It’s so easy to get swept up by all the attractive, high performance motorcycles on offer these days that I often forget two-wheeled transport is also enormously practical. And there’s nothing like a little time on a scooter, the 2017 Honda PCX150 to be precise, to bring this fact back into sharp focus.
As far as Honda’s scooter selection in the United States goes, the PCX150 is the middle of the road.
On the one side, you have smaller, 49cc options like the classically styled Metropolitan or class-of-its-own Ruckus. Extremely docile machines that riders can operate without a motorcycle license in many states owing to the low engine displacement. You’ll want to check laws in your state however if ever in the market for a small scooter like this, because places like California do require an MC license regardless of engine size. These are definitely the most affordable scooter options and are adequate for surface street travel only.
Then there’s the larger Forza or Silver Wing on the other end of the spectrum, both of which carry engines and weights that could just as easily be found in entry-level motorcycles. These have motorcycle-sized price tags also, but offer even more generous carrying capacity and the ability to safely travel on highways if necessary. They retain the benefits of a scooter’s ergonomics and automatic transmission, but they’re also more two-up friendly than smaller options and can even handle longer distance trips if desired.
An additional note on the Forza and Silver Wing. These fall in to a segment often referred to as maxi scooters – which are not hugely popular in the United States. As such, both models are absent from Honda’s latest product line.
Regardless, each of these poles has its advantages and disadvantages, but the PCX hangs well-balanced between the two. Not too heavy, not so down on power as to be limiting, large enough to provide a comfortable cockpit and generous storage space, small enough to flit through traffic effortlessly.
These characteristics along with its budget-conscious $3599 MSRP make it a clear asset to riders that want to navigate congested streets with ease. Or riders that want to minimize trips to the fuel pump, complete small day-to-day errands, find parking easily and have a good time while doing it. As such, it has a lot of appeal for people in urban environments, at least those that don’t need to spend long stretches on the freeway. Riders with any or all of these needs could easily be charmed by the PCX150.
I, however, never imagined a time I’d be in the market for a scooter. Not once, ever. They’ve been fun the few occasions I’ve ridden them, but the predilection to look up the ladder toward bigger and faster things always outweighed any scoot’s practical appeal. Plus, with a healthy dose of ego in the way, the mere thought of someone thinking I looked silly out there on the road was enough to banish all thought of becoming a scooteristo.
After actually living with the PCX, though, I consider myself liberated from such an inane mindset. Because it is fun and useful and when you give in to the simple joy afforded by such a simple machine, you no longer give a rat’s a@# what anyone else thinks.
The Rigors of the Road
This newfound clarity of mind made it obvious that a fair assessment of the PCX150 has little to do with the same performance measures we keep in mind when testing fully-grown motorcycles. Rather, does this machine make life easier? How does it factor in to the daily grind? Is the scooter able to surmount the typical, recurring road obstacles urban riders face? Will this machine appeal to someone with absolutely no interest in motorcycles?
At the top of the list of positives for me is the agility and balance of the PCX150. This is perhaps the most appealing characteristic of the scooter in the urban environment. It weighs 295 pounds ready to ride, and nearly all of that sits very low. This gives the scooter a nicely planted aspect and feather-light feel at the bars when in motion, despite the fact that on paper it appears to be a bit portly.
So in parking lots or congested traffic, you have zero trouble keeping the scooter balanced at extremely low speeds. Inching along with both feet on the platform became game of skill at times, seeing just how slow I could go and remain steady. In my more successful attempts, the speedometer needle would hover just barely above the zero. Get above 5 mph and you might as well have four wheels underneath you.
And when it comes time to turn the PCX150, you’ll find that it obeys the slightest command. When darting through congested traffic, this aspect is invaluable. Quick flits back and forth between cars, navigating tight spaces, splitting lanes if you happen to find yourself in California – all of it happens with little more than a thought. U-turns in confined spaces, figure-eights just for fun or simply rolling around in an empty parking lot doing circles till you’re dizzy, the PCX does it all like a fish in water.
What’s more, concern about proper body position feels like much less of a concern than on a full-sized bike when conducting such maneuvers. Keep your eyes on where you want to be and the scooter goes there. This will be a boon to riders without experience on two wheels, or who have no desire to learn the finite details of expert motorcycle operation.
And in the event you find yourself getting a bit too squirrely, it’s minimal, low-slung weight and accommodating 29.9-inch seat height make dropping a foot flat on the ground easy for most any sized rider.
Ride quality is high thanks to a very plush suspension set-up. A 31mm hydraulic fork and twin shocks offer 3.9 and 3.1-inchs travel, respectively. This along with the 14-inch IRC tubeless tires creates a sensation of gliding over the surface of the asphalt in most cases. Kind of like the feel of grandma’s big-bodied Cadillac.
Minor imperfections in the road, small potholes, bits of debris do little to nothing to unsettle the scooter. Things do get a little precarious when faced with larger obstacles, a big pothole or even a speedbump taken with too much juice will jounce you a bit. But the slow speed prowess of it is such that if you have your eyes up and are focused on what’s coming, you can easily prepare for the shocks that might lie ahead.
