KAWASAKI VERSYS 1000 SE (2019 - 2020) Review
- Impressive 1000cc sports tourer
- Smooth, fast, comfy and affordable
- Our pick is base model bike
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£360|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
Ever since its release in 2012 the Kawasaki Versys 1000 has hovered under the sports adventure radar, playing second fiddle to the big bhp competition - machines like the BMW S1000XR, Ducati Multistrada and KTM 1290 Super Duke GT.
- Related: 2021 Kawasaki Versys 1000 S bike review
- Related: 2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 long-term test fleet
It may not have been big on brute power, or let’s face it, have the looks of its suave rivals, but after its major makeover in 2015 it grew to be a wonderful machine to spend time on - smooth, spacious, fast, comfortable and most importantly, affordable.
Equipped with all its bells and whistles the 2019 Versys 1000 SE is BMW and Ducati money, which means the Euros are still the ones to go for if you want the last word in refinement and a dose of superbike twang from your sports adventure bike.
But the Kawasaki has always been about big touring thrills for little money, so save yourself a fortune and go for the still well-equipped base model, because once you’ve stripped away all of that electronic tinsel it’s still a cracker of a motorcycle underneath.
This 2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 replaced the 2015 model. For 2020, the Versys 1000 was made Euro4 compliant.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
Taken from the ZX-10R SE and tweaked for touring work, the Versys 1000 SE’s Showa fork and shock damping self adjusts every millisecond, depending on parameters like road speed, throttle position, lean angle and thanks to internal stroke sensors, suspension movement, too. Rear preload can be adjusted via the switchgear and ramped up for pillions and luggage, but you’ll still need a spanner for the front (not that you’d need to fiddle).
Offering the holy trinity of grip, stability and ride quality, the electronic set-up is hard to fault in all riding conditions, but it lacks the plush damping control of quality manually adjustable suspension. Ride is on the 'springy', slightly under damped side, with the rear end sometimes softening too quickly as you tip into a corner.
Kawasaki has fitted a bigger, manually adjustable screen to hide behind. It banishes buffeting, but for a tall rider like me the wind noise is high at speed, which is a symptom of tall adventure style bikes. What's more, the manual adjusters can losen themselves overtime, allowing the screen to move about.
If you want a silent mile muncher, a conventional road bike-shaped tourer, like the Z1000SX is like being in a library by comparison.
Like the previous versions, the new Versys 1000 has first class legroom, a natural stretch to the bars and the seat is comfy enough for two to three hour stints.
The SE also comes with cruise control, heated grips, a power socket, cornering LEDs, 'self-healing' paint and a classy TFT colour dash, packed with lots information, including a completely useless-but-fun lean angle-o-meter.
Styling has been tweaked (it still ain’t pretty), but the tubular aluminium chassis has been left alone, which is a good thing because the Versys 1000 is neutral and well balanced, albeit feeling top heavy at first, which can catch out shorter riders.
It’s easy to manage at slow speeds, once you’re used to its weight and doesn’t get flustered, even when you’re pushing outside its comfort zone. Kawasaki says the new rear suspension link gives a more controlled ride, but it’s hard to feel the difference in isolation.
That said, back in the UK, it feels very planted-mid corner and surprisingly flickable for such a large machine and could even cut it on a road bike-only trackday!
New radial-mount monobloc front calipers, taken from the Z1000, are packed with power and feel, although the rear is slightly weak for a heavy machine. When pressing on along the UK's rutted roads, you can often feel the ABS chattering through the front lever, too.
Suspension in focus
The idea is that as you ride along, the bike is constantly adapting to road and riding conditions in real time and continually adjusting the damping to suit. It even takes deceleration into account to prevent the pitching that occurs under heavy braking.
To achieve this there are built-in stroke sensors on the fork and rear shock. These provide a stream of information about stroke speed and compression to the KECS’s ECU once every millisecond.
At the same time, the bike’s IMU (which senses acceleration, deceleration and lean angle) and the FI ECU (which knows the vehicle’s speed) send signals every 10 milliseconds.
The KECS ECU calculates how to adjust the ride accordingly and transmits a signal to the solenoids in the suspension units. From here it gets really interesting.
Unlike other electronic suspension systems that use stepper motors or pilot valves to adjust damping, the Showa system uses single-stage direct valve actuation.
This adjusts the valves much faster than other systems so the damping adjusts much quicker. Kawasaki say this gives the bike a more natural feel and ‘superior riding comfort’.
