2022 Kawasaki Versys 650 | First Ride Review

2022 Kawasaki Versys 650
Kawasaki’s venerable Versys 650 sport-tourer has been updated for 2022 with traction control, updated styling with an adjustable windscreen, and a new TFT display with Bluetooth connectivity. Photos by Kevin Wing.

My 2009 Kawasaki Versys 650 was one of the best utilitarian two-wheelers I’ve owned, but since I’m always putting miles on test bikes, I hardly ever rode it. When I realized I’d added only 500 miles to the odometer in five years, a deep sense of shame prompted me to sell it. After listing it on Facebook Marketplace, it was gone in a flash. Due to the high prices for used motorcycles right now, I earned a small profit – about a dollar for every mile I put on it.

2022 Kawasaki Versys 650
The only colorway for the 2022 Kawasaki Versys 650 LT is Metallic Spark Black/Metallic Flat Spark Black.

Flash forward a few months and I’m wending my way through the twisty interior of San Diego County aboard a 2022 Kawasaki Versys 650. It’s the $9,999 LT version with hard saddlebags and handguards, which only comes in Metallic Spark Black/Metallic Flat Spark Black this year. The base model is available in the same color for $8,899, or in Candy Lime Green/Metallic Flat Spark Black/Metallic Spark Black for $9,099.

Check out Rider‘s 2022 Motorcycle Buyers Guide

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2022 Kawasaki Versys 650

Not surprisingly, the 2022 upgrade is a much better motorcycle than my just-sold 2009 model, but they still have a lot in common despite 13 years of separation. The seating position, performance, and overall essence of the motorcycle remain virtually unchanged, but a few key aspects go a long way toward improving the bike’s desirability.

2022 Kawasaki Versys 650
The new TFT display is a welcome upgrade. The screen is bright and easy to read.

New for ’22 is a full-color 4.3-inch TFT display that is a major improvement over the previous instrument panel, and light-years beyond the one on my ’09 model. The layout of information is modern and clean, blending everything – the gear position indicator, fuel gauge, tach, speedo, clock, tripmeter, etc. –  into a centrally located format. A rider can choose between a black or white background, and the screen brightness automatically adjusts to ambient light levels.

2022 Kawasaki Versys 650

Gear Up:
Helmet: Sena Impulse
Jacket: Spidi H2Out
Gloves: Spidi TX-2
Pants: Rev’It Campo
Boots: Alpinestars SMX-1 R

Simultaneously depressing two analog buttons on the display allows a Bluetooth connection to be established between the Versys and Kawasaki’s Rideology smartphone app. The app features a useful and handy maintenance log, general bike info, and the ability to record rides as well as share them with others.

2022 Kawasaki Versys 650

During the ride, when the bike and app are talking to one another, the TFT display will notify the rider when a new call or email has been received. The part of my ride recorded with the Rideology app showed that I traveled 79 miles for 1.34 hours from Orange to San Diego counties at an average speed of 54 mph. The map, however, displayed a straight line from point A to point B, not an accurate GPS mapping of the twists and turns.

2022 Kawasaki Versys 650

My old Versys’ windscreen was adjustable only if I were willing to remove the four bolts necessary to position it differently, which rarely, if ever, happened. The inefficiency of the process meant a rider found a likable position for the windscreen and that’s where it stayed. The new Versys features an easily adjustable windscreen that can be raised and lowered to four different settings over a 3-inch range. It’s a two-handed affair with one hand depressing the lock button while the other moves the windscreen, but it’s worth the small effort. The upper position deflects wind quite well while the low position puts the rider more in the wind stream.

The new windscreen is the cherry atop a redesigned upper fairing that shares a family resemblance with its liter-bike counterpart, the Versys 1000. The sides of the new cowling are ducted to move air around the rider while the dual headlights are now bright, low-wattage LEDs. The rear of the Versys matches the front with aggressively pointy style and a new LED taillight.

2022 Kawasaki Versys 650

Anti-lock brakes now come standard on all Versys 650 models, as does traction control. The 649cc liquid-cooled parallel-Twin powering the Versys isn’t a tire shredder – when we dyno tested a 2020 Versys 650, it sent 63 hp and 43 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheel – but it can certainly break traction given enough throttle when leaned over. TC has two settings, with the first being less intrusive and the second providing a more conservative safety net that should prove beneficial to newer riders or experienced ones caught in low-traction conditions. If desired, traction control can be switched off entirely via a switch located on the left switchpod.

2022 Kawasaki Versys 650

Kickstand up and traveling south on Interstate 5 toward San Diego, the Versys felt like a comfortable and familiar old shoe. Exiting the slab and venturing into the twisties, it soon becomes apparent the Showa suspension’s stock settings were a tad soft for my taste. Once stopped, a few stiffening clicks of preload on top of the left fork leg, a few clicks of tensioning rebound on top of the right fork leg, and a few stiffening twists of the remote preload adjuster on the rear shock dialed things in for tackling the road ahead.

The 28-liter saddlebags are large enough to accommodate a full-face helmet, though without much room to spare. There is also a helmet lock if you need to secure your lid when the saddlebags are full of other incidentals. The ignition key unlocks the saddlebags and allow them to be removed from the motorcycle. For those requiring more storage, Kawasaki offers a matching 47-liter top case along with other accessories, such as heated grips and a GPS mount.

2022 Kawasaki Versys 650

The bike’s peppy midrange thrusts its 503-lb claimed curb weight forward in enthusiastically manageable fashion. Dual 2-piston calipers grip 300mm petal discs to slow the party down with equal efficiency. When leaned over, the Versys holds its line effectively and transitions to and fro confidently.

