KAWASAKI VN800 CLASSIC (1996 - 2004) Review

At a glance

Owners' reliability rating: 4.4 out of 5 (4.4/5)
Annual servicing cost: £150
Power: 54 bhp
Seat height: Low (27.8 in / 705 mm)
Weight: High (516 lbs / 234 kg)


New N/A
Used £4,500

Overall rating

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

Strong, reliable and with pretty funky handling for a cruiser, the Kawasaki VN800 makes for a useful bike as well as a perfect pose-machine. Massive, it’s got all the right bits in all the right places giving a good ride with loads of street presence. Not bad value but a bugger to keep clean.

Ride quality & brakes

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

The Kawasaki VN800’s remarkably stable at high speeds and (for a cruiser) relatively frisky around town. Ground clearance is minimal though. The suspension’s a bit saggy on the corners but comfortable in a straight line whilst the brakes are adequate, if a little weedy. The ride’s not as vibey as some bikes in the class.


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

The Kawasaki VN800's engine boasts an incredibly smooth and consistent delivery of power. Peak torque’s at around 3000rpm but it’s sustained throughout the range for loads of satisfying pulling power. At the higher end, it’ll cruise happily at 80mph: perfect for a cruiser. Very strong.

Reliability & build quality

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

The Kawasaki VN800 engine’s a superb piece of kit, in it for the long haul and, overall, the bodywork’s made to match it. The paint is rich and gorgeous but decals and logos are of poorer quality plus some of the welding isn’t that great. In other words, it’s not perfect but it’s not half bad, either.

Value vs rivals

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

The Kawasaki VN800 was well-priced against its rivals (ranging from Harley-Davidson Sportsters to Suzuki’s Marauder and Intruder). Its reliability means it holds its price well but it’s unlikely to compete with a second-hand Harley: that name on a tank adds value, like it or not. Overall? Average to good. Find a Kawasaki VN800 for sale.


4 out of 5 (4/5)

The Kawasaki VN800 has a very comfortable dual seat and forward pegs give you the look whilst the big, wide bars give you plenty of leverage. The VN has the usual mountains of chrome, fat pipes and tank top instrument panel plus a plethora of outrageous extras you never realised you needed, such as chrome oil filler caps and caliper covers. Lacks the shaft drive of its higher-powered sibling VNs.


Engine size 805cc
Engine type 8v V-twin, 5 gears
Frame type Steel double cradle
Fuel capacity 15 litres
Seat height 705mm
Bike weight 234kg
Front suspension None
Rear suspension Preload
Front brake 300mm disc
Rear brake Drum
Front tyre size 110/70 x 19
Rear tyre size 140/90 x 16

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption 42 mpg
Annual road tax £101
Annual service cost £150
New price -
Used price £4,500
Insurance group 10 of 17
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two year unlimited mileage

Top speed & performance

Max power 54 bhp
Max torque 47 ft-lb
Top speed 103 mph
1/4 mile acceleration 14.4 secs
Tank range 140 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

1996: VN800 Classic model launched as an updated version of the standard VN800. Only minor changes until it was discontinued in 2004.

Other versions

Kawasaki VN800: The bike which took over from the old Kawasaki VN750, this one ran from 1995 to 1998. It had different geometry, tyres and gear ratios and a higher seat than the Classic.
Kawasaki VN800 Drifter: Essentially the same as the Classic but with vast swathes of extra bodywork. A styled-up, “Indian” version: pretty OTT. Ran from 1999 to 2004.
Kawasaki VN900: Where the VN800 left off, the VN900 took over. Cubic capacity’s up to 903cc. It was launched in early 2006. See seperate review.

Owners' reviews for the KAWASAKI VN800 CLASSIC (1996 - 2004)

5 owners have reviewed their KAWASAKI VN800 CLASSIC (1996 - 2004) 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 VN800 CLASSIC (1996 - 2004)

Summary of owners' reviews

Overall rating: 4.2 out of 5 (4.2/5)
Ride quality & brakes: 4 out of 5 (4/5)
Engine: 4.4 out of 5 (4.4/5)
Reliability & build quality: 4.4 out of 5 (4.4/5)
Value vs rivals: 4.4 out of 5 (4.4/5)
Equipment: 3.4 out of 5 (3.4/5)
Annual servicing cost: £150
5 out of 5 Bargain Cruising
15 September 2020 by Tone_555

Year: 2003

Annual servicing cost: £100

Great torque for an 800 and relatively vibration free. Never liked the tank mounted speedo and idiot lights

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

Great all rounder but the fuel capacity doesn't take you far.That seat looks like an armchair but after about 200 km it feels like a burst sofa but it's time for a refuel anyway. Nice front disc with plenty of stopping power and feel but the rear drum is only adequate at best

Engine 5 out of 5

Nice linear power dealt with a superb 5 speed gearbox

Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5

Ultra reliable. Chrome quite good but some rust on the frame

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

Very cheap to keep on the road. Simple to work on and consumable parts are cheap

Equipment 3 out of 5

Clocks and idiot lights all pretty basic. I've fitted a screen but I'm not convinced I'll keep it

Buying experience: Private sale for $3500 AUD. Great condition for 17 year old bike with only 35000 km

4 out of 5 VN 800 classic
10 April 2020 by Carl

Year: 1998

Annual servicing cost: £60

Does all that I want. It’s no pocket rocket, but it’s lots of fun and very comfortable.

