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2011 Honda PCX125: A reality check

October 13, 2010
Honda PCX125 in Candy Apple Red

Honda PCX125: much greener than an electric (Honda photo)

The volume of white noise surrounding electric scooters has increased exponentially of late. You probably know about the MINI and smart concept scooters, which stole the Paris Motor Show.

What I (still) don’t understand is how vehicles that are considerably less useful than a good bicycle can get people so excited. Anyone who carefully considered the performance of an electric scooter would see that.

But as a reading of the ‘motorcycles for sale’ section of Craigslist will show, when it comes to scooter purchases, many otherwise rational people seem to check their logic at the door.

And worse, their belief that an electric scooter will SAVE THE PLANET is based on nothing more than the sayso of someone they consider credible. Just like with the reusable shopping bags.

Those with certain agendas are counting on such intellectual laziness.

Even though the Pacific Northwest is famous for hydro and wind power, over half of the region’s electric generation is accomplished via the burning of fossil fuels. Your electric vehicle with the big “Zero Emission” graphic on the side may not be emitting any pollutants, but the coal-fired electric power plant in Boardman, Oregon sure as hell is.

A 125cc scooter like the Honda PCX125 can make a much better CO2 case than that fetishized electric.

And even if you don’t care about your carbon footprint, the PCX is one very nice piece of work.

PCX125, rear view

PCX125 is available in Candy Red or Pearl White (Orin O'Neill photos)

It’s been on sale in Europe and Asia for a while now. While in those markets it comes with an engine stop-start system, that feature has been left off North America-bound PCXs. Really, a state-o’-the-art 125cc electronically fuel-injected engine’s fuel consumption at idle can be measured in picolitres. Your inkjet printer likely consumes more ink.

Yes, I know there are some who are gnashing their teeth and rending their garments because the PCX doesn’t fit their definition of a scooter.

Rend and gnash away, folks. Honda isn’t aiming the PCX at you.

If anything, the PCX is closer in spirit to the Honda Cub, the motorbike that famously put Southeast Asia on wheels. The people most likely to buy it probably aren’t looking for a lifestyle, or a fashion statement. They want to get to school, or work or run their errands as economically as possible.

And they’re probably new to the idea of getting around on two wheels, so they want something reliable, comfortable and seriously user-friendly.

The PCX delivers. In spades.

Being a Honda, its high-quality fit and finish will be appreciated by someone who might already have an Accord or Element in their driveway. You can have a PCX125 in any color as long as it’s Candy Apple Red or Pearl White (which thankfully isn’t that icky pearlescent color you used to see on Lexuses and Vespa ET4s).

PCX instrument panel

The instrument cluster is a high-quality item that is highly legible. The rather oddly-shaped mirrors thoughtfully make visible little places that might hide an approaching car or bicyclist.

There’s no tachometer, which I would’ve found helpful when I started the PCX’s engine. It’s nearly silent at idle, at least with a full-face helmet on. It’s not particularly noisy on the road, either.

I noticed the long October shadow made it look like I towered over the PCX. It’s as low and sleek as it looks, and the longitudinal rotational axis feels like it’s down around your ankles somewhere.

Tacked-on PCX blinker

Once again, a blinker must be tacked on to meet U.S. safety requirements. This law MUST BE CHANGED!

Translated from geek speak, it means the PCX feels firmly planted no matter how far you lean it. And you can lean it way over, thanks to a narrow floorboard and lack of protuberances. Its 14-inch wheels soak up the bumps like a sponge.

The seat is low enough for most people to plant their feet firmly on the ground at stop signs/lights, and has a little bump that provides an amazing amount of support. The bump, however is not adjustable; I would’ve loved it to be about an inch further back.

I found the mini windscreen a bit too mini, even though there’s an air inlet at the base which reduces wind buffeting. Bigger ones are expected by spring, while a rear rack and topcase will be available soon, if not already.

The test example, supplied by Scooter Barn in Lynnwood, Wash., had four miles on it at the beginning of my ride. I didn’t try any really hard stops, so as not to glaze the brake pads, but the brakes worked well nonetheless. The PCX has Honda’s Combined Braking System, which applies the front brake if you squeeze the rear brake lever.

Likewise, a speed run would’ve been rather pointless, but traffic on Highway 99 ran at the 45-mph speed limit, and the PCX kept up without breaking a sweat. Time and mileage should increase performance noticeably (and if you’d rather not wait, performance parts are in the pipeline). While PCXs with the stop-start feature reportedly return 117+ mpg, I would be very surprised if you don’t get 100 mpg once the engine’s broken in.

PCX underseat storage

I’m guessing the feature PCX owners will like most is the under-seat storage compartment, which really will hold a full-face helmet. You don’t need to reef on the seat to accomplish this, either! It also had little nooks for things like wallets and cell phones. That black, lumpy thing is my Swiss Franc-sized wallet, which rested on a little slope with a notch at the base.

Another rather interesting feature is the naked handlebar. Very easy to attach camera mounts or navigational devices. And easy to swap out, if you’d like. I have a little trouble picturing the PCX with ape hangers, but whatever floats your boat… 🙂

In the last couple years, Honda has seriously expanded its scooter lineup in the U.S. While the powersports industry has nosedived lately, the trend has been downward for quite a while now. The pool of motorcyclists (and scooterists) has been shrinking. New riders have to be brought into the fold. Most Americans have been taught to be afraid of motorcycles, but tend to find scooters much more approachable.

Of course, how well the PCX125 does in the marketplace will depend very much on how much effort Honda puts into letting potential riders know it’s out there. Scooter Barn has already sold one, to a fellow who rode it home. Home being Wenatchee, Wash!

But I find myself pondering the question of where the SH150i now fits into the equation. A nice scooter, yes, higher top speed, certainly. But worth a grand more than the PCX? So maybe the SH becomes a 300i? Hmm. We’ll have to keep an eye on this situation. Favicon

Plus: Honda quality, Honda dealer network, it’s a Honda.

Minus: A bit more power wouldn’t hurt. Too many Honda dealers just aren’t interested in scooters.

The details

MSRP: $3,399
Built in: Thailand
Construction: Tubular steel frame w/plastic body panels
Length: 75.5 in (1917mm)
Curb weight: 280 lbs (127 kg), all fluids full, ready to ride
Width: 29 in (738mm)
Wheelbase: 51.4 in (1305mm)
Seat height: 29.9 in (760mm)
Front susp: Telescoping fork
Rear susp: Swing arm with dual coil springs/dampers
Front tire: 90/90-14
Rear tire: 100/90-14
Front brake: 220mm hydraulic front disc w/3-piston caliper
Rear brake: 130mm mechanical drum
Engine: Single cylinder 124.9cc liquid-cooled w/PGM-EFI and electronic ignition
Transmission: CVT (V-Matic) w/centrifugal clutch
Power/Torque: 11.2 hp (8.33 kW) @8000 rpm/8.52 ft-lbs (11.56 Nm) @6000 rpm
One Comment
  1. Kymco Nation permalink
    October 14, 2010 12:54 pm

    On the green side of things, you should also factor in the production, and more importantly, the disposal, of the batteries. Talk about pollution!! I agree with you that for now (Clean Energy is a relatively new technology) the fossil fuel burning scooters are much more “Green”! Nice article, glad I’m not the only one that sees things this way.

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