Ride Quality & Brakes
Where Kawasaki have updated other areas of the 2020 Z650, both the original chassis and suspension components remain. This is no bad thing though, with the bike capable of soaking up the majority of ruts and crevices found on the daily urban commute, as well as putting a grin on your face at the weekend along a nadgery backroad.
Built with new riders in mind, the 41mm non-adjustable front forks and pre-load adjustable rear shock are quite softly sprung, making the bike feel comfortable and forgiving for novices. There are no power modes, or traction control (not that it needs them), with ABS being the only electronic safety intervention.
Perfectly pleasant around town, it’s only when you want to really press on that you start to notice issues, with the basic forks diving noticeably during aggressive braking manoeuvres. What’s more, heavy applications of the front lever on bumpier country roads will soon see the ABS kick in – pumping back against your fingertips – which could slightly deter more experienced riders.
That said, once into a corner, the bike feels planted and stable and will change direction quickly - making it a joy to behold on the many Spanish coastal switchbacks experienced at its launch.
Away from the suspension and brakes, Kawasaki have also swapped out the original bike’s Dunlop Sportmax D214 tyres for a set of Dunlop Sportmax Roadsport 2s.
Although providing enough grip in the dry for new riders and non-aggressive commuters, they offer very little feedback over wet tarmac, feeling vague on corner entry and occasionally braking traction at the rear under hard acceleration in the lower gears. As the temperatures increased, so did my confidence, however they spoil what is an otherwise brilliantly handling motorcycle.
To comply with Euro5, Kawasaki have lightly tickled the 649cc parallel-twin engine; increasing the volume of the catalyser and altering the exhaust silencer layout for greater efficiency. They also claim to have improved midrange torque by altering the duct between the airbox and throttle bodies.
Peak power remains the same 67.1bhp as the first model, however peak torque is now down by 1.3ftlb. That said, it has lost none of its charm and remains an utter delight in both urban and rural settings; delivering a gravelly gurgle from tick-over all the way to its 10,000rpm redline and an addictive pop on the overrun.
For days when you don’t want to chase the rev counter into the red, there’s also plenty of meat in the middle, allowing you to be lazy with the gears around town and during relaxed overtakes.
As well as being impressive in its full power setting, for just £31 plus labour, the Z650 can also be restricted to be A2-compliant. Producing 47bhp (35kW), full power can then be unlocked once on a full category A licence - delivering that big bike feel, without having to purchase another motorcycle.
Build Quality & Reliability
Available with either a two-or-four-year warranty, the latest generation Z650 feels like a well-built, premium motorcycle, despite its competitive, wallet-friendly pricing. What’s more, MCN owner reviews of the previous model show nothing but praise for reliability, with scores of 4/5 and 5/5 shown across the board.
The Z650 sports a premium look that wouldn’t seem out of place on a larger capacity machine, far outstretching its sub-seven-grand price tag. Alongside the equivalent Yamaha and Suzuki, it’s a breath of fresh air and you can’t help but steal glances of yourself in shopfronts as you glide by.
With LED lighting at the front and rear, a more angular front cowling and greater pronounced radiator shrouds, practical revisions also include a new pillion perch, which is 5mm thicker in the middle and 10mm fatter at the sides for increased comfort.
Although arguably better looking and better equipped than both the Suzuki SV650 and Yamaha MT-07, the Kawasaki’s 2020 base price of £6649 is a whole £650 more than the V-Twin Suzuki, which, although more basic, produces slightly more power, at 74.9bhp. That said, it is still £50 cheaper than the Yamaha.
Keen to appeal to younger tech-savvy riders looking for a first big bike, the Z650 now features a 4.3in colour TFT dash. The sophisticated unit displays all of the key information you want in a simplistic design that’s easy to read on the move in all light conditions.
Altering settings is also easily done at a standstill, thanks to an intuitive two-button operating system. Setting it apart from its LCD-clad direct competition, the device can also be paired to your mobile phone, via Bluetooth, using the brand’s Rideology app.
Recording details like your top speed, fuel gauge, odometer, servicing schedule and more, the device also allows for text and call alerts on the bike’s dashboard. What’s more, details shown on the dash can also be configured through the app, including units of measurements, dates and times. Whether or not you would continue to use it once the novelty had worn off remains to be seen…
As well as a fancy dash, you can also truly make the new Z650 your own, thanks to a raft of optional extra, ranging from soft luggage, to fly screens and from tank pads, to frame sliders. Those wanting the bike in either white or black will have to pay an additional £100 over the £6649 lime green base model, too.
Although we were unable to test many extras at the launch, we were able to sample the optional taller rider’s seat, which boosts the standard 790mm height by a further 30mm. Costing an additional £139.95, this is a worthwhile option for any rider taller than around 5ft4in, with the standard riding position feeling slightly cramped for even this 5ft6in tester.
Perched higher, you feel less like you’re sat inside the bike, with the extra leg room and cushioning for your backside making it a nicer place to be during longer stints in the saddle. What’s more, the cut of the optional seat, also forces you further over the bars, without putting any extra strain on your wrists – adding to the already engaging riding experience.