The 10 Best Honda Scooters
Jun 02, 2023
Honda have always had all their bases covered with a comprehensive scooter lineup
For a company that essentially established its credentials with a practical scooter, Honda soon progressed to changing the world of motorcycling as we know it through the 1960s and beyond, making its name in many people’s minds with large capacity sports and touring bikes. But, behind all the bravado, Honda’s small scooter offerings have remained, being models of practicality, reliability and frugality, not to mention alternative - and fun - thinking in the case of the Monkey and Grom. Today’s range is wider than ever and there is definitely something for everyone.
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Honda has made something of a specialty of giving an urban scooter a chunkier off-road look, even if the same amount of off-road ability hasn’t necessarily been included. The first to arrive was the X-ADV, based on the Integra maxi-scooter, in 2017, and an obvious path was to make a smaller-engined model: the ADV160. Even if you ignore the off-road styling cues and ride solely on city streets, the ADV160 feels every inch a well-sorted motorcycle with decent performance and excellent handling, wrapped up in an easy-to-use twist-and-go package, with all the practicality you would expect from a scooter of this sort and all the quality you’d expect from Honda. The 156.9cc, four-valve, single cylinder engine pushes out 16 horsepower and 9.8 foot pounds of torque with impressive smoothness.
Since it arrived in 2010, the PCX 125 has sold an incredible 140,000 units in Europe alone (which admittedly is the biggest market for such bikes outside Asia). The 2021 update brought a new chassis, suspension and slightly smaller wheels, all of which built on the excellent qualities of the previous models. Incredibly easy to ride but possessing dynamic qualities that would put some 125cc motorcycles to shame, it nevertheless is most at home in the urban environment and not great on the open road, unless you don’t mind staring every lot ounce of performance from the engine. Brakes should have been updated at the same time but, sadly, remain a bit weak, needing both front and rear brakes to achieve full braking performance. But it is well put together, with some neat design touches. 12.3 horsepower enough to get out in front of city traffic without stress and 100mpg is excellent.
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Just what exactly is the Ruckus? Opinions vary, but it seems to be a cross between a 50cc scooter, a skateboard, a mini motorcycle and something the military might have used to parachute out of airplanes for transport once on the ground. What is certain is that it is fantastically funky, minimal and the lightest way of getting around town short of pedaling. The 50cc, SOHC, fuel injected engine produces 4 horsepower, so you’re not challenging anything on top speed but its so light and maneuverable that you’ll win in others ways through traffic.
The Piaggio Vespa has had an influence on scooter design out of all proportion to its origins as a cheap means of transport to get a country back on its feet after a devastating war. The Metropolitan is Honda’s take on the classic step-through scooter design, powered by a 49cc single cylinder engine mated to an automatic, belt drive transmission, which equates to carefree progress around your neighborhood. It’s the typical classic scooter, with a round headlight, twin round rearview mirrors, underseat storage and good looks in a highly retro style. Like the Ruckus, you’re not going very fast anywhere, but neither are you using very much fuel doing it!
The legend upon which the whole of the Honda dynasty was built. The Super Cub sold in such vast numbers - 120 million and counting to date - that it gave Soichiro Honda the wherewithal to innovate and change motorcycling forever. Today’s model faithfully copies the key elements of the original: reliability, simplicity of operation and economy, along with a good dose of style. Great to look at, excellent quality, nice detail touches, alloy wheels, digital dash, four speed semi-automatic gearbox, it’s not as practical as other scooters with no underseat storage and there’s no pillion seat as standard but when you’re buying a bit of history, who cares?
Another resurrection of a previous model, the Trail 125 follows in the footsteps of the Trail 90 and Trail 110, but fully updated with bigger engine, more power, fuel injection, disc brakes (including ABS on the front wheel), electric starter and a nominal amount of off-road or adventure capability. If you are completely honest with yourself, you’ll realize the Trail 125 has everything you need from an adventure bike: small, light, cheap to buy and run, excellent gas mileage and utterly practical. It looks as if it could handle itself off-road, with a higher stance than the Super Cub and small crash bars. There is even a high-mounted air intake, so you can wade through water! You might not be able to circumnavigate the world quickly on one, but you’ll see more than if you were blasting along on a big adventure bike!
The second half of the list starts to blur the lines between scooter and mini bike a little, but with their easy-riding characteristics, light weight and frugality, they possess all the qualities of the best scooters, while bringing something different to the style party. Mechanically similar to the Super Cub and Trail 125, the Grom is about as joyful as Honda has ever got and, if it is put together with all the typical Honda care and attention, there is definitely a sense of fun in the air. Despite its minimal stature, it is surprisingly roomy even for tall riders and the body panels can be swapped out easily for you to customize to your own tastes. Get it onto a twisty back road and discover grins you never knew you had in your repertoire: this thing is more fun than should be legal.
Related: Here's Why The Honda Grom Is Overrated
Smaller than the Grom, the Navi is practicality and frugality taken to another level. The gas tank might be only 0.9 gallons, but that will take you 100 miles, even wringing the neck of the little 109cc air-cooled engine. There’s a pure twist-and-go CVT gearbox, unlike the semi-automatic on the Cub and Grom. The brakes are drum brakes front and rear, but they work well enough given the minuscule weight of the package. Given that it's aimed at the practical end of the mini-bike market, the Navi isn’t as practical as the traditional scooters on this list but neither is it unsuitable for quick trips to the store. Fun, uncomplicated, unfussy, well-made and cheap. What more do you need?
If you thought that Honda had decided not to play in the ‘Modern Classic’ scene that is currently gripping motorcycling, then you need to lower your gaze to the smaller bikes in Honda’s range, and you’ll find them all there: the Super Cub, the Trail 125 and this, the Monkey Bike. The Monkey is one of those ‘toy’ bikes that had an influence way beyond its diminutive stature, especially to a certain generation of riders. It arrived in 1963 and was a staple of 1970s mobility before Honda re-launched it in 2018 and now, it has the engine from the Grom, otherwise, it’s exactly as you will remember: a whole heap of fun no matter the road, with safety looked after by the twin disc brakes and ABS.
Even if it costs a ton more than any of the other bikes on this list, the X-ADV is still referred to as a maxi-scooter, so it qualifies. Like the ADV160, it is styled in a faux-adventure bike manner, even though it possesses little or no off-road ability. However, if that is good enough for millions of 4x4 cars, none of which will ever see a bit of dirt, then why is it not good enough for a motorcycle? The 745cc parallel twin engine pushes out 58 horsepower and 50.9 foot pounds of torque, mated to Honda’s DCT gearbox and there is ABS and traction control, although neither are lean-sensitive. It’s more motorcycle in feel and behavior but with all the scooter practicality you would expect, not to mention build quality.
Harry has been writing and talking about motorcycles for 15 years, although he's been riding them for 45 years! After a long career in music, he turned his hand to writing and television work, concentrating on his passion for all things petrol-powered. Harry has written for all major publications in South Africa, both print and digital and produced and presented his own TV show called, imaginatively, The Bike Show, for seven years. He held the position of editor of South Africa's largest circulation motorcycling magazine before devoting his time to freelance writing on motoring and motorcycling. Born and raised in England, he has lived in South Africa with his family since 2002. Harry has owned examples of Triumph, Norton, BSA, MV Agusta, Honda, BMW, Ducati, Harley Davidson, Kawasaki and Moto Morini motorcycles. He regrets selling all of them.