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KAWASAKI NINJA 650 (2017-on) Review

Published: 30 January 2017

Updated: 10 October 2019

More than a name change, Kawasaki’s middleweight twin is now more user-friendly, versatile and stylish than ever

Kawasaki Ninja in green, static studio shot side on

More than a name change, Kawasaki’s middleweight twin is now more user-friendly, versatile and stylish than ever

Overall Rating 4 out of 5

Much more than just a name change, the Kawasaki Ninja 650, which replaces the old, popular ER-6f, also gets added Ninja style, a lighter, more nimble chassis, a more flexible and friendly engine, added versatility and extra class, too.

Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5

Posh bits and name-change aside, the Ninja is still budget-orientated and this shows most with slightly basic, under-damped suspension. It’s not really a problem though, a touch extra preload on the rear (the only thing that’s adjustable) improves its tautness and most buyers are unlikely to be demanding enough to notice. That apart, the Ninja’s lovely and light, slim, nimble and fun to throw around.

During our long-term test of the Ninja 650 we took it on a trackday to Spa in Belgium. Find out how we got on here.

Engine 4 out of 5

The familiar, 649cc parallel twin has proved hugely successful and popular – not least with Minitwins racers! Now reworked with new cams and revised inlets to be slightly less revvy the chief benefit is a fatter, more flexible midrange with the added bonus of improved fuel economy. It’s a doddle to use, with decent drive anywhere from 4000rpm up to the gearchange light kicking in at eight-five, reasonably smooth and glitch-free, too.

During our long-term test of the Ninja 650 we fitted a new exhaust and altered the bike's fuelling via a Rapid Bike Evo module. This addition to the standard ECU will self-learn a new fuel map and even raise the rev limit slightly. For more on how we found it, head here.

Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5

The ER-6f on which it’s based has been mechanically solid with no major scare stories while Kawasaki really seems to have upped the quality, particularly in terms of finishes and detailing, with this newcomer.

Our round-up of life with the Ninja 650 after 12 months was overwhelmingly positive, with our tester not reporting any reliability issues to speak of.

Insurance, running costs & value 4 out of 5

Base bike was £6349, or £300 more than the naked Z650, which isn’t that bad. That said, it can’t match the outrageous cheapness of possibly its closest rival, Yamaha’s (albeit naked) MT-07 while it’s also easy to bump that price up. The KRT green/black colourscheme costs £200 more while various accessory packs can bump that price up to nearly £7500.

Equipment 4 out of 5

As we said, it’s a budget bike so you shouldn’t expect much. That said, the Ninja 650 is a far nicer thing than the outgoing ER-6f it replaces. In comes ABS and a slipper clutch and attractive new clocks, which now feature a gear indicator, decent mirrors, span-adjustable levers on both sides and even a three-way height adjustable screen, although to alter it you’ll need the Allen key from the toolkit!

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 2017
Year discontinued -
New price £6,349
Used price £4,400 to £7,600
Warranty term Two years
Running costs
Insurance group -
Annual road tax £91
Annual service cost £130
Performance
Max power 67 bhp
Max torque 48.5 ft-lb
Top speed 125 mph
1/4-mile acceleration -
Average fuel consumption 55 mpg
Tank range 150 miles
Specification
Engine size 649cc
Engine type Four-stroke, liquid-cooled parallel twin
Frame type Tubular steel
Fuel capacity 15 litres
Seat height 790mm
Bike weight 193kg
Front suspension Conventioanl forks, non-adjustable
Rear suspension Single shock, adjustable spring preload
Front brake 2x300mm discs two-piston calipers, ABS
Rear brake 220mm disc, single-piston caliper. ABS
Front tyre size 120/70x17
Rear tyre size 160/60x17

History & Versions

Owners' Reviews

7 owners have reviewed their KAWASAKI NINJA 650 (2017-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 NINJA 650 (2017-on)
Summary of Owners' Reviews
Overall Rating 4.1 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4.4 out of 5
Engine 4.3 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4.3 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4.6 out of 5
Equipment 3.9 out of 5
4 out of 5

Excellent starter bike if you have just past your test or returning to bikes

02 May 2019 by KWAK

Overall great bike for commuters or a weekend bash.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
Brakes are excellent. For the power of the bike these brakes are all you will need. The ABS has never cut in yet although it's nice to have. Ride quality is average, quite soft around British roads.
Engine
4 out of 5
The engine sounds awful. Probably the quietest bike I've ever owned. It pulls reasonably well after 5000rpm and keeps going well up to the red line. I've never had a problem with jerkiness at low speed, it's very well fuelled. Just a really nice bike to potter around on. A good all-rounder. I Can't think of a better bike to start on or a returning previous biker.
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
No problems with reliability so far. Just covered a thousand miles.
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
Very economical bike. Average 62 miles per gallon.
Equipment
4 out of 5
Everything you need really.
Buying experience

I bought from Blade kawasaki Swindon. Not the best buying experience. I picked up my new bike that had not been checked properly. Three small scratches on the fairing and screen. Took me half a day to flat and polish them off. Returned for a service and they left the bottom bolts out of my fairing. I Would never buy a Kawasaki from them again. I previously bought a Triumph and a Honda from the Blade group with no problems.