The 5.5-gallon fuel tank combined with efficient fuel consumption allows for extended mileage between fuel stops. (During our 2020 test, we averaged 46 mpg for 253 miles of range.) That’s great news for commuters or anyone wanting to incorporate longer trips into their Versys ownership. Complementing the Versys’ fuel range is an ergonomically neutral riding position that is one of the things I loved most about my old Versys as well as the new one.

2022 Kawasaki Versys 650

Like my old Versys, the new version is a modern, solid, middleweight jack-of-all-trades that’s as steadfast as a motorcycle can be. It responds dutifully to what’s asked of it, whether that be cruising around the city, commuting to work, or taking off on long weekends or longer tours. During my Versys ownership never once did it fail to start, or run badly once started, even though it spent most of its time languishing in my garage.

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My old Versys didn’t have ABS, traction control, a remote preload adjusting shock, TFT display, a slip/assist clutch, LED lights, or an easily adjustable windscreen, and it didn’t look nearly as good as the ’22 Versys. In 2009, the MSRP of a base-model Versys was $7,099, which is just over $9,700 in today’s dollars. The new bike offers much more for less money, and the touring-ready LT is a fantastic bargain.

2022 Kawasaki Versys 650

2022 Kawasaki Versys 650

Base Price: $8,899
Price as Tested: $9,999 (LT model)
Website: Kawasaki.com
Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse parallel-Twin, DOHC w/ 4 valves per cyl.
Displacement: 649cc
Bore x Stroke: 83 x 60mm
Horsepower: 63 hp @ 8,700 rpm (rear-wheel dyno, 2020 model)
Torque: 43 lb-ft @ 7,300 rpm (rear-wheel dyno, 2020 model)
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated slip/assist wet clutch
Final Drive: Chain
Wheelbase: 55.7 in.
Rake/Trail: 25 degrees/4.3 in.
Seat Height: 33.3 in.
Wet Weight: 503 lb (as tested)
Fuel Capacity: 5.5 gals.
Fuel Consumption: 46 mpg


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10 COMMENTS

  1. How was the visibility from the mirrors? I like the 650 engine, but every time I’ve ridden a Versys or Ninja with one, the mirrors are a huge blur from vibration. That’s a deal breaker for me. I’m hoping Kawi got this sorted.

  2. Thanks Tom. Good to see your work in print again. It hasn’t escaped my notice that Moto Journalists LOVE the Versys, often choosing it (or its closest competitors- V-Strom 650, SV650, NC750X) when it comes time to spend their own money. The Versys has been in the running when I purchased my last three bikes, most recently losing out to Triumph’s Tiger Sport 660. I’d love to see a comparison test of this class again.

    • What’s your take on Tiger Sport 660? Seems like a great alternative to the versys & Strom.

      Currently ride a V-Strom 650 myself and considering the Tiger Sport. Although I love my Strom, if I hadn’t purchased the V-Strom, I’d have purchased the Versys.

      • Hi Art. I now have about 2400mi on my new Tiger Sport 660, and owned a 2007 V-Strom 650 for 30K miles. Short answer: the wee-strom is the better light touring bike, the Tiger is the better sport bike. I’m 6’2″ with a 34″ inseam and around 190lbs in full gear. I had a gel seat that was a Suzuki option and the V-Strom was the most comfortable bike I’ve owned. I do find the Tiger’s riding position both roomy and comfortable, just not the perfect fit I found with the DL650. The firmer suspension and lighter weight of the Tiger transfers more road texture to the rider, not quite as smooth on the open road. Still OK on the dreaded freeway expansion joints, and the Tiger is much better in crosswinds. While they look close on paper the Triumph has the passing power I found lacking in the Strom; a nice little bump in power around 7K that lasts ’till 10K. The little triple is superb, happy to cruise between 3 to 5K and glass smooth down there with as much torque as the twins. A little buzzy between 5500 and 6500rpm and smoother again until 10K. The wee-strom was better in the canyons than it should be; the Triumph turns quicker with less effort (especially side to side) and is incredibly stable, near sport bike good and great fun on twisty roads. I also find more feel and power from the brakes with the Tiger. I hope this helps.

        • Thank you for taking the time to reply and share all of that. And for including height and inseam as well, that’s very helpful. I assume everything you shared will be helpful to many others as well. At 6’3″, 34″ in-seam I also find my 2013 DL-650 to be the best fitting bike I’ve ever owned. I swapped out the stock seat, which I found to be heinous, for a Seat Concepts firm/tall seat.

          Thanks again for all the detail Larry, good stuff and very much appreciated.

  3. Would be great if any of the motorcycles being written about were actually available in the USA or available without egregious & gouging dealership markups.

    The inability of manufacturers to put product on dealership floors is an epic failure. The lost sales must total in the millions of dollars, in the USA alone.

    How’s the fueling and touchy throttle on this year’s Versys? Much improved?

  4. My 2018 NC750X easily gets 70+ mpg. Rides as good or better than my 2014 Verseys did. Although either is a good choice, I’d pick the Honda for the long ride.

  5. I’m a new rider and ended up buying a Trident as my 1st bike. But already I’m thinking down the road about something more practical like the Tiger, Versys, Vstrom, NC750 or a used Tracer. The Kawi really takes the value lead when you consider some of the extras they include which are dealer options from Triumph or not even available from the others (Honda, Suzuki). I’d like to see some kinda step forward with the engine though. They’re near the bottom of the class for power and from what I’ve gathered, they haven’t touched the powertrain in years (although neither have Honda or Suzuki). But at least they modernized much of the rest.

    • For more power, the V has a big brother…118hp (’21) should fill your needs, especially with a mid-500lb travel weight.

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