The new 2017 Ninja 650 is a sibling to the Kawasaki Z650 that we tested recently. In many respects, it is identical to its Z650 brother. For instance, it has a similar parallel 649 cc twin engine and the same suspension, steel trellis frame, brakes, and wheels. Even the steering setup is similar. The main difference between the two models is relatively clear since the Ninja 650 is equipped with a full fairing and a windscreen with three-way adjustment for enhanced wind protection.
The wheels and tires are also alike in the two models. In front, both motorcycles are fitted with 120/70 x 17 Sportmax D214 tires by Dunlop. Their rear wheels are fitted with 160/60 x 17 tires. The two models are significantly lighter than their forerunners (by approximately 40 pounds).
The action of the suspension and the general handling of the Ninja 650 is reminiscent of the Z650.There is good damping in the shock and the forks, and the bike is exceedingly nimble when changing direction, and it is quite stable when doing this. Kawasaki really got it right with the new steering geometry and steel frame. As we observed with the Z650, awhen the rear tire is smaller(a width of 160 millimeters as opposed to the standard 180 millimeters)this plays a big role in the flickable nature of the Ninja 650. The newly-designed lighter wheels that are made of forged aluminum also help in this.
In spite of the sporty appearance, the new Ninja 650, like its predecessor, is upright and comfortable, with the hand grips being positioned well over the triple clamps. Wind protection was satisfactory with a 5 foot 11 inches test rider, and it improved drastically when the windscreen was adjusted to the highest of the three available positions. There was no problem with buffeting at helmet level, but this could change for shorter riders. This is yet another reason for having an adjustable screen height. But adjusting the screen requires using a wrench. This means that when you have to adjust on the road you must pull over first.
The instrumentation has been redesigned afresh, with all the regular read-outs. The main features include gear position indicator, MPG monitoring and a shift light that will flash depending on the rpm level that you have set. Fortunately, the tachometer is the readable analog-type.
Engine tune seems to be similar to that of the Z650, which, in our observation, had superb low-end and mid-range for its class, but was somewhat lacking in maximum horsepower when in high rev ranges. We reckon it is a worthy tradeoff for most of the riders who would opt for this model. Actually, it makes the motorcycle faster and more flexible when riding on the street.
The 6-speed transmission shifts smoothly and positively, helped by the 'assist and slipper’ clutch that significantly minimizes the effort that is needed to pull the levers and ensures that the rear wheel is stable when cornering.
And so the new Ninja 650 is an exceptionally successful remake of a fine motorcycle. It is lighter, nimbler and it has superior overall handling. The bike provides the wind protection that is missing from the standard Z650, with a tradeoff of about 15 pounds extra weight (it has a stated curb weight of 426 pounds). Its engine is a marvel and the motorcycle is sure to attract riders of different skill levels. Its front brakes are some of the strongest in its category, and they have a great feel.
Even though the new 2017 Ninja 650 is sporty in nature, it is both fun and practical, providing fuel economy of between 45 to 55 miles per gallon.
The price of the bike ranges fromanMSRP of $7,399(in the US) for the model without ABS to $7,999.This was the 'KRT edition' that we tested that comes with a special graphics package.