By Jon Row
The old John Lennon song line “Getting so much better all the time” really holds true for scooters these days. Modern middleweight scooters from a wide range of manufacturers today deliver great features, performance and values. Into this hotly contested category Honda brings its new 2013 PCX 150 that aims to take home the lion’s share of the market. Honda’s target for the PCX is broad, as usual, but the unit really is intended to appeal to a wide spectrum of customers and ages, including the segment’s rapidly expanding female niche (33%). Honda’s PCX product goals are ambitious. To assure success, the PCX 150 development team knew it would it have to be stylish, sporty, functional and fun but also highly economical to ride and own.
Honda started with a clean sheet of pixels for most of the PCX. Building on the popularity of Honda’s PCX125 and SH150i, both of which are being replaced by this unit. The PCX 150 offers lots of improvements. An all-new engine and transmission assembly is lighter and incorporates a variety of low friction design innovations like a roller cam and shell-type needle bearing rocker arm shafts. Transmission frictional losses were reportedly reduced 20% via exclusive bearing designs and sizing. The engine assembly itself is very compact and utilizes a unique, integrated, higher efficiency radiator layout. The radiator’s efficiency allows the use of a smaller, lighter, cooling fan. The cooling system also allows better mass centralization by dispatching with a remote radiator location and attendant plumbing lines. The PCX150 is very light for its overall size and passenger carrying capacity. Honda claims a curb weight of 286 pounds, which is a svelte 16 pounds lighter than its 2010 SH150 brother.
A new look
Styling and design wise, the PCX continues scooterdom’s modern metamorphosis nicely combining both motorcycle and scooter elements with automotive influences. The result, to our eye, looks great. Others we spoke to also agreed. Sitting in Huntington Beach Honda’s fancy Powerhouse showroom the customer looks Bikeland observed should convince Honda its styling teams are getting their mojo back.
The PCX is a delight to ride on the road and around town. Handling is quick and light while highway stability is rock steady. The 14-inch, solid, 5 spoke wheels deliver give good gyroscopic effect and should yield much better tire life than smaller-rimmed competitors. The handlebar bend and rise is very motorcycle like and the seat, which is touted as being extra comfortable, actually seemed to be. The seat’s raised rump bump is reassuring to lever against and legroom is plentiful. The long cockpit gave even 6’5” testers sufficient knee space.
A not-so-little engine that can
Programmed Fuel Injection instantly fires the PCX to life with an exhaust note that is pleasing but extremely quiet. The engineering focus on weight and friction reduction is immediately evident when you snap the throttle. Acceleration is quick and the no brainer V-Matic belt transmission gives perfect Ricky Gadsen-level launches every time. The 150’s power and torque are surprisingly strong. Those fun slingshot take offs quickly get you to 50 MPH much faster than 153cc should be able to. The motor is good for a top end just shy of 70 with a large adult rider sitting upright. Normally you’d expect performance like this to come with mediocre fuel consumption. Based on Honda’s impressive 107 MPG mileage estimate, it’s obvious those friction reduction advancements are also going to provide a nice pay back at the pump.
Taking it with you
The 150 provides owners with a convenient glove box compartment backed up by the lockable, 25 litre, under seat storage that can swallow all but an XL sized, full coverage helmet. An external helmet holder is provided if your storage space is full or you can supersize total carrying capacity by mounting Honda’s optional 35 litre, locking rear trunk.
Taking them with you
Perhaps most surprising for a scooter of this displacement are the passenger accommodations. Two full size adults fit comfortably without the need for a pole dancer’s knee bend angles. The real surprise though is the way the PCX 150 handles the added weight. Bikeland rode the PCX two-up with 400 pounds aboard—a good 50+ pounds over Honda’s maximum limit. Engine performance didn’t shrug and the little V-Matic didn’t slip. The PCX sort of sniffed as if to say “Is that all ya got? The PCX passenger ride quality is good too but there’s a small price to pay for it. The bike is sprung on the stiff side and even though it uses progressively wound springs, the ride quality on medium size bumps and pavement patches was a little rough and a bit under damped. It’s an acceptable compromise though for the ability to carry full sized passengers or lots of stuff. The 220mm disc brake up front and the drum rear interconnect via Honda’s CBS Combined Braking System to ensure the front wheel always get some braking effect regardless of which brake lever is used. The brakes are more than adequate and easy to modulate.
Details, picks and pans
Instrumentation is fine. The speedo even does the big boy 100 MPH “needle bounce” when the key is cycled on. Given the low cost of LCDs & microchips though we wish Honda had opted for a clock display instead. A real motorcycle side stand supplements the center stand and makes everyday parking situations a ton easier. A cable operated parking brake is nice but it was a little awkward to release. Controls are exactly what you’d expect with one annoying exception. For whatever reason, the PCX 150s turn signal and horn button locations are reversed from standard practice. WTH? Subsequently we and other testers did some inadvertent honking on our mid day jaunt. If this is your only scoot you’ll get used to it but if you frequently ride other machines with the traditional layout your muscle memory may get a work out.
A combination ignition/fork lock features a mechanical cover which makes potential mischief more difficult and requires the back of the key to open. Given the machine’s “curb appeal” and light weight we’d recommend stashing a security cable in that underseat compartment for when you have to park in high risk areas. Good looks can have a down side!
The bottom line
Honda ‘s new mid size scooter is impressive. The overall package priced at $3,449 is a $1,050 less than Honda’s 2010 Sh150i. After spending a summer afternoon sampling the PCX150’s excellent performance, passenger capability and 100+MPG economy, another John Lennon line comes to mind: “Baby you can drive my car.”
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