KAWASAKI VULCAN S (2015 - on) Review

Highlights

  • Practical and enjoyable cruising machine
  • Low seat height
  • A leftfield Harley alternative

At a glance

Owners' reliability rating: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
Annual servicing cost: £180
Power: 60 bhp
Seat height: Low (27.8 in / 705 mm)
Weight: Medium (503 lbs / 228 kg)

Prices

New £6,499
Used £4,000 - £6,300

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
3 out of 5 (3/5)

The Kawasaki Vulcan 650 S is a very practical and enjoyable cruiser and a great day-to-day bike with a low seat height, but it is aspiring to be something it can never be.

It’s a quirky-looking lightweight cruiser that will appeal to some, but for the majority of buyers it’s too left-field and tradition will steer them towards an established cruiser such as a Harley 883 or possibly even the Street 750, purely because of the name on its tank.

In 2018 an A2 licence-friendly version of the Kawasaki Vulcan 650 S was introduced to the range, cementing the bike's position as a great first big bike. There's a thriving scene for enthusiasts, too, resulting in the Vulcan Riders and Owners Club.

The Vulcan S ridden by MCN staff

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
3 out of 5 (3/5)

Hit town on the Vulcan and its slick gearbox, light clutch and low seat makes it ideal for dealing with a lot of stop/starts.

After a while the slightly abrupt throttle response at initial opening is an irritation, but the engine is peppy and sounds surprisingly deep and throaty through to its low-slung exhaust.

The Kawasaki’s handling is sure-footed and with little bulk to haul around, the Vulcan is surprisingly nippy. Out of town the suspension is a bit soft and squishy, but this is to be expected on a cruiser.

Engine

Next up: Reliability
3 out of 5 (3/5)

The Kawasaki ER-6 engine is very smooth, but when you fire up something like a Harley’s V-twin and feel it shake and pulse it fills the bike with character that you simply don’t get on the slightly synthetic Vulcan.

That said, it is hard to fault its power delivery or ease of use and it is also fairly rapid away from the traffic lights with a lovely light clutch action. Maybe not the best motor in terms of cruiser feel, but a very practical power plant and one that is very easy to live with on a day-to-day basis and economical.

Reliability & build quality

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

The ER-6 motor is a tried and tested unit and as such there should be no nasty surprises on the horizon. Build quality is a little dubious on other ER models, especially when it comes to items such as fasteners, so use anti-corrosion spray liberally and often.

We've got 6 Kawasaki Vulcan 650 S owners' reviews on the site, with an overall score of 4.5 stars out of 5. From the comments it seems there aren't any prevailing problems with the bike.

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
3 out of 5 (3/5)

It is hard to put a price on the Vulcan as it is somewhat unique. At £6499 it is cheap, especially when compared to the £8895 a Harley 883 Iron will cost you or the £8699 Yamaha want for the XV950R, but it is also less of a motorcycle.

The Vulcan’s main rival is probably the Harley Street 750, which is £6045, or Street Rod at £6795. In this context it is about on the money.

MCN Verdict: Kawasaki Vulcan 650 S vs Harley-Davidson Iron 883

In 2015 MCN put the Kawasaki Vulcan S up against the Harley-Davidson Iron 883 and Yamaha XV950R to see which came out on top. 

Kawasaki Vulcan S vs Harley-Davidson Iron 883 vs Yamaha XV950R

Why are middleweight cruisers so popular? Simple, because they are great fun. A lot of motorcyclists don’t want to go fast, instead they want to relax and enjoy the ride and that’s what these bikes are all about. When it comes to the complete package it is hard to argue against the Harley as it’s got it all – price, heritage, feel and soul.

The Yamaha has almost the same merits, but lacks the heritage. Either are great options, but I have a feeling fashion-conscious riders will be swayed by the logo on the tank. The Vulcan is very practical and enjoyable, but it is aspiring to be something it can never be. It’s a quirky lightweight bike that will appeal to some, but for many it’ll be too leftfield, and tradition will steer them towards the Yamaha or Harley.

Equipment

3 out of 5 (3/5)

Where some cruisers make a point of their substance through lots of metal components, the Vulcan S does feel a little plastic-fantastic with its less pretty parts (exhaust, frame spars) covered by plastic shrouds.

You only get one front disc and the dash is pretty cheap-looking (it does have a fuel gauge and gear indicator), but on the plus side the footpegs are three-way adjustable and the levers can also be altered in their span.

Kawasaki Vulcan S clocks

Specs

Engine size 649cc
Engine type Liquid-cooled, 8v, parallel-twin
Frame type Tubular steel trellis
Fuel capacity 14 litres
Seat height 705mm
Bike weight 228kg
Front suspension 41mm forks, non-adjustable
Rear suspension Single rear shock, adjustable spring preload
Front brake 1 x 300mm disc with two-piston caliper
Rear brake 250mm single disc with single-piston caliper
Front tyre size 120/70 x 18
Rear tyre size 160/60 x 17

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption 57 mpg
Annual road tax £93
Annual service cost £180
New price £6,499
Used price £4,000 - £6,300
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two years

Top speed & performance

Max power 60 bhp
Max torque 46.4 ft-lb
Top speed 100 mph
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range -

Model history & versions

Model history

  • 2015: The Vulcan S is launched
  • 2017: The Vulcan S SE arrives
  • 2018: The Vulcan S Café and Sport variants join the range alongside Touring versions of both. An A2 licence-friendly version was launched at the same time. 

Other versions

Priced from new: The Vulcan 650 S comes in matt green for an extra £200. There is also a Vulcan S Special Edition (£6499), which has two-tone paint, the Vulcan S Café (£6649), which adds a small fly screen and Vulcan S Café Tourer (£7799), which comes with panniers, a tall screen and a sissy bar. In addition there is a Performance (£7149 in black or £7349 in green) as well as a Touring (£7449 or £7649). All can be restricted to make them A2-legal.

