Kawasaki Z 650 in the driving report

Kawasaki Z 650 in the driving report

Low entry motorcycle

The Kawasaki Z 650 takes on the role of the entry-level motorcycle, the ER-6 is allowed to retire. Our 2-meter editor drove the little Z and reports.

The name Kawasaki is new Z 650 not, as early as 1976 there was a four-cylinder with this abbreviation. It represented the inexpensive alternative to the Z 1000 at that time. This has been part of the Kawasaki range again since 2003, but since then there has been no little brother with a firm connection to the Z family.

Kawasaki Z 650 in the driving report

Low entry motorcycle

Kawasaki Z 650. Before that comes into focus, let’s take a quick look back at the recent history of motorcycles from Akashi. For many years there was no getting around the ER-6 models when it came to affordable motorcycle fun in the entry-level and middle class. The recipe for success behind it? In addition to the inexpensive entry-level course, the foolproof, easily controllable driving behavior was particularly attractive. So it was hardly surprising that the ER-6n in particular became the darling of driving schools. Which was also due to the fact that the open 72 horsepower two-cylinder as a throttle variant safely accompanied beginners on the first few meters into the world of two-wheelers and spread a lot of good mood among experienced motorcyclists with open performance.

Motor out at the bottom and stronger in the middle

The new Kawasaki Z 650 is based on these ingredients, apparently changing little, but ultimately a lot of the successful concept. The main features of the drive have remained. The 649 cm³ in-line twin with a 180-degree crankshaft still takes care of the propulsion, now homologated according to Euro 4. Compared to its predecessor, it has slightly lost power with a drop of four hp to 68 horsepower, but the torque increased from 64 Nm at 7,000 rpm to just under 66 Nm at a lower 6,500 rpm. Throttle valves reduced from 38 to 36 millimeters and a smaller valve overlap are responsible for this and should ensure that the engine now starts out at the bottom and more strongly in the middle. Kawasaki digged deeper into the matter, changed injectors and cylinders, gave the clutch an assist and anti-hopping function and shed two kilograms on the engine without changing the crankshaft.

Naked bike

Kawasaki Z 650 first driving impressions

2-meter-man on a small kawa

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The changes to the chassis are more striking. Until now, a bridge frame with two parallel steel tubes on both sides formed the backbone of the 650. With the Kawasaki Z 650 this has become a conventional, filigree tubular frame. At 15 kilograms, it weighs considerably less than its counterpart of the ER-6n, and the steering head is also a bit steeper. This now has a value of 65.5 degrees (previously 65 degrees), which reduced the trail by ten to 100 millimeters. All other data relating to the chassis have not changed, e.g. suspension travel, wheelbase, tire sizes.

Kawasaki Z 650 with 15 liter tank

The rear shock absorber is not new, but that it is now operated by lever instead of directly. This should help to improve the response behavior criticized here and there in the ER-6. The swing arm weighs only 4.8 kilograms, the ER-6n was still a hefty 7.5. Thanks to a smaller tank with a capacity of 15 instead of 16 liters, lighter Bosch ABS, modified rims and brake calipers from the Versys 650, the weight of the Kawasaki Z 650 drops to a total of 187 kilograms when fully fueled. For comparison: the previous ER-6n weighed in at a whopping 208 kilograms.

Casual, upright, relaxed seating position

And how does the new diet master from Kawasaki fare where it counts? MOTORRAD was able to test this around Huelva in southern Spain. As if by itself, the leg swings over the 15 millimeter lower driver’s seat. The knee joint on the very narrow tank is exemplary. And since the footrests also moved down by 15 millimeters, the knees of normal people won’t pinch. Kawasaki has placed the footrests of the Kawasaki Z 650 60 millimeters further forward than the ER-6n. An arrangement that promotes a casual, upright, relaxed sitting position.

