Two-Wheeled Tourists in the Holy City
Welcomed by Charleston’s subtropical sun and a cool, quenching breeze the weather seemed willing to cooperate with this motley band of moto-journalists for the weekend, despite the weatherman’s foreboding forecast.
The fresh morning air was colored with the fragrance of jasmine and magnolia. Summer-dressed southern Belles from the College of Charleston traipse along the well-manicured floriculture, providing distraction until the Kymco truck arrives with our test fleet. What can we expect from Kymco in the coming year? Expectations were high as we waited for the trailer to be unpacked.
Hardest Working Brand in Scoot Business
Even after receiving Consumer Report’s highest rating for its 2009 People 150 scooter, Kymco hasn’t rested on its laurels. Monitoring its aggressive R&D, vigilant market research, and increasingly enlightened industrial design work over the last decade has both my expectations and my adrenalin levels set to ‘High’.
I approach the line-up and something instantly catches my eye. No, not my 2010 pick for scooter of the year, the Downtown 300i. I was already familiar with that beauty in its striking, metallic orange accouterment. What I saw was an alluring update to Kymco’s most successful model, the People. Pushing beyond the angular revision of 2007’s People S, what we have here is a substantially more seductive design.
Introducing the People GTi 200 & GTi 300
Without looking back on KYMCO’s classic (dare I say “nearly vintage”?) People design and refining the linear look of KYMCO’s daring People S update, the People GTi looks considerably more modern, sporty and elegant.
The changes to the People are more than skin deep. You can say “adieu” to Kymco’s decade-old, carbureted, 250cc, two-valve engine and the scooters that use it (Grandvista 250, People S 250, Xciting 250). The People GTi 200 and People GTi 300 are powered by Kymco’s latest, liquid cooled, SOHC 4-stroke, 4-valve, electronically fuel injected powerplants.
Kymco’s advanced engines produce more horsepower than the last generation – significantly more. The current People GTi 200 produces 21 HP; that’s 10 more horses than the People S 200 and just as much power as the People S 250. The People GTi 300 pumps out 28.7 HP… enough to smoke the rear tire. Believe me, I saw it in person and for a larger displacement, automatic scooter, that’s pretty impressive.
In fact, the engine on the GTi may even have a bit too much get up and go. There were no subtleties in the acceleration from a standstill. On my maiden voyage with the GTi 300, a quick twist on the throttle extended my front suspension and caused wide-eyed surprise. Even the GTi 200 seemed a bit overenthusiastic in the 0-10 mph range. Right, and you’re probably saying, “and that’s a PROBLEM?” Well, it might be if you’re used to a bike that doesn’t sprint off of the starting line. New riders should be especially cautious. This isn’t a Metropolitan.
Even with it’s relatively large displacement I would classify the GTi as more of a sport commuter than a cruiser. The 16” alloy wheels combined with the bike’s twin bone chassis and upright seating position make for an impressively stable ride. The floorboard is flat, allowing for more varied foot positioning (and beverage toting) than scooters with a hump between your feet, although it may seem cramped if you’re exceptionally endowed in the foot department.
One common issue with the bigger wheeled scooters is that the space normally reserved for under-seat storage is taken up by the clearance for the 16” wheels. Kymco solves the issue of meager under-seat storage by including a sizable, color-matched, identically keyed top case to protect your full-face helmet and maybe something like a tablet computer. The seat, when locked down, protects two helmet hooks (near the front of the seat), the smallish under-seat storage compartment (with 12v outlet) and keeps the gas cap safe from tampering. There’s one more locked compartment in the leg shield that could hold your cellphone or maybe a pair of sunglasses.
It’s a bit early to judge for certain right now, especially on scooters that have yet to be broken in, but in my short breakaway ride the GTi 300 (MSRP $5399) appears to top out at around 85 mph. I didn’t get the same opportunity to test the GTi 200 (MSRP $4899), but it should take you to a comfortable 75 mph on a flat straightaway. Look for the People GTi to arrive in Stormtrooper White, Murdered-out Black and possibly a metal flake gold color to complement the exotic paint seen in the Downtown range.
