KAWASAKI W650 (1999 - 2006) Review

Highlights

  • Retro charm from Kawasaki
  • A great-value used buy
  • Approachable and customisable

At a glance

Owners' reliability rating: 4.7 out of 5 (4.7/5)
Annual servicing cost: £50
Power: 49 bhp
Seat height: Medium (31.5 in / 800 mm)
Weight: Medium (430 lbs / 195 kg)

Prices

New N/A
Used £3,700 - £4,000

Overall rating

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

The Kawasaki W650 is a stunning-looking bike and, although this old example came with 20,000 miles on its LCD odometer, the mileage takes nothing away from the bike’s overall appeal. Nor does the lacklustre engine finish, tarnished by road crud and the elements. If anything, the jaded silver finish adds to the bike’s classic styling.

The W650's parallel twin is soft and easy-going – with just 49bhp it’s great in town or for rolling gently down those sunny memory and sufficient if you’re not after life in the fast (or even middle) lane.

Despite a dry weight of 195kg, the Kawasaki W650's small size belies the stats, feeling light and controllable.

The suspension is not particularly sophisticated and ground clearance is far from limitless but this is no sports bike – compared to a cruiser it’s nimble and capable.

Ride quality & brakes

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

Cornering on the Kawasaki W650 was enjoyable for a bike of this era

Handling can only be described as ‘good for the year’. No, not the late ’60s, when Kawasaki’s W-series bikes appeared and the period the W650 harks back to, but 10 years ago when non-adjustable telescopic forks and cheap rear shocks were as good as it got for the time. The same can be said for the single twin-pot sliding front caliper and drum rear brake. Both are perfectly suited to legal speed limits, but a good grasp of the lever is required for anything that dares to cross your path.

Engine

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

The engine itself is a real peach. An air-cooled parallel-twin with pushrod-actuated valves, isn’t exactly high-tech, but it performs admirably. It outguns the Moto Guzzi everywhere and never lets the larger-capacity T100 get away.

It thrums along in top gear at 70mph without a care in the world. There is a flat spot in power delivery around 3500-4000rpm, where vibration rattles the mirrors and the exhaust note flattens slightly. But the W650 was like this from new.

Riding the Kawasaki W650 as it should be ridden

The cure, in heavy traffic, is to ride at lower revs where healthy torque pulls the bike along very, very easily. God forbid you should want to ride in anger, but the W650 is capable of surprising the rider. Overall power will push the W650 up to a ton. Anything over that is a bonus … or a downhill section with tailwind.

Reliability & build quality

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

There’s nothing seriously bad about this bike. But there are some areas on this test bike that constitute ‘things to look out for’. And they represent the things the check out if buying one used.

There are other areas of time-wear, apart from the ‘patina’ of the engine. Small nicks in the fork-leg paint are so obviously stone chips, but they’re not highly visible and can be missed under showroom lights. Touch-up paint is required soon or corrosion will take a firm hold and overnight the black finish will resemble talcum powder.

Rear-wheel huggers don’t fit in with the retro theme, which is a shame because a hugger might have prevented the outbreak of rust and flaking paint on the front section of the swingarm – the part where it’s hard to see the mild steel arm located right behind the back of the engine’s crankcases – due to surface water and grit kicked up by the rear tyre.

Move lower down to under the motor, another area that gets hit by surface water and winter rock salt. The mainstand looks like a ship’s anchor, although it’s treatable by the application of a wire brush and a tin of black gloss spray paint. A bit of grease on the pivot pins on reassembly will put it back to near-new.

Wear and tear with mileage is to be expected, regardless of workshop time and lubricants. The bar levers have slop around the pivot pins and the metal switchgear coating is starting to dull. But there’s nothing abnormal about this and it goes part way to making the bike look even more classic (read dated) and ‘feel comfortable’. Like an old armchair with stuffing poking through the armrests, it’s still comfortable.

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
2 out of 5 (2/5)

Our test team think the Kawasaki W650's competition comes in the form of the Triumph Bonneville T100 and the Moto Guzzi V7 Classic. It's for that reason we pit them against one another in a used group test in 2011. 

Kawasaki W650 vs Triumph Bonneville T100 vs Moto Guzzi V7 Classic

First published in MCN 21 September 2011 by Treveor Franklin

Kawasaki W650 or Triumph Bonneville T00 or Moto Guzzi V7 Classic

Do retro bikes ever date? No – unlike the GSX-R and ZX-R machines that have appeared over the years. The beauty of retro bikes is they are styled on bikes of the past, but use modern design, engineering and components to make them look the way they are and run with the same efficiency and reliability of any new bike.

