Kawasaki Versys 650 Review
Kawasaki Versys 650 – Click above for high resolution picture gallery

Kawasaki Versys 650 Review

Bike Tested: 2016 Kawasaki Versys 650; Road Test No. 656

Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 7.41 lakhs

The Kawasaki Versys 650 is not only fast but agile enough to hit the dirt once in a while

Since the arrival of the Kawasaki Versys 1000 here in India, there was a drift news that the 650 version too shall follow. And just early in January 2015 a concrete source gave away the confirmation of the arrival of the Kawasaki Versys 650 by year end via the CKD route. Since then we were eager to ride this bike as hopes of many serious tourers were resting on this machine, eagerly feasting their eyes on this fantastic possibility. Ask any motorcycle touring enthusiast what features he wishes to ideally have on his machine? Most common answers would be a comfortable seat for both riders, a large fuel tank to take them further, some luggage compatibility arrangement and a powerful mill to carry this whole package across terrains. On paper, the Kawasaki Versys 650 ticks almost all the boxes. We are about to find out what thrill this new chapter from Kawasaki intoxicates the reader and the rider.

Motor Quest: Kawasaki first unveiled the Versys 650 at EICMA 2011, with sales starting from 2012. The bike was given an update in 2014, being showcased at the Intermot show. Now Kawasaki has launched the Versys 650 in India and it is the only Kawasaki bike to be sold through the KTM network that has ABS.

The Kawasaki Versys 650 has just the right elements for pure eye candy

Styling – Now that you had been introduced to the Kawasaki Versys 1000, you can easily spot this is just its toned down version. There’s not much striking difference between the Versys 650 and the 1000 as far as styling is concerned. Even today those distinct Kawasaki headlamps send out a tingling vibe at first glance. Top notch on grooming, fit and finish. The centre stand goes off on this younger sibling and little trimming of the fairing on either sides. Never the less on first look, it’s hard to spot these changes.

The Versys 650 looks very much like the Versys 1000 in appearance, giving it a lot of presence but we need more colours

The design of the tank is quite ideal. The triangle top of Ninja 650 always bothered me when mounting a tank bag. Here the bag rests perfectly. Many manufacturers fail to sketch the perfect tail-end along with a neat grab rail but the Versys 650 simply outclasses everyone. Not only the design is appealing but the grip also is so pillion friendly. Even the seat is wonderfully carved and cushioned. Enduring is not an issue any more, girlfriend tested. The placement of luggage mounts is just perfect when you are 1+ and pushing the distance. Also enough holds to hook on some soft luggage when riding single. On the rear half, it feels good to know that nothing seems out of place when functionality is incorporated.

This mid-segment bike is well proportioned and has top notch quality

Now the below area, if you keep staring at it you’ll notice that Kawasaki design and development team has done a marvellous job. Minute details have been given importance. The swingarm design, outline of the exhaust and the whole finish of the engine casing looks complete artwork. No amateur hints dropping anywhere. In fact the positioning of the suspension, swingarm, that big 649cc mill and the belly case just over looks in perfect harmony. Nothing less was expected from the Japanese maker and they have delivered 10/10. Also something worthy to mention, the styling elements are not just for show but they can take a decent amount of beating. Delicate is not the word to be used here. If only we may add, a better colour scheme would’ve been much appreciated (damn we miss that Kawasaki GREEN).

The Versys 650 has a semi-digital instrument cluster

Instrument Cluster and Switchgear – You can say the Ninja 650 and Versys 650 are twins in this department. The latter comes with pretty standard controls which we are accustomed to after riding other bikes from the company. On the left switchgear you have the pass button, horn, high and low beam switch with turn indicators and hazard lights. On the right are the very obvious, engine kill switch and ignition start up. There’s the odometer, trip meter, average as per fuel consumption, range, fuel gauge, temperature and clock are the stuff seen on that plush screen. Warning indicators are located over the nimble face tachometer above the digital screen.

The Kawasaki Versys 650 is a Black Stallion in the stable

Same ER-6n console does duty on the Versys 650, could do with more features

Everything is pretty much the same as the Ninja 650 as long as the functionality is concerned. You can also add a 12V power outlet to either sides or on both, suit yourself. You can even order an after market gear indicator to use in that socket, comes useful at times (we do wish it to be in the console itself, Kawasaki take note please). So this pretty much sums up the cockpit of the bike, simple and tasteful from Kawasaki.