3 out of 5

Good but quite flawed

23 January 2019 by Rob

Overall a good package but the bike is quite flawed as a mini sports tourer (how Kawasaki label it). The benefits of having a small and nimble bike make it great for the street, but the throttle response is jerky which upsets a smooth ride. As a beginner sport bike it's much better although it's not that quick and it's expensive for insurance. It's also a rubbish tourer, while comfortable, the pillion space is terrible and if you add a tail tidy (which you will) good luck adding panniers. Worst of all is the sound, this is one of the worst sounding bikes I've come across, even replacing the stock exhaust doesn't add much character. If the sound of a bike is a big part of the package then I'd avoid this, for a tourer the tracer 700 is better, for sports the cbr 650 is better and for street the sv650. Shame because it looks fantastic.

Ride Quality & Brakes
3 out of 5
Very jerky throttle, it needs warming up that's for sure. Ride is pretty firm but preload can be added at rear. This bike loves smooth twisty roads, but don't plan on going too far as your knees will ache. I'm 5ft 10 and even I think the position is cramped. It's far too low. Don't take a pillion more than 10 minutes, they will kill you. That seat couldn't support a field mouse.
Engine
3 out of 5
Most disappointing part for me. Power is mostly at top which for most part is inaccessible. It's economical but no one buys a bike like this for that reason. Sounds rubbish even with a new can, looks like a sport bike, sounds like an old er5 (not good).
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
Nothing has broke in 2 years of ownership but the wheel paint chips easily, the screen is useless. I like the mirrors which easily fold in, handy to get into a garage.
Value & Running Costs
4 out of 5
Servicing is ok pretty standard among Japanese bikes. The bike is good value to buy if it suits your needs. Fuel is pretty good, I average about 60mpg.
Equipment
4 out of 5
Best part, good specifications, handy features; range, fuel level, abs, good quality plastics, gear indicator, slipper clutch.
Buying experience

Really good, guys at MCO in Wigan, helpful and not pushy, have me a great part ex deal. Just wish I'd gone for a z1000sx or versys instead.

4 out of 5

Great first big bike

15 December 2018 by Angelo

Great as a first "big bike" after passing the test. Bought an ex demo model from my local dealership and am using it for my Advanced. I'm still the limiting factor. I'm planning to take it on some track training in 2019.

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
Can ride it all day no problem. Only get a little tired on the knees. I'm 170cm / 5'7" tall. The bike is best on twisty B roads with good surfaces. It's not great over bumps. It's decent in town and not too wide so can filter with ease. Mirrors are on, can get a little bit of vibration. You can fold them in but they're a bit stiff.
Engine
4 out of 5
Can be snatchy low down. Otherwise it has great torque throughout the range and on Twisties there's no need to keep changing gears, most of the time it's in 3rd and almost a twist and go!
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
Never had a problem. However, note thatI keep it garaged when not in use and I've only had it for 1 year and I've only done 3,500 miles on weekends.
Value & Running Costs
4 out of 5
Have only done the 600 miles service so far.
Equipment
3 out of 5
ABS, gear indicator, trip computer, fuel gauge and that's about it. No adjustments on the suspension unless you take the shock out to adjust the preload (it's impossible to get at.) Adjustable screen is decent if a bit of a faff to adjust. It has the basics covered. Nothing more.
Buying experience

Excellent experience with Bacon's East London Kawasaki in Ilford.

5 out of 5

The Goldilocks Bike

09 June 2018 by Eddie Knocker

Had this bike less than a week which you’d think would be too soon to review a bike. But it’s not. I’ve clicked with this instantly and it’s not even run in. Was annoyed with Kawasaki as was worried calling it a Ninja would dilute the name and if you want the full high octane Ninja experience this isn’t it. I call it the Goldilocks Bike - it’s just right. Light, fun, frugal and looks great. Went with the grey colour scheme and green rim-tapes. Looks fantastic and modern. Looks like it should go 180 mph. Which it won’t unless it’s pushed off a cliff.

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
Ride is just right. Light and flickable. Suspension not too firm not too soft for my weight. (93 kg)
Engine
5 out of 5
Was waiting to be unimpressed when I read it was down on power compared to the last model but needn’t have worried. As mentioned not run in yet and even keeping revs below 7k it’s plenty quick enough with just enough character to not be boring.
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
Too soon to say but I’ve owned 2 Versys and an ER6N and had no issues with either and you’d assume as it’s not a totally new engine they’d have got that right by now.
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
Price £6400 new. Early non run-in mpg mid to high 50s. Insurance higher than I was expecting and might just be because Kawasaki decided to stick the word Ninja on the tank.
Equipment
4 out of 5
It’s a budget bike so not expecting lots. Shift light is useful. Dash is modern looking and includes an eco icon for when you’re feeling frugal plus a gear indicator.
Buying experience

Bought from same dealer who I got my Versys 650 from. Went PCP again. Fairly smooth. Dealer always happy to throw in extra bits of kit FOC as they’re probably going to get the bike back after the 3 years is up.

