Kawasaki Motors Malaysia Sdn Bhd (KMMSB) offers a broad range of motorcycles in its portfolio. From small-capacity naked and supersports to face-melting litre bikes to zippy sport tourers; the green team seems to have everything for everyone. But here’s one more model that the competitors are lacking of and will finally complete the brand’s lineup in the country; the new Kawasaki Vulcan S.
First things first, the Vulcan S is offered in our market as an entry-level mid-range sports cruiser targeted to those aged between 30 to 65, regardless of sex. Instead of an engine with two cylinders arranged in a V configuration, the Vulcan S has a 649 cc parallel twin mill as its heart. Although it is derived from the ER-6 range and Versys 650, the twin-cylinder unit has been given a breath of fresh air with improvements such as new camshaft profile and longer air intake.
Apart from that, the Vulcan S offers a raft of customisation options that rarely comes with a factory model. The laid-back riding style can be further adjusted through a system called Ergo-Fit that provides different setups for the handlebar, foot pegs and seat to cater to a wide range of riders. That being said, the system, which is offered in ‘Reduced Reach’, ‘Mid Reach’ and ‘Extended Reach’ settings, will not be available in our market just yet as parts will have to be ordered from Japan as well as Europe. For now, the bike will come standard in ‘Mid Reach’ setting that is best for those with 5′ 7″ to 6′ 0″.
In terms of design, the Vulcan S is a few steps ahead of what the brand had offered in the past – the VN250, for example. The bike is photogenic without trying too hard. Personally, we think the design represents a balanced mix of retro and modern styling, which is never a bad thing. There’s plenty of features that we are fond of; the headlamp (that sadly doesn’t come with LED), the tear-shaped fuel tank and the brushed aluminium radiator guards. The rear section (including the LED tail light), on the other hand, seems a little too bland.
For obvious reasons, getting on a cruiser bike like this is easy. The low seat height, positioned at 705 mm from the ground, provides immense control particularly when you need to reverse the bike into a parking spot. The ‘Mid Reach’ setting provided during our media test ride in Ipoh was spot on, despite it was my first time riding a cruiser. The handlebar felt well in reach and the foot pegs were positioned far but not enough to overstretch the legs. Overall, there was a great deal of relaxation as well as being in control in the riding ergonomics.
Now on to the performance. Although it lacks the desired V-twin rumbling, the parallel-twin engine should never be underestimated. Despite having an unexciting engine note that’s very similar to the ER-6 and Versys, the engine makes it up with smooth acceleration and plenty of pulling power especially at mid-rpm. This leads to effortless overtaking, even when you’re in the 5th or 6th gear. There’s also decent top end power. With about 60 hp under its belt, the engine just loves climbing up to its redline. It should be able to hit more than 160 km/h, despite the lack of wind protection.
As for riding dynamics, it’s clear that Kawasaki have put a lot of thought and research into the chassis, which we feel slightly more refined than other types of bike out there. The handlebar, footpegs and seats are rubber mounted, killing any unwanted vibration. Built around a solid high-tensile steel frame, the Vulcan S is capable of putting up with challenging corners that we stumble upon along the test route. But then we’re talking about a cruiser here, so the best way to enjoy it is to go a little slower around the corner – at least that’s the way we see it.
If you still want to plough the bike fast into a corner, the 41 mm telescopic front fork can go above and beyond its duty. However, it’s the rear suspension’s standard setting that feels a little too soft for the job. It can be a little too bouncy at times but there are seven settings of pre-load adjustments so make sure you pick what’s best for you before you hop on. With a wheelbase of 1,575 mm, the Vulcan S is not the most nimble cruiser you can find but it makes up with superb highway stability.
Nevertheless, it’s quite surprising how a 224-kg bike with a healthy amount of power like this gets only one brake disc at the front end. The dual-piston caliper offers a lot of grip when needed but we reckon the bike would be better off with one more disc, especially when ABS is not offered. Elsewhere, the standard factory tyres are sufficiently good. Apart from being grippy on most surfaces, there isn’t much noise coming from them.
The way we see the Vulcan S is that it’s a beginner or novice sports bike posing as a good looking cruiser – a bit like the saying “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” The way the zesty parallel-twin engine establishes itself around the chassis is satisfying, to say the least. Not only that, you’ll find the bike light and nimble despite the size and easy to operate as well. Beginners who’re looking for a cruiser will find the Vulcan S irresistible. Why not, when KMMSB promises to price it lower than RM30,000. Good deal or not, you decide.
|Price||Lower than RM30,000 (TBC)|
|Engine Type||Liquid Cooled, 4-Stroke Parallel Twin|
|Power||60 hp @ 7,500 rpm|
|Torque||63 Nm @ 6,600 rpm|
|Fuel Supply||Fuel Injection|
|Frame||Perimeter, High-Tensile Steel|
|Front Suspension||41 mm Telescopic|
|Rear Suspension||Linkage-Equipped With Adjustable Preload|
|Seat Height||705 mm|
|Fuel Capacity||14 Litres|
|Tyres||120/70 R18 (F), 160/60 R17 (R)|