The naked bike customer is completely different than the sportbike one,” says Kawasaki Motor Corps. Product Manager Croft Long. “They don’t cross-shop, so if riders are looking at naked bikes, they’re not looking at a bike like the Ninja 650 too.” The point? If Kawasaki wanted to sell a mid-displacement, entry-level bike to lovers of all things naked here in the States (the naked ER-6n hasn’t been available here for some time now), it better offer something other than the fully faired Ninja 650, and something bigger than the lovable little Z125 Pro.
All-new and at the same time all-not (sometimes that’s a good thing), the Z650 shares nearly the same parallel-twin engine as the Ninja 650 of year’s past, as well as the same trellis-style frame as the 2017 Ninja. It’s nipped, tucked, and from a spec-sheet perspective, fully ready to go head-to-head against Yamaha’s FZ-07 and Suzuki’s SV650.
And how about in real life? We headed into the Santa Monica Mountains with Team Green to get a better idea. Where the Z sets itself apart from the Ninja is in the styling and plastics (or lack thereof). And while I’ll admit to not at first understanding why Kawasaki put such great emphasis on the topic during the Z’s unveil, I started to “get it” when looking over the bike in person. One of the things that’s made the FZ-07 such a big hit since day one is its overall fit and finish, which is way higher than you’d expect for a bike at its price point.
And the Z is right there with it; wires and cables are routed nicely, hardware doesn’t feel cheap, and the fairings perfectly butt up against one another—a testament to the bike’s high-quality build and design.