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
  • New: £6,799
    Used: £4,500 to £7,200 See all KAWASAKI W800s for sale

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.

Insurance, running costs & value 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

13 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.

Review your KAWASAKI W800 (2011-on)
Summary of Owners' Reviews
Overall Rating 4.5 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4.2 out of 5
Engine 4.7 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4.7 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4.7 out of 5
Equipment 4.1 out of 5
4 out of 5

Lovely looking but lots of vibrations.

24 May 2016 by Ian Ginn

Lovely looking but lots of vibration. Took this beautiful looking bike out for a test ride today. I'm 6ft 3"....... It's a bit small for me. After an hour and 25 miles on B roads, A roads and 15minutes on a motorway I knew it wasn't for me. I have... Read more read about vibrations on the bike......Jesus it was like riding a pneumatic drill. I couldn't believe the vibrations through the pegs, handle bars etc. Getting back on my f800 gs was like sinking in to a sofa. Stunning looking motorcycle for the smaller rider who can live with lots of vibration.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
-
Engine
4 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

Mr back in time relaxed cruiser

04 April 2016 by dave alanson

Can be skittish if pushed hard but this bike is more about relaxing cruising Read more

Ride Quality & Brakes
3 out of 5
Gear the expectations and you waon't be dissapointed remember this bike is about relaxed, 60 mph crusing not a full on performance machine and you'll be very happy.
Engine
5 out of 5
Looks fantastic especially with the lovely bevel drive
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
Kawasaki as you'd expect is 100% reliable
Value & Running Costs
4 out of 5
can use oil but not massive amounts
Equipment
4 out of 5
-
5 out of 5

Great back to the basics bike

05 February 2016 by Anon

I've had two of these, both the green and chrome originals. The first I bought new (early 2011 build) and put around 40,000km on it, and while I still had that one I bought a second (late 2012 build) with 1500km on it from an old fellow who decided... Read more it was too heavy for him. I've run old Brit bikes for years and the W800 feels and rides pretty much like a more sophisticated, slightly heavier and more substantial version of a 60's 650 or 750 twin. Been riding for nearly 50 years, many years of touring, owned a lot of big bikes and don't drive a car; the W800 is a great bike.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
The suspension is pretty basic, about the same as my 2 BSAs in fact, although the W800 front end is better than the Beeza's. The seat is OK for a couple of hours, but it is a bit soft and while it is comfy for the passenger, the bike is physically quite small and the seat a tad short for any long distance pillioning. Bumpy roads - lots of them here - start to knock the stuffing out of you after a couple of hours as well. The bike tours well and will happily sit on the freeway at 120kmh with enough in reserve for passing if needed, or it can be used to plod around at 75kmh in top in country lanes. Brakes are fine for the bike - the single front disk works well but does feel a tad spongy, rear drum works exceptionally well.
Engine
4 out of 5
A lot of torque down low - max is at 2300rpm and it is flat from there to redline and around 45ft/lbs from memory, but at 48hp and 215kg wet it really could do with a few more just to give a bit of an edge at times. There are some vibes up to around 3500rpm, but from there to redline it is very smooth. A genuine 110kmh (local highway limit) is just on 4000rpm and it is right in the powerband and vibe free. The engine is mechanically quiet and the cam gear drive can just be heard. Gearbox is fine with decent ratios, although my first one would jump out of 5th gear unless it was firmly selected. The engines take about 10,000km before they are fully freed up and performing at their best. I know of one with well over 100,000km on it, and it has been problem free.
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
Sole fault on the first was a blown indicator bulb around 30,000km. When I sold that one the original chain and sprockets were still in perfect nick, brakes original and still around 60% and the valves had never needed shimming. I've only put around 8000km on the second and no problems are expected. Build quality and paintwork is very good, apart from the headlight shell everything is steel, not plastic, Allen bolts are used throughout, wiring is well laid out and of very good quality. The bike has a very solid feel to it. Nice gauges and a reasonable headlight.
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
I do my own servicing, change the oil and filter every 5000km, checked the valves at 18,000 and 32,000km, no adjustment needed, air filters are washable foam, brakes last well and there's nothing else to really do with them. The first averaged around 68mpg Imperial and the second is slightly better, averaging about 72mpg. I've hit 76mpg on one tank at a constant 80kmh. I do take the bike on longer runs quite often, but most of my mileage has been a daily run to work of around 70km in the countryside at 80-100kmh. The fuel economy drops to the low 60's in stop-start urban traffic.
Equipment
4 out of 5
Centre stand, toolkit, a couple of occy strap tie down points, external helmet lock, and adjustable clutch and brake levers are standard. No headlight flash button, power outlets or other wizardry. The best tyres I've found for it (and I've tried a lot as our chipseal roads wear most of them out in 5000km) are the Metzler ME880 on the front and a Michelin Pilot Activ on the rear. Handle better and last longer than any others I've tried. I fitted Hepco and Becker racks and luggage, Eastern Beaver fuse box, Oxford grips, twin 35W LED spotlights and a removable Givi touring screen for bad weather. The alternator can handle the spots and grips without any problems.
5 out of 5

Mr Retrounaut Back To The Future

27 June 2015 by Dave Alan

A usable and attractive motorcycle that delivers on all fronts. It takes on the Bonneville head to head and is a definite equal. It is a smaller frame and lighter too. In terms of looks it is arguably a much better looking ''British'' bike and it has... Read more faithfully incorporated much of the the old British bike ethos. If you like modern classic this is definitely one to consider seriously.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
Is skittish at times, but this is the nature of the bike and it's tyres.
Engine
5 out of 5
Well made and smooth and no intrusive vibrations. This is retro with all the painful bits removed. Great for longer distances as well as a sunny Sunday afternoon ride out.
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
Attention to details is superb. The chrome is real and the finish excellent.
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
Too early to be specific at this point in my purchase as I've only had the bike for two weeks.
Equipment
4 out of 5
I am making sure I have a Scottoiler fitted soon to preserve chain life and the Renntec rack looks part of the bike with a good chrome finish. Custom injector covers make sure that the bike looks smoother at the injector area as the standard finish lets the bike down.
5 out of 5

Suspension

21 May 2015 by Rooster

Read more

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
I pretty much have to agree with the review. What I will say is that I do agree with the front end being a bit soft. To rectify this, I put set of Ricor Intiminators into the forks, it toughened up the suspension and gave the bike much better handling into the corners.
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
5 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.

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

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

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.

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.

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
-
Read all 13 owners' reviews in full

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 2011
Year discontinued -
New price £6,799
Used price £4,500 to £7,200
Warranty term Two year unlimited mileage
Running costs
Insurance group -
Annual road tax £82
Annual service cost £100
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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