New Styling And Agile Handling Make It More ’Ninja’ Than Before

Kawasaki gave its Ninja 650 supersport a facelift ahead of MY2020 with aggressive new lines. Safety and visibility were increased through LED technology, and instrumentation moves into the 21st century with a TFT display to deliver the metrics. New tires and new networking technology round out the package along with engine performance and handling that made the last generation a hit.

  • 2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650
  • Year:
    2020
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    Parallel Twin
  • Displacement:
    649 cc
  • Top Speed:
    131 mph
  • Price:
    7399
  • Price:

2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650 Design

2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650
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2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650
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Kawi's Ninja line has always been all about the angular features, and the 2020 Ninja 650 takes it to the bank with sharpened angles in the front fairing and cowl scoop.

Kawi’s Ninja line has always been all about the angular features, and the 2020 Ninja 650 takes it to the bank with sharpened angles in the front fairing and cowl scoop. The vented front fender remains almost the same with a cut-down look that also helps to minimize the unsprung weight at the front axle.

Night vision was updated in the form of a pair of LED projectors up front that split the night and ensure you remain visible to daytime traffic. The LED benefits continue into the front turn signals that are recessed in the edge of the cowl scoop well out of harm’s way. I think the factory missed an opportunity here. Personally, I’d like to see the blinkers integrated with the mirrors and the current front turn signals turned into cornering lights, but maybe next year. (Wink-nudge, Kawi.)

Last year, the windscreen was held off the fairing for ventilation, but the 2020 model moves to a racing-style bubblescreen to punch a hole in the wind with improved overall penetration, plus the upper fairing is wider and the angles sharper for a more aggressive look. The cowl extends all the way down to form a proper chin fairing and belly pan with ample ventilation to help carry away the waste heat and prevent buildup under the body panels while generating minimal drag. Toward that end, the fairing bolts were eliminated to aid in penetration.

A four-gallon fuel tank sports broad shoulders that wane toward the waist to create the critical knee pocket and allow for extreme cornering body English. The flyline takes a dramatic dive to the deep saddle trough that pulls you down into the machine, and the p-pad comes with a tall rise that forms a generous buttstop that’ll keep you from driving the thing out from under yourself when you get a little jiggy with it, plus it lofts your passenger for improved visibility.

Yeah, there’s a pillion pad, but it’s the gunfighter style that suggests a clean, racer-style rear end that rocks thicker urethane padding for passenger comfort. The fold-up passenger footpegs ride on long brackets that can easily be struck from the bike if you prefer a true, solo-riding experience.

Typical of racebikes in general, the taillight rides in the tip of the tail, and the rear blinker, taglight, and plateholder all mount to the short mudguard that also looks like it can be easily removed as a unit if you actually plan on hitting the track.

2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650 Chassis

2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650
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2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650
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2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650
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As you'd expect, handling is decidedly agile with quick flicks and reversals.

High-tensile steel members make up the Trellis frame on the Ninja 650 with minimal bends so the strength is not compromised and it distributes the stress evenly throughout. Typical of the genre, the frame uses the engine as a stressed unit to complete the structure, thereby eliminating some of the forward members to reduce weight while maintaining rigidity. Additionally, the factory used variable-thickness pipes to keep the frame strong where it’s needed, and light everywhere else.

The steering geometry points to a very agile nature with 24 degrees of rake and 3.9 inches of trail over a 55.5-inch wheelbase. Seat height is typical at 31.1 inches off the ground, and shorter riders will benefit from the narrow waist when they go to deploy the training wheels at a stop or in the parking lot.

Non-adjustable, 41 mm forks float the front end on 4.9 inches of travel, and out back, a horizontal monoshock runs with the obligatory spring-preload adjuster with 5.1 inches of travel. Cast, 17-inch wheels round out the rolling chassis with Dunlop Sportmax Roadsport 2 hoops in a 120/70 up front opposite a 160/60.