The only aggravation of buying a retro machine will be the same as any second-hand motorcycle – poor maintenance and neglect. But because retro owners are generally devoted to their steeds, the chances of buying a duffer are fairly remote. Besides which, there isn’t one of these bikes I wouldn’t be happy with. Even so, although retro bikes look old, the appearance of rust, corrosion and oil leaks should not be accepted. Owning, polishing, and riding for pleasure, however, should…

Group test: Kawasaki W650 vs Triumph Bonneville T00 vs Moto Guzzi V7 Classic

Equipment

3 out of 5 (3/5)

The Kawasaki W650's standard kit was fairly limited but you don’t expect an on board computer on a bike like this. A kit was available in 2002 to tranform the bike into a Kawasaki W650 café racer. Soft and hard panniers plus rails were available from Kawasaki, as were engine bars.

Specs

Engine size 675cc
Engine type 8v parallel twin, 6 gears
Frame type Steel double cradle
Fuel capacity 15 litres
Seat height 800mm
Bike weight 195kg
Front suspension None
Rear suspension Preload
Front brake Single 300mm disc
Rear brake Drum
Front tyre size 100/90 x 19
Rear tyre size 130/80 x 18

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption 51 mpg
Annual road tax £101
Annual service cost £50
New price -
Used price £3,700 - £4,000
Insurance group 8 of 17
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two year unlimited mileage

Top speed & performance

Max power 49 bhp
Max torque 41 ft-lb
Top speed 110 mph
1/4 mile acceleration 14.2 secs
Tank range 165 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

1999: Kawasaki W650 launched.
2006: Model deleted.

Other versions

None.

Owners' reviews for the KAWASAKI W650 (1999 - 2006)

18 owners have reviewed their KAWASAKI W650 (1999 - 2006) 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 W650 (1999 - 2006)

Summary of owners' reviews

Overall rating: 4.6 out of 5 (4.6/5)
Ride quality & brakes: 3.8 out of 5 (3.8/5)
Engine: 4.7 out of 5 (4.7/5)
Reliability & build quality: 4.7 out of 5 (4.7/5)
Value vs rivals: 4.8 out of 5 (4.8/5)
Equipment: 3.8 out of 5 (3.8/5)
Annual servicing cost: £50
4 out of 5 w650 improvement tips
12 June 2021 by Peter Wainwright

Year: 2006

Fitted one inch longer spacers in the front forks ( home made ) Grease nipples on swing arm and brake pedel shaft casing Togel switch to manual control front light ( for quicker. fuller battery charge ) 110x90x19 front tyre : 140x80x18 rear . Looks ,handles better Posh exhausts , pods, larger pilot jets , 2 shim lift for carb needles sounds, runs better. Always kick start the machine

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

Seat being not level straight along, can become tiring to sit on

Engine 4 out of 5

Over all it is a good engine. Would have been great with a single carb 750 model as well . A retro Tiger. Kawasaki, are you listning?

Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5

Corrosion on external alu casings , no internal rust protection lineing for the petrol tank. Kawa could have done better there.

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

Posh exhausts ,pods, slight carb enrichment ( jets ,shims ) platium plugs, longer spacers in front forks ( poor mans progressive springs ) Grease nipple foot pedel pivot shaft. 140X80X18 and 110x 90x19 instead of standard size tyres.

4 out of 5 Always puts a smile on your face
26 February 2021 by T Hyde

Version: Std

Year: 2002

Annual servicing cost: £30

Great build quality, super smooth engine that is ideal for UK A and B roads.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

Ride improved by hagon rear shocks. Brakes better if disc and pads changed to EBC.

Engine 4 out of 5

Power is fine for lazy touring. Stage 1 tuning kits and air filters can give it more zip and are not difficult to fit.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

Never let me down in 10 years. Eady to maintain yourself

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

DIY as so easy to work on.

Equipment 4 out of 5

Great to have centre stand as standard

Buying experience: Dealer, second hand, no problems. Bike has held its value well and no intention of parting with it.