Downtown is Back - Now in 200cc and 300cc
Kymco’s sporty cruiser, the Downtown 300i, was a welcome addition when it was introduced during the Scoot2TX ride from Spartanburg, S.C. to San Antonio, Tex, for the 2010 AmeriVespa Scooter Rally. Well, she’s back again for 2012 in the original 300cc version and now in a new, possibly more fuel efficient, 200cc version. The Downtown 200i is essentially the same scooter as the Downtown 300i; same telescopic front fork, front and rear discs, 14 and 13-inch wheels and 367 pound dry weight, just with a smaller displacement engine (93.1 cubes smaller to be exact) and a $500 savings on the price tag.
The Downtown caught our attention last year, not just for its majestic good looks, but also as a welcome addition to the 300cc class of scooters. In my opinion, a 300cc scooter fits that sweet spot for commuting bikes… fast enough for the highway, small and light enough to maneuver through tight spots. Scooters have the added benefit of increased protection from road debris and built-in storage space. The Downtown’s under-seat storage is spacious and well lit. There’s room to stow two helmets or a helmet and a jacket, but the irregular layout of the storage compartment makes it impossible to store something like a full-sized laptop under there. Fortunately, Kymco is developing a top-case mounting bracket that should show up in time to be included in the 2012 catalog.
One thing I noticed during this year’s test ride is exactly how nimble the Downtown is for a cruising scooter. With its 60” wheelbase and smaller wheels, it’s capable of pulling some pretty tight maneuvers. Both the Downtown series scoots share the same engines as the previously mentioned People GTi series. The Downtown is just four pounds heavier, so you can expect the same spirited performance out of the Downtown as you do the People GTi. A more considerable difference in the Downtown is its 37.5% larger fuel capacity, to remind you that this baby is built for the long haul.
Look for the Downtown to be available this year in Silver, Pearl White and Burnt Orange for both the Downtown 200i (MSRP $5199) and the Downtown 300i (MSRP $5599).
Delight in the Details
When you see the new models in person, the quality is unquestionable, but the real icing on the cake is in the small details. The custom exhausts don’t look like an afterthought, but an integral part of the design. The high intensity, quartz halogen headlights in stacked and projected arrays perfectly uphold form and function. The LED brake lights, accent running lights and smart paint selection tell the beholder that this manufacturer is serious about style. The included 12v outlet, watertight storage compartment, five position adjustable dual shocks, wide placement of the rearview mirrors allowing for easy viewing (even around broad shoulders) are all reminders that Kymco has been doing its homework.
Special Edition LIKE
Rounding out our “What’s new for 2012” roundup is Kymco’s LIKE 200i LX and LIKE 50 LX. These are Kymco’s first special edition scooters and the retro nostalgia has been turned up a notch. Classic blue and white paint with chrome accents, rounded mirrors and a color-matched top-case earn this tiny two-wheeler a lot of second glances.
The LIKE first appeared on the scene as a 2010 set on grabbing the attention of the retro-scooter loving American audience and with an MSRP of $2699 for the LIKE 200i LX and $2199 for the LIKE 50 LX, it’s a pretty enticing package. KYMCO’s two-year factory warranty and rock solid support are the wildcards that should secure them a place on your short-list.
And the Rest…
Back and extending Kymco’s long roll call for 2012 are its big cruisers, the XCITING 500 Ri ABS (MSRP $6,799), and XCITING 500 Ri ($6,299), the… um, unusual Yager 200i ($3,499), the original LIKE 200i (was $3,399 now $2,599), and the original LIKE 50 ($2,099). *DEEP BREATH* Also back for 2012 are the sporty, little SUPER 8 150 ($2,399), classic PEOPLE 150 ($2,799), the tiny AGILITY 125 (was $2,049 now $1,799!), the rowdy SUPER 8 50 2T ($2,099) *ALMOST DONE* the PEOPLE 50 ($1,999), the bubbly, little SENTO 50 ($1,999) and the budget saving AGILITY 50 (was $1,699 now $1,399). *WHEW*