Very few bikes offer such splendid comfort like the Versys 650

Ergonomics – The seat is as comfortable as it can get. Anyone who has sat on this bike has first noticed this. You’ll find very happy expressions on the rider and the pillion. I had little trouble reaching the ground, me being at 5’8″; so anyone above this mark will feel quite at home on this throne. Although for someone below 5’8″, it’s not challenging to ride as long as you are an experienced rider. The rubber mounted foot-pegs and foot-peg plate keeps all the vibrations to none. And my reach to the handlebar is just right as per the thumb rule (generally we sit on the bike and close our eyes; then we raise both hands and drop towards the handle where we feel is right, the closest you reach your mark the better for you). Note: Riders with long hands found this position little cramped. I’ll leave this subjective; person to person. The Kawasaki mirrors give you a clear, obstruction free view of who you are leaving back in the dust. Adjustable windscreen to set as per your height works satisfactory. And there are plenty of add-on accessories to give this bike a grand touring makeover.

The Versys 650 makes those morning rides a refreshing experience

Performance – The 649cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four-valves per cylinder parallel twin makes 68.1 BHP of power and delivers a torque value of 64 Nm. Kawasaki has juiced out 5 more units of BHP but still the figures, if you compare are less than the sporty Ninja 650. But this does not slow down this tall horse in putting up a challenge with its rivalry. The performance of this engine is smooth right from the start. As you ascend higher you unravel the potential this machine holds. And this time the heat from the bike also deviates further away from the body. Overall a finely tuned engine from Kawasaki. A beautiful feeling of symphony.

The bike has the ability to go little off the tarmac

Open the throttle to be shocked; the Versys 650 is a speedster by character

The 6-speed box offers very effortless gear shifts on the Versys 650, it also comes with a slip function for those aggressive downshifts when you want to ride this bike fast. The clutch was a little hard, I had to put some intense pressure. But after few moments my hand seems to have adapted to the feel. The bike doesn’t cut through the wind so don’t ride with the mindset of the Ninja 650; rather this engine pulls to give you an effortless ride for long hours, with plenty of power available at the twist of the wrist. The exhaust sound is so refined. Much better than any other 650 I heard. In fact, most exhaust notes of Kawasaki bikes are music to the ears. Best to avoid any aftermarket drum roll and spoil the overall balance of this touring tool.

Kawasaki Versys – an ideal long touring companion

With this current setup, the Kawasaki Versys 650 leaps smooth all the way to the 150 km/hr mark without throwing any wind resistance but then onwards you miss the supreme aerodynamically designed Ninja 650. Then again like we said earlier, this bike is meant to go further over fast. Surely it does touch 200 km/hr but the windscreen is to deflect the wind off you and not fire through. A harder setting on the suspension is what you’ll need to turn the gliding feeling of this bike into a wagon on rails. There’s enough in this mill to suffice you on twisties, straight runs, dirt trails and most of all that stress free long run. Over our 500 odd kms ride in three days, we got a mileage of 19 km/l which is reasonable but you can derive something upto 23 km/l also. For some riders, the Ninja 650 has delivered 27 km/l (that’ll be like insanely sane riding). But figure in the range of 20-25 km/l is a possibility.

The Versys 650 doesn’t shy away from some dirt trails country side

Riding Dynamics – The most important thing in bikes like the Kawasaki Versys 650 are the suspension and brakes. Sure, power and other factors need to be kept in tone but if the machine has a set back in these two departments, then there’s no purpose in terming them as an adventure sport or sport touring motorcycle. The next generation state-of-the-art inverted front forks and the rear monoshock are simply fantastic. The suspension travel is little more than what you get in street bikes and at the rear, you can adjust as per your requirement. Keep it hard on tarmac riding or to tackle fast corners; rush it towards S if you are riding off-road or have a rough trail ahead. Consider to keep it on the most ideal setting with respect to the number of riders and luggage on the bike. Toggle with the windscreen switch to bring the top up as per your comfort and posture.

If you have the skill-set then go all out, Versys is Versatile

The double pipe diamond frame has been proven extraordinary for this bike. It is the reason why there is more ground clearance; never ever the belly hits the floor when riding off-tarmac. The swingarm too seems to have gone under rework to give an improved feel in the overall experience. A quick mention about the tyres, the Dunlop Sportmax work kind of satisfactory. You can stick with them for now but moving towards Pirelli or Bridgestone can unleash some new levels on this bike. Go for tyres that are a balance between dry and wet grip. Semi off-road tyres are not needed.

Top notch braking hardware helps to stop quickly with confidence

The petal style rotors is a trademark Kawasaki giving, they dissipate heat quickly. Tremendous braking power on this set up given by the Japanese manufacturer, with front and rear ABS as standard. More powerful and impressive than any other Ninja sibling I have ever ridden. And of course you can use the adjustable lever to keep the setting you feel apt for your style. We love the part that you can adjust the spring load-up on the rear without any tools, makes this machine such a versatile player. 23 clicks have been given at your disposal. Kawasaki has set them two and a half clicks away from the softest end. While going for fast corners regularly, I suggest to bring it to centre of the hard end and halfway point, so you don’t feel bumpy when your knee starts going close to the tarmac.

