Honda believes it has the answer in the 2013 Metropolitan. Powered by a 50cc SOHC, two-valve, air-cooled four-stroke Single, the new version ditches the carburetor in favor of fuel injection. This makes for a reliable little scoot that meets future emissions regulations while gently sipping fuel: Honda estimates this setup can return 117 mpg!
What is perhaps more noteworthy is its price. Coming in at $1999, it costs $50 less than its predecessor when it was last imported to the U.S. in 2009. This is achieved utilizing Honda’s China manufacturing plant to build this worldwide model instead of building in Japan as before. Nevertheless, build quality is typical Honda: solid, with everything fitting as they should with no loose pieces or exposed wiring.
The 2013 Metro also sees all-new styling, highlighted by a new headlight and gauge setup, different handlebar, and a new taillight assembly. Truth be told, the new model doesn’t look vastly different than the old one, but diehard Metro heads will be able to tell the difference.
From the cockpit, the rider is still graced with a 22-liter under seat storage area big enough to stuff a three-quarter helmet. A new inner storage unit incorporated within the leg shield has ample room for a number of items, including a water bottle. A larger convenience hook has also been added to help bring home groceries.
The Metropolitan stakes its claim in the scooter world for being easy, gentle and inviting. With a listed curb weight of 179 pounds, 28.3-inch seat height and 46.5-inch wheelbase, the little scoot isn’t the least bit intimidating.
However, once on the road one can’t help but feel vulnerable to the traffic around you. The Metropolitan tops out at just 40 mph and doesn’t get there quickly. There’s only so much power that can be expected from an EPA-legal 50cc engine. Throttle response is relatively sprightly, with smooth fueling from idle throughout the rev range, feeling on par, if not slightly less powerful, than the Yamaha Zuma 50F I rode a few months ago. Off-the-line torque felt better on the Yamaha, but I would give the top speed advantage to the Honda, according to my seat-of-the-pants dyno.
A continuously variable transmission handles “shifting” duties, leaving the rider free to simply twist and go. Despite its small stature, comfort is fairly decent as well. The large seat has ample padding and leaves enough room for riders to scoot back and stretch out a bit. There’s plenty of space in the footwell for large kicks as well.
Bumps in the road are absorbed by a twin-downtube fork and single shock with 2.1 inches and 2.3 inches of travel, respectively. Ten-inch wheels are fitted to each end. The ride is relatively comfortable over most surfaces, despite the meager components. Poorly maintained roads or big pot holes do tend to bottom the suspension.
The only chink in an otherwise impressive armor are the brakes. The Metropolitan is still equipped with drum brakes at each end, with the rear linked to front. Stopping power when using both brakes is quite good but drops dramatically if only using the front binder.
Still, for a scoot that comes in under two grand, there’s little to complain about. Our ride route saw plenty of open stretches of tarmac and prolonged wide-open-throttle opportunities. Despite my shenanigans, the fuel gauge moved just a tick. While our experience has shown scooters to miss their advertised mileage claims, under normal, sensible, riding conditions the Metropolitan should return impressive numbers.
In the 50cc, retro-styled scooter market, it’s hard to find a competitor that delivers more bang for the buck. Yamaha’s Vino offers similar specs and styling but is carbureted, delivers worse (claimed) mileage, costs $251 more, and most importantly, isn’t listed as a 2012 model in Yamaha’s scooter lineup – good luck finding a new one in dealers.
The only other 50cc Japanese scooter with EFI is the recently launched Zuma 50F, also from Yamaha. Top speeds are almost identical, and the Zuma holds a 1-liter advantage in storage capacity, but the Yamaha really stands out for its rugged and off-roady appearance. The Zuma benefits from a front disc brake that’s much better than the Metro’s front drum brake, and its 132-mpg claim trumps the Honda’s, but real world numbers always vary greatly. Most importantly, the Zuma costs $2540 compared to the Metro’s $1999 – that’s a big difference for the cash-strapped student deciding between the two.
European scoots can’t match the Honda’s pricepoint either. You’ll have to look to Taiwan to find comparable challengers for the Metro. Kymco’s Sento 50 is equally priced to the Honda but is carbureted and can’t match the Honda’s mileage numbers. Not to mention, when it comes to build quality, reliability and dealer networks, Honda’s reputation is second to none.
WIth the new Metropolitan, Honda delivers a reliable, practical and economical mode of transportation perfect for downtown dwellers. All for under two large. And in some states, you don’t even need a motorcycle license to ride one. If you live in a big city and are tired of walking or taking the subway, the Metropolitan deserves a look.
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