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2012 SYM Mio 50: No, it doesn’t get 900 mpg

August 6, 2012
SYM Mio 50

SYM Mio 50 (SYM photos)

So, 2012 was supposed to be the year gasoline hit five bucks a gallon in the U.S. It was also supposed to reach that price point in 2008, which caused Americans to lay siege to nearly every scooter dealer in the country, buying up everything they had because SCOOTERS GET GREAT GAS MILEAGE!

Of course, we all know what happened — the price of gas dropped below four dollars, and all those scooters got stashed in the corners of garages under blue tarps, destined to emerge on Craigslist a few years later at (in some cases) giveaway prices. Most of them got ridden once or twice, maybe three times.

There’s a gas station not far from where I’m writing this that’s selling unleaded regular for $3.599/gallon U.S. Nowhere near five bucks; in fact, nowhere near what they were charging six months ago. The Great Scooter Fad of 2012 never happened.

It’s not difficult to understand why — the U.S. economy is in a much, much different state now than it was in 2008. People had jobs. And credit cards with high limits.

More importantly, the gasoline marketing companies have established a pattern of spiking the price of gas early in the year, then letting it land softly after the big Memorial Day weekend driving binge. Regular cost well over four bucks a gallon in Bellingham early this year; while current prices are lower, they’re still higher than at the same time a year ago. Like last year. And the year before.

To cope with this, people are cutting spending on things like vacations, eating out, and so on, instead of buying scooters. In a few years, the auto industry will be offering cars that get scooter-like gas mileage, just in time for people who’ve been nursing high-mileage beaters to take the plunge on a replacement.

Scooters, therefore, will remain a novelty in the U.S. Main Street, USA’s traffic not only won’t resemble Taipei’s, it may not even look like Denver‘s. Well, unless you live in Denver.

Most Americans looking for scooters are still motivated by gas mileage, however. And low prices.

Along with the Yamaha Vino Classic and Honda Metropolitan (both refreshed for MY 2013), SYM’s Mio 50 is one these folks should be looking at. It’s one of the better choices in this category.

SYM (Sanyang Motors, based in Taiwan) got started building Cubs under contract to Honda. They’ve since built other bikes for the Japanese company, and over the years they have gained a reputation for quality and advanced engineering.

Mio instrument cluster

The Mio 50 ticks all the boxes that conventional wisdom says spells success in the U.S. scooter market: it’s cute, it’s cuddly, it kinda-sorta vaguely resembles an old-skool Vespa. And at a buck less than two grand, it’s CHEAP.

And SYM is saying 100 mpg, give or take, is what you should be seeing. If you do, that gives you a 127-mile range from its 1.27-gallon (4.8 liter) gas tank. The Mio requires 90 octane gas, as measured by the U.S. consumer method. In other words, premium. Well, it’s only 20 or 30 cents more than regular, right? And most likely you’ll only be buying a gallon at a time, right? Right.

For those who might not know exactly what’s meant by the term “displacement,” here’s what it is: it’s the volume of air that moves through the engine’s combustion chamber as the piston travels up and down in the cylinder bore.

Fifty cubic centimeters is 1.69 fluid ounces. That’s a really big sip of Diet Coke.

Therefore, 3.5 horsepower is a remarkable output from such a tiny volume of air and fuel vapor. So is two and change foot-pounds of torque.

But the question you’ll need to ask is, will that be enough?

SYM claims a top speed of 42 mph for the Mio. It’s quite possible their lawyers are as nervous as Piaggio’s; I once had the GTS up to an indicated 75 mph (one mph below the claimed top speed), and it felt like there was more left. I never tried to top that.

Then too, miles and hours will loosen the engine up, which will cause it to put out a bit more power. At this level, the tiniest of increases will be immediately apparent.

Still, if you need to be riding on freeways or fast arterials, you are gonna need more than 50cc. Consider SYM’s HD 200 if you want a commuter bike.

OTOH, if what you’re looking for is a neighborhood runabout, or something to carry in the RV for when you want to noodle around the KOA campground, the Mio 50 is just the ticket. While I strongly urge everyone thinking about getting their first scooter to take a Basic Rider Course, you will most likely be able to ride a Mio 50 without a motorcycle endorsement on your driver’s license.

SYM Mio 50, rear

But remember, you won’t save any money on gas if you don’t ride it. Sitting under a blue tarp doesn’t count. Favicon

Plus: Easy to ride, easy to maintain, a quality bit of kit.

Minus: It’s a 50, which may not be powerful enough.

The details

MSRP: $1,999
Built in: Taiwan
Construction: Tubular steel frame with attached plastic body panels
Net weight: 176.4 lbs (80 kg)
Length: 75 in (1905 mm)
Width: 27 in (686 mm)
Wheelbase: 46.45 in (1180 mm)
Seat height: 28.9 in (734 mm)
Front susp: Telescopic fork
Rear susp: Swingarm w/coil spring & telescopic damper
Front brakes: 160 mm (6.3 in) single hydraulic disc
Rear brakes: 95 mm (3.74 in) mechanical drum
Front tire: 3.0-10 42J
Rear tire: 90/90-10 50J
Engine: 4-stroke 49.5cc, air-cooled w/EFI and electronic ignition
Transmission: CVT with centrifugal dry clutch
Power/torque: 3.5 hp (2.6 kW) @ 8000 rpm/2.15 lb-ft (2.9 Nm) @6500 rpm
  1. Ed Lambert permalink
    August 6, 2012 2:52 pm

    Ride one to work almost every day, averaging around 95mpg, still newish motor with 1200 miles on odometer. Tops out at 41mph. Lots of room under the seat, more comfortable than Honda Metropolitan, better brakes and in a pinch can carry two riders. Great little scooter!

  2. August 6, 2012 5:08 pm

    I’ll second Ed’s approval of the Mio. I’m actually a friend of his and he has let me borrow the Mio several times for short rides around town. I weigh about 215 pounds and it still has plenty of get-up & go to get around city streets. It also does fine on suburban, twisty two-lane roads if the speed limits are low, like 35 or 40 mph. The Mio is fun to ride and feels solid.

  3. Rob Thomas permalink
    August 6, 2012 6:20 pm

    My wife has ridden an HD200 for the last few years. Great gas mileage and will cruise at 60 mph. Great scooter.

  4. August 8, 2012 6:33 am

    Orin, you probably know what I will say. But I absolutely remain impressed with SYM scooters. The Mio is a practical solution for lots of folks. My SYM HD200 with almost 9,000 miles continues to run like it is new. Nuff said.

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