KAWASAKI NINJA 650 (2020 - on) Review
- Fun, engaging middleweight sportsbike
- A2-friendly for new or younger riders
- Plenty of power, hilarious handling
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£180|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
The Kawasaki Ninja 650 has been updated for 2020 with a new dash, revised styling, fresh rubber and a better pillion seat. A revised exhaust helps unlock an angrier, more throaty sound track, but otherwise the bike is unchanged.
- Latest news: Fresh colours for 2021 Kawasaki Ninja 650
That’s no bad thing though, as the Ninja 650 (and the ER-6f that went before it) remains a fun and engaging middleweight, ideal for younger and less experienced riders. Don’t be fooled by the looks; this is a Ninja by name only, with a sit-up-and-beg riding position similar to the naked Z650 (also updated for 2020).
As a stepping stone to a bigger machine, the Kawasaki is confidence-inspiring and manageable, but it’s too cramped, uncomfortable and expensive to be anything more.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
The suspension is firm and the bike feels light, which is great in smooth, sweeping bends but can catch you out on a bumpy B-road. In fact, particularly sharp undulations will compress the horizontal rear shock, before ejector seating the unsuspecting rider into the air.
That said, the tarmac has to be exceptionally gnarled before this becomes an issue and, generally, the ride quality is good. It also changes direction like an angry flea, thanks in part to a narrow 160-section rear tyre.
The powerful and progressive dual two-piston front brakes biting onto 300mm discs remain unchanged from the previous generation and give plenty of stopping power.
The Ninja’s styling has been updated to look sportier than the previous version, but it’s not really a sportsbike at all. The pegs are low and the handlebars are mounted on enormous risers that mean you sit in an upright position. This also means you get little protection from the screen.
There's not much room on the saddle either and the pillion seat is raised up high, making it tricky to shuffle around and vary your riding position on longer trips to keep comfortable.
At around 6ft, I’m probably a bit taller (and definitely heavier) than most of the Ninja’s A2 licence-holding target market (the Ninja 650 can be restricted for A2 licence-holders) but I felt really cramped up on the bike and really started to feel the strain after more than an hour in the saddle.
EngineNext up: Reliability
The Ninja’s parallel-twin engine sounds throaty and exciting through its revised exhaust. With 67bhp on tap, it’s more than capable of staying ahead of the traffic and has plenty of low-down grunt.
But the best way to ride the Ninja is to wring its neck everywhere you go. The harder you ride, the more it rewards you, pulling well all the way to the 10,000rpm red line, without getting breathless. And the best part is that because of the modest power output, you won’t be playing licence bingo.
The engine is well balanced and you don’t get much in the way of vibes through the rubber footpegs, but you do feel it through the bars at around 60mph. These vibrations disappear almost completely at motorway speed, though, so you can ride further afield without your hands getting fizzy.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
The Ninja 650 hasn’t really changed much in the three years since its launch and MCN owners' reviews of the old bike show it was plenty reliable. The engine in both models is adapted from the bullet-proof ER-6f motor, so don't expect many issues there.
We've got just one Kawasaki Ninja 650 owner's review for the latest bike, and it scores the full 5 stars out of 5.
Some of the bike’s components feel a bit lightweight and flimsy but the metalwork all looks solid and the finish is good.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
This is the real deal-breaker for me. The Ninja 650 in the KRT colours (the one we tested, the one you want) costs £7049 (2020 launch price), which is only £680 cheaper than a Honda CBR650R and that’s not enough. The Kawasaki feels tangibly less grown-up and is almost 20bhp down on the still A2-restrictable Honda.
Very few young riders will be buying these kinds of bikes outright with most probably attracted by low-cost PCP deals and the monthly price difference between the two is about the same as a Netflix subscription (around eight quid).
One of the more noticeable upgrades is the TFT colour screen, which is well designed and easy to read. There’s no traction control, but you don’t miss it. The gearbox is slick and smooth and every change slots in with a reassuring clunk.
The new LED headlights spread wide and give a good view of the sides of the road but aren’t particularly powerful.
The Ninja is also meant to be compatible with the ‘Rideology’ app, allowing owners to access vehicle info and a riding log as well as get incoming call and message notifications through the dash. Sadly, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t get the test bike to play ball.
|Engine type||Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke Parallel Twin|
|Frame type||Trellis, high-tensile steel|
|Fuel capacity||15 litres|
|Front suspension||41 mm telescopic fork|
|Rear suspension||Horizontal Back-link with adjustable preload|
|Front brake||Dual semi-floating 300 mm petal discs. Caliper: Dual piston|
|Rear brake||Single 220 mm petal disc. Caliper: Single-piston|
|Front tyre size||120/70 R17|
|Rear tyre size||160/60 R17|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||52.1 mpg|
|Annual road tax||£96|
|Annual service cost||£180|
|Used price||£5,500 - £6,700|
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two (standard) or three (extra cost) years|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||67 bhp|
|Max torque||47.2 ft-lb|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
|Tank range||172 miles|
Model history & versions
The Kawasaki Z650 is a naked version of the Ninja.
MCN Long term test reports
MCN Fleet: Final reflection of our Ninja 650
Truth be told, I wasn’t entirely sure of what to expect from the Ninja 650 at the start of last year. Wannabe sportsbike, commuter, sports-tourer or a frugal and friendly bike for new riders? But the fact is, the Kawasaki is all of the above. Now, the power delivery isn’t ever going to set your pant…
Owners' reviews for the KAWASAKI NINJA 650 (2020 - on)
1 owner has reviewed their KAWASAKI NINJA 650 (2020 - 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.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£180|
Version: White and black
Annual servicing cost: £180
Overall a great bike. Im an experienced rider with sportsbikes but wanted something different for visiting friends 100 miles away and back road fun to keep mileage down on my other bikes. The price was right as was the styling
Suspension is non adjustable at the front . At the rear I have notched up the preload but for most it will be OK . This is not a ZX6R so dont expect it to perform like one. Brakes are good
Great engine . Lots of torque, revs easily and is a joy as you can use al the gears and power on the road without fear of licence lottery . Engine is solid hence the choice of twin racers , and can be improved .
Quality looks good considering price. All the metalwork looks good and the new fairings in matt look great and time will tell if the fixings are up to the job . There has never been any problem with the 650 so expecting reliability to be good
service every 7500 miles
TFT screen is excellent and unlike other manufacturers it is readable . I prefer white background but you have a choice . I also have a higher seat which improves comfort and puts me more over the front .
Buying experience: Really good from Greenham Kawasaki . Great experience . Had a Ninja 650 on loan when my ZX10R was having some modifications . enjoyed the weekend and placed an order for the 2020 model in November . Got mine mid Jan . Great service