KAWASAKI Z650RS (2022 - on) Review

Highlights

  • Kawasaki’s new retro middleweight
  • 67bhp parallel twin
  • Can be made A2-legal if required

At a glance

Owners' reliability rating: 4.3 out of 5 (4.3/5)
Annual servicing cost: £140
Power: 67 bhp
Seat height: Medium (32.3 in / 820 mm)
Weight: Medium (412 lbs / 187 kg)

Prices

New £7,700
Used £7,700

Overall rating

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

Like the Z900RS, Kawasaki have really nailed the Z650RS. Its styling is spot on and the parallel twin motor feels right at home in retro guise where as a modern naked it is a bit lacklustre and behind the game when compared to its rivals.

Fun to ride, soulful and with a responsive chassis that certainly doesn’t feel old-school, there is little not to like. In RS guise it feels as if the Z650 has finally found its identity in life.

Kawasaki Z650RS on the road

Ride quality & brakes

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

Little has changed when it comes to the RS’s chassis compared to the Z650 and this only works in the RS’s favour. There has never been anything wrong with the Zed’s handling and in its retro clothes the fact it has conventional forks works rather than detracts from its kerb appeal.

Pleasingly light and agile, the RS delivers a thoroughly competent and enjoyable ride quality that is sporty enough for more experienced riders yet not intimidating or flighty for those newer to two-wheels.

Oddly the seat height on the RS is 30mm taller than the Zed at 820mm, but most of this is squish in the deeply padded seat so it doesn’t feel too much of a stretch to the ground. If it is, Kawasaki offer the option of a 20mm lower seat for £286.95.

The cast spoke wheels are purely a cosmetic feature and bring no weight benefits and the same is true of the round discs, which replaced the Z650’s petal items and make no discernable difference to the stopping power.

The Bosch ABS is ok for road riding but not the most advanced on the market and compared to newer systems  (the Ducati Scrambler has angle-sensitive ABS) it feels a bit rudimentary. That said, it is pleasing to see both the clutch and brake lever are span-adjustable.

Kawasaki Z650RS front brakes

Engine

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

The parallel twin is a tried and tested unit and holds no surprises. Exactly the same in terms of its tune and gearing as used on the naked Z650, and also able to be restricted to A2-legal if required, in full-power guise it is perfectly suited to life as a modern retro where as a sporty naked it struggles.

Against the likes of the Yamaha MT-07 the Z650’s bigger-bore engine is a bit slow revving, lumpy and disappointing in its performance, however these very traits only enhance the feel of the RS.

On a retro you want a bit of soul and the fact the twin feels more mechanical and less ‘whirry’ gives the RS a lovely bit of old-school charm. Ok, the gearbox is a touch clunky, but the fuel injection is perfect, the clutch light and the mid-range drive more than enough for brisk road riding. It’s a fun, engaging and easy-going motor, which is bang-on for a modern retro.

Kawasaki Z650RS on the road rear

Reliability & build quality

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

The RS is effectively a Z650 that has been given a retro make-over, which is no bad thing because the sugomi-styled Zed has been around since 2017 and despite selling in large numbers has very few reported major issues.

The parallel twin engine, which can trace its roots back to the 2005 ER-6n, is very robust and hasn’t changed dramatically over the years aside from tweaks to ensure it meets new emissions regulations, so all should be well there.

Owners do complain the paint finish on the engine can leave a bit to be desired and there are a few grumbles about the switchgear packing up on older Zeds but in general this is a very solidly built and reliable bike.

Looking around the RS there are lots of lovely touches such as the spoke-style wheels and retro clocks, which give it a real feel of quality considering its budget price tag.

Kawasaki Z650RS clocks and dash

Value vs rivals

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

The parallel twin engine is cheap to run and although Kawasaki claim it can record 65mpg, it has to be noted that this is a figure gained on the 35kW restricted version! Owners of the full-power Z650 generally hit closer to 55mpg in normal riding conditions, which is still very acceptable considering how much fuel now costs!

The motor needs servicing every 7500 miles with a valve-clearance check at the 15,000-mile mark. Expect to pay around £300 for a 7500-mile service and £580 for the valve-clearance check service with annual services (oil, filters etc) just £170.

Insurance generally isn’t bad on the Zed, so expect it to also be reasonable on the RS, but this can vary hugely depending on location and the age of the rider.

The Z650RS costs £7700 in black (£7850 in green or grey), which compares favourably to its modern retro middleweight rivals, although the Royal Enfield Continental GT starts at just £6039.

Yamaha’s equally budget-friendly and great fun parallel-twin XSR700 is £7702 (the higher-spec XTribute version is £8402), Suzuki’s lash-up retro SV650X V-twin is £7150 (dealers are desperate to get rid of them, so expect to pay far less) and Honda’s slightly more grown-up inline four CB650R is £7399, which has traction control as standard.

