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.
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.