2024 Kawasaki Z500 Review [12 Fast Facts; SE Version]

There may be no better example of mission creep than Kawasaki’s small-bore Ninja model. What started as the Ninja 250R in 1986 grew into the Ninja 300 in 2013, and then the Ninja 400 in 2018. For 2024, we get the Ninja 500, which means the Z400 naked sibling now grows into the 2024 Kawasaki Z500. With the Ninja 500 destined to become a new inexpensive entry-level sport favorite, the Z500 aims to establish itself as a newcomer-friendly urban sportbike. We saddled up the new Z500 and took to the streets of San Diego and the spectacular twisting roads just above the border with Mexico.

2024 Kawasaki Z500 Review: Price

  1. The motor is the same powerplant that debuted on the Kawasaki Eliminator cruiser earlier this year. The 451cc engine is a sweetheart on the novice-friendly Eliminator cruiser, and reprises that role on the 2024 Kawasaki Z500. Instead of chasing revs and more horsepower, Kawasaki obtained 52 additional cubic centimeters via a 6.8mm stroke extension. With the motor doing triple duty—cruiser, naked upright, lightweight sportbike (and maybe ADV soon)—focusing on torque offers the most versatility. So, with the new motor, you get additional torque delivered in an unintimidating way, and there is no need to rev it to the moon to get adequate acceleration in the city, on the highway, or in the canyons. This makes it easier for new riders to use, while adding to the entertainment for experienced pilots.

2024 Kawasaki Z500 Review: For Sale

  1. With 451cc on tap, the Z500 is truly multipurpose. There’s no reason for riders up to 200 pounds to be concerned about freeway performance. The torque peak comes in at an unusually late rev count of 7500. This is perfect for urban freeway riding, as the need to accelerate well when riding at the speed limit is an important safety feature. That late torque peak will also satisfy experienced riders in the canyons, as there will be that extra push high in the rev range, where they will typically have the DOHC parallel twin running. If you take the Z500 to the redline and shift, it will drop you right back to the torque peak—perfect! Neophytes in the twisties can take it easy without any unwelcome surprises from the linear powerband. We liked the 399cc 400 motor, and enjoy the 451cc “500” even more.

2024 Kawasaki Z500 Review: Price

  1. Feel free to rev the Z500, if you’re so inclined—Kawasaki upgraded the bottom end to handle the additional displacement. The exterior of the motor is unchanged. However, if you take it apart, you’ll find a new crankshaft, connecting rods and pistons. There’s more gas/air flow with the displacement bump, so the muffler gets a larger outlet.
  1. We were surprised that a high-frequency buzz is introduced into the grips, pegs, and seat when cruising at 60 mph or so. The only solution is to not ride at a fixed speed, which is always good advice on urban freeways. It’s not something you notice when sport riding in the canyons, but it’s there when droning on the superslab.

2024 Kawasaki Z500 Review: Specs

  1. The six-speed transmission returns with a beefier clutch featuring assist and slipper functions. The assist feature makes the Z500 less fatiguing to ride in the city due to the lighter clutch pull, and the slipper function offers a safety net when riders get a bit too aggressive with downshifts. An optional quickshifter would be nice; alas, one is nowhere to be found in the Kawasaki Genuine Accessories catalog.
  1. By keeping the engine’s exterior unchanged, Kawasaki stuck with the Z400 chassis. Back for more is the trellis frame and fixed-damping suspension. However, Kawasaki did firm up the Z500’s suspension setting to reflect the power increase. The suspension remains compliant and composed for its intended broad-range usage. While there’s a new seat, the compact but not cramped ergonomics are unchanged and comfortable.

  1. Whether riding in the city or the countryside, the handling is delightfully neutral. The 2024 Kawasaki Z500 does what you tell it to do, though it will require you to be sure that’s what you want. The chassis is not so responsive that a new rider can quickly get into trouble due to an input error, yet it doesn’t require excessive effort to change direction. It’s stable in corners and allows for corrections should they be necessary. The handling is nicely all-around, making for an enjoyably predictable ride wherever you might be.
  1. Part of the handling equation is the novice-friendly Dunlop Sportmax GPR-300 tires. With a predictable profile, there are no surprises with the GPR-300. The 451cc motor and basic chassis don’t put huge demands on the Dunlops, and they will inspire confidence in new riders while satisfying reasonable experienced riders. The GPR-300s have been around for eight years and are a popular tire in the small-bore class.

