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Kawasaki W800 Retro Motorbike Review

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MCN overall verdict rating is 5

Our first test of Kawasaki’s new W800 suggests that Britain’s own Triumph, after for five years having things all its own way in the ‘retro roadster’ class, has a new, real rival on its hands. Not only is the Kawasaki W800 cheaper and better specced than its closest Bonneville rival, the Kawasaki’s uprated engine means there’s now no discernible performance difference either.

Engine

MCN rating rating is 4
Owners' rating rating is 4.5

The two biggest updates to the Kawasaki W800 are the growth in capacity and switch to fuel injection. The Kawasaki W800’s five-mill overbore takes it up from 676cc to 773cc, and is thrummingly pleasant: brisk enough for this kind of bike and happy to cruise along at 80-90.

Think ‘middling car performance’ but with a bit of extra pep away from the lights and you won’t be far wrong. The Kawasaki W800’s new fuel-injection helps in this and is faultless: crisp, instant throttle response with nary a glitch or hiccup anywhere in its revs. There’s not much point wringing its neck, mind, as things start to tail off and get a bit breathless above 5000rpm or so.

The only other slight criticisms are that, if anything, it’s a little bit TOO civilised: a touch too soft, smooth and quiet. It really is crying out for a set of rortier pipes with which to bounce decibels off some village cottages. Overall, though, the new W800’s performance is not just adequate, it’s amazingly user-friendly both for retro fans and novices alike. 

Ride and Handling

MCN rating rating is 4
Owners' rating rating is 4

The Kawasaki W800’s handling compliments that perfectly. Its old school, upright riding position, cute, slim proportions and wide-ish bars blend seamlessly with the responsive but soft delivery to make the W800 ridiculously easy to just get on and ride.

Only when you start to push silly-hard does the single front disc start to seem inadequate (but the rear drum is sensitive and useful), the forks seem boingingly oversoft, the big 19-inch front wheel and chunky, deep-treaded, period-style Dunlop tyre seem to under-steer and scrabble a little for grip. The rest of the time it’s fine.

Equipment

MCN rating rating is 5
Owners' rating rating is 4

The old W650 was generally considered an authentic and classily-detailed ‘reproduction’ thanks to its great-looking engine, alloy-rimmed wire wheels, proper chrome mudguards, retro-style twin dials, kickstart, knee pads etc. But the new Kawasaki W800 takes things up another level. There’s a new, more ‘ribbed’ seat and lower handlebars.

The engine’s cylinders, rear hub/drum and fork sliders are now alloy finished instead of black and there are new, improved mirrors, exhaust heat shields, a different tank badge and more. It all adds up to a gorgeously – yes really – complete and authentic machine which is simply leagues above, say, Triumph’s Bonneville.

Kawasaki W800 (2011-current)

Detail Value
New price £6,799
Dealer used prices
£5,400 (2012) - £7,140 (2014)
Private used prices
£4,860 (2012) - £6,420 (2014)
  View full used price info
Engine size 773 cc
Power bhp
Top speed 110 mph
  MCN ratings Owners' ratings
Overall rating is 5 rating is 4
Engine rating is 4 rating is 4.5
Ride & Handling rating is 4 rating is 4
Equipment rating is 5 rating is 4
Quality & Reliability rating is 4 rating is 4.5
Value rating is 4 rating is 4.5

Quality and Reliability

MCN rating rating is 4
Owners' rating rating is 4.5

The Kawasaki W800 doesn’t just have the authentic specification, it’s beautifully and classily done, too: the two-tone paint is deep, the chrome good, the alloy finishes beautiful. It’s too early to pronounce on reliability yet, but on the strength of how it’s built and put together the W800 is a pretty classy act.

Value

MCN rating rating is 4
Owners' rating rating is 4.5

On face value the new Kawasaki W800, seems pricey compared to the base Triumph Bonneville. But that’s not comparing like with like. In truth, the closest rival to the W800, with its wire wheels, twin dials, two-tone paint, fork gaiters and so on, is the Bonneville T100 which is actually £100 MORE and still not as well specced. On that basis, the Kawasaki W800 is decent value. Triumph should be worried.

