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2021 Kawasaki Z650 BS6: First Ride Review

09 February 2021, 06:00 PM Anuj Mishra

Introduction

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The middle-weight naked street bike segment is the least crowded space in India with the Kawasaki Z650 being the only option available for the buyers. I agree, there are bikes like the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 which comes close to this genre. But, when a rider wants a fast, agile, and modern mid-size multi-cylinder offering, the Z proudly stands to fulfil these requirements. 

The transition to more stringent emission norms has brought along many more changes in the Z650 than just a cleaner engine. It sports a different design, more features, and revised hardware. And I am glad to mention that this kwacker has also transformed into a louder and bassier sounding machine.

Fuel Tank

But the main question is - Is the Kawasaki Z650 still the same friendly yet exciting package to be someone's first big bike? To bring you the answer, we rode the new 2021 Z650 BS6 in the city, out on the highway, and around some twisties.

The Visuals

Right Front Three Quarter

Before you hop on the new Z 650, you’ll instinctively take a walk around it only to drool over its styling. Kawasaki has always bestowed its motorcycles with a profoundly aggressive and sharp design, but with the new Z family, it has taken things to a whole new level. 

When looked at from a distance, it appears to be in attack mode all the time, thanks to the hunched-forward and front-heavy stance. The entire body work is dominated by sharp lines and deep creases, starting from the low-slung headlamp to the stubby tail section. 

Tail Light

And it’s not just the design that will impress you, but the fitment of body panels and paint quality don’t leave a room for complaints either. As for the switchgear, it feels tactile to use and the buttons are quite easy to reach too. 

The Package

Front Suspension
Kawasaki Z650

Kawasaki Z650

  • Displacement649 cc
  • Max Power(bhp)67.3 bhp
  • Kerb Weight191 kg
  • ;

Avg. Ex-showroom price

₹ 6,03,047

Starting with the engine, the new Z650 continues to be powered by a 649cc, parallel twin-cylinder engine which produces 67bhp of power and 64Nm of torque. Transmission duties are handled by a six-speed gearbox with assist and slipper clutch.

It rides on 17-inch alloy wheels at both ends which now come shod with Dunlop Sportmax Roadsport 2 tyres. Braking is handled by dual discs at the front and a single rotor at the rear. While suspension setup is still the same with telescopic forks and a monoshock, Kawasaki has tweaked it for better handling and stability.

TFT / Instrument Cluster

As for the features, the Japenese bike maker has finally done away with its dated-looking LCD console and has incorporated a TFT display. Besides packing a lot of information in a legible and clutter-free format, this display gets Bluetooth connectivity to pair with the rider’s smartphone. However, you don’t have access to things like navigation on the display itself. Instead, you can view some amount of information on your smartphone in Kawasaki's Rideology mobile app. Another downer about this display is that you have to use the two buttons on the console to navigate through the menu, which is slightly tricky.

Head Light

On the positive side, the Z650 now gets a full-LED headlamp that not only looks nice and fancy but it also does a good job of illuminating the road ahead.

The Ride

Left Side View

Getting aboard the Z650 is an effortless task, mainly because of its low 790mm seat height. Take it off the stand and its 191kg kerb weight is instantly noticeable. But I assure you that’s the last thing you’ll worry about while riding.

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Once on the saddle, you’ll realise that the Z650 is a compact but accommodating machine. Holding on to its fuel tank is easy as the seat properly tapers at the front. The cushioning and space of the seat is also adequate. Moreover, the handlebar is positioned to give you a leaned-forward and engaging stance, but there's no hint of discomfort.

Talking about the performance, the torque output of the BS6 Z650 is down by 1.7Nm and the weight has gone up by 1kg as compared to its BS4 model. However, none of that seems to have any effect on its real-world performance and it’s still an entertaining motorcycle to ride. 

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The Z650 darts ahead with a sheer urgency from as low as 2,500rpm. Keep the throttle pinned and the brisk acceleration continues until 10,000rpm, where it redlines. The 100kmph mark is crossed in a jiffy and it vigorously keeps on pulling to some crazy triple-digit numbers. The whole experience is further intensified by its raspy exhaust note at higher rpm. 

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Interestingly, the engine is not just highly potent, but it is also tractable. At slow speeds, the Z650 feels relaxed and you can do 40-50kmph of speeds even in the fifth gear. And the punchy low and mid-range means taking off from a signal or escaping out of tight gaps in traffic is a quick affair. Moreover, the fairly light clutch and the precise shifting gearbox make your life easier. Kawasaki’s heat management system is also brilliant and I didn’t feel any heat being dissipated on my thighs even after riding in the traffic for a long time.

As for the vibrations, the Z650 does get buzzy after around 4,500rpm, but these are just minor vibes creeping up on the seat. Also, every time you’ll belt it down an open highway, be prepared for a massive amount of wind buffeting as there’s no real wind protection. 

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Besides performance, handling is one of the strong facets of the Z as it changes directions with minimal efforts. Be it switching lanes or taking on tight corners in mountains, the Z feels utterly obedient to your inputs. Even while going through long sweeping bends, it holds its line accurately. The wide single-piece handlebar provides the needed leverage to inspire confidence while turning it in. 

Something that would have made the Z650 even more confidence-inspiring is a better set of tyres. The grip from the new Dunlops is just about average. Under hard braking, these lock up quite easily and that makes the ABS intrude too early which hampers the overall stopping distance of the bike. Having said that, the bite and progression from the Nissin callipers are decent. 

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Another bummer is its ride quality which feels pretty stiff. Riding over any kind of undulation at moderate speeds sends a jolt to your back, which is quite pronounced on taller bumps and sharp-edged undulations. Minor dips and crests can be dealt with by going slightly faster. But it’s important to mention that the ride is not so bad that it can be a deal-breaker. But thanks to its low 130mm of ground clearance, you have to be careful while going over tall speed bumps to avoid its underbelly from scraping.

Verdict

Front View

Now, back to our question – Is the new Kawasaki Z650 BS6 exciting yet friendly enough to be your first big bike? The answer is a loud and clear yes. It is a motorcycle which blends in almost all kind of scenarios. The tractable engine with linear power delivery makes it a great city bike. And then it’s equally ballistic and engaging on the highway as well as around twisties. And the best part is, you can bring home the new Z650 by paying an ex-showroom price of Rs 6.04 lakh, which sounds like a pretty sweet deal. But I hope Kawasaki is slightly more considerate while updating it the next time and gives it grippier tyres, a more advanced Bluetooth console, and slightly plusher ride quality. 

Photography by Kapil Angane

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