2014 Kymco Downtown 300i

Editor Score: 79.0%
Engine 17.5/20
Suspension/Handling 12.0/15
Transmission/Clutch 8.75/10
Brakes 8.0/10
Instruments/Controls3.75/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 7.0/10
Appearance/Quality 7.0/10
Desirability 8.0/10
Value 7.0/10
Overall Score79/100

In an era where motorcycles are becoming more specialized (sportbike, standard, cruiser, adventure, etc.), scooters are diversifying as well – everything from 50cc city runabouts to the 650cc-plus mileage gobblers capable of serious touring. Striking a balance between them are models like the Kymco Downtown 300i; a middle-of-the-road scoot capable of doing it all.

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Models like the Yamaha Smax, Honda PCX150 and Suzuki Burgman 200 all benefit from being highway legal, but sometimes you crave something a little more – be it more storage capacity or simply more power. Conversely, the big maxi-scoots like BMW’s C650GT or Kymco’s own MyRoad 700i are big and wide, and sometimes they’re simply overkill. Not to mention they carry price tags almost double that of the 300i’s $5,599.

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In that regard, the 300i strikes a nice middle ground. A competent and maneuverable city scoot, the 300i is my choice for a short hop to Trader Joes. Likewise, it’s also a decent companion should you need to cross several zip codes in relative comfort – depending on how tall you are (more on that later).

Seemingly the Goldilocks of the scooter world, the Kymco Downtown 300i is not too big and not too small. Kawasaki thinks so too, as its European-market J300 scooter is basically a rebadged Downtown 300i. Here, the standard chair-like seating position is easy to see. The short footwell forces feet into a position that may cramp long-legged riders.

Seemingly the Goldilocks of the scooter world, the Kymco Downtown 300i is not too big and not too small. Kawasaki thinks so too, as its European-market J300 scooter is basically a rebadged Downtown 300i. Here, the standard chair-like seating position is easy to see. The short footwell forces feet into a position that may cramp long-legged riders.

A 299cc, liquid-cooled, fuel injected, 4-valve, SOHC Single is in charge of pushing you forward to the tune of 29.5 hp and 18.1 lb-ft., says Kymco. She’s a little hesitant to start when cold, but she purrs right to life when adding a prod of its throttle. Power feels dulled slightly because of the CVT, but the tradeoff with the CVT is freeing up the left side of your body to do other things. That said, the Kymco isn’t slow. There’s plenty of juice to beat cars off the line, blend in with traffic, and leap ahead if needed. On the highway, I saw an indicated 85 mph on the speedo (with a tiny bit more available) before having to lift. I suspect 90 mph is all she’s got. Power is metered nicely from throttle hand to rear wheel, too.

The Downtown 300i’s preload-adjustable twin shocks are damped to provide a comfortable around-town ride. Note also the convenient centerstand, which is easy to deploy.

The Downtown 300i’s preload-adjustable twin shocks are damped to provide a comfortable around-town ride. Note also the convenient centerstand, which is easy to deploy.

From a visual perspective, the 300i has the appearance of a much larger scooter. However, when you compare it to its big brother, the MyRoad 700i, you’ll see it’s 5.1 inches shorter (86.6 inches vs. 91.7 inches), gives up almost an inch in width (31.9 inches vs. 32.7 inches) and a whopping 14.1 inches in height (45.3 inches vs. 59.4 inches). The 300’s wheelbase is almost 3 inches shorter than the 700’s as well (60.8 inches to 63.6).

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Sitting in it, those smaller dimensions feel even more noticeable than the specs indicate. The saddle, hovering 30.5 inches from the ground, is shaped to envelop your butt, but its leading edge is wide, forcing the legs to splay slightly to touch the ground. It also tilts slightly forward, persuading its rider to spend more time than they’d like on that leading edge. It’s unfortunate, considering the padding is quite nice if you’re able to scoot back towards the pronounced backrest.

Turn-in is quick on the 300i, but it stops well short of being any kind of sporting scooter.

Turn-in is quick on the 300i, but it stops well short of being any kind of sporting scooter.

Our biggest gripe about the Downtown 300i is its cramped footwell. It’s shaped in such a way so your feet are directly in front of you, placing the rider in a standard seating position. At 5-foot-8 inches, with a 30-inch inseam, I found the tight positioning tolerable for short- to medium-distance rides. Taller riders, or those with longer legs, will wish the footwell expanded further or the seat didn’t tilt forward. Otherwise, knees will touch elbows and will simply be uncomfortable. There is a secondary, higher, position within the leg shield, but the seating position is akin to what I imagine a trip to the gynecologist is like. The elevated foot pads are nice in theory, but it ultimately makes the rider even more cramped than before. Kymco doesn’t offer any other seating options, so this is what you’re stuck with.

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Assuming you fit within the Downtown’s dimensions, the rest of the ride experience is actually quite pleasant. Reach to the bars is exactly where my arms expect them, and reach to both brake levers is adjustable to fit hands of various sizes. For my frame, the large windscreen blocks a significant amount of air from reaching my chest or my chin, instead diverting air to my shoulders and into the top vents of my helmet.

Under the seat there’s room for groceries, books or 1.5 helmets. A convenient LED light is included to help see your things when it’s dark. Note the standard and elevated foot positions to the right of frame.

Under the seat there’s room for groceries, books or 1.5 helmets. A convenient LED light is included to help see your things when it’s dark. Note the standard and elevated foot positions to the right of frame.

The windscreen may work too well, actually; on cooler rides, the pocket of still air near my mouth causes my visor to fog, requiring a head tilt into the air stream to clear it up again. Meanwhile, the legshield performs its job admirably, assuming you keep your legs directly in front of you. Relax them a little and they’ll be in the airflow. Of course, your mileage may vary depending on body size.