Insurance

Insurance group: n/a

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Model History

2011: Model launched

Other Versions

None

Specifications

Top speed 110 mph
1/4-mile acceleration secs
Max power bhp
Max torque ft-lb
Weight 216 kg
Seat height 790 mm
Fuel capacity 14 litres
Average fuel consumption mpg
Tank range miles
Annual road tax
Insurance group of 17
Engine size 773 cc
Engine specification 4v air-cooled parallel twin, six gears
Frame Tubular steel double cradle
Front suspension adjustment 39mm telescopic forks, no adjust
Rear suspension adjustment Twin shocks, preload adjust
Front brakes 300mm disc, twin piston caliper
Rear brake 160mm drum
Front tyre size 100/90 x 19
Rear tyre size 130/80 x 18

See all Kawasaki W800 motorcycles for sale

Kawasaki
W800

10 miles

£6,545

Kawasaki
W800

6913 miles

£4,995

Kawasaki
W800

2105 miles

£5,980

Kawasaki
W800

7 miles

£6,499

Kawasaki
W800

7 miles

£6,699

Owners' Overall Rating rating is 4(7 reviews)

  • Ace Looks

    Kawasakifreak1

    Average rating rating is 5

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    Engine

    The W800's the best-looking retro on the market. Just a pity I'm 6 inches too tall to ride one so ignore the ownership scores.

    29 October 2013

  • Great Commuter and Project Bike

    MojoJojo

    Average rating rating is 4

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    Engine

    Have come full circle from pocket rockets to KTM singles to Beemers to the W800. Bought this for the daily commute and it is perfect for that. Easy to ride, not fast but enough power and torque to cut through traffic, and arrive in style. Great bike to use as base for the ultimate cafe racer, i added Norman Hyde bars, rear set, changed winkers, fenders. Cons: some small quality issues (rust areas, FI light issues), crap exhaust, aftermarket parts fairly rare, gets wobbly over 70 Mph. Pros: gorgeous looks, great to personalise, engine with personality, cheap to run

    06 November 2012

  • Love at first gear.

    Anonymous

    Average rating rating is 4.5

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    I fell in love with this bike in the few seconds it took to get up to 60mph after I opened up the throttle on a brief test ride. This was going to be my first big bike so it had to be just right. Took the Bonnie out also because I always fancied one and well, it's a Bonnie! But the Kwak just grabbed me immediately. Although the Bonneville engine was perky enough, the ride was fidgety, not the comfiest and after 20 mins I was glad it was over. The W800's twin is much smoother yet still impressively torquey & responsive. Ride position was better and as has been said by MCN and Bike, etc., the fit & finish is way ahead of the Triumph. Wasn't sure about having to clean all that chrome and lustrous paint mind, but actually it's a real pleasure because you will fall in love with the damned thing. It's so obviously been made with a rare touch that is largely missing from the sea of plastic that dominates bike showrooms these days. And to quote my SV650 owning mate- "Whoa....It looks SO much better in the flesh!". Of course only one manufacturer dominates the retro class which means much more people will be drawn, Harley-like to the heavyweight 'brand' that is Triumph instead of Kawasaki- better known for lime green sportsbikes. Their loss I'm afraid. Everyday, I realise I made the right choice and although other bikes may enter/exit the garage in the coming years- I'll always have a corner for the W800.

    01 May 2012

  • I love it!

    sparquie

    Average rating rating is 4.5

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    Engine

    Having swopped a Yamaha R6 for this bike I can say I have fallen in love with it. The engine is simply lovely, it is tractable and has plenty of torque. The Yamaha was quicker, but the W800 is much more fun to ride. Around the towns and villages that I drive the engine is beautiful, you don't have to keep changing gear as it will pull really well from below 2000 rpm in second, third, whatever you happen to be in really. The suspension mops up the sleeping policemen without even a murmer. I guess the brakes are not as good as the Yam but, what the hell, I hardly ever use them except if a black cat runs in front of me. I simply love it.

    20 May 2011

  • I like it

    Scapegoat

    Average rating rating is 4

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    Back in late 60's (yeah I'm that old)Yamaha released its version of the Triumph. Kawasaki released it homage to the BSA. The Yammie hung around for a few years in various rebirths, but eventually disappeared. The Kawasaki didn't. I have ridden the W650 (when they 1st came out) & a friends bike. I liked it a lot, sure it did not have heaps of grunt. But performance fitted the retro brief. I have test ridden the W800 & same story, but with a tad more power. The finish on these bikes is great & in Kawasaki's own words, is a homage to the original W1. Compared to a lot of modern Euro & other Japanese bikes, its pretty understated style wise. Comparing it to Triumphs (like the T100) is fair, but you have to remember that even these Triumphs are not from the original manufacturer, but from a company that bought the name & is just doing the same thing that Kawasaki is doing in their interpretation of what a "Retro" bike should look like. (Kind of like Triumph's interpretation of a Japanese sports bike, the TT600, a CBR clone). I could also mention that Triumphs are manufactured in Thailand, But lets not go there. Both manufacturers do a good job in the way the bikes are presented, put a 60's Triumph or BSA next to them & you would soon see that the reality is only a nod with a few styling cues. What Kawasaki give you is a complete bike, you don't have to fork out more money on "Extras" like center stand, tool kit, knee pads & so on & the motor is a gem. I'm buying one.

