2012 Kawasaki Street Models Updates

Ninja 650 gets a major overhaul, while the Ninja 1000 and Vulcan 1700 Voyager receive updates


It’s a year of significant updates for four existing Kawasaki models. The headlining news is the ZX-14R mega-sportbike, using a bigger, more powerful engine and receiving hundreds of other revisions to finally leave Suzuki’s Hayabusa in the rearview mirror. So much was changed it deserved its own article you should read here.

But Kawasaki’s R&D department has been busy upgrading other streetbikes in its lineup, including a significantly updated Ninja 650, ABS added as an option on the Ninja 1000, and the Vulcan 1700 Voyager is equipped with an innovative heat-management system.

2012 Ninja 650

Like the new ZX-14R announced today, the 2012 Ninja 650 celebrates six years as part of Kawasaki’s street lineup. And also like the big Ninja, the 650 gets significantly updated for 2012.

2012 Kawasaki Ninja 650

The sporty but fuel-conscious 649cc parallel-Twin powering this middleweight Ninja streetbike sees updates in the exhaust system, including a new header-section connector pipe and a three-chamber muffler design. This new exhaust is a key contributor to improved gains in mid-range power according to Kawi.

Holding the engine is an all-new twin-pipe perimeter frame – nearly 2 inches (50mm) narrower in the knee/footpeg area – and is joined by a cool, new twin-pipe swingarm.

2012 Kawasaki Ninja 650
2012 Kawasaki Ninja 650
Both are said to provide increased rigidity over the previous 650’s frame. A new backbone-type subframe also offers a 10% increase in maximum carrying capacity. Rake and wheelbase remains the same as last year, while trail sees a nominal increase from 4.2 to 4.3 inches.

Revised suspension settings, including a 0.2-inch increase in travel front and rear (4.9” front, 5.1” rear), are apparently aimed at improved rider comfort. Although Kawasaki doesn’t specify as to the suspension updates other than the moderate increase in travel, we speculate minor internal changes for improved damping performance.

Effort at the clutch was reduced, new brake pad materials promise a slight increase in braking power, and Dunlop’s new Roadsmart II tires are now standard.

Rider ergos see comfort improvements in the form of a 20mm wider handlebar and a two-piece seat assembly with foam that’s wider and thicker. Seat foam thickness likely accounts for the 0.6-inch increase from last year’s seat height that’s now at 31.7 inches. Both the handlebar and saddle are rubber-mounted, along with the footpegs, to help mitigate vibration from the inherently buzzy vertical-Twin engine design.

A new instrument panel features an analog tachometer situated above an LCD info-panel showing speed, trip meters, fuel consumption, remaining range, etc., and the ignition is now located at the fuel tank assembly in order to give a clear view of the gauge cluster.

Bodywork was updated for better aerodynamics and improved engine-heat dissipation, while styling was influenced by the ZX-14R’s appearance. The manually adjusted, three-position windscreen we like so much on the 2011 Ninja 1000 was apparently a big hit elsewhere, as the 2012 Ninja 650 now also sports a three-position shield. However, unlike the Ninja 1000’s simple hand-operated, tool-less shield adjustment, the Ninja 650’s shield requires the use of tools to alter positions.

Fuel capacity of 4.2 gallons is up 0.1-gallon from last year, and battery size was decreased. Also up is curb weight, going from just under 450 pounds in 2011 to a little less than 461 pounds on the ’12 model.

2012 Kawasaki Ninja 650

The 2012 Ninja 650 comes in Metallic Spark Black, Candy Lime Green or Passion Red, and has an MSRP of $7499.

2012 Ninja 1000 ABS

In our 2011 Gentlemen Sportbike Shootout we lauded the brawny Ninja 1000 for its appealing combination of rider comfort, excellent overall chassis performance and powerful but smooth 1043cc inline-Four.

It appears nothing will alter those admirable qualities on the 2012 Ninja 1000. What will change is the option to select a Ninja 1000 with increased rider safety features, as ABS is now available on the Ninja 1K. And, thankfully, the addition of ABS adds only 6.7 pounds to the non-ABS model’s 502.7-pound curb weight, which is unchanged from last year.

2012 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 ABS

Base model Ninja 1000 MSRP is listed at $11,199, up a mere $200 from last year’s bike, while the ABS-equipped 2012 model retails for $11,899. Colors available for the 2012 Ninja 1000 are Metallic Spark Black/Metallic Flat Micron Gray or Candy Lime Green/Ebony.

2012 Vulcan 1700 Voyager

Despite the now years-long flabby world economy that’s clearly affected the whole of motorcycling, the cruiser market – a staple of the U.S. bike scene – has remained a leading segment. Furthermore, the bagger and touring sub-segments of the cruiser market are burgeoning – take, for example, the success of Victory’s Cross Country and Cross Roads models. But newcomers aside, Kawasaki has been a player in the V-Twin powered big rig touring game for more than just a blink of an eye.

2012 Kawasaki Voyager ABS 01

In 2009 Kawasaki resurrected the Voyager name, using the new Vulcan 1700 platform to  create a V-Twin touring bike to compete with H-D’s popular Electra Glide. At the time, Kawi boasted the big Vulcan as the first V-Twin-powered full-dress tourer from Japan. What Kawi has recently decided to address with its muscle-car-inspired touring rig is the undesirable, thrill-killing amount of heat generated from the rear cylinder of a big-bore V-Twin. The following year, Kawi added heat deflectors that proved to be only marginally successful, which you can read about in our 2010 Voyager Review

Despite the fact that its large-displacement Vulcan is liquid-cooled, the nature of full-dress models with leg shields is problematic engine heat since the rear cylinder and exhaust pipe are almost directly under the rider. In a proactive move Kawasaki is now providing, as standard equipment, an air management system to help increase rider comfort at a stop.

New for the 2012 Voyager is Kawasaki Air Management System.

The primary part of the Kawasaki Air Management System (KAMS) routes radiator heat to the ground, below the engine, while the secondary part of the system draws heat away from the rear cylinder and exhaust pipe and directs it to the ground on the left side of the motorcycle. Team Green says this system is particularly effective in warm weather while stopped in traffic or for extended periods of low-speed operation.

2012 Kawasaki Voyager 04

Colors for the 2012 Vulcan 1700 Voyager are Metallic Graystone / Metallic Spark Black or Pearl Alpine White / Pearl Luster Beige. The non-ABS model retails for $17,899 – a $400 increase from 2011. The ABS model has an MSRP of $18,999. A 36-month warranty is standard.

Related Reading
2012 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R Preview
2011 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 Review
2010 Kawasaki Ninja 650 Review
2010 Kawasaki Ninja 650 vs 2009 Suzuki GSX650F vs 2010 Yamaha FZ6R
2009 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Voyager Review
2009 Naked Middleweights Comparison
2006 Suzuki SV650S v. 2006 Kawasaki Ninja 650

View all Photos PHOTOS & VIDEOS

2012 Kawasaki Voyager ABS 01
2012 Kawasaki Voyager ABS 01
2012 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 ABS 11
2012 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 ABS 11
2012 Kawasaki Voyager ABS 03
2012 Kawasaki Voyager ABS 03
2012 Kawasaki Voyager 01
2012 Kawasaki Voyager 01
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