KAWASAKI VERSYS 650 (2022 - on) Review
- Updated looks mimic Versys 1000
- New 4.3in colour TFT dash with mobile connectivity
- Tractable parallel twin offers friendly useable power
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£200|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
The Kawasaki Versys 650 has been part of the Japanese firm’s range since 2006, providing a dependable introduction to road-focussed adventure touring for riders of all experience levels and carrying salt-crusted commuters across years of dependable service.
- Related: Kawasaki Z650RS review
Updates arrived in 2010, 2015 and now again for 2022, but the same basic recipe has always remained; a no-nonsense 649cc parallel-twin engine sandwiched in a tubular steel frame, with enough room for a rider and pillion and a pair of 17in wheels for road-only adventures.
Think of it then as the Volvo estate of two wheels – likely to blend into the backdrop of a busy bike meet, but simple, dependable, and capable of years of hard graft.
This latest model is no different, featuring the same steel diamond chassis and twin-pot motor as the previous incarnation, allowing for a claimed 66bhp and manageable Kawasaki Versys 650 seat height of 845mm. What’s new though is the styling, which now mimics the larger four-cylinder Versys 1000. There’s also LED lights everywhere and a colour 4.3in TFT dash with mobile connectivity. But is it enough to be top dog in a competitive sector?
In its 16-year lifespan, the Versys has lived through countless changes to the motorcycling landscape, but the road-biased middleweight adventure segment has never been hotter – currently saturated with capable, credible competition from Japan and Europe.
Exactly where the Versys fits in will have to be be decided in a later group test, but the Kawasaki shines in isolation as a no frills easy going tall roader.
The burbling motor sips its way through the 21-litre fuel tank with a tiny straw and the handling is predictable and easy. I’d never ridden a Versys 650 before this test, but it felt like I’d been on this one for years after just 40 miles in the saddle.
You get span adjustable levers, traction control, and it feels narrow between your legs for greater confidence at a standstill. The spongey seat is also all-day comfortable, and the gear change is slicker than a dealer at a Las Vegas casino.
It’s not all good news though, I’m afraid. At 219 kg wet, the 650 is a hefty lump and circa 66bhp just isn’t enough power for it. It might be helpful for novices or keeping a clean licence but overtakes require at least one down shift and it feels wheezy at the top end. Full up with luggage and armed with a pillion, it could struggle to tour comfortably, too.
What’s more, our test bike was the full-spec Kawasaki Versys 650 Grand Tourer, with three-piece luggage, spotlights and more. In this trim, prices start at £10,149, which is a serious wad of cash for a bike making less than 70 horsepower. It’s also only £300 less than the base spec Versys 1000 and I know which one I’d rather have for long distance adventures...
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
In a word: easy. The Kawasaki Versys 650 is a cinch to ride fast or slow solo and would be just the ticket for new riders wanting a first big bike of this style, or someone wanting an easy-to-live-with daily rider for all weather exploits.
It’s a bike that handles exactly as you’d expect it to, with light pushes on the raised bars resulting in easy changes of direction at any legal speeds. Soft without being wallowy, it soaks up the bumps of a British backroad nicely and remains composed with a big squeeze of the powerful front brakes.
There’s plenty of ground clearance for loads of lean when the tarmac gets exciting, and the thick padded seat and roomy pegs mean motorway drudgery is simple and painless. A remote rear preload adjuster is a nice touch, too.
It’s even good in the wet, with the Dunlop tyres offering ample stability under acceleration or tipping into a corner in even the heaviest of springtime downpours. Consider me very impressed.
The only proper chink in the Kawi’s armour is the ABS system, with the front and rear levers protesting back at you when you’re being particularly aggressive. But this could be remedied with calmer roadcraft and a fault unlikely to deter would-be buyers.
If you’re short in the leg like me, it can be awkward to hoick off the side stand on uneven ground and things can get quite snug with a pillion on the back, occasionally squashing you up against the tank. That said, my passenger noted how useful the grab rails were by the second seat for stability when accelerating.
EngineNext up: Reliability
Despite updates to the styling and electronics, the 2022 Kawasaki Versys 650 retains the same 649cc, circa 66bhp parallel-twin engine as before.
A rev happy, Euro5 lump producing a characterful rumble reminiscent of an old Subaru Impreza WRX heard from a distance, it’ll plod along at the speed limit without fuss and rev its little heart out on a back road whenever called upon.
Much like the handling, it’s simple and easy - providing a safety net for newbies and enough power to keep ahead of the traffic on the way to the office, without being fast enough to worry your licence.
Strapped up with luggage, I’ve no doubt it would handle a spot of solo touring too, with a hefty 21 litre tank (that’s more than a BMW R1250GS) providing a theoretical 241.6 miles between stops. It can also be restricted for an A2 licence.
That said, for all its practical positives, this lack of power does become a stumbling block when you want to press on or carry a pillion. Weighing in at 219kg wet before you’ve climbed aboard, the tiny engine has lots of timber to ferry around and this can become noticeable under acceleration. It’s also 14bhp less than the rival Triumph Tiger Sport 660 and even 5bhp less than the Suzuki V-Strom 650, which uses a V-twin engine that began life over 20-years-ago.
The motor revs cleanly up to the redline, but you need to work the gearbox hard to make progress and drop at least one cog to make comfortable, safe overtakes. What’s more, it sits quite high in the revs in top gear at motorway speeds, which then translates into a light vibration through the pegs that becomes tedious over time.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
The Kawasaki Versys 650 is screwed together very well, with no panel gaps, rattly nastiness, or cheap fittings. The paintwork has a premium glossy finish, and the switchgear clicks with purpose and feels like it will stand the test of time.