The base damping settings are according to the chosen riding mode (Road, Sport or Rain) and the semi-active system makes adjustments to these base settings as you ride along. There’s also a manual mode allowing you to fine tune things.
In addition, you can also adjust preload between three standard settings: Rider Only, Rider with Luggage and Rider with Passenger and Luggage. Each of these can be fine-tuned as you ride in case you make a stop for a big lunch or stock the panniers full of gifts from Marble Planet.
EngineNext up: Reliability
A new full ride-by-wire twist grip and electronic throttle valves facilitate cruise control and links into the IMU-backed electronic rider aids. The good news is the throttle is as polished as ever with no nasty jolts at low revs and a nicely weighted twistgrip action.
The 118bhp, 1043cc motor itself remains unchanged and like most inline fours, isn’t big on character, but the exhaust and airbox have a nice bark about them when you’re wringing the throttle.
The Kawasaki doesn’t have the same kind of neck-jarring acceleration you get on an BMW S1000XR, or the lazy-geared grunt of the Ducati Multistrada and KTM Super Duke GT V-twins, but for normal riding and the occasional spirited charge there’s more than enough poke to play with.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
Owners may point to a slight lack of performance in the previous models, but their dependability is never in question.
Problems with our long term test bike
The screen bolts loosen as the bike is being ridden, resulting in the screen self-adjusting on the move, which is sub-optimal at 70mph on the motorway. This would be less of a problem, except that the curvature of the screen distorts your spatial awareness so you need to be able to see over it.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
One of the charms of the original Versys 1000 was its affordability and while the all singing SE is big money the standard machine offers more bang for your buck.
It’s lack of cornering lights is the easiest way to tell it from the SE, it doesn’t have such a tasty electronic spec and sits on conventional KYB suspension but it still comes with an adjustable screen, LED headlights, cruise control, IMU controlled TC/ABS and power modes.
Problems with our long-term test bike
With around 4500 miles under our belt since March, the Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE has proved to be extremely reliable, with no faults, and minimal wear to the drive chain.
Unfortunately, this streak of good fortune was thwarted when a stone, flung up from another bike, was able to pierce the radiator.
Not covered under the bike’s warranty, the price of a new radiator was £624.73, complete with fresh coolant at £22.47. The original coolant could be used again, though. The work also required one-and-a-half hours labour at a cost of £108.
With weather as nice as this, it seemed only right to sniff out some twisty roads on the way home aboard the #MCNFleet19 @Kawasaki_News #Versys1000SE! Who else is out riding tonight? pic.twitter.com/BxlAkiYYEc— Motor Cycle News (@MCNnews) May 15, 2019
At a total price of £755.20, all of this could’ve been avoided with a radiator guard, which is available as an official Kawasaki accessory for £79.95.
This is definitely a worthwhile accessory for any Versys owner, with the long-travel adventure forks leaving the radiator exposed to incidents like this at all times. And, at under nine-times the price of the repair bill, it’s a far easier pill to swallow!
Just like the best of its European rivals, the new Versys 1000 has lean sensitive traction/wheelie control and ABS and four riding modes: Rain, Road, Sport and a custom mix and match Rider option.
The new quickshifter works well under hard engine loads, but is on the slow side at short-shifting speeds and the autoblipper action can often be clunky (with lots of springy play in the gear lever), so it’s kinder on the drivetrain to use the clutch and rev-match in the normal way.
Decent grip from the Bridgestone sport touring T31s and the island’s roads means we never trouble the TC or ABS, but the anti-wheelie will gently chime in to tame throttle-to-the-stop, first and second gear getaways.
Download Kawasaki’s new free 'Rideology' app to your smartphone (it’s iPhone ready now and coming soon for Android users) and you can adjust the SE’s rider aids before you set-off.
Power maps, traction control intervention, suspension damping, rear preload settings, the quickshifter and dash display settings can all be set remotely and the app also has a datalogging function, to keep you amused. It all works, but it’s a bit of a gimmick you’re unlikely to use once the novelty has worn off.
