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.
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.
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.
Some of the bike’s components feel a bit lightweight and flimsy but the metalwork all looks solid and the finish is good.
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.
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.