The Z650 was a revolution back in the 1970s, a wailing inline-four which, in B1 form, is still a peach today. With its 64bhp engine, the performance figures aren’t far off the new Z650’s either – the 2017 Kawasaki Z650 model having gained 4bhp, while losing a pair of cylinders along the way.
But rather than being all new, the new 2017 Kawasaki Z650 is actually the direct descendant of the ER-6n – it’s effectively a naked version of the new Ninja 650. The story is still the same as it was in 1976 too – nimble handling, relatively light, and accessible – making it more fun than it has any right to be. The outgoing ER-6 is the foundation stone of the Lightweight TT paddock for a reason. The styling underlines the move from ER family to Zed, too. Ride past one at 60mph and you’d struggle to differentiate it from the Z800, or new Z900.
The 649cc engine was not EURO4 in ER guise, but has had the same tickle as the Ninja 650 to make it so, with the focus on keeping low-to-mid-range torque, rather than top-end power. The 2017 Kawasaki Z650 also gets the firm’s Assist & Slipper clutch, which reduces lever pressure, but increases clutch pressure, and helps stop the rear locking up on downshifts.
The bike tips the scales at 185kg, with its tubular chassis on show, and painted to resemble the Ninja H2’s. The reasonably low 790mm seat position is shared with the Ninja version, while the flat bars mean a more upright riding position, better suited to urban riding. Just like its clothed cousin, the 2017 Kawasaki Z650 also gets a repositioned rear shock, removing it from the right flank to sit more conventionally up between the swingarm and back of the engine.
Those wanting a sportier look can fit an accessory seat cowl, while those seeking practicality will be pleased by the official accessory 14-litre panniers and 30-litre topbox.