Bottom-center voting

The engine hangs fine on the gas, starts to work in the lower gears just over 2,000 revolutions without choking. In higher gear stages, the in-line twin-cylinder runs smoothly from around 3,000 rpm, which is why gear stage four is ideal in urban areas. Out of town, the drive of the Kawasaki Z 650 can then show whether the bottom-center coordination is a reality or just an empty promise.

From the first few meters across the country, it becomes clear that a lot has changed here. With a sound that is still clearly audible despite Euro 4 and a slight rattle from the enlarged airbox, the twin of the Kawasaki Z 650 marches noticeably more emphatically than in the ER-6n. Only at the top, when the tachometer, which opens up like a fan, warns of the next gear change with wild flashing and more than 8,000 rpm are on the display, does the vigor decrease. So it’s better to switch up earlier and keep the drive happy below this speed. The assist function of the clutch makes changing gears a pleasure, the gears in the transmission slide nimbly up and down.

Playful handling gets stuck in the brain

Due to the reduced overall weight, Kawasaki has retuned the fork: different springs, less preload, modified shims. The front responds sensitively to bumps and guides the front wheel comfortably. Only when the brakes are applied does it make the servant, and for lack of progression, it compresses deeply. The rear damper, which can still only be adjusted in the preload, filters noticeably rougher shocks – despite the new deflection. He still doesn’t like short strokes and passes them on to the driver rather unfiltered. This is not nice, but it does not interfere with gliding over country roads up to the speed allowed there. Rather, thanks to the diet, the playful handling is burned in the brain. The Kawasaki Z 650 jumps easily from one lean angle to the next, whizzing through every bend. And if the mounted Dunlop D 214 in special specification B offered a little more feedback, the playful light-footedness of the Z 650 could be enjoyed even more. So it takes a little to build trust.

48 hp throttling by code in the ECU

However, the tires are not to blame for the slightly spongy driving behavior at accelerated speeds. Then there is gauscht in the chassis frame, the fork and shock absorber would do more damping. But we are not on the run. When gliding over land, the spring elements work satisfactorily and keep the Kawasaki Z 650 on track.

Easy is also the throttling of the Z 650 for novice drivers. Kawasaki is offering a kit for the market launch – the small Z is available now. The throttling of the Kawasaki Z 650 to 48 hp only needs to be called up by the specialist dealer using a code in the ECU. Cost: less than 100 euros. The Z 650 and ER-6n are close despite all the differences in price. Kawasaki calls for 6,695 euros for the small Z, which is 300 euros more than the predecessor, but: Weight tuning has never been cheaper.

Data Kawasaki Z 650


Water-cooled two-cylinder four-stroke in-line engine, one balance shaft, two overhead, chain-driven camshafts, four valves per cylinder, bucket tappets, wet sump lubrication, injection, 2x Ø 36 mm, regulated catalytic converter, alternator 336 W, battery 12 V / 14 Ah, mechanically operated multi-disc Oil bath clutch, six- speed gearbox, O-ring chain, secondary ratio 3.067.

Boron x stroke 83.0 x 60.0 mm
Displacement 649 cc
Compression ratio 10.8: 1
rated capacity 50.2 kW (68 hp) at 8,000 rpm

landing gear

Trellis frame made of steel, load-bearing motor made of steel, telescopic fork, Ø 41 mm, two-arm swing arm made of steel, spring strut with lever system, adjustable spring base, double disc brake at the front, Ø 300 mm, double-piston floating calipers, rear disc brake, Ø 220 mm, single-piston floating caliper, ABS.

Cast aluminum wheels 3.50 x 17; 4.50 x 17
tires 120/70 ZR 17; 160/60 ZR 17

Dimensions + weights

Wheelbase 1,410 mm, steering head angle 65.5 degrees, caster 100 mm, front / rear suspension travel 125/130 mm, seat height 790 mm, ready-to-drive weight 187 kg, tank capacity 15.0 liters.

guarantee two years
Colors    White, black, gray metallic
price 6,695 euros
Additional costs 225 euros

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