KAWASAKI VERSYS 1000 S (2021 - on) Review

Highlights

  • Smooth inline-four engine
  • 17in wheels for good road handling
  • Perfect for touring one or two up

At a glance

Power: 118 bhp
Seat height: Medium (33.1 in / 840 mm)
Weight: High (562 lbs / 255 kg)

Prices

New £12,999
Used £12,500 - £13,000

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
4 out of 5 (4/5)

For 2021 Kawasaki have taken the bold move to drop the base Versys model from their range, replacing it with the Versys 1000 S.

This is a surprising move as much of the Versys 1000’s popularity has been down to the fact that it represented impressive value for money in the adventure tourer market.

The outgoing Versys 1000 came with angle-responsive ABS and traction control and cruise control for a very reasonable £11,300, meaning a £1699 price hike for the S model.

The Versys 1000 S isn’t as sexy or thrilling to ride as some of its rivals, the shock isn’t great and the dash underwhelming, but if you are talking a value for money mile-muncher, the Versys S still hits the mark and that’s exactly what its buyers are looking for.

2021 Kawasaki Versys 1000 S

Ride quality & brakes

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

For demolishing miles the Versys S is excellent and with the screen (which is the accessory ‘larger’ item and is 90mm higher and 140mm wider than the stock one on the 2020 Versys) on its highest setting, riders over six-feet tall will feel little buffeting.

The seat is sumptuous, the hand guards help the heated grips do their stuff (annoyingly their power level isn’t shown on the dash) and there are few vibrations. However while not having the SE’s semi-active suspension will save you £1900, the S’s conventional items may leave you a little annoyed.

When you start to ride at a brisk pace, solo or two up, the S’s conventional shock lacks that support you get from the semi-active units varying their damping levels and is a bit of a disappointment.

There is a remote preload adjuster, which will get a workout should owners start to load the Kawasaki up, but it is the one time you miss semi-active suspension, which allows the preload to be altered while on the go at the push of a button.

There again, the forks are fine and the price difference between the SE and S easily buys a quality aftermarket shock to replace the Kawasaki unit.

2021 Kawasaki Versys 1000 S rear

Engine

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

The S’s motor is identical to the SE and that means you get four integrated rider modes (Road, Rain, Sport and one user-defined one) as standard alongside an up/down quickshifter.

A lovely smooth engine, it could be argued that the 1043cc inline four isn’t the most thrilling to use, but for touring it ticks every box and delivers economy figures in the high 40s mpg range.

In fact, it is such a smooth motor you never really feel the need to mute the Versys’ power, so while the new four rider modes are all very well and good to have, in reality you only need ‘Road’.

The up/down shifter’s action could be slicker, especially at lower revs, but it works well as the revs increase and the ABS and traction control are noticeable only by the fact they seldom make their presence felt, which is a good thing.

2021 Kawasaki Versys 1000 S engine

Reliability & build quality

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

The Versys has been around for nine years now and is a solid machine with a proved track record of reliability. The inline four motor has a service indicator on the dash (this arrived in 2019) to help remind you when it is time to get it looked at, which is helpful if you forget it is every 7500 miles. Owners report the finish is generally fairly high.

Value vs rivals

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

When you consider the base model BMW S1000XR is £14,290, KTM Super Duke GT £17,249 and Ducati Multistrada V4 £15,495, the new higher spec Versys S still represents good value for money at £12,999 in stock trim or £14,699 in fully-loaded GT as tested here.

In its new S guise the Versys isn’t now left lacking in terms of spec (aside from its disappointing dash) and if you do want a bit of extra bling, spend £1900 more to gain the SE with its Skyhook semi-active suspension.

It remains the best value 17-inch wheel adventure bike on the market, however the gap has closed a bit due to the upgrade and the S is £1699 more than the outgoing Versys 1000 model, which is quite a hike.

Kawasaki Versys 1000 S vs BMW S1000XR

Kawasaki Versys 1000 S vs BMW S1000XR

One of the main rivals to the Kawasaki Versys 1000 S is the BMW S1000XR. The BMW is a chunk of change more expensive than the thrifty Kawasaki, but is also arguably the bike to beat in the world of road-biased, sporty adventurers. We took both machines around the UK’s toughest test route, the MCN 250 to see which would come out on top.

