First launched in 2007, the original Kawasaki Versys was regarded as one of the most versatile entry-level bike that managed to live up to its name, although the peculiar styling might have held it back by a certain degree. Now, for 2015, the popular budget dual-purpose has been thoroughly upgraded with sharper, more up-to-date styling and improved riding dynamics.
The Versys gained more followers in 2010, when Kawasaki introduced an updated version that came with a tweaked headlight design, which was easier to the eyes than the version it replaced, and a smattering of upgraded equipment here and there. This time, the Japanese manufacturer went back to the drawing board and gave the bike a style makeover as well as better all-round capability.
First up, gone are the stacked headlights, replaced with twin headlamp layout that mimics the latest-generation Versys 1000 and of course the company’s Ninja sport bike range. That alone gives the Versys a more imposing demeanor that will entice prospective buyers from a showroom window. Kawasaki says the windscreen is larger than before and can be manually adjusted by 60 mm, so that should take care of the strong wind.
With the exception of new tail light design, the rear section of the Versys seems largely untouched. The Japanese bike manufacturer instead chose to focus on the structure, giving the bike a stronger subframe that enables it to take on bigger payloads. The new construction also accommodates specially designed panniers and top case without the need of additional brackets. However, no changes have been made to the main frame.
That’s not all. The Versys is also equipped with a new exhaust can that’s tucked away out of sight. The header pipes, meanwhile, are unitised with the silencer under the engine as a single-piece unit to increase the high-rpm performance. On the suspension front, there’s a new 41 mm Showa fork at the front and a KYB shock with a preload adjuster at the rear. The 300 mm petal brake discs are also new.
Like the model it replaces, driving force comes from a 649 cc, parallel-twin engine that has been revitalised with new camshafts and exhaust system. The result is a total output of 69 hp at 8,500 rpm (5 hp gain) and 64 Nm of torque at 7,000 rpm, sent to the the rear wheel via a six-speed transmission. It’s not as brutally fast as its four-cylinder brethren but the Versys is capable of accelerating quickly off the line at a twist of the throttle. It is perhaps more relaxing to ride the bike at higher cruising speeds, especially when the engine hums around the 4,000-rpm mark.
Overall ride quality has improved immensely. The Versys boasts soft, plush ride and soaks up bumps effortlessly thanks to the long-travel suspension. Around the back, riders can now calibrate the rear shock’s preload via a remote knob without having to get off the bike. Whether you’re riding with pillion or panniers or both, the adjustable offset single-shock is ready to serve. Kawasaki has also managed to reduce the dreaded vibration with the addition of rubber mountings on the engine and handlebar.
It is also impressive to feel how well the chassis connects with the suspension. Despite being large and heavy (the new model weighs more than its predecessor), the Versys felt a little like a motard around the corners. The bike is rather agile for its size plus the handlebar gives almost precise feedback that makes turning-ins uncomplicated. The brakes needed some warming up but they are more than capable to handle the job.
All in all, the Versys comes as a largely improved model but not without a few drawbacks. At 214 kg, the bike is heavy and maneuvering it around the busy traffic of Klang Valley could be arduous for shorter and smaller riders. The instrument panel also looks a little out of date and needs a gear indicator (which we were told to be quite costly). Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a dependable, budget-friendly dual-purpose bike, the new Versys should be on your list.
|Engine Type||liquid-cooled, DOHC 4-Stroke Parallel Twin|
|Power||68 hp @ 8,500 rpm|
|Torque||64 Nm @ 7,000 rpm|
|Frame||Diamond, High-Tensile Steel|
|Front Suspension||41 mm Inverted Telescopic|
|Rear Suspension||Monoshock, Preload Adjustable|
|Seat Height||840 mm|
|Fuel Capacity||21 Litres|
|Tyres||120/70 R17 (F), 160/60 R17 (R)|