Splendid ride quality ensures even the worst of bumps are soaked up instantly

Riding on a smooth tarmac highway is in everyone’s grasping. It’s the off-road abilities that have left an impressive mark on us. When we rode this bike on few dirt trails near the country side, we didn’t have to try hard and make much effort to manoeuvre the bike. Just switching between couple of gears back and forth, and easily you glide over obstacles. It’s here at least I thought that this body is not meant for these kind of indulgence but I was proven wrong (although I presume you have a particular skill set and experience to sail through situations like these).

The Versys 650 will make you explore places you never ever thought of

Rider inputs are thoroughly required on sharp corners and turns to swiftly pass them at high speeds; on moderate terms. Honestly this gene of motorcycle has not been on Indian soil before this time. So for anyone it will take a while to embed riding adventure and surely this machine will show you new doors in your endeavour. To be concise, I am not sure if comparing the Kawasaki Versys 650 to the likes of other bikes in the 600cc segment is the right thing to do but in its own individuality, it’s a blunt instrument of a prodigious tourer.

A terrific package, the Versys 650 offers all an adventure biker wants

Verdict – The timing has been quite right for the Kawasaki Versys 650. Everyone was just getting into this segment in recent times. This tall machine is a good buy for the serious tourers out there. Put in some pink slip and you can convert this into a fantastic grand touring machismo. Plenty of aftermarket parts available online. The standard version is also ideal enough to cater to all touring needs. Platform is set, you are now the sculptor. The motorcycle sits in the price range of Rs. 7.50 lakhs, below the mark of the Honda CBR650F. But if you understand the zest of motorcycle touring on a Kawasaki, then every penny you spend is going to deliver some bundles of joy to you. In one line, you get style + performance + distinct characteristic and add to that the 2016 refreshed look, the Versys 650 leaves an impression of a mighty sport tourer in that favourite mid-segment class.

The USP of the Kawasaki Versys 650 are its touring specific features. You can mount the saddle in under 3 seconds. The rubber mounts make the bike a vibe free ride. Long runs are fatigue free because of the extra comfortable seating position. And reliability of the Kawasaki package is an instant seller.

There is so much to explore, the Kawasaki Versys 650 is the perfect tool to put to use

What’s Cool

* The new front design and dynamics
* State-of-the-art suspension
* Rubber mountings to eradicate all vibrations
* Super soft comfortable seating
* Easy luggage mounting system

What’s Not So Cool

* Slight wind noise on top side of the helmet (perhaps an aftermarket windscreen can erase this)
* For now available only in black colour in India

Alternatives: Benelli TNT 600 GT, Royal Enfield Himalayan (for those on a budget)

The Kawasaki Versys 650 can help you reclaim your life

Kawasaki Versys 650 Specifications

* Engine: 649cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four-valves per cylinder, parallel twin
* Power: 69 BHP @ 8500 RPM
* Torque: 64 Nm @ 7000 RPM
* Transmission: 6-speed with slipper clutch
* 0-100 km/hr: 4.1 seconds
* Top Speed: 193 km/hr
* Fuel Consumption: 19-22 km/l
* Fuel Type: Petrol
* Frame: Double pipe diamond frame constructed from high-tensile steel
* Suspension: 41 mm hydraulic telescopic fork with step-less adjustable rebound and preload / 5.9 in (Front), Single offset laydown shock with remote adjustable spring preload / 5.7 in (Rear)
* Tyres: 120/70/17 (Front), 160/60/17 (Rear)
* Brakes: Dual 300 mm petal-style rotors with two-piston callipers (Front), Single 250 mm petal-style rotor with single-piston callipers (Rear), ABS

Kawasaki Versys 650 Dimensions

* Length x Width x Height: 2165 mm x 841 mm x 1400 mm
* Wheelbase: 1415 mm
* Ground Clearance: 170 mm
* Seat Height: 841 mm
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 21-litres
* Kerb weight: 216 kgs

Become the true wanderer, become the Versys

Testers’ Note:

“The much awaited Kawasaki Versys 650 is finally here and I am a bit disappointed with the price. Kawasaki has priced it at a premium and although it gets top-notch suspension and brakes, along with ABS, the asking price makes one stop and think more than twice. As a motorcycle, yes, the Versys 650 is a splendid package and I did find it a bit slow compared to the Ninja 650 due to the reduced aeros and higher weight but currently this is the best adventure bike in the middle-weight space.” – Faisal Khan, Editor, MotorBeam.
“The Kawasaki Versys 650 is something like a Mahindra Thar in cars. Not that fast but capable of doing stuff very few can. And if someone has ridden the Versys 1000 then the Versys 650 is just like a slower yet more practical version with lesser electronics! While seated, it feels very high but braking performance with this much height is astonishing. With budget being on a higher side, the VFM appeal is questionable, but the Versys is totally worth it for nomads and true wanderers willing to go places.” – Dhanil Vira, Road Tester, MotorBeam.