KAWASAKI W800 (2011-on) Review

Published: 07 March 2011

Successor to W650 gives Bonneville a run for its money and is, arguably, even cuter

KAWASAKI W800  (2011-on)

Successor to W650 gives Bonneville a run for its money and is, arguably, even cuter

  • At a glance
  • 773cc  -  47 bhp
  • 52 mpg  -  162 miles range
  • Medium seat height (790mm)
  • Suitable for A2 licence
  • £6,799

Overall Rating 5 out of 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.

Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5

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.

Engine 4 out of 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. 

Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 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 & Running Costs 4 out of 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.

Equipment 5 out of 5

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.

Owners' Reviews

8 owners have reviewed their KAWASAKI W800 (2011-on) 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 4.5 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4.4 out of 5
Engine 4.8 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4.6 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4.6 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
5 out of 5

Great Bike

15 November 2014 by Preadator

I have owned the W800 special Edition (Black with Gold wheels) for 2 years now and simply love it. Great bike for everyday use and days out with a pillion, has a great engine which just purrs along but is let down slightly by a weak front brake, and... Read more very soft front end but to be honest it just adds to the character which is why I haven't changed a thing. You really cant ride one of these bikes anywhere without grabbing attention, the amount of car drivers that sit at the lights and open their windows to tell me what a great looking 'proper' bike I have is amazing and just about everywhere you park up you will have people straight over to take a good look. For less than 6000 brand new OTR a bargain as well.

Overall Rating 5 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
5 out of 5

Ace Looks

29 October 2013 by Kawasakifreak1

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. Read more

Overall Rating 5 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 5 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 5 out of 5
4 out of 5

Great Commuter and Project Bike

06 November 2012 by MojoJojo

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... Read more 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

Overall Rating 4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 5 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
5 out of 5

Love at first gear.

01 May 2012 by Anonymous

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... Read more 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.

Overall Rating 5 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 5 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
5 out of 5

I love it!

20 May 2011 by sparquie

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... Read more 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.

Overall Rating 5 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 5 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
4 out of 5

I like it

03 April 2011 by Scapegoat

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... Read more 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.

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

Doesn't look as good in the flesh

19 March 2011 by burningbush

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... Read more 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)

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

Doesn't look as good in the flesh

19 March 2011 by burningbush

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... Read more 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)

Overall Rating 4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
Read all 8 owners' reviews in full

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 2011
Year discontinued -
New price £6,799
Warranty term Two year unlimited mileage
Running costs
Insurance group -
Annual road tax £80
Annual service cost -
Performance
Max power 47 bhp
Max torque 60 ft-lb
Top speed 110 mph
1/4-mile acceleration -
Average fuel consumption 52 mpg
Tank range 162 miles
Specification
Engine size 773cc
Engine type 4v air-cooled parallel twin, six gears
Frame type Tubular steel double cradle
Fuel capacity 14 litres
Seat height 790mm
Bike weight 216kg
Front suspension 39mm telescopic forks, no adjust
Rear suspension Twin shocks, preload adjust
Front brake 300mm disc, twin piston caliper
Rear brake 160mm drum
Front tyre size 100/90 x 19
Rear tyre size 130/80 x 18

History & Versions

Model history

2011: Model launched

Other versions

None

Photo Gallery

  • KAWASAKI W800  (2011-on)
  • KAWASAKI W800  (2011-on)
  • KAWASAKI W800  (2011-on)
  • KAWASAKI W800  (2011-on)
  • KAWASAKI W800  (2011-on)
  • KAWASAKI W800  (2011-on)
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