2021 Kawasaki Z650 – Underrated Middleweight

2021 Kawasaki Z650

2021 Kawasaki Z650

Middleweight naked bikes are one of the most popular type of motorcycles not only in North America, but all around the world. The reason why is that they offer a lot of bang for the buck, they are accessible, easy to ride, cheap to maintain and affordable while they can still be quite fast and fun. This week, we have had a chance to review 2021 Kawasaki Z650.

ER-6N was a huge success and got replaced by Z650 in 2017

Let’s start with a quick history: Before the Z650, Kawasaki had the ER-6N since the beginning of 2005, and it was a huge success that re-started the whole modern era middleweight war. Unlike 1990s, people wanted to have more accessible bikes with less aggressive seating position while still being fun, that’s how naked motorcycles started to become more popular.

Since it’s first unveiled in 2017, Z650 is one of the best looking middleweight bikes

As there is a huge market growth, Kawasaki decided to create a whole new bike to replace the ER-6N in 2017. New middleweight naked bike is now called Z650 and became a part of Z model lineup. You also see Sugomi design elements and sharp edges all around the bike like the other Z models. Although the Z650 has been on the market since 2017, I think it is still one of the best looking entries in this segment.

Z650 has a lot of sharp body lines and black/green colour combination looks gorgeous

Like many other bikes, it comes with different color combination each year, but black and green is the traditional Kawasaki color scheme that makes the bike look very upscale, with the recent refresh now the wheels are also in Kawasaki Green. Different frame color is one of the things makes the bike look more special especially in this price range.

Sharp body lines continue throughout the bike, there are lots of plastic parts that cover almost everything, it’s very hard to see this level of attention to detail within this price range. It’s not just the attention to detail, but also the materials used throughout the bike is impressive, considering it is a budget oriented motorcycle.

Curved swingarm design makes the bike look more special and upscale

Another important design feature that you can rarely see within this price is the design of the swingarm. It’s an asymmetrical swingarm design that make the bike look even more upscale, and it gives more space for the original exhaust, which is a one piece design placed at the very bottom for lower center of gravity.

Updated Z650 comes the new LED headlights

Updated Z650 has some important differences but it’s not a huge change compared to the pre-facelift version. As expected, it comes with a different headlights and now they are LED instead of a halogen bulb. I personally like the older headlight design more, but I would take LED headlight over the old one for better safety and visibility.

4.3 inch TFT screen is unquestionably the best dash in this segment

The most significant change aside from the new LED headlight design is the new 4.3 inch TFT dash. The older version had the 1990s style digital gauge which is criticized by many journalists. The new one actually looks great, in fact it is much better than any other bike in this segment even much more expensive ones. It’s super easy to read in any type of weather and light.

You can see riding data with the Rideology app

Another interesting feature that you don’t find in this segment is the Bluetooth connection and app integration. Kawasaki offers Rideology app standard with the Z650, you can see all riding features, including trip, distance, fuel economy, lean angle, fuel info, engine info such as coolant temperature and riding log. This is one of the feature that you feel like Kawasaki designed the Z650 for younger demographics.

With the latest update, Kawasaki updated the new exhaust and now it is compliant with Euro 5 norms. In our tests, it averaged about 4.5L / 100 km and as a previous Z650 (2018) owner, I would say 2021 is almost 10% better in terms of fuel economy, as I was averaging around 5.0L / 100 km with my previous Z650.

Kawasaki’s tried-and-true parallel twin 650cc DOHC engine produces 67 hp

2021 Kawasaki Z650 comes with tried-and-true parallel twin 650cc engine that produces 67 horsepower and 49 lb-ft of torque. It’s a very reliable platform that Kawasaki has been using for the last few years in many other models such as Ninja 650 and Versys 650. The parallel twin engine has 180 degree firing order and as a result it is not the best sounding one, but it still has nice intake howling noise every time you get on the throttle.

Exhaust is located under the engine for lower center of gravity

Aside from the exhaust sound, the engine feels very alive and punchy in the mid range. It has decent amount of roll on power and the throttle response is very direct. As it has slightly less horsepower than the competition, the gear ratios are shorter to compensate, and as a result it wants to accelerate pretty quickly. You don’t feel like you need to downshift to pass other cars, even at 6th gear on the highway.

One of the favorite things about the Z650 is the transmission and clutch feeling. The shifter feels very solid and there is no false neutral. Also, it is very easy to find the neutral when you stop, as it would not allow you to shift to the second gear. Clutch feeling is extremely smooth and predictable, with adjustable clutch levers. It also comes with slipper clutch, making the Z650 one of the best beginner friendly entries in the middleweight segment.

At 6’1″ it feels a little bit cramped with the standard seat

Z650 comes with non adjustable front suspension and rear shocks with preload adjustment, which is fine for the price range. Suspension tuning is definitely focused on road comfort, front forks are tuned soft and good for long rides. It’s not just the suspension tuning, but the ergonomics are also very comfort oriented. You sit pretty upright and seat height is low (31.1″ or 79 cm) for shorter adults. If you are 6’0″ or taller, you should get the taller seat.

Despite having non adjustable soft front forks it is quite capable on the twisties

Throwing a leg over the Z650 reveals how nimble and small the bike feels. It weights 187 kg (wet) and it definitely feels smaller than other Japanese entries. This makes the bike much more forgiving if you are newer rider, or a smaller adult as you would feel more comfortable handling the bike at lower speeds.

It comes with dual Nissin calipers with 300 mm discs

What I also like about the Z650 is the brakes, especially the front brakes. It does not have fancy braking system, but it is confidence inspiring. It has twin 300 mm discs and dual Nissin calipers in the front. They give you a lot of confidence and brake feeling is excellent. However, I find the rear brake feeling a little bit numb, though it has single 220mm disc with Nissin caliper, which is okay at this price point.

It may not be the fastest on the straight line, but it is the most well-rounded entry

If you are just looking for straight line acceleration, there are faster entries in the middleweight segment. However, Kawasaki has a different approach with the Z650, as it targets wider range of riders that are looking for more well-rounded options. It is a great option not only for beginners, but also good for experienced riders.

Z650 is the underrated middleweight that offers a lot of fun for a reasonable price

At the end of the day, motorcycling is not only fun on the straight line, it should also be fun everywhere. 2021 Kawasaki Z650 is a cozy little street bike that can be a great first bike, or a great commuter for experienced riders while still being fun on twisty roads. The level of versatility is what makes the Z650 probably the most well-balanced middleweight naked bike in 2021.

Of course, no motorcycle is perfect and Z650 has some room for improvement. For instance, for heavier riders, front forks start to feel too soft if you take it to tight fast turns back to back, the bike may feel cramped if you are a tall adult on long rides, and throttle response is abrupt at lower RPMs. But all of them can be fixed with few small changes, and as a result they are not deal breaker as the bike is priced very competitively.

2021 Kawasaki Z650 starts at $8499

2021 Kawasaki Z650 is priced at $8,499 CAD and there are three different colour options. Kawasaki charges extra $200 for two special colour options for 2021. Considering all the features such as TFT screen, Riding App, LED headlight, slipper clutch and nice color scheme that you often don’t find in this price range, it offers a lot of motorcycle for the money.

For more details – please visit www.kawasaki.ca