2014 Kawasaki Ninja 650 Review
Bike Tested: 2014 Kawasaki Ninja 650
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 5,95,800/-
The Ninja 650 scores high on comfort and the train engine alike torque makes it fun to ride.
The middle-weight category in motorcycles is revving high and revving very fast. The amount of motorcycles worldwide in the 400-800cc category is turning out to be huge. Motorcyclists are being spoiled for choice now, that is the kind of momentum these bikes have created in the market. Reason why? Middle weights are the best of both worlds. Silly fast when you need them to go, comfortable and economical otherwise. The value for money quotient seems to be the latest funda with manufacturers worldwide so we are getting good value too. All this starts from the KTM Duke 390 to let’s say the Kawasaki Z800 here in India. These motorcycles and motorcycles in between them have become the pick of the lot for the mature crowd who have lived with 200/250cc motorcycles over the past 4-5 years. One such motorcycle is an insane hit in the market because it ticks all the right boxes when it comes to owning and riding. Yup, it is the Kawasaki Ninja 650 which has been a success ever since it was launched in 2011. We never got a chance to review the bike earlier but when the new colour came in, we decided to review this top selling bike. After all we had to the ride the Ninja 650 to find out why the crowd is so crazy about it. Did we go crazy? Come join us to find out.
Motor Quest: The Kawasaki Ninja 650 was first launched in 2006 with a massive update in the styling department coming in 2009. In 2012, Kawasaki gave it a small upgrade by dropping the R suffix and updated the ECU, chassis and battery.
Styling – Ever since its inception in 2006, the Ninja 650 looked polls apart from anything else on the road. The styling was the right combination of old school bulkiness and sporty modern lines. Come 2009, the same philosophy was kept and still the tall and muscular look was carried over. The year 2012 saw the headlights grow larger and sharper and the green black combination was revised, but the same horizontal rear monoshock and exposed chassis bits were part of the design package. Headlights remind us that the illumination was not that great. Either the positioning of the bulb was wrong or the bulbs are not powerful enough. The insanely huge fuel tank with matte black finish catches the eyes quickly. Dual front discs also add a lot of drama and give it a superbike feel and a top reason why buyers and enthusiasts are both happy with this feature.
The artillery shell look alike under belly exhaust was disappointment for some but the shape (artillery shell) looks cool to us. The vents in the fairing and three way adjustable long wind-screen give it an undeniable characteristic of a modern Ninja. The rear is extremely dominating with the massive 160 section tyre giving it a rounded profile and a large LED tail-light piece complementing the dark side of the Ninja. The massive disappointment is the extremely hideous saree guard which should be ripped off with bare hands at the time of delivery.
Instrument Cluster and Switch Gear – The centrally placed tachometer is a relief though in today’s world where every bike is going digital. The analog tachometer has a digital part to it which shows good old fuel gauge which is missing on big bikes because of European rules. The meter also shows ECO mode, average km/l, current km/l, range, two trip meters and the obvious clock. The usual solitary turn indicators are there on each side while the panel houses engine check, fuel injection, temperature and high beam indicator. Switchgear looks and feels good, and has a hazard light indicator too. The only thing the meter is devoid of is a gear shift indicator and temperature bar which should have been added to this middle-weight motorcycle.
Ergonomics – Upright riding position with raised, narrow handlebars molding and coming towards the rider redefines the comfortable riding position. Higher rear set foot pegs are well positioned and provide complete control of the motorcycle and that too in absolute comfort. Do not be fooled by the saddle height number, it is sane enough to accommodate riders above 5’9 height easily. The mirrors give a good view of what is behind too. Split seat is cushioned on the softer side for the rider as well as the pillion and are extremely supportive for long rides. The pillion gets two split grab rails on both sides to hold on to. Long distance touring is the Ninja 650’s hobby and it excels very well at it.
Performance and Gearbox – Powering the Kawasaki Ninja 650 is a parallel-twin, DOHC, liquid-cooled engine. The motor like any other Ninja powerplant is a gem. This unit produces 71 BHP Of power at 8500 RPM and an insane 64 Nm of torque at 7000 RPM. The power and torque sits quite low for this capacity rich motorcycle. The mill is extremely smooth, refined all the way to the redline but in a traditional Kawasaki way. The motor is no jet-fighter, like the modern motorcycles such as the Ninja 300 or Z800. It makes a sound like no other machine out there. The way it makes a rumbling, mechanical sound at low and medium speeds and screams in the top end, it defines itself as a very old school engine in nature. And this old school nature and noise of the engine won our hearts instantly.
