I bought an S40 as my first bike about a month ago. I had a rough start with it, more due to my inexperience than to the bike. Yes, it is a thumper, but the only time this is bothersome is when I shift gears too early- it certainly lets me know. One thing to note is that it backfires. I’ve seen some threads elsewhere on how to reduce/eliminate this, but it really doesn’t bother me.
I would definitely recommend it as a beginner bike. It is easy to handle and lightweight for a 650. The one caveat is that you have to spend time getting the clutch control down. Otherwise, you’ll fight with the bike at every stop and every go.