suspension (inc. Weight & Brakes)

Although it doesn’t look it, the Z500 is a bike built to a budget and the brakes and suspension are where most manufacturers can make the finances balance - the Kawasaki is no exception.

Conventional ‘right way up’ telescopic forks aren’t adjustable, and a Uni Trak mono shock has 5 preload settings to adjust. And that’s it. Ride it hard (I did) and at 74kg not in riding kit sees the Z500 see-saw wildly with hard braking and acceleration. But this kind of riding is not going to be endured by most of these bikes sold in the UK.

On a commute to work on a damp, Autumn morning, that soft suspension will be reassuring, and the ABS will take care of things when the fork travel ends. But as rider abilities grow, the suspension will be the area that holds progression back, but something that can be remedied with an aftermarket shock and fork internal change.

The single disc bitten by a two-piston caliper is adequate for this light bike, but if carrying a pillion you’ll be asking for a lot of rear brake, which seemed to set off the ABS without much asking (probably due to the weight transfer to the front end).

The steel trellis frame uses the engine as a stressed member and Kawasaki says the frame is “…250cc-based in size, contributing to a light overall weight and a slim overall package”. It looks a little like the H2’s frame in the black and green trim and the slim design does give legs a direct and short reach to the floor, which will be confidence inspiring for new and shorter riders.

But even with the soft suspension and average brakes (which the front lever could really benefit from a span adjuster for smaller hands), the bike in the hands of a group of very experienced riders on the press launch made light work of some of the most incredible roads you could dream of pointing a bike at.



2024 Kawasaki Z500 Comfort & Economy

While the slim, 250cc-sized chassis and low(ish) 785mm seat provides confidence-inspiring ergonomics for fresh and returning riders, I believe that taller riders will feel cramped without the official accessory +30mm seat. I’m 5’8” and was perfectly comfortable on a long, hot day in the saddle. But I have childlike 30” inside legs. The heel of my right foot was also catching on the exhaust heat shield when the ball of my foot was on the pegs. No such drama when covering the rear brake.

The one-piece bars are wide but not too much so, putting the rider in a commanding view of the road and providing plenty of leverage to manoeuvre through traffic and counter steering into turns. It feels like there’s enough space for a tank bag to not spoil the connection with the bike. The official luggage offered by Kawasaki looks perfectly tailored not to distract the ride.

The roads during our test were relatively smooth, the soft suspension soaking up any undulations and urban speed bumps and didn’t bottom them out. I didn’t need to stretch my legs or anything else all day, so with an optional screen and a tail pack attached to the built-in luggage loops there are big mile trips to be had.

Economy wise, Kawasaki claims 74.3mpg - not something we were able to confirm on our ride. But the bike is bound to be frugal with its relatively small capacity and increase in torque, requiring less revs when you want to boogie. We gave the Z500 and absolute thrashing and there was plenty of juice left in the tank after 90 hard miles.



2024 Kawasaki Z500 Equipment

At this price point, you’d not be expecting luxuries but the £350 (and 1kg) extra for the SE version provides a full colour, TFT screen that’s incredibly easy to read (you can set it to black or white backgrounds), adjusts to the brightness and features all kinds of handy displays, such as a gear indicator. The SE also boasts LED indicators, a two-piece under cowl/bellypan, and a USB-C charger.

Standard equipment wise, there’s a new LED headlight and taillight and the ability to connect to Kawasaki’s RIDEOLOGY THE APP via Bluetooth. We had a play with the app during our test ride and allows you to log your rides using GPS and the bikes info, giving you change to relive a ride through data, such as gear, engine rpm and speed. The app is also for making adjustments to the display, monitoring the battery voltage level, receiving phone notifications on the display and viewing the maintenance log. It’s a cool feature and was easy to set-up.



2024 Kawasaki Z500 Rivals

It’s pretty clear that the Z500 is staring at the new Honda CB500 Hornet with its aggressive LED headlight eyes, with Kawasaki keen to stress they’ve got 10% better power-to-weight than its Japanese rival.

Both the Z500’s base model (£5,699) and SE (£6,049) price point puts it in direct competition with the Hornet (£6199), KTM 390 DUKE (£5,699), Yamaha MT-03 (£6,105) and the CF Moto 450NK (£4,999). But there’s also the Triumph Speed 400 (£4,995) if you like things a little more retro styled.