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Cruising along, the 300i is suspended towards providing a plush ride. Its non-adjustable conventional fork and preload-adjustable twin shocks soak up bumps without a pogo-effect that sometimes plagues bikes suspended too soft. Its 120/80-14 front and 150/70-13 rear tires are quick to turn in, should your route to the store include some twisty roads. However, at any significant lean, the softness of the suspension combined with what feels like chassis flex prevent any hopes of Marc Marquez impressions. Back at vertical, the tires track well, only following the largest of freeway grooves.

A single wave-type disc at both ends bring the Kymco to a halt rather well. Note the speed sensor ring on the disc. While normally a tell-tale sign of ABS, it’s just a cosmetic item on our tester.

A single wave-type disc at both ends bring the Kymco to a halt rather well. Note the speed sensor ring on the disc. While normally a tell-tale sign of ABS, it’s just a cosmetic item on our tester.

Braking duties are handled by a single 260mm disc up front, mated to a twin-piston caliper. A 240mm disc and similar caliper sits in back. No complaints here about braking power. Astute readers may notice a wheel-speed sensor ring on the front wheel. Strangely, the rear wheel is not equipped with one. Does the 300i have ABS then? Nope. According to our Kymco rep, the front wheel is the same unit shared with the standard ABS-equipped MyRoad 700i and Xciting 500Ri.

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Of course, being a scooter, the 300i comes with a generous amount of underseat storage. Kymco claims there’s room for two helmets, though it never says only one can be a full-face lid. The only way to fit a second one is if it’s a half helmet. There’s plenty of space for a week’s worth of groceries (and the LED light is a nice touch), and the flip-out hook within the leg shield is handy in case you have one or two grocery bags too many. Additionally, a sealed cubby hole with 12-volt outlet is available just behind the left grip. The bin seems a perfect space to store a wallet or phone during a ride, but it’s not lockable, so don’t leave valuables behind.

If practicality and fuel efficiency are your top concerns when it comes to two-wheel motoring, and assuming you aren’t very tall, the Kymco Downtown 300i deserves a look.

If practicality and fuel efficiency are your top concerns when it comes to two-wheel motoring, and assuming you aren’t very tall, the Kymco Downtown 300i deserves a look.

For the most part, the Downtown 300i is a fine scoot. With decent power and considerable storage space, it’s a very practical everyday vehicle. Our particular tester returned an impressive 63 mpg, too. That’s six mpg shy of Kymco’s 69 mpg claim, but considering my heavy right hand, I’ll take it. A minor nit to pick is the instrument’s buttons that require an incredibly firm push to activate, which is doubly annoying when resetting the tripmeter means simultaneously holding two of them.

At $5,599, the Downtown 300i’s price is identical to its closest rival, the Honda Forza, while coming in $300 less than the Piaggio BV350. Is it worth it? Stay tuned, as we’re putting all three together to find out.

Highs

  • Not too big, not too small. Just right.
  • 60+ mpg even with heavy throttle hands
  • Plenty of power for the freeway
Sighs

  • Seating position too tight for large riders
  • Lockable storage in the dash would be nice
  • No ABS despite wheelspeed sensor on front wheel

Kymco Downtown 300i Specifications

MSRP $5,599
Engine Type SOHC 4-Stroke Single 4-Valve
Engine Capacity 298.9 cc
Fuel System EFI
Horsepower Claimed: 29.5 hp
Torque Claimed: 18.1 lb-ft
Transmission CVT Automatic
Front Suspension Telescopic fork
Rear Suspension Twin shocks with preload adjustment
Front Brakes Two-piston caliper, single 260mm disc
Rear Brakes Two-piston caliper, 240mm disc
Front Tire 120/80R14
Rear Tire 150/70R13
Seat Height 30.5 inches
Curb Weight 367 lbs (claimed)
Wheelbase 60.8 inches
Fuel Capacity 3.3 gal
Colors Pearl White, Burnt Orange
Warranty Two years

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  • Paul Russell Laverack

    I have been riding a Downtown 300i for the past two years, and Troy nailed it – the good and bad points are all just as he says. I am six-foot-three, and I will agree that the seating position is on the cramped side. Still, after about three weeks, my body adjusted to it, and I haven’t felt uncomfortable since.

    As a commuter vehicle in Los Angeles, the Downtown 300i may be just about perfect. I have two jobs, and with a Givi topcase mounted on the rack behind me, I have room enough above and below for whatever I need to carry.

    Lastly, a couple of numbers – in mostly city riding, the Downtown 300i regularly returns 55-60 mpg, while freeway rides can see that number rise to 70 mpg. As for top speed, I’ve seen the bike reach an indicated 96 mph.

    Thanks, Troy, for a solid review of a good all-rounder.

    • Kung-Fu_Tsu

      Thanks for adding omitted numbers. They always forget acceleration and speed for some reason. I always want to know about freeway ramp acceleration and if it’ll do 80, ’cause that’s the speed they do on the fwy, not the posted 65. I also wonder how it handles at 80 mph.

      • Paul Russell Laverack

        I ride on the freeways of LA several times a week. It takes on-ramps with ease, and always merges at highway speed by the end of the ramp. On two-lane ramps, I almost always scoot out in front of the other guy, no problem.

        At 80 mph, it handles solidly, thanks to the long wheelbase. I have had no buffeting issues from tractor trailers, and the bike is only shoved around in the strongest winds, when I’ll get back off the freeway and take the surface streets. (That has happened exactly once in three years.)

        If you are thinking of getting a Downtown 300i, you can buy with confidence and ride with ease. Just remember to change the belt every twelve-to-fifteen thousand miles, and I predict a happy ownership experience.