5 out of 5 A W650 love affair.
14 January 2021 by Al Carr

Year: 2000

Annual servicing cost: £50

I bought my W650 new as a left over in 2002. The 02 model was the same price as the '00 but I prefered the Blue Silver colour and the seat which reminded me more of my dads old triumphs. Don't remember what I paid for it but it was very reasonable. Prior to this I'd had nothing but sport bikes, 450, 550, 600, 750 and finally a 900 Ninja. Quit riding for 10 years due to too many close calls, not my fault, people don't seem to pay attention. I spotted the bike while wandering around my dealers showroom. My first thought was "I didnt know Triumph was making these again". Lets face it that Kawasaki name on the tank is pretty small. I bought the bike based on looks alone and I couldn't have been happier with it. I put 37,000 miles on it in 5 years and that was all back and forth to work. No one wants to go to work but this made coming and going more enjoyable. As far as mods go all I did was change the bars to something lower, I hated those ape-hangers that came stock. Also the front forks are an old damper rod design so I installed a set of Race Tech Emulators, I highly recommend this as I can't describe how much better the forks work, these things are truly amazing. Other than that all I've done is some cosmetics to make the bike look like an old Triumph. Removed the tank badges (they're stick on) and got some old style Triumph decals. Tiger 650 decals for the side panels. A license plate for the front fender and a pair of fully shrouded Hagon shocks, she looks awesome and it fools nearly everyone. This is the bike I will never sell and I would recommend it to anyone.

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5

Don't mess with the jetting. I tried a Dyno Jet kit and was very disappointed, eventually just went back to stock after much trial and tribulation.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5
Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

Do all my own servicing so 50. is just a guess. The original chain didnt last too long but a quality replacement has held up phenomenally well. Oil and filter changes are a doddle. Oh I did change the C/S sprocket for one tooth larger and the rear for one tooth smaller but only because I wanted to get the revs down when cruising. Still accelerates faster than 98% of cars on the road.

Equipment 5 out of 5

As I mentioned above I highly recommend the Race Tech Emulators for the forks, you'll thank me. I have never found the stock Bridgestone tires to be a detriment but I'm sure there are other brands that could work better.

4 out of 5 Everyman W650.
10 October 2020 by Colin Shaughnessy

Version: C5

Year: 2003

Annual servicing cost: £40

A middleweight air cooled vertical twin that demonstrates beautifully why this is a great engine configuration. Suspension and seating position could have been and can be made better.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

Very adequate for the performance potential on offer.

Engine 5 out of 5

A peach. A modern take on a classic design in the firm of the bevel gear driven ohc.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

17 years and 55K miles, sharing space in the shed with other bikes that have come and gone. An active worldwide FB page tends to confirm that these are the kind of bike that riders, who are lucky enough to own more than one machine at a time, tend to hold on to. Ridden in all weathers, it has proved to have fairly durable paint, high quality fasteners and thick chrome. A reasonably competent home mechanic can also handle all servicing.

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

That's an estimate for service consumables. Do it all myself.

Equipment 4 out of 5

Standard is adequate.

Buying experience: I've forgotten after 17 years.

5 out of 5 A Wrider Writes.
11 April 2020 by Colin Shaughnessy

Version: C5

Year: 2003

Annual servicing cost: £100

In 17 years in the shed, the machine has never let me down. Several partners have joined it and departed over the piece. I was happy enough to own them for three or four years but only the W has lasted and in short, that's because of its stunning versatility and durability. My racing days being long in the past and unremarkable, I have no illusions about being an undiscovered talent, so the fact that the machine challenges no performance boundaries is of no matter to me. Afternoon cruising, two up touring and scratching on B roads are all perfectly possible on these bikes. Try one and unless you're one of those jumping from machine to machine in search of unicorns and indifferent to the mayhem caused to your savings account by crippling depreciation, it won't disappoint.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

These machines have no exceptional components, excepting the stunningly competent and reliable motor. The seat looks good but over distance there's no hiding from its shortcomings. Look to change the profile if you intend to use it.

Engine 5 out of 5

The bevel or crown gear ohc motor and gearbox is a peach. That is all.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5
Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

The figure is a rough guide and reflects that I've done all its servicing, apart from the first service arranged by the first owner (I bought the bike with 900 miles on the clock). Perfectly possible and I'm no trained mechanic. There's now 55000 miles on the odometer.

Equipment 4 out of 5

Competent in all respects for a machine with this level of performance.