If you want Italian chic the base model air-cooled V-twin Ducati Scrambler Icon Dark, is £8146 while the very retro air-cooled Moto Guzzi V7 Stone 850 is £8000. The Brit retro Triumph Street Twin is £8400.

Kawasaki Z650RS on the road front quarter

Equipment

3 out of 5 (3/5)

Unlike the Zed models, there is no ‘Performance’ edition of the RS (you can buy a full Akra for £1815.95) and also no café racer as you used to get with its bigger brother, the Z900RS (this has been discontinued for 2022 in the UK).

So your only options are colours with grey and green costing a £150 premium over black. The bike itself comes with ABS as standard but no other rider assists, not that it really needs them.

The lack of radial brakes and inverted forks is also far less of a styling issue on the retro than the modern naked Zed, so they aren’t missed either. The dual-dial dash lacks connectivity (the Zed’s TFT dash has this feature) but it is pleasingly retro and has a fuel gauge.

In terms of official accessories, Kawasaki sell a good range of add-ons that includes a chrome pillion grab bar, side grips (also available in black) and a radiator protector and there is also a range of crash protection and even a full road-legal titanium Akrapovic exhaust system.

One of the best add-ons is a set of ‘Kawasaki’ retro-style 1970s font tank emblems, although they are £84.95! Oddly, you have to pay £29.95 extra for a helmet lock kit, although it is a one-key system.

Kawasaki Z650RS rear quarter

Specs

Engine size 649cc
Engine type Liquid-cooled, 8v, parallel-twin
Frame type Tubular steel trellis
Fuel capacity 12 litres
Seat height 820mm
Bike weight 187kg
Front suspension 41mm, telescopic forks, non-adjustable
Rear suspension Single rear shock, adjustable preload
Front brake 2 x 300mm discs with two-piston caliper. ABS
Rear brake 220mm single disc with single-piston caliper
Front tyre size 120/70 x 17
Rear tyre size 160/60 x 17

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption 55 mpg
Annual road tax £101
Annual service cost £140
New price £7,700
Used price £7,700
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two years

Top speed & performance

Max power 67 bhp
Max torque 47.2 ft-lb
Top speed 120 mph
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range 180 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

2017: Kawasaki Z650 & Ninja 650 – The Z650 replaced the ER-6n in Kawasaki’s range and is released alongside the Ninja 650, which replaced the ER-6f. Although they feature a slightly altered version of the ER’s parallel twin engine, both bikes have an all-new and far lighter chassis and totally revised styling.

2020:  Kawasaki Z650 & Ninja 650 – Kawasaki update their middleweights very slightly through a new TFT dash that features connectivity to Kawasaki’s Rideology App and small styling changed. They are both made Euro5-compliant later in the year for 2021.

2022:  Kawasaki Z650RS – Kawasaki take the Z650 as a base and create a retro version, the Z650RS. Featuring retro looks, spoke-style cast wheels and twin clocks, the RS goes on sale in late 2021 as a 2022 model.

Other versions

Kawasaki Z900RS -  The 650's bigger brother and was launched in 2017.

Kawasaki Z650 - A roadster version with modern styling.

Kawasaki Ninja 650 - The sporty version of the 650 platform.

Owners' reviews for the KAWASAKI Z650RS (2022 - on)

3 owners have reviewed their KAWASAKI Z650RS (2022 - 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.

Review your KAWASAKI Z650RS (2022 - on)

Summary of owners' reviews

Overall rating: 4.3 out of 5 (4.3/5)
Ride quality & brakes: 4.7 out of 5 (4.7/5)
Engine: 4.3 out of 5 (4.3/5)
Reliability & build quality: 4.3 out of 5 (4.3/5)
Value vs rivals: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Equipment: 2.7 out of 5 (2.7/5)
Annual servicing cost: £140
5 out of 5 Excellent all rounder, and great looking bike.
03 May 2022 by Alex K, Leics

Version: Z50th Anniversary edition

Year: 2022

Fairly minor. The standard tyre valves are very awkward/difficult to get at due to the cast wheel spoke design/spacing. Have to use an L shape adaptor to use a pressure gauge or foot pump so might look at having the valves replaced with angled ones (like the Triumph Trident has as standard) at some point. Bought to replace a Triumph Trident 660 and much prefer riding the Z650RS!

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

Front brakes very good, rear brake is certainly adequate for me. Overall very good stopping ability. Have not carried a pillion.Suspension is pretty supple/comfortable. Have not experienced a sore backside after an hours plus riding.Nice handling, is fairly light and very easy to manoeuvre on the road and in the garage. Surprisingly steady in blustery conditions. Have done a couple of short motorway stints at 70mph. Not too much buffeting at that speed but a flyscreen would help (if Kawasaki offer one later). Is fine up to 60-65mph without one.

