New 2013 Kawasaki Ninja 650R review: Slick and Savvy

Words: Amit Chhangani. 

Images: Hanoz Patel Amit Chhangani

When we did a review of the previous version of the Kawasaki Ninja 650R, we almost immediately realized that there could hardly be a big bike which could suit the Indian conditions better. A rider friendly comfortable seating position, incredibly linear power delivery, rock solid stability, ambidexterity for touring as well as able corner carving, and a windscreen which effectively deflected air at high speeds – functionally the bike was tough to fault. Detractors could point a finger at its shape, which wasn’t the most balanced and attractive, but besides that the Ninja 650 was an epitome of practical, useable performance and rider friendliness.

In its 2013 avatar, the Ninja 650R has got rid of arguably its only setback – the looks! The new Ninja 650 has been restyled to look sharper, snazzier, sexier, without leaving out any of the virtues of its forebear. We’re glad to announce that it’s functionally as fabulous as the previous version (we miss the sheer size of the previous windscreen though), and has infact been substantially improved with a plethora of changes having been incorporated.

We rode the bike on a very wet day, two-up, to understand it in detail and our tuppence on this beautiful piece of machinery is provided below.

Design and visuals

The new Ninja 650 borrows the basic design template from the earlier gen machine, and then changes almost all the details to various extents without letting the original proportions or character get diluted. In profile, the silhouette of the two bikes is near identical, with hardly any difference in the dimensions and shape. Bring the details in, and almost every part seems to have been refurbished.

The entire front apron, right from the beak of the bike to the point where it ends above the exhaust, has been restyled. In profile, the full fairing now gets the ZX-14R inspired slashes and an additional vent for styling, as well as for better heat dissipation. Moreover, the apron is now shorter and doesn’t extend all the way to the sub-frame, ending just under the crankcase.

The integrated blinkers on the fairing are also more vertically oriented now, in contrast to the horizontal orientation of the front blinkers on the earlier bike. The Kawasaki stickering on the lower part of the fairing is also new.

The front fender has been restyled and is now all-black, unlike the earlier two tone treatment. There is a dash of black around the headlight area too. The restyled tank which is about the same height as earlier, as is now sloped more gently from the seats towards the handlebars. The more angular, chiseled styling goes a long way in lending the new Ninja a sharper look.

And it’s not just a visual upgrade; the fuel capacity has been increased to 16 liters from the earlier 15.5.

The entire rear panel has been redesigned. The new Ninja 650 now features a split seat unlike the single step seat on the earlier machine. The seat height for the pillion rider seems to have been raised a smidgeon in the bargain.

The redesigned 2-piece seat assembly features thicker and wider foam though, and is still one of the more comfortable seats for the second rider if you compare it with other similar products. Funnily, the grab rail on the left hand side has been replaced by an ugly, humongous saree guard. Thanks to our stupid laws, you’ll have to buy the grab rail for the other side as an accessory for extra money.


Thankfully, the exquisitely designed exposed sloping one sided rear mono-shock has not been touched and looks as distinctive as ever, lending the Ninja 650 is characteristic allure. The underbelly exhaust has been redesigned, is a tad more angular in form and more sharply inclined upwards.

In addition, the twin-pipe perimeter frame has been redesigned for more rigidity. The seat height has been lowered for more stable handling and improved aesthetics. The swing-arm has also been redesigned and now features a twin-pipe assembly for both more stiffness and better styling.

The instrument cluster has been newly designed too. The all digital instrument cluster has now been replaced by an analog tachometer and a digital readout. There is also an ECO display which turns on when you’re riding the bike in a fuel efficient manner. Headlamp and tail-lamp have been restyled and now look much better than the ones on the previous version.

We especially loved the dotted light pattern of the LED tail-lamps. The handlebars on the new bike are 20mm wider for better rider comfort. The seat, handlebar and foot-pegs are rubber mounted to keep the vibrations minimal.

In all, the new Ninja 650R has been given a thorough makeover to make sure that restrained styling (on its predecessor) isn’t a retardant when it comes to buying decisions. It looks much more modern and sharper in its newest avatar, and comes across as a proper supersport machine.

A special mention must be made of the paint quality on this machine. The glossy green paint on our test bike made us look at it over and over again. The quality and depth of the paint on this machine is simply outstanding. You’d want to run your fingers over that sculpted tank only to appreciate the smooth and deep paint finish.

It’s one of the best we have seen on any bike and needs to be witnessed to be believed.

Next page for Engine, Transmission and Performance

Kawasaki Ninja 650R
Kawasaki Ninja 650R
Kawasaki Ninja 650R
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