2022 Kawasaki Z650RS

The 2022 Kawasaki Z650RS is eye candy in Candy Emerald Green.

The 2022 Kawasaki Z650RS is eye candy in Candy Emerald Green. (Kawasaki/)

Ups

  • Decent grunt at all speeds; an especially usable midrange and low-end
  • Relaxed, comfortable ergonomics
  • Beautiful paint and retro styling

Downs

  • Snatchy throttle
  • Suspension is soft and has its limits
  • Some cheap plastic bits on an otherwise high-quality bike

Verdict

The 2022 Kawasaki Z650RS pairs beautiful ‘70s-inspired styling with a modern middleweight package. Its 649cc engine is plucked straight from the Z650 so there’s a healthy grunt low to midrange, and it’s even more fun to ride around town than it is to look at when it’s parked in front of the coffee shop.

Overview

Rich histories are the backbone for rad throwbacks. Like many manufacturers, Kawasaki continues to satiate buyer’s enthusiasm for all things retro with its new-for-2022 Z650RS. This bike marries timeless 1970s Z1-inspired looks with a compact and modern middleweight design that attracts heritage-loving enthusiasts seeking modern reliability.

The 649cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin engine, same as found in the sugomi-styled Z650, is agreeable to novice or veteran riders desiring something less aggressive than the Z900RS’ inline-four, but still want playful and flexible power delivery.

The 650RS is not an aggressive sportbike, since the suspension is more comfort-oriented and ergonomics are decidedly more upright. But this makes it a great bike for the casual enthusiast who wants something that’s easy on the eyes and also practical for around-town riding.

Kawasaki chose the iconic “Fireball” colorway of the 1972 Z1 to celebrate the five-decade milestone of the Z heritage. Production for this particular trim is limited.

Kawasaki chose the iconic “Fireball” colorway of the 1972 Z1 to celebrate the five-decade milestone of the Z heritage. Production for this particular trim is limited. (Kawasaki/)

Updates for 2022

The Z650RS is a new model for 2022, but shares nearly all of its architecture with Kawasaki’s Z650 naked, right down to its punchy DOHC 649cc engine, which is completely unchanged.

The main changes from the Z650 are on the ergonomic and styling fronts: minimal bodywork; a differently shaped, smaller 3.1-gallon teardrop tank; and an exposed headlight bucket to distinguish it from the naked model.

Pricing and Variants

The 2022 Kawasaki Z650RS comes in two trims: the base ($8,999) and the 50th Anniversary edition ($9,249). The latter includes the two-tone Candy Diamond Brown/Orange color, commemorative logos, passenger grab bar, gloss black frame, chrome headlight and meter trim rings, gold-colored rims, textured seat with contrast stitching, and a Z 50th Anniversary coffee-table book.

Competition

Similarly styled middleweights include the Royal Enfield INT650 and Yamaha XSR700 whereas more modern designs that compete in homogenous middleweight circles include the Suzuki SV650, Triumph Trident 660, Honda CB650R, Yamaha MT-07, and Aprilia Tuono 660.

The RS shares the same engine as the Z650. It also has the same steel trellis frame and rake and trail dimensions.

The RS shares the same engine as the Z650. It also has the same steel trellis frame and rake and trail dimensions. (Kawasaki/)

Powertrain: Engine, Transmission, and Performance

The DOHC 649cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin engine is the same as the one seen in the Z650, even down to its tuning. With that, the engine shines in the low to midrange with a nice punch of power at 5,000 rpm.

When pulling away from a stop, the snatchy on/off throttle is noticeable and can take some getting used to, especially for newer riders. But when speeds pick up, the twitchy throttle is soon forgotten and the Z-RS’ 48.5 pound-feet of torque and flexible power delivery steal the show. Kawasaki’s claimed 67 hp is not intimidating, yet perfectly capable of higher speeds when asked. The bike has a six-speed transmission and slipper/assist clutch, the latter contributing to a light lever pull.

Handling

The bike’s 24-degree rake and 3.9-inch trail, narrowness, and leverage from the wide handlebar make the Z650RS nicely balanced and agile for side-to-side transitions.

