KAWASAKI VN800 CLASSIC (1996-2004) Review

Published: 23 November 2006

"Strong, reliable and with pretty funky handling for a cruiser"

Kawasaki VN800 Classic motorcycle review - Riding

"Strong, reliable and with pretty funky handling for a cruiser"

  • At a glance
  • 805cc  -  54 bhp
  • 42 mpg  -  140 miles range
  • Low seat height (705mm)

Overall Rating 4 out of 5

Strong, reliable and with pretty funky handling for a cruiser, the Kawasaki VN800 makes for a useful bike as well as a perfect pose-machine. Massive, it’s got all the right bits in all the right places giving a good ride with loads of street presence. Not bad value but a bugger to keep clean.

Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5

The Kawasaki VN800’s remarkably stable at high speeds and (for a cruiser) relatively frisky around town. Ground clearance is minimal though. The suspension’s a bit saggy on the corners but comfortable in a straight line whilst the brakes are adequate, if a little weedy. The ride’s not as vibey as some bikes in the class.

Engine 4 out of 5

The Kawasaki VN800's engine boasts an incredibly smooth and consistent delivery of power. Peak torque’s at around 3000rpm but it’s sustained throughout the range for loads of satisfying pulling power. At the higher end, it’ll cruise happily at 80mph: perfect for a cruiser. Very strong.

Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5

The Kawasaki VN800 engine’s a superb piece of kit, in it for the long haul and, overall, the bodywork’s made to match it. The paint is rich and gorgeous but decals and logos are of poorer quality plus some of the welding isn’t that great. In other words, it’s not perfect but it’s not half bad, either.

Value & Running Costs 4 out of 5

The Kawasaki VN800 was well-priced against its rivals (ranging from Harley-Davidson Sportsters to Suzuki’s Marauder and Intruder). Its reliability means it holds its price well but it’s unlikely to compete with a second-hand Harley: that name on a tank adds value, like it or not. Overall? Average to good. Find a Kawasaki VN800 for sale.

Insurance group: 10 of 17 – compare motorcycle insurance quotes now.

Equipment 4 out of 5

The Kawasaki VN800 has a very comfortable dual seat and forward pegs give you the look whilst the big, wide bars give you plenty of leverage. The VN has the usual mountains of chrome, fat pipes and tank top instrument panel plus a plethora of outrageous extras you never realised you needed, such as chrome oil filler caps and caliper covers. Lacks the shaft drive of its higher-powered sibling VNs.

Owners' Reviews

1 owner has reviewed their KAWASAKI VN800 CLASSIC (1996-2004) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

We’re currently improving the way this section works, which means we’ve had to suspend the submission of new owners’ reviews for a short period. Please check back soon.

Summary of Owners' Reviews
Overall Rating 4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
4 out of 5

Pleasant surprise

14 October 2013 by Anonymous

This is my first cruiser and therefore really cant compare it to any other cruiser but can add a couple of points to the MCN review . I agree 100% with MCN's review but their fuel consumption figures are NEVER accurate in my expereience . I get 55... Read more mpg under normal everyday use . I purchased this bike for the sole purpose of sedate two-up riding with my partner after getting fed up with feeling like i was doing half a press-up when she was on the back of my VFR and i have to say its an absolute joy to ride two-up . I have a sissy bar on the back so she sits back against that and makes hardly any contact with me at all. I was dubious about the riding position before i tried it but it only takes a few rides before you stop paddling the air trying to find your footpegs and you grow to love the position and relaxed attitude the cruiser-style gives you . Obviously its different to my other bike but not in a negative way .Its fast enough for real-life everyday riding and although the footpegs do ground out earlier than other style of bikes its not an issue under normal everyday riding conditions. You tend to sense when its about to happen and i just take my weight off the peg and let it ride up as it contacts the ground . Its got to the stage now than when i use my VFR for my everyday commute i just wish i was on the VN . I really never thought i would take to this style of bike the way i have . I recently test rode a couple of Harleys and all it did was reaffirm what a nice bike the VN is . The only thing i would change is the soundtrack.......mine has a standard exhaust and is a bit quiet for my taste. If you decide to try a cruiser you might well be pleasantly surprised .

Overall Rating 4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
Read all 1 owners' reviews in full

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 1996
Year discontinued 2004
Original price -
Warranty term (when new) Two year unlimited mileage
Running costs
Insurance group 10 of 17
Annual road tax £80
Annual service cost -
Performance
Max power 54 bhp
Max torque 47 ft-lb
Top speed 103 mph
1/4-mile acceleration 14.4 secs
Average fuel consumption 42 mpg
Tank range 140 miles
Specification
Engine size 805cc
Engine type 8v V-twin, 5 gears
Frame type Steel double cradle
Fuel capacity 15 litres
Seat height 705mm
Bike weight 234kg
Front suspension None
Rear suspension Preload
Front brake 300mm disc
Rear brake Drum
Front tyre size 110/70 x 19
Rear tyre size 140/90 x 16

History & Versions

Model history

1996: VN800 Classic model launched as an updated version of the standard VN800. Only minor changes until it was discontinued in 2004.

Other versions

Kawasaki VN800: The bike which took over from the old Kawasaki VN750, this one ran from 1995 to 1998. It had different geometry, tyres and gear ratios and a higher seat than the Classic.
Kawasaki VN800 Drifter: Essentially the same as the Classic but with vast swathes of extra bodywork. A styled-up, “Indian” version: pretty OTT. Ran from 1999 to 2004.
Kawasaki VN900: Where the VN800 left off, the VN900 took over. Cubic capacity’s up to 903cc. It was launched in early 2006. See seperate review.

Photo Gallery

  • Kawasaki VN800 Classic motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki VN800 Classic motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki VN800 Classic motorcycle review - Rear view
  • Kawasaki VN800 Classic motorcycle review - Instruments
  • Kawasaki VN800 Classic motorcycle review
  • Kawasaki VN800 Classic motorcycle review - Brakes
  • Kawasaki VN800 Classic motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki VN800 Classic motorcycle review - Rear view
  • Kawasaki VN800 Classic motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki VN800 Classic motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki VN800 Classic motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki VN800 Classic motorcycle review - Brakes
  • Kawasaki VN800 Classic motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki VN800 Classic motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki VN800 Classic motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki VN800 Classic motorcycle review - Rear view
  • Kawasaki VN800 Classic motorcycle review - Instruments
  • Kawasaki VN800 Classic motorcycle review
  • Kawasaki VN800 Classic motorcycle review - Brakes
  • Kawasaki VN800 Classic motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki VN800 Classic motorcycle review - Rear view
  • Kawasaki VN800 Classic motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki VN800 Classic motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki VN800 Classic motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki VN800 Classic motorcycle review - Brakes
  • Kawasaki VN800 Classic motorcycle review - Side view