Our 2022 Kawasaki Versys 650 owner review indicates a happy owner who hasn't had any issues. Owners’ reviews of the previous 650, which shares the same engine and main frame, return an average of 4.7/5 stars for this section too, suggesting you should have no major issues with the new machine.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
As mentioned in the engine section, the Versys 650 is incredibly frugal, but it’s not all wallet friendly fun with the Kawasaki. Prices for the bike start at £7899, which is about on the money for the genre and cheaper than some rivals, however they then climb to over 10 grand for the highest-spec GT model, which is simply too expensive for a 650 twin.
Outside of that though, expect the proven twin-cylinder engine to be dependable and reliable, with a two-year warranty on hand to look after anything that goes amiss.
But what about rivals for the Versys 650? How does it stack up? Other bikes to consider in this genre from mainstream manufacturers are the Yamaha Tracer 7, Suzuki V-Strom 650 and Triumph Tiger Sport 660.
With its 19in front wheel and beaky snout, the Suzuki is the most adventure-focussed of the lot, with a pricier XT model adding to this with spoked wheels. The Triumph sits at the sportier end of the spectrum, based on the Trident 660 naked roadster.
The Versys gets plenty of gizmos in even its base spec, including a 4.3in TFT dash with mobile connectivity. A full colour unit styled similarly to the Ninja H2 SX series, and larger capacity Versys models, it’s easy to read in all light conditions and simple to navigate using the chunky switchgear.
For those that want it, you can also connect it to your mobile phone, but I personally see less of an appeal to this. Likewise, I don’t see the need for traction control, which is new for 2022 and seems unnecessary on a bike with less 66bhp.
No matter how aggressive I was with the throttle in the dry or wet I could not get the excellent Dunlop tyres to break traction. Leave this out and sell us the bike slightly cheaper, I reckon.
You also get a taller screen and new LED headlights, with options for luggage, spotlights, handguards, heated grips and more. Cruise control would be nice, though.
|Engine type||Liquid-cooled, 8v parallel-twin|
|Frame type||Steel diamond|
|Fuel capacity||21 litres|
|Front suspension||41mm USD forks, rebound and pre-load adjustable|
|Rear suspension||Mono shock, preload adjustable|
|Front brake||2 x 300mm discs with two-piston calipers. ABS.|
|Rear brake||Single 250mm disc with single pis-ton caliper. ABS.|
|Front tyre size||120/70 x 17|
|Rear tyre size||160/60 x 17|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||52.3 mpg|
|Annual road tax||£101|
|Annual service cost||£200|
|Used price||£7,400 - £7,800|
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two years|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||66 bhp|
|Max torque||45 ft-lb|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
|Tank range||241 miles|
Model history & versions
Kawasaki will also sell you a Versys 650 Tourer and Versys 650 Grand Tourer. Sharing the same engine, electronic whatnots and chassis components, the Tourer comes with dual 28-litre side cases, claiming to fit most full-face helmets, along with a set of inner bags. You also get handguards and a gel-resin tank bag. Prices start at £8699 for metallic black paint and then climb to £8799 for more lavish schemes.
The GT model starts at £10,149 and jumps to £10,249 for fancier paint. It gets everything on the Tourer alongside a 47-litre top case, LED fog lights, a larger screen, 12v power outlet, and a GPS bracket on the handlebars.
Other 650 parallel twins in Kawasaki’s range consist of the sporty-yet-upright Ninja 650, the Z650 naked roadster, and Vulcan 650 cruiser.
Owners' reviews for the KAWASAKI VERSYS 650 (2022 - on)
2 owners have reviewed their KAWASAKI VERSYS 650 (2022 - 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.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£200|
Annual servicing cost: £150
Adjustable screen without having to undo screen screws, Led lights all round which are a definate improvement over std halogens and the colour instrument panel has enough features and very easy to read and navigate., would definitely recommend 👍
Good all-rounder, very comfortable on long rides, brakes and suspension all seem to be adequate and perfect for my requirements.
Good engine but could do with a few more horses as its starting to fall behind the competition nowadays, it's very good on fuel and vibes are still slightly there but nowhere near as bad as early models due to rubber engine mounts.
Still early days yet as only just done 600 miles, have owned three previous Versys 650's and all were built well and have had nothing go wrong apart from a radiator cap fail.
A bit expensive for a few litres of oil and filter, tend to do it myself and keep the parts receipts when out of warranty.
My favourite features are the headlights and the colour instrument display, however the Bluetooth connection to the Kawasaki app doesn't work with my android phone, if I'd have bought the bike wanting this feature I'd be disappointed, I'd have preferred better security more than the traction control too as I don't believe that the bike is powerful enough to require it.
Buying experience: Very good buying experience from Cradley Kawasaki, fair price given for my 2020 Versys 650
Version: Grand tourer
Annual servicing cost: £250
Totally happy with my purchase. I got a good trade in on my er6f and wanted a reliable tourer. Im 71 and lightly built so find the 1000 to heavy. The 650 GT fits the bill. It maybe slightly underpowered but it's fast enough for me and just cruises along.
Only done 600 miles so far with one long run. The seat is very comfortable and a good relaxed riding position.
Not run in yet but it's powerful enough for me.
Looks amazing! It has the look of a transformer!
The panniers fit into slots under pillion grab rails so it looks it looks clean when unloaded. Top box is very useful and takes 2 x helmets.
Buying experience: Ought from local dealer and paid 10.2k total but traded in a er650