Pushing the bike on high-speed sweepers, however, tests its stability and suspension. The Z-RS’ softly sprung nature means it’s tuned more for comfort than sport. The bike is stable on straight, well-maintained roads, but the limits of its 4.9 inches of travel at the front are revealed when picking up the pace on a canyon road’s pockmarked pavement. The horizontal back-link shock has 5.1 inches of travel and offers preload adjustability.

“For 90 percent of our ride, damping was more than adequate, but get all squidly and this machine will let you know you’ve gone too far,” our test rider noted. Consider this a great, comfortable bike for the street, with some potential for fun weekend rides.

Brakes

The braking package is reliably powerful, with dual two-piston calipers and 300mm discs up front and a one-piston caliper and 220mm disc out back. During testing we found the brakes had good feel and no fade. The standard ABS never came on intrusively to spoil the party, despite our best efforts. The brake lever has a five-way-adjustable lever, as does the clutch.

Pricing starts at $8,999. Although the Metallic Moondust Gray is the same price as the green version, it doesn’t have the same gold rims or raised Kawasaki logo.

Pricing starts at $8,999. Although the Metallic Moondust Gray is the same price as the green version, it doesn’t have the same gold rims or raised Kawasaki logo. (Kawasaki/)

Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG

Fuel economy for the Z650RS is not currently available.

Ergonomics: Comfort and Utility

Longer fork tubes raise the upper triple clamp 20mm compared to the Z650 and situate the wide, flat handlebar higher for a neutral upright riding position. Kawasaki says that the handlebar grips are 50mm higher and 30mm further back, compared to the Z650.

Cycle World found that “the RS’ taller and wider handlebar sets the rider up in a relaxed upright position, while the seat’s narrow front portion gives stubby legs an easy stab to the asphalt.” A low, 31.5-inch seat height helps contribute to no-fuss touchdown. Hollow-centered rubber pads on both the rider and passenger footpegs help reduce vibration and improve rider comfort.

Dual analog gauges flank an LCD screen.

Dual analog gauges flank an LCD screen. (Kawasaki/)

Electronics

Kawasaki has done an admirable job blending modern with retro. Take the lighting, for example; there’s a circular round headlight and an oval taillight design, the latter an homage to the old-school Z model, but full LED. The dual analog gauges also contribute to the retro vibe, but a white-on-black LCD screen with modern format provides extra information in between the dials.

While a few of the 650′s competitors have ride modes, the Z650RS does not. Note, however, that it’s equipped with ABS.

Rich histories serve as a great platform for modern throwbacks.

Rich histories serve as a great platform for modern throwbacks. (Kawasaki/)

Warranty and Maintenance Coverage

Kawasaki offers a one-year limited warranty that can be extended up to 48 months.

Quality

Kawasaki’s Z650RS has a high-quality paint job that’s especially striking in the Candy Emerald Green 50th Anniversary heritage dual tone color, plus eye-catching gold rims. Some cheap plastic parts are evident in the instrument and tail areas.

2022 Kawasaki Z650RS Claimed Specifications

MSRP: $8,999/$9,249 (50th Anniversary)
Engine: 649cc, DOHC, liquid-cooled parallel twin; 4 valves/cyl.
Bore x Stroke: 83.0 x 60.0mm
Transmission/Final Drive: 6-speed/chain
Claimed Horsepower: 67 hp @ 8,000 rpm
Claimed Torque: 48.5 lb.-ft. @ 6,500 rpm
Fuel Delivery: Digital fuel injection w/ 36mm throttle bodies
Clutch: Wet, multiplate slipper/assist
Engine Management/Ignition: TCBI with electronic advance
Frame: Steel trellis
Front Suspension: 41mm telescopic fork; 4.9 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Horizontal back-link, spring preload adjustable; 5.1 in. travel
Front Brake: 2-piston calipers, dual 300mm discs w/ ABS
Rear Brake: 1-piston caliper, 220mm disc w/ ABS
Wheels, Front/Rear: Cast aluminum; 17 x 3.50 in. / 17 x 3.50 in.
Tires, Front/Rear: Dunlop Sportmax Roadsport 2; 120/70ZR-17 / 160/60ZR-17
Rake/Trail: 24.0°/3.9 in.
Wheelbase: 55.3 in.
Ground Clearance: 4.9 in.
Seat Height: 31.5 in.
Fuel Capacity: 3.2 gal.
Claimed Wet Weight: 412 lb.
Contact: kawasaki.com
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