The stoppers are exactly what you need on a machine this size and weight. The front and rear brakes are operated by hand levers, as opposed to a motorcycle-style rear brake foot pedal, and a CBS (Combined Braking System) is included.
Like a full-size motorcycle, the right lever applies the front disc brake only while the left lever engages the rear drum and a selection of pistons on the front as well.
The left lever provides more refined stopping power when used alone than the front brake. For most purposes, the CBS rear/front combo is enough to do the job.
Emergency braking, say in scenarios when the car ahead of you slams the brakes or a sweet little kitten scurries out from under a parked car, is definitely better when both levers are used. I never locked up, but hauling down from 30 to 40 mph is very quick when you need it to be.
Engine and Transmission
That 30 to 40 mph range is the sweet spot. It’s at home at much lower speeds too, but you get too far above say 50 to 55 mph, then output definitely starts to slow.
The 153cc liquid-cooled Single that powers this Honda is right at home in stoplight-to-stoplight situations. There is definitely enough pep to outgun the sedans and minivans off the line.
Once you’re rolling power delivery is gentle, predictable and smooth. A gradual pull or a ham-fisted blast to the throttle yields much the same result. The PCX will go, and it will even pull forward with enough juice to make surface street passes without much trouble, but it’s a measured advance.
If necessary though, the PCX150 is capable of freeway speeds, and we did a few jaunts on I-5 to prove it certain. Getting above 65 mph is a stretch, you’ll need a downhill run and some wind blowing in the right direction for much more. But it will hold steady at 65 on flat pavement, meaning in the event of a need to blast down the freeway you will have a capable steed. You’ll need to keep in the slow lane, but it’ll get you there.
Its fuel injection is faultless and the Honda V-Matic, belt converter automatic twist-and-go transmission is seamless. There are no jerky, peaky areas in the powerband whatsoever. This makes it an extremely friendly machine to inexperienced riders. No clutch, no odd sensations when power grows or declines, no unpredictability.
The mill also only sips a whisper of fuel. You’ll get upwards of 100 miles per gallon from the 2.1 gallon tank, making this a ridiculously economical means of transport. Apart from changing the just under one quart of oil every 5000 miles after the initial break-in, maintenance is essentially limited to inspect, clean and replace procedures every few thousand miles. The drive belt warrants inspection at the 5000-mile mark and 15,000 mark, according to the PCX 150 owner’s manual. The spark plug is replaced once every year or 5000 miles also.
Insurance will likely be low also, though this depends on a few more variables. For reference, I was able to get a quote that put prices just under 20 bucks a month.
But Wait, There’s More
The PCX150, then, is a very capable and amenable urban companion for riders of all experience levels. But the coups de gras delivered to my dismissal of scooters came from making use of its selection of creature comforts.
First and foremost is the underseat storage. With this scooter, there is enough room under the perch to store a full-face motorcycle helmet, and a little extra for some smaller odds and ends. If you’ve got a backpack, or groceries, or a gym bag to stow-away in place of the helmet, there’s a helmet hook included under the seat as well. Traveling around with all your goodies in a backpack, or shelling out additional dough for saddlebags is a non-issue.
This opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for me. With the weather consistently nice these days, I much prefer to be out in the open on two wheels. But life demands I run to the hardware store 15 times in a weekend when tackling a long-neglected home improvement project. Those odds and ends easily fit in the storage space allotted, and made my day a little brighter because the trip to and from the store was now quicker, and more satisfying.
Then there’s the 12-volt charging dock and dash storage. You can store away your phone or whatever you need, have it charging and be able to get on with your life once parked. I’m just barely a millennial, so I’m necessarily glued to electronic devices most of the time. Having power for gadgets is vital.
A center stand is built-in along with a side stand, and the scooter is so light that you barely need any effort to pop it up.
When parked, just to be extra safe, you can lock the handlebars and when you do, a cover pops over the ignition. You need to insert the back end of your key into a separate unlocking area to reopen the ignition, providing a nice deterrent from would-be thieves. To be extra sure the scooter doesn’t roll away, there is a parking brake lock included as well.
The dual LED headlights shine a bright light in low or high beam at night, and one of the greatest pleasures I’ve had while riding the PCX is to go out at dusk when the air is still warm and the roads are quiet and just scoot.
There’s a generous passenger area for riders that want to take someone along for the ride, and the seat is all day comfortable. The ergonomics are natural and comfortable; however take a moment to get used to if you’re coming from a motorcycle.
You get adequate wind protection from the screen and front cowling in most scenarios. The highway blasts did reveal that at it’s top end, the wind will pound a 6ft rider such as myself. Since I didn’t spend much more than a few minutes in such conditions, it really wasn’t an issue.
A Changed Man
A scooter may not excite the passions like a motorcycle dripping with power and prowess, but it can be just as enticing. The PCX150 proved that to me. This is a solid machine, compliant to my demands as a rider, equipped to be an asset in my daily life, adept enough to turn mundane city travel into an invigorating experience. I may have never considered owning a scooter before, but after living with it I can honestly say that the attitude has changed. And at $3599 brand new, it’s hard to overlook the role a scooter like this could play in my life.