The 425.6-pound wet weight makes for quick flicks and reversals, and the dual 300 mm discs and twin-pot calipers provide plenty of brakeage to haul down the front wheel. In the rear, a 220 mm disc and single-piston anchor take care of business. You get a choice between all-around ABS protection and a slightly lower-priced non-ABS model, so you can take or leave that particular safety net as you please.

Frame: Trellis, high-tensile steel
Front Suspension / Wheel Travel: 41mm hydraulic telescopic fork/4.9 in
Rear Suspension / Wheel Travel: Horizontal back-link with adjustable spring preload/5.1 in
Rake/Trail: 24.0/3.9
Front Tire: 120/70x17
Rear Tire: 160/60x17
Front Brakes: Dual 300 mm petal-type discs and 2-piston calipers and ABS
Rear Brakes: Single 220 mm petal-type disc and single-piston caliper and ABS

2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650 Drivetrain

2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650
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2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650
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2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650
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It's a fairly essential machine with nothing in the way of electronic fandanglery to complicate the engine controls, so you can forget about traction control or power modes, but you'll be a better rider for it.

The Ninja 650 is a fairly essential machine with nothing in the way of electronic fandanglery to complicate the engine controls, so you can forget about traction control or power modes, but you’ll be a better rider for it. The beating heart is a liquid-cooled parallel-twin with a 180-out crankshaft orientation to produce smooth, even power pulses. It rocks an 83 mm bore with a 60 mm stroke for an overall displacement of 649 cc and a compression ratio of 10.8-to-1, so you can expect to feed it top-hook road champagne, or at the very least , use some sort of octane additive to prevent knock/ping/dieseling.

Dual over-head cams time the four-valve head, and induction control falls to a pair of mechanical cable-controlled, 36 mm Keihin throttle bodies that utilize a set of secondary, computer-controlled throttle plates to ensure smooth transitions. There’s a catalyst in the exhaust system to burn off any free hydrocarbons that make it through the combustion chamber, and this, along with the EFI system, helps the mill meet emission standards. Power flows through a slipper-style clutch that prevents excessive backtorque from causing the rear wheel to break traction, and a six-speed transmission with a chain-type final drive.

What does all this get you? Well, it generates 48.5 pound-feet of torque at 6,500 rpm, and at the redline in top gear, the overall drive ratio turns in a top speed of 131 mph. That’s plenty enough to get yourself in a whole heap of trouble.

Engine: 4-stroke, 2-cylinder, DOHC, water-cooled
Displacement: 649 cc
Bore x Stroke: 83.0 mm x 60.0 mm
Compression Ratio: 10.8:1
Fuel System: DFI® with dual 36 mm Keihin throttle bodies
Ignition: TCBI with digital advance
Transmission: 6-speed
Final Drive: Sealed chain
Electronic Rider Aids: ABS

2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650 Pricing

2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650
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2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650
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2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650
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MSRP runs $7.4k without ABS and $7.8k with ABS.

Kawasaki offers the 2020 Ninja 650 and Ninja 650 ABS in only a pair of colors – Pearl Blizzard White or Metallic Spark Black – and that’s kind of a shame ’cause I really liked the orange-over-black model from last year’s palette. No matter which color package you choose, you can expect to pay a base MSRP of $7,799 for the ABS model or $7,399 for the non-ABS.

Warranty: 12 Month Limited Warranty (optional Kawasaki Protection Plus™ 12, 24, 36 or 48 months)
Colors: Metallic Spark Black, Pearl Blizzard White
Price: $7,399 (with ABS: $7,799)

2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650 Competitors

2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650
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2015 - 2018 Honda CBR650F
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Both bikes have a frame tuned for flexibility where it's needed and rigidity everywhere else to turn in racebike-like handling in the corners for the everyday rider.

