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KAWASAKI NINJA 650 (2020-on) Review

Published: 11 May 2020

Updated: 11 May 2020

Don’t be fooled by the sportsbike looks; it’s a Ninja by name only

Kawasaki Ninja 650

Don’t be fooled by the sportsbike looks; it’s a Ninja by name only

Overall Rating 3 out of 5

The Kawasaki Ninja 650 has been updated for 2020 with a new dash, revised styling, fresh rubber and a better pillion seat. A new 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.

Kawasaki Ninja 650 front

Ride Quality & Brakes 3 out of 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 4 out of 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

Build Quality & Reliability 3 out of 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.

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

Insurance, running costs & value 2 out of 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

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

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 2020
Year discontinued -
New price £6,899
Used price £5,500 to £8,000
Warranty term Two (standard) or three (extra cost) years
Running costs
Insurance group -
Annual road tax £93
Annual service cost £180
Performance
Max power 67 bhp
Max torque 47.2 ft-lb
Top speed -
1/4-mile acceleration -
Average fuel consumption 52.1 mpg
Tank range 172 miles
Specification
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

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.

Owners' Reviews

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
Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4 out of 5
Equipment 5 out of 5
5 out of 5

Great little twin

02 March 2020 by adrian

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 .
Build Quality & Reliability
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 & Running Costs
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

Photo Gallery

  • Kawasaki Ninja 650
  • Kawasaki Ninja 650 on the road
  • Kawasaki Ninja 650 left side
  • Kawasaki Ninja 650 right side
  • Kawasaki Ninja 650 front
  • Kawasaki Ninja 650 turning left
  • Kawasaki Ninja 650 turning right
  • Kawasaki Ninja 650 in a tunnel
  • Kawasaki Ninja 650 styling
  • Kawasaki Ninja 650 dash
  • Kawasaki Ninja 650 exhaust
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