For a brand with a deep heritage and a laundry list of iconic models in their back catalogue, Kawasaki has surprisingly few modern classics in their current range. But that line-up’s just grown by one, with the announcement of the 2022 Z650RS.
The Z650RS follows the same formula as the muscular Z900RS: take a capable donor, and make it look retro. It gets its motor and basic chassis from the middleweight Z650, but adds throwback styling that recalls the 1977 Z650-B1 in a refreshing accurate way.
Kawasaki are pitching the Z650RS as a ‘Retrovolution’ (‘retro evolution,’ get it?), which is just a groan-inducing way of saying it combines classic looks with contemporary tech. But the overall aesthetic isn’t entirely classic—there’s no disguising the Z650’s modern parallel twin motor and radiator, and the Z650 exhaust looks terribly out of place here.
But the rest of the Z650RS looks just as good as the Z900RS does, with a similar tank, seat and ‘duck tail’ rear end, and the same style alloy wheels. Kawasaki are showing it off in a green livery with gold wheels, a mostly-black option, and a black and grey paint job with subtle gold highlights. And they all look pretty spectacular, but it’s hard to resist the 70s vibe of the green and gold combo.
Other styling cues include a round LED headlight, twin dials, slim LED indicators, and a round LED tail light that’s the perfect modernisation of the original Z650’s unit. The dials follow an analogue style, with a digital centre panel.
Powering the Z650RS is the exact same 649 cc parallel-twin four-stroke mill that you’ll find in the Z650 and Ninja 650. It doesn’t seem to be tuned any differently here, and makes a claimed 50.2 kW (67.3 hp) at 8,000 rpm and 64 Nm at 6,700 rpm. It shares the same six-speed box as the Z650 too, with identical gear ratios.
Comparing both bikes’ spec sheets reveal the same running gear too: 41 mm conventional forks with 125 mm of travel, 130 mm of rear shock travel with adjustable preload, 17” wheels with a respectable 160-wide rear, and twin 300 mm front brake discs, with dual piston calipers. ABS is standard, and the RS gets round discs instead of the usual petal-shaped units. The Z650RS also has a higher seat height than the Z650 (800 mm), takes slightly less fuel (12 litres), and weighs a hair less (187 kilos).
We’re not sure if and when Kawasaki South Africa will be importing the Z650RS, but we hope they do. The Zed’s power and weight put it in the same broad class as Triumph’s new Trident 660, but with styling that pitches against more expensive bikes like the Bonneville T120, Ducati Scrambler and BMW R nineT. It looks damn fine in stock trim, and if it’s priced reasonably (the Z650 is currently listed at R122,995), it should sell like hot cakes.