4 out of 5 I love it!
18 December 2019 by Paul Olsen

Year: 2004

Annual servicing cost: £40

I love this bike and would give it 5 out of five, but the seat mount and consequent seat design, no matter what you do with it (I've had mine apart 5 times trying to get it comfy and have come very close) is terrible...because this bike was originally never meant for export and designed for smaller Japanese people. The build quality is great, and after some "adjustments" (emissions) and raising the jets, the thing goes like hell (4.5 secs 0-60) and is a beautiful bike that gets admirers everywhere I take her. The stock Bridgestones are crap...I replaced mine with Avons which work wonders. I love this bike....and I grew up on 60's Bonnevilles.

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

She stops on a dime if you need her to....

Engine 5 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

Very well made...and also fairly light, so easy to muscle around.

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

I've had mine for 18 months and there have been no costs other than oil and filter change and changing the tires.

Equipment 5 out of 5

Engine and gearbox are superb.

4 out of 5 W is for wanting
05 November 2018 by Jomo

Year: 2000

Enjoyably adequate but weak brakes, vibration and indifferent handling leave me wishing for more. Is it nostalgia or did my early 60's Matchless G12 ride much better?

Ride quality & brakes 3 out of 5

Decent ride quality. Brakes do not inspire confidence. Upgraded suspension helps when riding briskly. I experience excessive 'turn in' (wheel flop) during low speed cornering. I installed European style bars with bar end weights and an accessory saddle with gel insert. Vibration still gets tiresome on longer rides.

Engine 5 out of 5

All the power I need for the riding I do, but a more favourable power to weight ratio would add to the fun.

Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5

Chrome wants to rust pretty quickly in this wet, coastal zone.

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

Buying experience: Third owner, both previous owners treated the bike well.

5 out of 5
21 August 2018 by Nick Hendley

Year: 2001

Annual servicing cost: £30

High barred model that reminds me so much of the old Brit Iron I grew up with without bits falling off or indifferent electrics. I love the sound and the looks

Ride quality & brakes 3 out of 5

As I mentioned earlier it feels very British, more like a BSA A10 rather than a Norton Dominator, gets upset by bumpy curves. Grinds the foot pegs but not a drama. Brakes are adequate and it could do with some decent Hagon shox. It comfortably gets me from A to B and generally ahead of friends on larger faster bikes

Engine 4 out of 5

Torquey pulls form less than 20mph in top, balanced so although you know it's there your hands don't fall off after 50 miles. Gear selection could be better though

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

Alloy rims, good chrome and reliable engfine

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

I do my own and it's a doddle to work on Simple valve train that is easy to adjust, all I have done so far is fork oil, engine oil and filters

Equipment 3 out of 5

Basic, it could do with a braided brake hose but it does the job. I have updated the headlight with a super bright H4 bulb and relay. The Indicator light is not easy to see so I have fitted a beeper. I'm too used to self cancelling indicators!

Buying experience: Bought from a dealer 14 months ago for £3,250 only 5,300 on the clock, I am the sixth owner it has now covered 18,478 and I don't ride in the rain!

5 out of 5 Heaven on a couple of thin wheels
14 July 2017 by RAW650

Year: 2001

Annual servicing cost: £100

Crazy not too, Top bike

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

Braided hose required

Engine 5 out of 5

Banging air cooled 650cc twin

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

Nothing, other than rear mudguard weight of brakelight assembly

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

Cheap Cheap

Equipment 5 out of 5

Who cares, so much fun

Buying experience: Second hand, what a bargain

5 out of 5 My favourite to ride
29 September 2016 by kirby

Year: 2001

This is the first bike I have owned, but I have ridden retro-styled suzukis, dual sports, and sports naked bikes. This is my favorite to ride. It gets a lot of attention in and around town, sounds great, reliable as heck.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

front fork dive under heavy braking. Not 100% confident in the front brake. Otherwise its decent to carry a pillion for 100 km or so. Adjusting the rear pre-load seems to help from being floatey. I put on Euro low bars, and it transformed the ride at speed and on turns, a must-do

Engine 5 out of 5

Bulletproof and sounds amazing above 4k rpm, popping on deceleration can be modified out but I prefer the sound. A little lean on idle, over-rich on high-revs, but excellent mid-range. A high-flowing exhaust is a must for power and sound.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

I've heard the most common problem is the rear fender cracking due to vibrations. This hasn't happened to me and it has been bulletproof after 10,000 km since purchasing used.

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

economical on gas. Haven't run into a service that I cannot do myself.

