By: Frankie Garcia
With skyrocketing gas prices and heavy congestion in many metropolitan areas, affordable, cost-effective transportation is more important than ever. Honda believes it may have the solution with its 2013 Honda Metropolitan NCH50 Scooter.
After a three-year hiatus the scooter returns to the U.S. market sporting a lower MSRP ($1999), the price reduction achieved by being built at Honda’s Chinese manufacturing plant. Probably the biggest feature of the new bike has to be the replacement of the carburetor with programmed fuel injection, which improves engine starting, throttle response, and fuel economy.
The scooter features a significant amount of updates for the new model year. Beginning with its cosmetics, the Metro receives all-new styling including a fresh headlight now mounted in front of the all-new handlebar. This enables it to swivel when you turn the handlebars. Also added was a new gauge set-up. At the rear, a fashionable new taillight assembly was installed to help modernize its outward appearance. The Metro is a full blown hipster mobile with a classy twist to it. A remarkable piece of transportation, it’s hard to believe you can pick one up for less than two grand.
The storage area was increased to 22 liters beneath the seat with a locking mechanism built into the ignition. When parked for lunch we fit in a half-helmet, a medium-sized backpack and riding jacket. The inner storage bin on the inside of the front fairing has been enlarged so that it can fit a one-liter bottle. Also added was a larger convenience hook to secure a bag, or purse.
With a curb weight of 179 pounds and a seat height of 28.3 inches, the scoot is built with a compact stature but there is enough leg room and a big seat to enable a rider to move forward and back. At 5’8” I easily fit on the scooter with plenty of room to spare.
Honda took us on a ride through downtown Redondo Beach, California, where we were able to turn an innocent scooter intro into a full-on draft war. Fully tucked at a max speed of 35 mph the Metropolitan was stable and steady. Uphills were small battles for the NCH50, as it lost a little bit of power when charging up, what seemed like mountains, but it wasn’t a deal breaker.
Topping out a 35 mph only meant one thing, wide-open throttle almost all the time. In this case, most of the time, it could create a fuel economy issue. Not with the Metropolitan, after riding for almost a full day we only saw the Metro’s 1.2 gallon fuel tank dwindle down to a half tank. That’s impressive!
When put between the legs of an avid racer and ridden far above the level it was made to be ridden at, the Metro still stood tall. Hitting a pothole at speeds over 25 mph the Metropolitan's soft suspension bottomed out. Dips and sudden asphalt surface changes sometimes upset the city cruiser, but with little more than two inches of travel front and rear you can’t expect the world out of the entry-level scooter.
The Metropolitan features a linked braking system linking the front and rear drum brakes. Grabbing the brake levers individually brought the machine to a smooth, slow stop but using just one is not quite enough for an immediate stop. Sudden stop needs a firm grab of both brakes pulling both brake levers.
Honda planned out a surprise stop over at motorcycle and safety apparel manufacturer, Alpinestars headquarters where we were first greeted by a quiz on the history of both Honda and Alpinestars. After our teacher Holly Cobb was done correcting our tests, I had come out with the third best score but the real challenge came next.
As we headed down to the parking lot we noticed what appeared to be an obstacle course, featuring a coned off “L” shaped path that went up and over a tall peaky planter box. The objective: Record the slowest time without dabbing a foot on the ground. My competitive side immediately kicked in: I had to win this. I couldn’t let the other test riders from competing publications beat me. In the end I waved the MotoUSA flag with pride, winning the event with the slowest time, all in the name of fun.
For those who don’t live too far from work or reside in highly populated areas with heavy traffic, the Metro could be a significant time and money saver. Old or young, the Metropolitan is the perfect match for just about anyone and with a price tag of $1999, it pays for itself in almost no time.
Originally published in the June 2012 issue of Motorcycle USA.