There’s also a SE Tourer Plus version, with 28 litre panniers and inner bags, or the SE Grand Tourer (like the one in the pictures), which gains a tank pad, a 12v socket, a 27 litre top box with back rest pad, GPS bracket and frame protectors.
|Engine type||Liquid-cooled, 16v inline four|
|Frame type||Twin tube aluminium|
|Fuel capacity||21 litres|
|Front suspension||43mm Showa forks, semi-active damping, manually adjustable preload|
|Rear suspension||Showa shocks, semi-active damping and electronically adjustable preload|
|Front brake||2 x 310mm petal discs with four-piston radial monobloc calipers. Cornering ABS|
|Rear brake||250mm rear petal disc with single-piston caliper. Cornering ABS|
|Front tyre size||120/70 x 17|
|Rear tyre size||180/55 x 17|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||-|
|Annual road tax||£96|
|Annual service cost||£360|
|Used price||£9,000 - £15,900|
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two years|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||118 bhp|
|Max torque||75 ft-lb|
|Top speed||140 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
Model history & versions
- 2012: Original Versys 1000 launched with Z1000-based motor, quirky styling and dual purpose tyres. Great to ride and stonking value.
- 2015: Major update with new styling, engine upgrades (up 2bhp to 118bhp), a slipper clutch, road tyres, traction control, and an 11kg weight increase (mainly from a sturdier subframe to take extra load).
- 2019: Facelift: full ride by wire, cornering ABS and traction control, riding modes, cruise control, a bigger screen and styling upgrades. SE model has electronic suspension, heated grips, colour TFT screen, a ‘Rideology’ app and a host of minor mechanical and electronic upgrades.
- 2021: Kawasaki drop the base model in favour of a more expensive S version with a higher spec.
There are six models in the 2019 Versys 1000 family:
- Base model Versys 1000 (including Tourer Plus and Grand Tourer versions)
- Versys SE (including Tourer Plus and Grand Tourer versions)
MCN Long term test reports
MCN Fleet: Waving goodbye to Kawasaki’s Green Giant
'Christ this thing’s big… I’m not sure what I’ve got myself in for here,' is what I told myself as I wobbled out of the MCN carpark for the first-time aboard Kawasaki’s Versys 1000 SE almost a year ago today. A 1043cc inline-four-cylinder sports adventure bike weighing in at 257kg and shod wit…
Owners' reviews for the KAWASAKI VERSYS 1000 (2019 - 2020)
5 owners have reviewed their KAWASAKI VERSYS 1000 (2019 - 2020) 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:||£360|
Annual servicing cost: £400
A good all rounder for days out or two up touring. If you're 5'7" (as I am) or less, have a test ride to make sure your happy with the seat height. A comfy spirited ride.
Nothing to complain about and comfortable 3 hours in the saddle. Cruise control eases wrists on long motorway drags. My pillion says it's the most comfortable she's been!
Very smooth power delivery and more than enough power for rideouts or touring fully loaded.
Two winters and 11,000 miles and still looks pristine. No evidence of fastenings being attacked by salt.
Changing plugs every 7,500 miles seems wasteful. I'll use an independent when warranty expires.57mpg over 11,000 miles. Reasonable (8000 mile) tyre wear.
The standard grand tourer is well featured. Only nitpick is the design of the panniers that look good but if rounded could be more functional for load carrying, although fits a full face helmet without problems. My additions were heated grips (now standard), a scotoiler and a radiator guard that is both functional and makes the front of the bike look a lot better.Bridgestone BT31s were ok, although the front wore quickly and with an odd ridge. I changed early at 7,000 miles with the rears only half worn. The replacement Metzler Roadtech SE 01s are much better in almost every respect. 4,000 miles and the fronts not wearing and rears slightly more than BT31s, but wear is very even with no evidence of flattening. The slow speed handling improved considerably and more confidence handling in corners and the wet.
Buying experience: Dealer pre-registered with £1,800 discount. So reasonably happy with the deal.
Annual servicing cost: £560
Could have been so much better but let down abysmal suspension & iffy build quality. The Jap bike manufactures seem to have completely lost the plot in recent years & it's no wonder that there ar far more European bikes on the roads these days.
This is the worst bit. Firstly the brakes work well even if they are prone to rusting, there have been reports of juddering but I've not experienced any of that. The front suspension however is utterly abysmal & totally under damped, the rear shock is well I suppose what we should have come to expect as std fit on a new Jap bike these days, crap but nothing like as bad as the front, it still needs changing though. The front can be improved massively by having the valves changed to Ktech which cost me £270, it’s still a long way from perfect but rideable on bumpy B roads now. This shouldn't be needed on a new bike of any kind.