Owners' reviews for the KAWASAKI VULCAN S (2015 - on)

6 owners have reviewed their KAWASAKI VULCAN S (2015 - 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 VULCAN S (2015 - on)

Summary of owners' reviews

Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
Ride quality & brakes: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
Engine: 4.8 out of 5 (4.8/5)
Reliability & build quality: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
Value vs rivals: 4.7 out of 5 (4.7/5)
Equipment: 4.3 out of 5 (4.3/5)
Annual servicing cost: £180
5 out of 5 Good first big bike
08 May 2020 by simon parker

Version: ABS

Year: 2018

Annual servicing cost: £125

Low seating position, not too heavy, manoeuvres well round town and comfortable on a ride out....Good choice for a first big bike.

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

3 optional positions for bars, pegs and seat.

Buying experience: Purchased through M&S in Newcastle and they where very helpful , financial package was a good deal also.

5 out of 5
10 April 2020 by Viv Hamill

Year: 2019

Annual servicing cost: £400

It’s such a dream to ride as my first bike. Very forgiving but packs a punch. Totally love how it looks too with many heads turned.

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5
Value vs rivals 5 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
4 out of 5 Vulcan s
10 April 2020 by Jon frosty

Year: 2018

Annual servicing cost: £100

The riding position is the best for me even when two up ,don't really notice you've got somebody on the back .front pegs could do with being raised slightly do grind out on the tighter corners .would recommend to a friend.

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

Bikes a good alrounder,I prefer riding on twisty roads only downside the pegs grind out when not leaning to far over ,I have to lift me foot up .can last 2hours on a long run with the wife on the back. Before we have to stop for a stretch and fuel.

Engine 5 out of 5

Loads of low down torque,nice and smooth .

Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5

Its the same quality as any other Kawasaki.not had any problems with the bike ..

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5

Sissy bar on the back for the wife she loves it..an extra but was already on bike when purchased.

Buying experience: From a dealer for £5400 was up for £5500.

4 out of 5 Vulcan S Cruiser/Tourer
24 September 2019 by Raymo The Red

Version: ABS

Year: 2015

Quick off the mark and a breeze when overtaking. I simultaneously owned a Harley Sportster Custom (1200), a Street 750 (now sold) and the Vulcan S and I can tell that on a long touring trip the smoothness of the Vulcan was most welcome (but I still love my sportster) .

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

Done a 1500 km trip over 5 days (fully loaded) over motorway, standard roads and very mountainous twisty's and the vulcan took it all in its stride.

Engine 5 out of 5

Smooth and responsive and the gearing seems just right.

Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5

One tiny bubble on the tank paintwork lost a star but other than that it's been solid.

Value vs rivals 4 out of 5

Apart from annual service no other spend has been required so far.

Equipment 4 out of 5

Ergo-fit is a brilliant idea and enough accessories available to cover most needs. Lost a star because my year does not have a gear indicator.

Buying experience: Private buy, a little pricey but the original owner had added a lot of accessories that met my needs perfectly.

4 out of 5 Plastic fantastic
26 April 2019 by vpower

Version: cafe

Year: 2018

Annual servicing cost: £150

It's a great bike but the sum of the parts (except the engine) are at best cheap and poor quality. Most of the bike is plastic and, if you drop it, it will shatter. I would recommend but buy a second hand model.

Ride quality & brakes 3 out of 5

The front brake is good, despite having the cheaper disc fitted unlike the Z650. The back brake is poor to say the least.

Engine 5 out of 5

It's got a great engine although you have to rev it. There's quite a lot of torque and it's quite frugal if the revs are kept down.

Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5

Mine had a duff battery from new but otherwise good. The indicators wobble on the plastic mounts and will not tighten up.

Value vs rivals 4 out of 5

Difficult to service as there's no main stand, and with the exhaust under the motor you can't lift there. You also need to remove the petrol tank to get to the plugs and air filter, and you need to bring it in for a 3500-mile service, at £140.

Equipment 5 out of 5

It has a great display with many functions on the speedo, great suspension and fab seat. It handles really well, It's not a V-twin cruiser it is dressed like one ten years ago.

Buying experience: The buying experience wasn't bad, the shop was pleasant and did what they do best, fairly good PX and hassle-free.

5 out of 5 Happy owner
20 April 2019 by Dean Jardine

Version: Vulcan s sport

Year: 2018

Annual servicing cost: £150

This is a great bike. I’ve had mine for a year, got it new with the full Arrows exhaust which sounds sweet. Think is one of the best motorcycles I’ve owned. It’s a great all rounder, a cruiser with sports bike performance. It handles great for a cruiser as it’s nice and light you can handle it easy at low speeds.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

The brakes are good with abs standard which is peace of mind if you need to stop quick in all weathers. The ride quality is good, the suspension is easy to adjust for soft or harder whichever you prefer. The forward controls making riding easy and comfortable.

Engine 5 out of 5

The 650 parallel twin from the 650 ninja which is tuned for more torque . It’s a quick cruiser putting out 60 bhp and light weight makes 0- 60 in 4 seconds and top speed over 120mph which is reasonable.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

As Kawasaki you can trust it to last. I have traveled 5000 miles on her with no issue. Everything looks quality and feels nice.

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

As a basic type bike running cost are low. Service cost are about £150 annually. With a 14L an average 60mpg which is good and can take you around 160 - 170 miles in a full tank.

Equipment 4 out of 5

Buying experience: Got from a dealer with 0%apr for 3 years new at £7000 with Arrows exhaust.

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