KAWASAKI NINJA 650 (2020 - on) Review

Highlights

  • Fun, engaging middleweight sportsbike
  • A2-friendly for new or younger riders
  • Plenty of power, hilarious handling

At a glance

Owners' reliability rating: 4 out of 5 (4/5)
Annual servicing cost: £180
Power: 67 bhp
Seat height: Medium (31.1 in / 790 mm)
Weight: Medium (426 lbs / 193 kg)

Prices

New £6,899
Used £6,400 - £6,900

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
3 out of 5 (3/5)

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.

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.

The bike replaced the 2017-2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650. During October 2020 Kawasaki announced the 2021 colour scheme for the Ninja 650.

Kawasaki Ninja 650 front

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
3 out of 5 (3/5)

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, but I felt really cramped up on the bike and really started to feel the strain after more than an hour in the saddle.

Kawasaki Ninja 650 left side

Engine

Next up: Reliability
4 out of 5 (4/5)

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.

Kawasaki Ninja 650 exhaust

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
3 out of 5 (3/5)

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 rivals

Next up: Equipment
2 out of 5 (2/5)

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).

The Ninja feels much more like a Honda CBR500R (which doesn’t need restricting) or a Suzuki SV650, both of which come in at over a grand cheaper.

Kawasaki Ninja 650 in a tunnel

Equipment

3 out of 5 (3/5)

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.

Kawasaki Ninja 650 dash

Specs

Engine size 649cc
Engine type Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke Parallel Twin
Frame type Trellis, high-tensile steel
Fuel capacity 15 litres
Seat height 790mm
Bike weight 193kg
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 £93
Annual service cost £180
New price £6,899
Used price £6,400 - £6,900
Insurance group -
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
Top speed -
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range 172 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

The Ninja 650 was launched in 2017 as a replacement for the outgoing ER-6f, which was a favourite of new riders and minitwin racers alike. This is the first update since then.

Other versions

The Kawasaki Z650 is a naked version of the Ninja.

MCN Long term test reports

MCN Fleet: Final reflection of our Ninja 650

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

Read the latest report

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.

Review your KAWASAKI NINJA 650 (2020 - on)

Summary of owners' reviews

Overall rating: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Ride quality & brakes: 4 out of 5 (4/5)
Engine: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Reliability & build quality: 4 out of 5 (4/5)
Value vs rivals: 4 out of 5 (4/5)
Equipment: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Annual servicing cost: £180
5 out of 5 Great little twin
02 March 2020 by adrian

Version: White and black

Year: 2020

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

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

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

Engine 5 out of 5

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 .

Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5

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

Value vs rivals 4 out of 5

service every 7500 miles

Equipment 5 out of 5

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

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