The good bit, the engine really is an absolute stunner, power everywhere in the rev range & very smooth, progressive & excellent glitch free fuelling. Can't praise this bit enough.
Good job I don't ride through the winter as some components are prone to rust with the bike standing in my garage. I have to dry off brake disks before I put it away if I wash it, the drive chain has rust spots all over it at the slightest whiff of damp & needs to be kept well lubed up (scotoiler didn't cut it) & fixings are not good quality & fur up easily. Some of this can be considered minor but not the disks & overall it smacks of penny pinching on components on what is not a cheep bike. I've been riding for 46 years & owned allot of bikes (mainly Suzuki which are not renowned for being the best) & from a build quality point of view this is the worst by far. So far however it has at least been totally reliable as have the many other Jap bikes I’ve owned over the years.
Due to covid I've not done as many miles as I would have liked in the 18 months of ownership but have just booked in for the 7600 mile anual service & have been quoted £480 which to me for what needs to be done is well out of order. Together with the £80, 600 mile service thats £560 in the first year. The second year 15000 mile service includes the valve clearence checks so will be considerably more. It won't be going back once the warranty is expired & I will do future work myself.
Yes it's got traction control, power modes, cruise control, ABS which is lean sensitive but who needs all this crap when the basic cycle components are so bad. The engine has such lovely power delivery you don't need traction control or power modes, mine is in full power mode 100% of the time, I do leave the traction control switched on but at the least intrusive setting & have not needed either in 7500 miles in wet or dry. Cruise control is similarly useless for me as I rarely use motorways. ABS is of course a sensible thing to have although again I have never felt it activate. I would have been much happier without allot of this but have decent suspension from the start instead.
Buying experience: Bought from D&K Motorcycles in Newcastle, Staffs just before they lost the franchise. Have to say they were excellent & I'm very disappointed that I now have to go to a new dealer in a much less convenient part of the city.
The stock seat is a little hard going after about 2 1/2 hours riding. But a 15 minute fuel/coffee break sorts it out for me. Plenty of lowdown torque so the bike is really easy to ride, almost makes you lazy. Excellent with two up. The luggage is plenty big enough for two people touring for a week. Carrying capacity of 220kgs is ample. I would recommend it to a friend
The bike is happy on Twisties and also eats motorway miles. Brakes are fine even when fully loaded with luggage and pillion. As already stated 2 1/2 hours in the saddle and I’m ready for a short break
Plenty of torque makes for easy riding. But when you wind it up it’s got plenty and makes for very “spirited” riding
I’ve had the bike from new , 12 months ago, and I’ve done 7500 trouble-free miles. I ride in all weather. No sign of any corrosion but I do spend hours cleaning.
These are dealer prices and they vary massively so worth phoning round. I personally will only be having the first annual service carried out to maintain the warranty. I will then complete my own maintenance as I do with all my vehicles.
Comes with cruise control which is a godsend for me on motorways. The large screen gives excellent protection and the fairings work really well in the rain keeping the vast majority of water of me. Has also a 12v socket as standard.
Buying experience: Bought mine new from a main dealer. The standard bike plus full luggage, engine sliders, hand guards, SE screen, spotlights, radiator guard, sat nav mount and front mud guard was £13K.
Version: Fully loaded
Heavy and tall need to be 6 foot plus to be comfortable
Stops on a sixpence
Smooth as silk
Thirsty on sports mode
Fully kitted out not as much space s as hoped
Buying experience: Can’t remember actual price but got a few quid off
Version: Gt se
Annual servicing cost: £120
Absolutely cracking bike. Lighter than my bandit it doesn't have the top-end role-on power, But is much more comfortable and roomy on the back for the wife, Though for me the seat is a nightmare after 35 miles, Today I've lifted the front of the seat by 7mm and will try it out tomorrow. The sat/nav mount doesn't allow the fitting of a tank bag so I've removed it and am utilising an old ram mount on the bars, I'm expecting my travels tomorrow are to be touch more comfy and if so will lift it from 3 out of 5 to a 4.
singly or 2up the ergonomics work well, We've recently changed our helmets and on a ride out last fri we really were troubled by crosswinds and turbulence from the windshield ive tried it up down in the middle with no success so am ordering a MRA screen soon.
Its great though I miss the bandits top end!!!
early days yet, (950)miles. Its not let me down yet!!!
Again too early to say.
Bloody good looks,!,!!
Buying experience: J &S Doncaster £14000+