The 650 cc supersport bracket is pretty thin at the moment, so for my head-to-head with the Ninja 650, I went for the Honda CBR650F ABS. Honda keeps to the racer-style design with an aggressive, nose-down tail-up stance meant to bring track-like riding to the public streets. A bubblescreen and engine cowling sets the stage, and so like brothers-from-another-mother, the CBR650F hits all the same design high points as the Ninja 650.

The CBR650F rides on a pair of 41 mm Showa DBV forks that deliver a ride that’s superior to what you can expect from vanilla stems like the Ninja uses in spite of a total lack of adjustability, so Honda gains a slight edge in this area. A steel, twin-spar frame provides the main structure for the Honda, and like the Kawi, it’s tuned for flexibility where it’s needed and rigidity everywhere else to turn in racebike-like handling in the corners for the everyday rider.

Honda opted for a four-banger to drive its entry, but the displacement works out the same with a total of 649 cc across the board and 47 pounds o’ grunt at 8,000 rpm, so these two bikes pretty much break even in the torque department.

Kawi picks up its biggest win at the checkout as the Honda fetches almost a grand more for its base CBR650F ABS with a $8,749 sticker. At this price point, that extra grand could be a real dealbreaker for buyers up against a firm budget.

He Said

“While there isn’t anything really remarkable about the new Ninja 650, it’s safe to say that it’s a good bike for riders looking for their first upgrade from whatever entry-level machine got them started. The top speed is plenty fast – more than you’ll ever need really – and handling is crisp enough to keep you interested. Still, I lament the passing of the Candy Steel Furnace Orange/ Metallic Black Spark paint package that made the MY19 lineup so attractive.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “Low and mid-range power delivery is smooth and handling is agile, as you would expect from a Ninja. The new styling is unmistakably Ninja and puts the Ninja 650 more in line appearance-wise with the ZX-10R superbike. The new TFT display is easy to read, and of course, everyone is getting onboard with a connectivity app and Kawasaki is no different. The Ninja 650 is a nice mid-displacement sportbike, and while it could be viewed as a stepping stone to a liter bike, lots of folks are landing in this displacement range and staying here.”

2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650 Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: 4-stroke, 2-cylinder, DOHC, water-cooled
Displacement: 649 cc
Bore x Stroke: 83.0 mm x 60.0 mm
Compression Ratio: 10.8:1
Fuel System: DFI® with dual 36 mm Keihin throttle bodies
Ignition: TCBI with digital advance
Transmission: 6-speed
Final Drive: Sealed chain
Electronic Rider Aids: ABS
Chassis:
Frame: Trellis, high-tensile steel
Front Suspension / Wheel Travel: 41 mm hydraulic telescopic fork/4.9 in
Rear Suspension / Wheel Travel: Horizontal back-link with adjustable spring preload/5.1 in
Rake/Trail: 24/3.9
Front Tire: 120/70x17
Rear Tire: 160/60x17
Front Brakes: Dual 300 mm petal-type discs and 2-piston calipers and ABS
Rear Brakes: Single 220 mm petal-type disc and single-piston caliper and ABS
Dimensions & Capacities:
Overall Length: 80.9 inches
Overall Width: 29.1 inches
Overall Height: 44.7 inches
Ground Clearance: 5.1 inches
Seat Height: 31.1 inches
Curb Weight: 425.6 pounds
Fuel Capacity: 4.0 gallons
Wheelbase: 55.5 inches
Top Speed: 131 mph (est)
Details:
Warranty: 12 Month Limited Warranty (optional Kawasaki Protection Plus™ 12, 24, 36 or 48 months)
Colors: Metallic Spark Black, Pearl Blizzard White
Price: $7,399 (with ABS: $7,799)

Further Reading

Honda CBR650F

2015 - 2018 Honda CBR650F
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See our review of the Honda CBR650F.

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R

2019 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R
- image 812585

See our review of the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R.

Kawasaki

ALLYN IMAGES: DO NOT DELETE
- image 795478

Read more Kawasaki news.

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: kawasaki.com, honda.com

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