5 out of 5

01 March 2018 by Ninja127

Good bike perfect as a commuter, fun at the weekend and could tour it's relatively cheap in a world of 15k superbikes, low seat height, good for shorter riders, vast improvement over previous model.

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
-
Engine
5 out of 5
Punchy and grunty only 67 bhp but it's enough.
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
4 out of 5
-
Equipment
3 out of 5
Abs as standard not much else.
Buying experience

Bought from a kawasaki dealer

4 out of 5

Ninja does good

31 May 2017 by Geoff

For the money, this bike looks great, goes very well and if you like me and been out of biking for 15 years, a perfect way to get back into it.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
Overall the ride quality is very good. When pressing on the back does feel a bit soft, but then I’m still on setting 3 at the moment. The brakes are very progressive with bite. Not had to try them in angry yet though. I find this bike confidence inspiring and easy to flick around which I assume is down to the weight saving over the previous model.
Engine
4 out of 5
Feels strong and starts to pull hard after 4000 rpm. There is a huge amount of engine braking. It takes a bit of getting used to as the bike will duck down if you accelerate and then ease off too much. It has made me concentrate on my throttling more than I thought it would. Just did the BikeSafe course and was told to keep in the appropriate rev range due to me normally changing up too quickly. After 50 minutes constantly up and down between 4000-6000 rpm, had tingles in my right hand. So obviously some vibrations which isn’t great. Didn’t notice it on the way home also at about 6000-7000 rpm on the motorway though.
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
Bike looks FanBloodyTastic in “Candy Burnt Orange” and I’ve not noticed any marks or markings after 1000 miles. I’ve purchased the seat cowl which looks great and really finishes the rear off. Only had lots of position comments. However, it does not come fully put together and has the worse instructions I’ve seen. Should take 10 minutes, but takes 45 minutes.
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
Massive value for money and so much better looking in my book than the previous ER-6F. Up to 500 miles & 4000 rpm = 72 mpg. Up to 1000 miles & 6000 rpm = 65 mpg. So cheap to run and takes about £11 to fill up. Insurance is relative, but I thought very reasonable.
Equipment
5 out of 5
The display is very easy to read and although stated as basic, I’m not sure what else you actually need or would use apart from saying you have it.
Buying experience

Great service from Laguna Performance Ashford

4 out of 5

What more do you need

23 May 2017 by Geoff

For the money, this bike looks great, goes very well and if you like me and been out of biking for 15 years, a perfect way to get back into it.

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
Overall the ride quality is very good. When pressing on the back does feel a bit soft, but then I’m still on setting 3 at the moment. The brakes are very progressive with bite. Not had to try them in angry yet though. I find this bike confidence inspiring and easy to flick around which I assume is down to the weight saving over the previous model.
Engine
5 out of 5
Only at a maximum of 6000 rpm at the moment, but it feels very strong and really starts to pull after 4000 rpm. There is a huge amount of engine braking. It takes a bit of getting used to as the bike will duck down if you accelerate and then ease off too much. It has made me concentrate of my throttle which wasn’t great to start with. Been up to 7000 rpm on a couple of occasions and it really starts to pull nicely.
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
Overall the ride quality is very good. When pressing on the back does feel a bit soft, but then I’m still on setting 3 at the moment. The brakes are very progressive with bite. Not had to try them in angry yet though. I find this bike confidence inspiring and easy to flick around which I assume is doen to the weight saving over the previos model.
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
Massive value for money and so much better looking in my book than the previous ER-6F. I’ve purchased the seat cowl which looks fantastic. However, it does not come fully put together and has the worse instructions I’ve seen. Should take 10 minutes but takes 45 minutes. Up to 4000 rpm = 72 mpg. Now up to 6000 rpm = 65 mpg. So cheap to run and takes about £11 to fill up.
Equipment
4 out of 5
The display is very easy to read and although stated as basic, I’m not sure what else you actually need or would use apart from saying you have it.
Buying experience

Laguna Performance at Ashford, Kent was very good.

Photo Gallery

  • Kawasaki Ninja in green, static studio shot side on
  • Kawasaki Ninja in red, static studio shot side on
  • Kawasaki Ninja in black, static studio shot side on
  • Kawasaki Ninja side on riding shot action
  • Front tracking shot of Kawasaki Ninja 650
  • Cornering panoramic riding shot of Kawasaki Ninja 650
  • Static shot of all three Kawasaki Ninja 650 colour schemes
  • Kawasaki Ninja 650 TFT screen
  • Kawasaki Ninja 650 engine
  • Kawasaki Ninja 650 front fairing and headlight
  • Kawasaki Ninja 650 tail including exhaust and rear tail light
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