A true workhorse in the middleweight field today, the Kawasaki Ninja 650 has earned a lasting reputation among riders and the media. While lacking the tire-smoking antics of its bigger siblings, the Ninja 650 has fallen into an elite category since its inception back in 2006. Whether commuting, hitting the twisties or logging miles on the highway, the design has proven itself repeatedly. In 2009 it saw its first overhaul, eliminating some of the nagging qualities which held it back. MotoUSA had a chance to sample the changes while conducting the 2009 Kawasaki Ninja 650R Review, which made us fond of the mid-displacement Twin. In 2012, however, the multi-talented Ninja 650 will see some of the biggest changes since its creation.
One of the most visible changes is the redesigned exhaust system. The Ninja 650’s stubby, low-slung exhaust has become a trademark with the design and for 2012 the system receives a new connector pipe as well as a higher-volume three-chamber muffler assembly. Engineers claim this improvement alone provides better mid-
range torque on the 650. The fuel-injected 649cc liquid-cooled Parallel Twin
remains relatively unchanged for the new year, keeping its status as a terrific streetbike powerplant with torquey pull and impressive top end.
Improvements continue with an all-new twin-pipe perimeter frame that’s been installed for more rigidity. While providing more strength overall to the design, the trellis layout keeps its narrow-waisted profile that helps keep its seat height lower. Even with the narrow frame, however, sticklers will be quick to point out the 2012 Ninja 650 is 0.6 inches taller than previous models. The 41mm front fork and single shock rear out back include new settings along with increased wheel travel, with a new backbone-type subframe offering a 10% increase in maximum carrying capacity. The clutch cable design is also reworked for easier pull and better control. The twin-pipe swingarm is another major stylistic change from the previous edition, which featured only a single tubular structure. Braking has also been improved with new pads, and Dunlop’s new Roadsmart II tires are standard on the new edition.
Revisions also include a new three-position windscreen (above) and new instrument layout (below) with the addition of an analog tachometer.
The ’12 Ninja 650 includes a number of aesthetic changes. Perhaps the most eye-catching is a new instrument panel featuring an analog tachometer above an LCD readout. The bodywork has also been upgraded with more sharp angles that are on par with Kawasaki’s Supersport lineup. Improved aerodynamics are in the design as well, with a three-position windscreen added for more comfort. Bodywork has also been adjusted to allow for better engine heat removal.
One of the flaws with the past Ninja 650 was its seat. Often cited for being uncomfortable, Kawasaki took note of this in their updates by changing to a two-piece seat assembly with wider and thicker foam padding. Handlebars have also been widened by 20mm, which Kawi claims offers more control and overall comfort. To keep vibrations down the bars and seat are rubber-mounted as well as the footpegs.
In addition to revamping its middleweight design, Kawasaki has also included an added ABS feature on its bigger sibling – the 2012 Ninja 1000.
The new Ninja 650 is set to launch with an MSRP of $7499. Check out more photos in our 2012 Kawasaki Ninja 650 Photo Gallery.