Equipment 4 out of 5
5 out of 5 Better than old or new Bonnie in all ways.
14 August 2016 by Pabs

Year: 1999

Annual servicing cost: £30

Wasted loads of money on bikes, from Gsxr 750 , thru iron Harvey sportster, via Guzzis to 66 Thunderbird. Stopped when I bought mine new in 99, best all rounder I ever had.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

Front brake so so, wears tire on one side due to pull, rear brake does job but wooden. Seat bit hard, but bend swinging needs you to move around on saddle. 2 up takes edge off power and handling like all bikes.

Engine 5 out of 5

Economical, 65 to 80mpg, pulls from 19 mph in top, more torque than an old Triumph twin and bulletproof.

Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5

High quality chrome, even nickel plated spokes lasted 7 years till I got stainless. Chrome on exhausts excellent, only replaced with stainless ones for louder sound. If it cuts out onto 1 cylinder, check main jets in cards- mine kept blocking till in line filter fitted.

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

Just oiled and filter, valve shims exchanged at dealers.

Equipment 4 out of 5

Stock tires just fine, Hagon shrouded shocks improve looks and handling, thicker oil in forks taughtens front ride.

5 out of 5 Retro starts here
02 January 2009 by MAN150W

The Kawasaki W650 makes the purrfect partner on all the best roads, it bobs and weaves with ease round the A and B roads, managable, easy on the wrists, pulls at the lowest in 5th and motors away...just great. For relaxed road cruising the W650 is one of a kind - although could do with a little more on the power band - about 55-60bhp; I'd buy another...shame they stopped making them.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5
Value vs rivals 5 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
4 out of 5 Retro but Reliable
03 November 2008 by chopper07

I chose the W650 on looks and riding position. I was looking for a standard that looked like a retro crusier and found it in the W650. A dream to ride at low speeds. Thifty to maintain. Lots of comments by other riders and passers by. Hates speed; scary wobble at high speeds. Orphaned by Kawasaki USA right when it could have gotten its foothold (few aftermarket parts available in the USA). I wish that Kawasaki would bring it back to the USA with more power and less wobble. If they don't I'm buying a Triumph Thruxton... soon! Classic Vertical Twins really grow on you.

Ride quality & brakes 3 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
5 out of 5 What Biking is About!
10 October 2008 by redland4451

The W650 is a real back to basics bike - very little plastic, lots of shiny metal bits and a great sound from the exhausts (if you remove the baffles!). For cruising about on a sunny day or commuting this bike is easy to ride, cheap to insure and frugal on fuel.

Ride quality & brakes 3 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5
Value vs rivals 5 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
5 out of 5 What Biking is About!
10 October 2008 by redland4451

The W650 is a real back to basics bike - very little plastic, lots of shiny metal bits and a great sound from the exhausts (if you remove the baffles!). For cruising about on a sunny day or commuting this bike is easy to ride, cheap to insure and frugal on fuel.

Ride quality & brakes 3 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5
Value vs rivals 5 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
5 out of 5 Cool-Bike
22 February 2008 by crasherboyRoy

I have been luck enough too have had two W650's and have had the pure retro pleasure of blasting 30,000miles. Top bike great looks, almost the power of the CB500 top-end more bottem-end, handling could be better but i can still get the pegs down, equipment wise just enough for a air-cooled rev counter lovely exhaust sound over 4.5k. Value good as i been luck the first one i had put 15k on it and sold for the same money. Finally the old-women loves it, flat seat been 110 two-up in the sun looking good & feeling great, as well as super in town Wide bars rule. Treat yourself

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5
Value vs rivals 5 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
4 out of 5 W650
24 August 2007 by keithh

If you want something retro, this is a great bike to consider. It's my second bike and I try only to take it out in the dry cos its not the easiest to clean - but I commute on it (72 mpg) and do Sunday rides. The limited power means planning overtakes. Its also rather rewarding to work a bike hard sometimes - much easier on this than on bigger bike.

Ride quality & brakes 3 out of 5
Engine 3 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5
Value vs rivals 3 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
5 out of 5 First mid sized/bigger bike
18 March 2007 by philtreefrog

What can i say, the W650 is a fantastic bike, used as a commuter and took me through europe last year fully laden cruising at an average of 70-80mph. Looks good and I get lots of questions from people when I park up. I'm a short arse so the seat height suits me fine. What more can you ask for, a bike that commutes, draws admiring looks, cheap to buy and run, easy to maintain, less common that the bonneville and tours europe with ease (with a fly screen!). Bloody great and well recommended.

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