The powerplant has no jerkiness throughout the rev-range which makes it very addictive to redline the Ninja 650 every time but there is no need of doing so because of the insanely beautiful torque curve. The taller gearing escalates the case even further. Redlining in every gear results in you doing 84, 119, 153, 180 km/hr in first four gears respectively and once in fifth, you will whizz past the 200 km/hr mark. A healthy mid-range and an excellent top-end rush makes it the apt everyday companion and a very fast highway friendly machine. NVH levels are good but we did notice vibes between 5000-7000 RPM. We also noticed heating in city traffic. The old school motor does have its disadvantages though. However, the heat is not so intense that it will spoil city riding. When compared to the Z800 for instance, the heat levels are similar, which surprise surprise is on the lower side. This is primarily because of the engine which was brand new on our test bike and the oil was completely ruined after first 800 kms of hard riding.
The 6-speed transmission is smooth and shifts are positive, even when doing clutch-less upshifts. The clutch is light and levers on both ends are adjustable units. We did 202 km/hr (speedo indicated) on a completely empty stretch of road by ducking down. However the weight hampers performance (when you start measuring numbers), 0-100 km/hr comes up in 4.65 seconds according to our VBOX runs which we did with a 80 kg rider, still very quick though. Imagine if the engine and chassis are lighter with more power, the Ninja 650 would be an even bigger hoot to ride. An interesting fact is that the Ninja 650 is slightly quicker than the KTM Duke 390, exactly one second that is! Why? The power to weight ratio numbers of both these motorcycles come very close to each other, despite them being poles apart.
Riding Dynamics – The Ninja 650 has a brand new perimeter high tensile steel frame coupled with a monoshock and regular yet fat telescopic forks at the front over the older version. Damping and spring rates have been changed on both ends of the motorcycle. The ride quality as always is excellent and so is the high speed stability. All of this is possible due to the high kerb weight which the Ninja 650 carries. What it does not carry is the R suffix which was dropped and dropped for good with the 2012 model update. The motorcycle is no dedicated track machine. Sure, this Ninja is easy to ride because of the engine dynamics and the well tuned suspension which hides the weight cleverly. The focus of the Ninja 650 is of a fast, sports touring machine. The bike manages to lean into corners quite easily and getting your knee down to high set foot pegs is easier if you are a skilled rider. The steering angle on the motorcycle is raked out but still the turn-in is quick and the handlebar on the highway is also quite responsive and feedback rich. The right combination had to be achieved on this all rounder motorcycle.
The lower centre of gravity aids in the handling department. However, the weight shows its downside in low speed corners and tyres also do not help that much because they are not super sticky. The best part is that you can enjoy sweepers almost at the limit (170 km/hr) without any hesitation from the chassis. Ground clearance looks poor on paper, but we did not hit anything despite encountering every size of speed breaker. Braking is good and takes care of the high kerb weight with the 300 mm dual disc at the front and single 220 mm disc at the rear working well to stop the bike quickly but lack of ABS is still a shocking omission. Stand on the brakes at 190 km/hr and the Ninja 650 remains composed and soon you are doing 80 km/hr again. Initial bite at the front is good but the rear as always with these bikes is not that great. Talking about wind blast, wind starts creeping post 160 km/hr after which you have the windscreen to duck down to and achieve a true top speed of 212 km/hr.
Verdict – The Kawasaki Ninja 650 is a motorcycle which does it all. Looks good, goes crazy and has all the goodies and refinement which Kawasaki offers. There are so many 650 Ninjas out there which have done over 50,000 kms on the odo and still start and run as brand new without any major work done to it. It signifies the quality which Kawasaki offers as always. Coming at price which is pure value, the Ninja 650 is still the best option in its category and an undeniable option for you to step into the superbike world. Bajaj Auto manages the service which also gives you peace of mind in every part of the country. The Ninja 650 still holds its place strong in the market despite its inception so long ago, even in our market.
The Kawasaki Ninja 650 is a comfortable and fast tourer which does everyday duties extremely well. It has the show and it also goes. Old school fun is guaranteed with icing on the cake being the pricing.
* Smooth and refined engine-gearbox package
* Stability and ride quality
* Comfort for rider and pillion
* Value for money
What’s Not So Cool
* Lack of ABS
2014 Kawasaki Ninja 650 Specifications
* Engine: 649cc, liquid-cooled, parallel-twin, DOHC
* Power: 72 HP @ 8500 RPM
* Torque: 64 Nm @ 7000 RPM
* Transmission: 6-speed
* 0 – 100 km/hr: 4.65 seconds
* Top Speed: 212 km/hr
* Fuel Consumption: 20-25 km/l
* Fuel Type: Petrol
* Frame: Perimeter frame
* Suspension: Telescopic forks (Front), 7-step adjustable Monoshock (Rear)
* Tyres: 120/70/17 (Front), 160/60/17 (Rear)
* Brakes: 300 mm Dual Disc (Front), 220 mm Disc (Rear)
2014 Kawasaki Ninja 650 Dimensions
* Length x Width x Height: 2110 mm x 770 mm x 1180 mm
* Wheelbase: 1410 mm
* Ground Clearance: 130 mm
* Seat Height: 805 mm
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 16 litres
* Kerb weight: 211 kgs