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KAWASAKI W800 (2019-on) Review

Published: 27 November 2018

Updated: 27 June 2019

It makes a Yamaha XSR look nasty, a basic Bonnie seem budget and Royal Enfield’s new 650 appear just a bit flimsy

KAWASAKI W800  (2019-on)

It makes a Yamaha XSR look nasty, a basic Bonnie seem budget and Royal Enfield’s new 650 appear just a bit flimsy

Overall Rating 3 out of 5

Kawasaki’s cute and authentically retro, bevel-drive twin has come and gone repeatedly since the original’s launch in W650 (actually 675cc), 49bhp form back in 1999. Beating Hinckley Triumph’s revived Bonneville to the punch it paid homage to the Japanese firm’s first motorcycle, the 1966 650cc W1 (itself based on BSA’s old A7).

But although praised for its 1960s authenticity, its appeal was limited by flaccid performance (the 2001 790cc Bonnie produced 62bhp) and was dropped in 2006. It was reintroduced in 2011 as the fuel-injected W800, dropped again due to Euro4 in 2016 and, heavily reworked (Kawasaki claim, despite appearances, 90% is new), is now back again – but what exactly are the differences and have they worked?

The Café model’s cowl is neat and stylish but doesn’t really do much. Dropped ‘Ace’ bars aren’t as extreme as they look and are certainly not uncomfortable – in fact it reminds very much of Royal Enfield’s 650 Continental GT in this respect. New LED headlight is a stylish, welcome modern addition.

Kawasaki W800 fairing

The previous W650/800 was always one of the most authentic retros and the same is true of this latest version. On the slight downside, there are a few niggles (plasticky guards, no metal tank badge) and, like most 47bhp bikes, it’s a fairly underwhelming performer. The biggest of all, though, is the price.

The old Ws, the last in 2016 being just over £7K, undercut comparable Triumphs. This one’s more. And although higher quality than the Enfield, the £3500 difference is difficult to justify.

Ride Quality & Brakes 2 out of 5

A new, classic-style, tubular steel twin loop is claimed to be more rigid than before, as are the larger diameter forks complete with stiffer springs. The tasty wire wheels are new, too, with an 18-incher at the front in place of the previous 19, while there’s a larger 320mm front disc (from 300mm), although still grabbed by a twin-piston caliper. There’s a new disc at the rear to replace the drum while both front and back are now ABS. It’s as easy as pie to ride with light steering, but don’t expect a Thruxton R-beater.

Engine 3 out of 5

While, Kawasaki’s 773cc bevel-drive twin appears unchanged from the old version, it’s now Euro4 compliant. To ride, though, it feels little different. That means an A2-licence friendly 47bhp, without need for modification, at a middling 6000rpm, plus an equally middling 46ftlb torque, both of which are virtually the same as Guzzi’s V7.

Off the throttle it’s pleasant, unthreatening and easy with an elastic midrange that doesn’t really care which gear you’re in and an 8000rpm redline that’s pointless getting anywhere near. It ‘gathers speed’ rather than accelerates, has a pleasant, ‘thrummy’ exhaust note thanks to new peashooter silencers and, if required, will cruise at 80 on motorways and top out just above a ton. But it would really rather not.

Kawasaki W800 engine

Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5

This is a new version of the bike, and the engine is not used elsewhere so evidence of reliability is tough to find. The old version was solid, and there's no reason to think that the new one should be any less so.

Insurance, running costs & value 2 out of 5

The A2-compliant, retro roadster class is shaping up to be one of 2019’s most competitive. In terms of performance, style and spec, the W800’s closest rival is Moto Guzzi’s V7 (priced from £7999 to £8799, although an A2 kit is required to bring it down from 52bhp). Triumph’s closest is the 54bhp 900cc Street Cup (£8800), which is about to be replaced. That leaves Royal Enfield’s new 47bhp 650 Continental GT (from £5499) the closest other rival.

Equipment 3 out of 5

From the rider’s eye, the view forward on the W800 was always one of the most authentically retro and these two new versions continue that classy, olde worlde feel. From the neat, twin analogue dials (which incorporate the warning lights) to the cute fairing, pleasing, old-style metal switchgear (which requires you to cancel the indicators, nice touch, that) and even the purpose-built round front brake master cylinder, everything is just ‘right’ and classy and quality, too – as both span-adjustable clutch and brake levers prove. It makes a Yamaha XSR look nasty, a basic Bonnie seem budget and Royal Enfield’s 650 appear just a bit flimsy.

The W650/800 has always had retro detailing that is among the best of the breed and, especially in this Café trim, this new version continues the tradition. So, not only is it a proper, air-cooled twin, it has wire wheels, ‘Peashooter’ exhaust, Lucas-style taillight, twin dials and even rubber fork gaiters and tank knee pads as standard (are you listening Triumph?) In fact, even its tyres are ‘retro-style’, being Dunlop K800 GTs. Our only gripes are the loss of the metal tank badges and the fact it has a plasticky mudguard, although there’s still plenty of chrome.

Kawasaki W800 tank

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 2019
Year discontinued -
New price £9,099
Used price £7,000 to £9,100
Warranty term -
Running costs
Insurance group -
Annual road tax £91
Annual service cost -
Performance
Max power 47 bhp
Max torque 46 ft-lb
Top speed -
1/4-mile acceleration -
Average fuel consumption -
Tank range -
Specification
Engine size 773cc
Engine type Air-cooled OHV parallel-twin
Frame type Tubular steel double cradle
Fuel capacity 15 litres
Seat height 790mm
Bike weight 223kg
Front suspension 41mm telescopic forks, non-adjustable
Rear suspension Twin shocks, preload adjustable
Front brake Single 320mm disc, twin-piston caliper
Rear brake Single 270mm disc, twin-piston caliper
Front tyre size 100/90-18
Rear tyre size 130/80-18

History & Versions

Model history

The original W650 was launched in 1999 before being dropped from the range in 2006. It was reintroduced in 2011 as the fuel-injected W800, dropped again due to Euro4 in 2016 and then relaunched in its current versin in 2019.

Other versions

Along with the 2019 W800 Café Kawasaki launched a second, more conventional version – the W800 Street – with more upright bars, no nose fairing and a different seat plus silver rather than black wheels and other detail changes. It cost £700 less at £8399 at launch.

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