Engine 5 out of 5

Overall very impressed with flexibility, smoothness and economy after first 500+ miles. Plenty fast enough even using running in rpm limits.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

Two months and 500 miles in at time of writing. Build quality/finish appears very good so far. Have the 50th Anniversary edition with Fireball colour scheme. The paintwork is very impressive, especially the “Z” on top of the fuel tank. It’s all paint as far as I can tell, is not just a decal with lacquer over the top like some bikes I have seen recently.

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

Annual servicing cost not known but expected to be reasonable on this model being an existing and proven engine.Getting high 60s mpg after the first 500 running in miles.

Equipment 4 out of 5

Would have liked the option of Kawasaki heated grips but the Oxford ones fitted by dealer work just fine. A flyscreen similar to the one available for the Z900RS would be ideal but by no means essential. Likewise a single “can” style exhaust would look better than the standard one but that works fine and is not too loud.My model came with the rear grab rail (optional on the other versions) fitted as standard, and personally I think it looks better with it.

4 out of 5 OK, not amazing, but ok.
03 May 2022 by Brad Hollywood

Year: 2022

Annual servicing cost: £140

Good effort, questionable build, and notchy gearbox.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

Can crash over potholes, and can only manage 2 hrs before getting a numb bum. At 5 11 it's a bit small, bars are nice and wide but legs feel cramped. Pillion provision is ok and the genuine grab rail is a must.

Engine 3 out of 5

Bit dated, but crude, notchy gearbox. But tried and tested, hopefully the gearbox will improve with miles, but so far it's not getting any better.

Reliability & build quality 3 out of 5

Surface corrosion after 3 weeks on chain, fasteners and exhaust, even though it wasn't used in the on salty roads and the chain lubed. Little disappointed as the bike us dar from cheap. Reliability so far has been good.

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

50 plus mpg, badic rain cylinder and cheap to insure snd run.

Equipment 3 out of 5

Abs... and basic clocks. Not a lot else.

Buying experience: Brilliant. Bought from Orwells motorcycles in Ipswich whose service was first clasd.

4 out of 5 Good old fashioned fun biking
26 November 2021 by Jake

Year: 2022

I love the bike, it does what I want these days which is enjoying great fun days out rather than the big miles multiple day tours with all the bags and boxes I used to do, some of which was on the original Z650 (then an air cooled 4) I bought in 1978. Having said that this machine is quite capable of playing with the big boys over big miles should I get the urge, although the draw backs of prolonged higher speeds on a naked bike have to be lived with. A nimble, nippy little devil with the bullet proof 650 twin engine refined over the years from the ER6, Versys 650 (both of which I've owned) and the alternatively available Z650. Great fun to ride, handles brilliantly and brakes very well. It's not going to beat the ZX10 on a track day for performance or braking but on the lanes, the ride outs I've taken it on, no one on anything has had to wait for me to catch up.Economical, giving me up to 70mpg if ridden sympathetically, which is just as well as it's only got a 12ltr tank. Being a very light machine it pulls higher gears at lower speed than my Versys (2018 model) and seems much smother without the little 'lumps' associated with twins. I'll leave the technical people to discuss how the gearing, engine tweaks and tuning of this new incarnation of the engine enable that, I just ride the things. Disappointed that basic things like a grab rail or handles, helmet lock and luggage hooks are not standard and currently only available as extortionately priced optional extras. Also I question the prioritising of making useful extras available as currently (Nov 2021) there is no luggage rack available but there is an alternative, lighter Aprovakich exhaust system available for £1800! It seems saving a couple of kilos and making a nice sound is more important than somewhere to put your gloves and helmet when you stop for a cupper. An issue I am bound to find with this machine as I did with the ER6 and Versys is that without some sort of fender extender, (not available as yet) the road muck and grit get thrown right at the ornate twisty down pipes and after a while they will discolour and become pitted. I always question why manufacturers in general don't design better protection but the bike does have a small hugger to give some protection at the rear so that's something I suppose.Big 7500 mile service intervals, two year extended warranty available for £150 if taken at time of purchase, or £250 if taken during the original two year warranty period plus the usual one year breakdown cover.

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

Great fun, very nimble, stable and responsive when throwing around the twisties but well mannered in the town and for general commuting.

Engine 5 out of 5

I've always liked this middleweight twin and it's got better over time. Delivers smoothly and little of the lumpiness (or 'character' depending on your view) associated with twins.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

Never had or heard of a problem with this engine and between the ER6, Versys, Z650 and now Z650RS it's been around with various tweaks for a long time.

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5
Equipment 1 out of 5

Quite simply it doesn't come with any frills and that's my biggest gripe. Love the style, the retro clocks, the looks but when you don't even get a helmet lock grab bar/handles or luggage hooks, it's a pretty poor show.

Buying experience: At c£7800 it's arguable that other bikes offer more refinements (including Kawasaki's other Z650 and the Versys), but as this model appeals to me and I trust the dealer I've mainly dealt with for over 40 years, I'll live with it.

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