    03 April 2011

  • Doesn't look as good in the flesh

    burningbush

    Average rating rating is 4

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    After getting myself in quite a frenzy over the W800 I rushed (in the snow) to the Scottish Bike show last Saturday, eager to see the beastie in the flesh. Well I have to say I was disappointed! My heart literally sank. Ok its a nice bike but there is something not quite right with it. The engine isn't as good looking as it is on paper somehow, the tank badge rather gross, the seat looks like a blow up lilo and all in all its just trying to hard. Right.... back to the Triumph stand.... The Bonneville looks quite dull in comparison, but it just seems a tadge more 'genuine'. Shame they didn't have the Thruxton on show (why the hell not?) So what to do.... well I was out today on my Royal Enfield Bullet EFI DeLuxe and it caused more interest than any of the plastic fantastics or other chromed wonders, so no thanks Kawasaki and yeah maybe one day hello Thruxton. But until then I'm sticking with the Bullet.Cheers Chennai. (PS ignore my scores I haven't had the pleasure of riding one yet)

    19 March 2011

  • Doesn't look as good in the flesh

    burningbush

    Average rating rating is 4

    Show Details

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    Equipment
    Quality and Reliabilty
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    After getting myself in quite a frenzy over the W800 I rushed (in the snow) to the Scottish Bike show last Saturday, eager to see the beastie in the flesh. Well I have to say I was disappointed! My heart literally sank. Ok its a nice bike but there is something not quite right with it. The engine isn't as good looking as it is on paper somehow, the tank badge rather gross, the seat looks like a blow up lilo and all in all its just trying to hard. Right.... back to the Triumph stand.... The Bonneville looks quite dull in comparison, but it just seems a tadge more 'genuine'. Shame they didn't have the Thruxton on show (why the hell not?) So what to do.... well I was out today on my Royal Enfield Bullet EFI DeLuxe and it caused more interest than any of the plastic fantastics or other chromed wonders, so no thanks Kawasaki and yeah maybe one day hello Thruxton. But until then I'm sticking with the Bullet.Cheers Chennai. (PS ignore my scores I haven't had the pleasure of riding one yet)

    19 March 2011

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stichillite

stichillitesays

W650/800

Kawasaki engineers obviouly had a lot of fun making this bike and a good fun bike is what it is. I've owned a W650 since 03. Bought it from someone who didn't give it a chance with 1100 miles on it. It's worth today at least what I paid for it and I reckon it won't depreciate at all if I look after it for the next 20 years and more. On the motorway it's a pain but everywhere else it's a hoot. When you park it up theres usually some old boy gazing at it within seconds. They pick up BSA, Triumph and Norton engineering and styling cues. I can just imagine the Japanese engineers fully intending such reactions to their bit of retro fun.

Get over the replica status of this machine and consider it for what it is. For soft, read useable power. I promise you that you will pass replica plastic race bikes tiptoeing through the rain and grin from ear to ear imagining the red faces inside the race replica Aria's.

I own a 1968 BSA Spitfire which is more beautiful and when its running I'd pick it first every time but I just can't rely on the old girl from Armoury Road so owning one of these is the perfect other bike to have if you're a baby boomer and into bikes with steel cradle frames and chrome springs.

02 May 2011 09:06

RSweet

RSweetsays

Send a few to America! ^^

 

Thanks in advance! :D

15 March 2011 04:33

petervoros

User's Badge

petervorossays

Not retro

I agree stunningly beautiful but from the 30's not the 60's as we are aiming for here.

14 March 2011 13:50

rlf3

User's Badge

rlf3says

Not retro?

Bevel drive not in keeping with retro look?

Maybe this will help change your mind, it's a stunningly beautiful Velocette KTT from circa 1930.

Guess what the big silver tube is up the barrel?

The only single problem with the W800 is the badge.

If you can see past that it's a lovely example of its type.

11 March 2011 16:49

SPRINTMAN52

User's Badge

SPRINTMAN52says

A good effort

If Triumph put the name on a wheel barrow they would sell these and that's the problem,they are complacent.Kawasaki obviously have to try a lot harder and seem to have a good quality bike.As far as looks are concerned Kawasaki have not got it.I agree with Petervorous about the Bevel drive and this is where Triumph score.Triumph is much more authentic in every aspect if they would only improve on the quality and ride.Perhaps they will if Norton up the game.

We have been here before of course so i hope Triumph are looking at this and not let things slip with the Bonneville.

09 March 2011 17:08

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