  1. Should you find yourself in need of deceleration, the braking is capable and friendly. With a soft initial bite and a slightly progressive feel, the Z500’s brakes have the all-around performance for a wide range of operating conditions. The design is basic—a traditionally mounted Nissin two-piston caliper works with a single 310mm disc up front for most of the stopping power. It’s easy braking most of the time, with good power if you apply more pressure. The rear brake is excellent around town thanks to its great feel—especially for making U-turns in parking lots. The rear brake also uses a two-piston Nissin caliper, though this time with a 220mm disc. ABS is standard—nothing fancy like cornering awareness. I felt the ABS sooner than expected, though its implementation isn’t annoying—just a gentle pulsing alerting you to its presence.

  1. Both versions of the new Z500 get styling updates. Kawasaki continues to work the aggressive Sugomi angle, and we have no complaint about that; “Sugomi” translates to “awesome” per Google Translate. The most obvious change is the triple LED headlight and fairing. The twin headlights are the normal lighting, with the lower-center headlight providing high-beam coverage. The LED taillight is also new, as are the mirror stalks.

  1. We tested the SE version of the 2024 Kawasaki Z500, which adds $700 to the standard’s modest $5599 MSRP. The significant upgrade is the SE’s proven TFT dash compared to the standard LCD, which is actually not bad—both interact with Kawasaki’s Rideology smartphone app via Bluetooth. The other updates are from the Kawasaki Genuine Accessories catalog—chin fairing, passenger seat cowl, sleeker LCD turn signals, frame sliders, tank protection, radiator screen, dark flyscreen, a USB-C outlet, and lots of black plastic and paint instead of green. If the colorful LCD dash was tragically dated, I would snap up the SE with the TFT dash right away. However, the difference isn’t as big as you might think. If the accessories and color work for you, $700 is worth it. If not, stick with the standard version and accessorize to taste.

  1. The infusion of more power makes the 2024 Kawasaki Z500 better for everyone. A novice won’t have to put as much effort into getting up to speed, and an experienced rider will be happy to exploit more push. The ergonomics and handling remain likable and effective. The Z500’s $5599 price tag is a shot across the bow of the Honda CB500F, which sported a $6799 price tag last year, and just a $600 premium over the 2024 Yamaha MT-03. The mid-size upright all-around bike market just got a lot more interesting.

Photography by Kevin Wing


2024 Kawasaki Z500 Specs 


  • Type: Parallel twin
  • Displacement: 451cc
  • Bore x stroke: 70.0 x 58.6mm
  • Maximum torque: 32 ft-lbs @ 7500 rpm
  • Compression ratio: 11.3:1
  • Valvetrain: DOHC; 4 vpc
  • Fueling: EFI w/ twin 32mm throttle bodies
  • Transmission: 6-speed w/ Positive Neutral Finder
  • Clutch: Wet multiplate w/ assist and slipper functions
  • Final drive: Sealed chain


  • Frame: Steel trellis
  • Front suspension; travel: Non-adjustable 41mm fork; 4.7 inches
  • Rear suspension: Linkage-assisted, spring-preload adjustable KYB shock; 5.1 inches
  • Tires: Dunlop Sportmax GPR-300
  • Front tire: 110/70 x 17
  • Rear tire: 150/60 x 17
  • Front brake: 310mm disc w/ Nissin 2-piston caliper
  • Rear brake: 220mm disc w/ Nissin 2-piston caliper
  • ABS: Standard


  • Wheelbase: 54.1 inches
  • Rake: 24.5 degrees
  • Trail: 3.6 inches
  • Seat height: 30.9 inches
  • Fuel tank capacity: 3.7 gallons
  • Curb weight: 366 pounds (SE: 370 pounds)


  • Candy Lime Green/Metallic Flat Spark Black/Metallic Graphite Gray (Z500)
  • Candy Persimmon Red/Metallic Flat Spark Black/Metallic Matte Graphenesteel Gray (Z500 SE)

2024 Kawasaki Z500 Price: $5599 MSRP
2024 Kawasaki Z500 SE Price: $6299 MSRP

2024 Kawasaki Z500 Review Photo Gallery