By: Kit Palmer
You know, scooters are a kick in the pants to ride. They just are, no matter what you might think of them. And I was again reminded of this after spending the day cruising the SoCal beaches and city streets of Orange County aboard one of Honda’s latest around-towners, the PCX150.
The PCX150 replaces the previous PCX125, and the increase of displacement is significant - not only does it mean there is a bit more power on tap, but more importantly it expands the PCX’s capabilities, since it’s big enough now to be freeway-legal.
Honda didn’t just bore out the cylinder and call it a 150, either. Instead, Honda gave this remarkably high-tech four-stroke watercooled and fuel-injected motor a thorough update, and it kept the MSRP about the same at $3449, which is only $50 more than the previous PCX125. The piston, though larger in size, is lighter and the cylinder sleeve has been tweaked to provide improved cooling and reduced oil consumption. Honda made many other intricate internal changes to improve overall engine efficiency as well, like redesigning the radiator core so a smaller and lighter cooling fan without sacrificing overall cooling efficiency (in fact, the opposite can be said). And there are new and better bearings in the top-end and transmission to reduce friction and improve - here’s that word again - efficiency.
Honda claims that a newly designed drive belt helps fuel economy and focuses power on the low and mid-speed ranges.
Even though the PXC150 has been designed for the global market, U.S.-destined PCXs will, again, not be equipped with Honda’s Idle Stop Feature, which automatically kills the motor at prolonged stops then re-fires as soon as the throttle is twisted again.
Power is transferred to the rear wheel via Honda’s velvet-smooth V-Matic transmission system, just like it did with the PCX125, and it rides on 14-inch wheels, front and back.
A 31mm hydraulic fork, offering 3.5 inches of wheel travel, handles suspension duties up front, while a unit swingarm, incorporating dual shocks offering 3.1 inches of travel, handles bump absorbsion in the back.
The PCX again employs Honda’s sophisticated Combined Braking System (CBS). What that means is, when you grab the front-brake lever, it activates just the 220mm front disc, but when you apply the rear brake lever (what would normally be a clutch lever on standard motorcycles), it activates both the front disc and rear drum brake simultaneously, though a delay spring prevents the front disc from actuating prior to the rear brake, pretty much eliminating accidental front-end locking and, often times, resulting washouts.
But all that techno mumbojumbo doesn’t mean squat if your scooter doesn’t get good, no, fantastic fuel economy. After all, isn’t that why scooters pretty much exist in the first place? And, yes, the PCX does get outstanding fuel economy at a claimed, though estimated, 102 mpg. That’s slightly less than the PCX125 but still pretty darn good. With a 1.6-gallon fuel tank, you’re looking at about 150 miles (and less then $4) between fill-ups.
Luckily, the PCX is a goodlooking scooter, especially coming at you. Overall, it has a modern, cutting-edge look that helps reduce that I-feel-like-a-geek factor when riding scooters. Viewed from the front, the PCX could initially be mistaken for a VFR1200 but with a giant at the controls. Yes, it’s a pretty small ride, but by scooter standards it’s about normal, with a low 29-inch seat height, yet my 6.1-foot frame didn’t feel too crunched. There was nothing to bang my knees on; I could stretch out my long legs a bit, so I was happy.
The folks from Honda led us a leisurely cruise around town to introduce the new PCX to the media, taking us to lunch via mostly city streets, followed by a casual tour along the beach on what was another perfect sunny afternoon in Southern California. The ride also included a short stint on a busy, but flowing, SoCal freeway, and the little PCX did just fine. Though we never left the “slow” lane, the PCX, while hauling around my 170 pounds, accelerated quickly and merged right in with traffic as though it was supposed to be there. It reached 60 mph, via a slight uphill ramp, within reason, but that was about it. From there, it takes some coercing and patience to reach 70 mph, which I saw briefly just once on a flat stretch. The PCX was remarkably stable at these speeds and the motor didn’t buzz too bad or feel as though it was laboring at all, but I’d leave the long freeway hauls to the multicylinder bikes.
It’s on the congested, stopand-go city streets where the PCX really shines. The PCX accelerates quickly from 0-45 and you never have to worry about not getting holeshots at intersections, so you can creep up to the front of the line without worrying about getting run over when the light turns green - just open the throttle and you’re gone.
But the PCX is most happy just zipping along from intersection to intersection in the lower rpm range. Throttle response is clean and snappy, and there is no vibration to speak of.
Braking is pretty much foolproof. The left-side, combined, braking is strong and progressive. Even though the two brakes are linked, you can jerk on the lever and get the back end to lock up (and even skid) way before the front does anything scary. Perfect for the beginner. The right, front-brake-only, side is mushy but strong, though more experienced riders might want more grip from the pucks when the lever gets closer to the bar. I found myself going to the linked side for help a couple of times when traffic slowed quicker than I had planned at speed. Used together, the PCX stops - like that.
The PCX is a solid-handling machine. The larger 14-inch wheels and fairly long 51.8-inch wheelbase provide a good mix of quick steering and overall stability, and the PCX is so well balanced that sometimes you don’t even need to put your foot down when you come to a stop, at least not right away. Slow-speed stability is one of its super-strong points. Plus, the PCX just feels light even though it weighs a claimed 286 pounds, ready to go. Suspension is about what you’d expect from three-plus inches of travel – quite smooth until you hit a bump. I did my best avoiding them. Luckily the bike reacts instantly to rider input without feeling skitterish and the seat is cushy and comfortable.
The cockpit is small yet informative, though there isn’t much you really need to know on this simple machine.
When you get to your destination, you have parking options: You can prop the bike up on a side stand or center stand, as it has both. If you use the side stand, there is a parking brake to keep it from rolling away.
There’s enough space under the flip-up seat to store your fullface helmet, at least it did with my medium-sized Vemar helmet. The seat base did hit the top of my helmet and I had to give it one little push to get it to latch. Basically, it is a tight squeeze and not all helmets (modular helmets quickly come to mind) will fit. There is also a small, 1.5-liter non-locking front storage compartment. And you’ll feel safe walking away from the PCX knowing it has a tamperresistant ignition switch cover and a traditional steering lock.
The PCX is available in two colors – Candy Red or Metallic Black. Both colors enhance the PCX’s modern shapes and overall looks.
Honda offers a few accessories for the PCX150: rear trunk, trunk base kit, windscreen and an outdoor cover to keep it looking pretty.
When designing the PCX150, Honda said they had three main goals for it: They wanted it to be stylish, economical and fun to ride. After just a few hours on the bike, we’re convinced Honda accomplished them all. And then some.
Originally published in the July 2012 issue of CycleNews.