Ride quality & brakes 3 out of 5

Drum brake on the back, but it stops fine. Easy ride position, comfy seat and quick to pull.

Engine 4 out of 5

Bullet proof.

Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5

It’s only let me down twice in 15years, bad fuel once, and a dodgy battery the second time.

Value vs rivals 4 out of 5

Do my own work.

Equipment 4 out of 5

After a near miss with a Range Rover pulling into my lane on the M6, I bought a sound bomb horn. Good investment. I don’t get ignored now.

Buying experience: Bought second hand in 2003. From a mate of a mate. Never regretted it.

4 out of 5 Simple Bike
26 January 2017 by Rice Burner Rider

Year: 1996

Annual servicing cost: £300

Great for short and tall riders especially with the large adjustable driver floorboards. All of the features are wide and fat such as the tank, forks, lights, and fenders. It's got plenty of power and response for a carbed 800 and everyone will think it's got a bigger engine than it does. It has a lot of chrome but just the right amount. Took a star away due to difficult accessibility to internals such as carb and spark plugs. Clearance is a little low also for draining oil but if it were taller than it'd look awkward.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

The bike is best from 0-75. It's wide with engine guards and no clearance so slow turning sucks (like most real cruisers) and anything over 75 starts to run up the engine but can still run with the bigger bikes. It's decent on gas with a large tank and is comfortable enough to ride until it's out of fuel. The suspension is a little soft but that only hurts the performance on potholes and quick bumps.

Engine 5 out of 5

If you've ever had a Kawasaki then you'll know that the Japanese know how to make an engine. It's powerful low and high end and is efficient. I don't like to push it past 75 very often as it seems to not like it but it'll cruise all day between 65 and 75.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

Great Kawasaki reliabilty that I've come to know over several of their machines. You can't kill these engines. The only time I had an issue with the '96 was when I put non-ethanol high octane gas in like I normally do with all my bikes. It sputtered and stalled until I put low end regular unleaded back in.

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

If you have any kind of mechanical skill then this thing will never need to be in the shop except for tire changes and inspections. Carb is a pain to access but just takes some patience. It like conventional oil and low octane regular gas which is a plus in my book.

Equipment 4 out of 5

It's got plenty of chrome which I'm usually against but these have a tasteful amount. The floorboards are a huge bonus as well as the large engine guards you can attach highway pegs to. This bike is beefy all around and could be confused with a Fatboy with some different pipes.

Buying experience: I buy all my bikes privately. I stick with Japanese bikes because they are inexpensive when new and even less when used compared to Harleys or Euro bikes. They can take a beating and still provide years of service after. Parts are easily available for cheap and plenty of info out there on them. Bike was advertised at $2500 with 15k miles but I paid $1750.

4 out of 5 Happy VN800 owner
29 December 2015 by CHALKEY

Year: 1998

The chrome is not the best and is showing its age

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

I have ridden a harley and my vn800 still happy with my vn !!!! both times I went to trade my vn for a harley I came home on my vn .

Engine 4 out of 5

go's well lacks a bit 2 up.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5
Value vs rivals 4 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5

needs a none standard exhaust system or it sounds like a lawn mower.

Buying experience: dealer bought from Bournemouth Metric Cruiser's. They offered me three months warranty covered at my local dealer. Free delivery if I did not want the bike could return the same day with only the payment of £120 for the return delivery they could offer no more service. very happy on offer at £1800 AUG 2015. only 12k on the clock in light blue/sliver

4 out of 5 Pleasant surprise
14 October 2013 by

This is my first cruiser and therefore really cant compare it to any other cruiser but can add a couple of points to the MCN review . I agree 100% with MCN's review but their fuel consumption figures are NEVER accurate in my expereience . I get 55 mpg under normal everyday use . I purchased this bike for the sole purpose of sedate two-up riding with my partner after getting fed up with feeling like i was doing half a press-up when she was on the back of my VFR and i have to say its an absolute joy to ride two-up . I have a sissy bar on the back so she sits back against that and makes hardly any contact with me at all. I was dubious about the riding position before i tried it but it only takes a few rides before you stop paddling the air trying to find your footpegs and you grow to love the position and relaxed attitude the cruiser-style gives you . Obviously its different to my other bike but not in a negative way .Its fast enough for real-life everyday riding and although the footpegs do ground out earlier than other style of bikes its not an issue under normal everyday riding conditions. You tend to sense when its about to happen and i just take my weight off the peg and let it ride up as it contacts the ground . Its got to the stage now than when i use my VFR for my everyday commute i just wish i was on the VN . I really never thought i would take to this style of bike the way i have . I recently test rode a couple of Harleys and all it did was reaffirm what a nice bike the VN is . The only thing i would change is the soundtrack.......mine has a standard exhaust and is a bit quiet for my taste. If you decide to try a cruiser you might well be pleasantly surprised .

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5
Value vs rivals 4 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
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