Seeing as this comparison is focused quite heavily on price, we should probably start by addressing the elephant in the room. Is the Kawasaki’s £12,999 price tag cheap in the first place?

In the adventure bike market it could certainly be argued that it is because despite upping the price by almost £1700 in its transition from base Versys to Versys S, the Kawasaki still sits very much at the value end of the ladder when you take into account its spec.

To get anything similar from BMW you need the £16,225 XR TE, Ducati’s Multistrada V4 will set you back £15,495 and a KTM 1290 Super Duke GT is £17,249 (although it has a few extra bells and whistles). So in this context, let’s say it is a reasonable price, even more so at £139.58 per month on PCP (Feb 2021).

In the cold light of day, it is very hard to argue against the Versys as being the better value bike and the one more suited to its role as an adventure tourer, especially two-up.

Kawasaki Versys 1000 S on the road left side

The XR is fun and delivers a proper sporty ride but in base trim it lacks so many of the bits that modern motorcyclists expect and that means inevitably you will end up with the TE, which is another whack of cash whereas with the Versys you can buy the S and be happy (although most still opt for the fully-loaded GT model).

If you are moving from a sportsbike the Versys will feel like a downgrade. Not only it is heavier than the XR, it is bulkier with a taller screen, squishier seat, softer suspension and more relaxed motor that lacks the BMW’s free-revving nature (all traits that make it a far better machine than the BMW when it comes to covering miles).

If, however, you still have that lust for a sportsbike but your wrists are telling you the days of clip-ons are behind you, the XR doesn’t feel like you have traded running shoes for carpet slippers. Its firmer ride, more compact position and noisy and a bit vibey motor give it real spirit at the expense of creature comforts.

Which is the better value? You can have a stock Versys S for £3226 less than an XR TE and the only things you will be lacking is semi-active suspension (which you can have on the SE), hill start and keyless ignition. So if you are happy with these compromises, at 46mpg that gives you 27,480 miles of fuel already paid for, which will get you to Cape Town and back!

Equipment

4 out of 5 (4/5)

The S is effectively an SE with its Showa semi-active suspension replaced by conventionally-damped units.

That said, compared to the outgoing Versys you now get heated grips, cornering lights, an up/down quickshifter, four integrated rider modes that link to the traction control system (it only had two non-linked power modes before) and a TFT dash with smartphone connectivity built in to go with the cruise control and angle-sensitive ABS and traction control that the old bike had.

In terms of spec, it is hard to think of anything that it is missing aside from possibly hill start control and active cruise control. The dash, however, is a touch disappointing in comparison to rival units as it is mainly black and white (the background colour can be changed) with only small bits (the N for neutral or a bit of background) actually colour.

2021 Kawasaki Versys 1000 S dash

Specs

Engine size 1043cc
Engine type Liquid-cooled, 16v, inline four
Frame type Twin-tube, aluminium
Fuel capacity 21 litres
Seat height 840mm
Bike weight 255kg
Front suspension 43mm, Showa forks, adjusta-ble rebound and spring pre-load
Rear suspension Single rear Showa shock, ad-justable rebound and (remote) spring preload
Front brake 2 x 310mm petal discs with four-piston radial calipers. Cornering ABS
Rear brake 250mm single disc with one-piston caliper. Cornering ABS
Front tyre size 120/70 x 17
Rear tyre size 180/55 x 17

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption 49 mpg
Annual road tax £93
Annual service cost -
New price £12,999
Used price £12,500 - £13,000
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two years

Top speed & performance

Max power 118 bhp
Max torque 75.3 ft-lb
Top speed 140 mph
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range 225 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

  • 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: The Versys 1000 is replaced with the Versys 1000 S and the SE gains Showa Skyhook semi-active suspension.

Other versions

The Versys comes in Tourer or Grand Tourer versions. Tourer adds 56l panniers, inner bags and a tank pad for an extra £800 while the Grand Tourer ups this further with a 47l top box and inner bag, fog lights, GPS bracket and frame sliders for £1700 over the stock bike’s £12,999. The Versys 1000 SE is the top of the range model and adds Showa Skyhook semi-active suspension and costs £14,899. It also comes in stock, Tourer or Grand Tourer guise.

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'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

Read the latest report

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