By Kristi Martel
The Honda SH150i may be unknown in the United States, but it’s been zooming off showroom floors in Europe. In fact, Honda says it’s the bestselling feet-forward machine in scooter-crazy Italy, land of Vespa/Aprilia/Piaggio. Surprised? Me too. But maybe we shouldn’t be. The reasonably priced, mid-size SH150i is everything a scooter rider wants. With plenty of power, high-tech brakes and a modern, sporty style, I can see why the SH150i is king.
The grunt for this little pony comes from a fuel-efficient, 153cc single cylinder engine chock-full of Honda ingenuity. An overheadcam engine, fuel injection and liquid cooling all help the little scoot sip fuel and operate trouble-free. Pull in either safety-switch equipped brake lever, push the starter button and the SH150i purrs to life. Twist the grip and you’re magically moving forward on a steady swell of power, aided by Honda’s smooth three-speed V-Matic transmission. Off-the-line acceleration is enough to excite, but not so remarkable that it’ll raise the eyebrow of the local constabulary. Flat-out acceleration on level ground earns you 65 mph in roughly 15 seconds, but anything faster will require a downward-sloping roadway. Although the SH’s top speed and displacement make it freeway-legal, I wouldn’t feel safe riding it on the interstate.
The front wheel carries a single 220mm disc that’s pinched by a twin piston caliper. The rear hub holds a standard drum brake that’s linked to the front via Honda’s Combined Braking System (CBS). Pulling in the left-hand brake lever applies the rear brake and also routes some pressure to the front for improved braking performance. But it’s a one-way street: Pulling the right-hand lever does not activate the rear brake. This way, the rider can choose sportier front-wheel-only braking or squeeze both levers together for a stable, lickety-split stop.
Unlike its tubby counterparts, the SH has a lean, sporty look. Large, 16-inch aluminum wheels help, as does the thin tail section and exposed twin shocks. The cockpit is roomy and comfortable, but comes at the expense of storage space. A small cargo hook holds a bag on the floorboard to schlep delicates home from Victoria’s Secret, but under-seat storage is minimal. Better ask for a small to-go box or spring for the $268.95 accessory trunk.
With just over 3 inches of travel front and rear, the SH is a bit jarring over larger bumps, but the cushy diving board of a seat kept my tush comfy. And those big wheels smooth out small to mid-sized road imperfections way better than an old 10-inch-wheeled scooter! I also spent some time as a passenger, and couldn’t find fault with the ergonomics. This scooter is definitely a player when it comes to comfortable, two-up transportation.
So, will the SH150i succeed in the States? If comfortable, twist-and-go transport with the fuel efficiency and reliability of a Honda sound appealing, then this king of scooters might just reign on your commute.
Originally Published in the November 2009 issue of Motorcyclist ®