KAWASAKI W800 (2019 - on) Review
- A2 compliant 47bhp engine
- Authentic retro styling and performance
- Available in three models
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£130|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
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).
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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. 2019 saw the introduction of the hunched-over Café and flat-barred Street, with Kawasaki introducing a third pure 'W800' to the 2020 line-up.
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.
Elsewhere, the metallic black W800 Street promised a more 'traditional' upright appeal for the retro enthusiast. £700 less than the Café at its launch, other changes included a different seat and silver rims.
The latest W800 gets a 19in front wheel compared to the other models' 18-incher and is covered in chrome and detailing. The engine also gets a silver finish and chrome tank emblems. This, plus longer mudguards and old-style indicators and mirrors, mean this bike’s character is more 'sunny Sunday' where its siblings are 'trendy urban'.
The previous W650/800 was always one of the most authentic retros and the same is true of these latest versions. On the slight downside, there are a few niggles (plasticky guards, no metal tank badge on some models) 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 & brakesNext up: Engine
A classic-style, tubular steel twin loop frame is claimed to be more rigid than on previous machines, as are the larger diameter forks complete with stiffer springs.
For the Café and the Street, there are also tasty new wire wheels, with an 18-incher at the front in place of the previous W800's 19, while there’s a larger 320mm front disc (up 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.
Unlike these two machines, the 2020 W800 regains the 19in front wheel, plus narrower and less pulled-back bars than the Street, giving a riding position and steering response that are more... well, convincing.
EngineNext up: Reliability
What makes the W800 so convincingly period is the crankshaft. Other parallel twins use a 270 ̊ firing interval to sound and feel similar to a 90 ̊ V-twin, but Kawasaki have stuck with a 360 ̊ crank where the pistons rise and fall together.
This gives a distinct exhaust note, far more reminiscent of an old Bonneville or Commando (and also of a BMW boxer, as it happens), and a different feel. With just 47bhp (A2-legal) the W800’s power delivery is easy-going and relaxed, the twin thrumming politely beneath you.
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 dual peashooter silencers and, if required, will cruise at 80 on motorways and top out just above a ton. But it would really rather not.
The balance shaft does a decent job of eliminating tingles while still allowing you to feel the engine’s character. It’s a pity that most of the vibes arrive at 3500rpm, as this is 60mph in top (fifth) gear.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
The old version of the W800 was solid, and there's no reason to think that the new one should be any less so. Plus, the build-quality is excellent, there's a two year warranty and Kawasaki enjoy a strong UK dealer network. Our one owners' review of the Kawasaki W800 also awards the bike a 5/5 for build quality and reliability.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
The A2-compliant, retro roadster class was one of 2019’s most competitive and it continues to roll on into the new decade - with the arrival of the straight-laced W800 model for 2020 injecting new blood into the fashionable genre.
All three of the Kawasaki variants (the Café, Street and W800) face some stiff competition from around the globe, however nothing else offers such a truly authentic retro experience.
Not as punchy as an £8100 (2020 pricing) Triumph Street Twin, or as eager as a Moto Guzzi V7, it's the most convincing 'classic Brit' on the market right now - outshining Triumph's fleet of Bonnevilles, which all feel thoroughly modern by comparison.
Then there's the the Royal Enfield Interceptor (from £5699, 2020) and Continental GT (from £5899, 2020) 650 twins, which undercut the rest of the class with their exceptional value for money. It is also important to note that the V7 and Street Twin require restriction kits to become A2-compliant.
Priced at £8399 for the cheapest Street model, the Kawasaki is a heavier investment than the Enfields, however it is very competitve when compared with its larger-capacity rivals - with the 2020 V7 Special also setting you back £8699.
From the rider’s eye, the view forward on the W800 was always one of the most authentically retro and the new versions continue that classy, olde worlde feel.
From the neat, twin analogue dials (which incorporate the warning lights) to the cute fairing on the Café, pleasing, old-style metal switchgear 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 XSR700 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 the 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?)
|Engine type||Air-cooled OHV parallel-twin|
|Frame type||Tubular steel double cradle|
|Fuel capacity||15 litres|
|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|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||-|
|Annual road tax||£93|
|Annual service cost||£130|
|Used price||£6,000 - £8,500|
How much to insure?
Top speed & performance
|Max power||47 bhp|
|Max torque||46 ft-lb|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
Model history & versions
Kawasaki kicked off the W-series of retros back in 1999 with the W650, reflecting how British bikes were in the sixties and powered by a 676cc parallel-twin engine. This carb-fed W650 was replaced by the injected 773cc W800 for 2011, only to be killed off by emission regulations in 2016.
But with retros still booming, Kawasaki reworked the bike – changing 90% of its parts – to release a new W800 Street and W800 Café in 2019. And now they’re joined by a straight W800 variant.
Watch our group test of the 2011 Kawasaki W800 below:
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.
For 2020, Kawasaki then introduced the straight £8645 W800 variant - a stripped-back retro that gives an authentic slice of classic motorcycling that the likes of Triumph could only hope to achieve with their current offerings.
Owners' reviews for the KAWASAKI W800 (2019 - on)
1 owner has reviewed their KAWASAKI W800 (2019 - 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.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£130|
Annual servicing cost: £130
Old style retro motorcycle, with old style charm, not sporty but great sounding exhaust note. Comfortable seat with medium height allowing a comfortable riding position. Good fuel consumption and easy maintenance.
Great Sunday morning ride out bike, which does draw attention. Exhaust sounds great and retro. Comfortable seat for moderate mileages
With only 47 BHP, is definitely not a sports bike, but will accelerate away from lights at a reasonable pace, but it was never designed to be a racer, more of a good ride to work or take your time lazy day ride.
Reasonable build quality as you would expect from Kawasaki, easy to clean . Would be better if a main stand was supplied even as a optional extra. Due to the year , and low mileage, nothing broken or damaged as yet.
Bike only had covered 800 miles from new , and only had first service.
Totally love the exhaust sound, and the attention it draws when parked up. Recommend the purchase of the Kawasaki crash bars, look good and should hopefully save you money should the unfortunate happen.
Buying experience: Bike purchased last June from Colchester Kawasaki, they were advertising pre reg bikes at £1400 off the list price. On visiting and test riding the bike, it had 17 miles on the clock, a real bargain!