In terms of potential customers, A2 licence holders are clearly the focus. For new riders, there is plenty of performance here to excite as you hone your skills. For those who want an affordable bike that looks great and will be equally as happy for the work commute as it would be a weekend thrash, the Z500 also delivers.

And on the other end of the scale, there are people like my 70-year-old father who is genuinely considering this as his next new bike to replace a KTM 390 DUKE. He likes smaller capacity, lightweight naked bikes that really look the part. And even if you don’t want to admit it, posing is part of motorcycling. Even though he’s price conscious and I pointed out the cheaper and similarly-styled CF Moto, I think he’ll go for the Zed as it’s a brand he knows and trusts.


Honda CB500 Hornet| Price: £6199

Power/Torque: 47bhp/31.7lb-ft | Weight: 188kg


KTM 390 Duke | Price: £5699

Power/Torque: 44.3bhp/28.8lb-ft | Weight: 165kg


Yamaha MT-03 | Price: £6105

Power/Torque: 41.4bhp/21.8lb-ft | Weight: 168kg


CF Moto 450NK | Price: £4999

Power/Torque: 46.2bhp/29lb-ft | Weight: 166kg



2024 Kawasaki Z500 Verdict

I was genuinely impressed with the Z500. It’s a big step up from the Z400 as the engine changes have really transformed the bike. For the money, it provides a good riding experience and looks great; cover the ‘500’ sticker and nobody would guess its size.

If you’re a handy rider, you’ll find the limits of this bike fairly quickly and will bemoan the lack of high performance from the suspension and brakes, but it’s probably not the bike for you in the first place. But if your licence is A2 fresh and you want to grow your confidence with something that looks great, won’t let you down or break the bank, then the Z500 is worth a test ride.

While shorter riders and those finding their biking feet will enjoy the narrow and low seat, I think tall riders might be cramped and heavier riders will need to crank that preload up. But the proof is in the pudding and there are ways round those issues as one size often doesn’t fit all. I also wish Kawasaki had fitted a span adjuster on the front brake lever because it's just annoying and for riders with small hands it's a fair reach to the lever. But again, something that can be remedied.



2024 Kawasaki Z500 - Technical Specification

New price

£5,699 (standard), £6,049 (SE)



Bore x Stroke

70.0 x 58.6mm

Engine layout

Parallel twin-cylinder

Engine details

8-valve, water-cooled DOHC, fuel-injected


45bhp (33.4KW) @ 9000rpm


31.4lb-ft (42.6Nm) @ 6000rpm


6-speed, chain

Average fuel consumption

74.3mpg claimed,

Tank size

14 litres

Max range to empty


Rider aids



steel trellis

Front suspension

41mm RWU telescopic fork

Front suspension adjustment


Rear suspension

monoshock, bottom-link Uni-Trak

Rear suspension adjustment

5-position preload

Front brake

310mm disc, two-piston Nissin caliper

Rear brake

220mm disc, two-piston Nissin caliper

Front wheel / tyre

110/70 17 Dunlop Sportmax GPR-300

Rear wheel / tyre

150/60 17 Dunlop Sportmax GPR-300

Dimensions (LxWxH)

1,995mm x 800mm 1,050mm



Seat height



167kg / 168kg (SE) kerb


4 years/ unlimited miles


First service at 600 miles, then every 7,500 miles

MCIA Secured Rating

Not yet rated



Looking for motorcycle insurance? Get a quote for this motorbike with Bennetts bike insurance



What is MCIA Secured?

MCIA Secured gives bike buyers the chance to see just how much work a manufacturer has put into making their new investment as resistant to theft as possible.

As we all know, the more security you use, the less chance there is of your bike being stolen. In fact, based on research by Bennetts, using a disc lock makes your machine three times less likely to be stolen, while heavy duty kit can make it less likely to be stolen than a car. For reviews of the best security products, click here.

MCIA Secured gives motorcycles a rating out of five stars (three stars for bikes of 125cc or less), based on the following being fitted to a new bike as standard:

  • A steering lock that meets the UNECE 62 standard

  • An ignition immobiliser system

  • A vehicle marking system

  • An alarm system

  • A vehicle tracking system with subscription

The higher the star rating, the better the security, so always ask your dealer what rating your bike has and compare it to other machines on your shortlist.