2018 Kymco Spade 150

Editor Score: 74.0%
Engine 16.5/20
Suspension/Handling 11.5/15
Transmission/Clutch 5.0/10
Brakes 6.0/10
Instruments/Controls3.0/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 8.0/10
Appearance/Quality 8.0/10
Desirability 8.0/10
Value 8.0/10
Overall Score74/100

Asheville, North Carolina has been the scene of several Kymco product launches, and why not? It’s an oddball little city deep in the heart of Dixie that boasts world-class food, fun and roads. It’s kind of an underdog, just like the 54-year-old Taiwanese motor company. Kymco is known (when it is known) for durable, workmanlike products that deliver reliability and value… but not necessarily leading-edge style or wacky arrest-me fun. That changes with this here Spade 150, and Kymco let me ride and abuse the new model so I could lay a brief riding impression on ya’ll (the North Carolina is sticking).

Kymco has clearly decided to get all niche-y on us, with what it claims is “the world’s first production retro-mini motorcycle.” The Spade gets a gutsy lil’ critter of a motor, an air-cooled 149.4cc Single with a four-valve, SOHC head and EFI. Kymco claims it’ll make 11.8 horsepower, which should give you real-world numbers close to (or even better than) the 8-ish numbers we saw from competition like Honda’s Grom and Kawi’s Z125. My butt-dyno indicates it could be so, meaning a top speed of around 60 mph.

Battle Of The 125cc Ankle Biters

The Spade’s good fit, finish and performance is a little offset by the hideous exhaust system.

The Spade’s good fit, finish and performance is a little offset by the hideous exhaust system.

The rest of the bike is just as tried-and-true: tube-steel frame, twin shocks and a 1.6-gallon steel tank. The seat is low at 28 inches, claimed wet weight is 266 pounds, and the package is so narrow that if you don’t feel confident riding this bike you should consider training wheels.

At $2,999 it’s the best-priced retro-mini, and cheaper than the Honda Grom or Kawasaki Z125 – but $1,000 more than Kymco’s own K-Pipe 125. That extra grand gets you fuel injection, much more power, a little hidden stashbox at the back of the seat, 12-volt outlet under the speedo/tachometer as well as styling so good I assumed Kymco had hired a fancy design firm – Kymco’s peeps assured me it was all in-house.

The Spade looks very good up close and personal. Build quality as well as material quality was better than I remember on prior Kymco models. All the controls operate smoothly, and the paint and graphics looked good as well. The saddle is nicely padded and supportive, and there were little touches – like the cool race-style footpegs – that surprised me. A nit I’d pick is the exhaust system, with its big welds and ugly brackets, but this is otherwise a great-looking little bike.

Calling the Spade “easy to ride” is like saying “marshmallows are delicious.”

Calling the Spade “easy to ride” is like saying “marshmallows are delicious.”

And now the part where I ride, and you know I’m going to like it, no? Of course I do. People are programmed to adore miniature things, and we really like miniature things that we can abuse. The Spade turns the most mild amongst us into hooligans. You won’t break all the speed limits, but there are other laws you will want to break, including North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 20, sec. 160 (driving on sidewalks), sec. 140 (reckless driving), or, if your friends have also purchased Spades, 141.3 (racing on public roads).

I am pleased to report that the new crop of young motojournalists will, given the correct circumstances, behave like jackasses just like the older kids, and the Spade is a willing accomplice. As with the Grom, Z125, and other motorcycles with small wheels and Graco-length wheelbases, the Spade likes stoppies, burnouts, hackies, slides and even wheelies if you try hard enough, plus it’ll do other things you are probably not insured for.

But it can be civil. The EFI coaxes the bike to life and it assumes a soft, chuffing idle, instantly ready to go. The wide, high bar, low seat and light weight make it easy to move around town. Clutch pull is light, and shifting is easy, if not quite refined. It feels slow, with a flat powerband, but you can rev it to over 10,000 rpm for every last advantage in your endless stoplight drag races with pickup trucks and delivery vans. The seat is wide and supportive, and there’s room for a middle-aged guy and his teenage daughter, although there will be complaining.

Customizers MNNTHBX agree when it comes to the exhaust, and offer this tasty stainless system, along with a ton of other cool cafe dress-up parts.

Customizers MNNTHBX agree when it comes to the exhaust, and offer this tasty stainless system, along with a ton of other cool cafe dress-up parts.

If you’ve read this far, you probably want one, and I don’t think you could go wrong. It’s affordable fun, and it already has aftermarket support. Customizers MNNTHBX (for “man in the box;” they’re Alice in Chains fans) have developed a full line of café-racer accessories: exhaust, rear-fender eliminator, rearsets, bar-end mirrors, clip-ons and more. It may not have the refinement of the Grom or Z125, but it’s still a lot of fun and has the look you want. It’ll be at your local Kymco dealer at the end of August in white, matte black, blue or brown.

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  • Born to Ride

    Hrmm, I’d ride that cafe minibike… I bet the accessories total up to damn near the price of the bike though.

    Though I don’t understand how this statement jives with a 5/10 clutch and gearbox score.

    “Clutch pull is light, and shifting is easy, if not quite refined.”

    That sounds like at least an 8 or 8.5 to me.

    • It’s just not very refined, with some clunking and long throws. It’d be an 8 if this was 1977.

      • Born to Ride

        “If not quite refined” reads like praise to my eye, with ‘quite’ emphasizing the implication of refinement, not clunkiness. Quite an easily misconstrued statement if you ask me.

        I don’t mean to steal DickRuble’s thunder here, but I would have written that sentence, “Clutch is light and shifting is easy; however, it is quite unrefined with clunking and long throws.” to make exactly clear what you just pointed out. Don’t hate me.

  • SteveSweetz

    Holy crap what the heck were they thinking with the stock exhaust shroud/guards? They’re so hideous and out of place. As is the red brake caliper – ok on a sport bike (or sport bike wannabe), not on a retro bike.

    • Ha! Note the MNNTHBX bike has a black caliper, so great minds think alike, I suppose.

  • SRMark

    To my older eyes, it’s a lot better looking than a Grom. Sort of a shrunken SR400. A scrambler version with an up pipe and some trials tires could be a fun all-arounder.

  • Steve C

    I’m turning into a big fan of small bikes and this Kymco seems like a winner! I did a Tiddler ride this weekend of 120 miles on Ct. back roads on a 78 Honda XL125 (8 to 10 hp) along with my friend’s on a XL175 and a DT250, it was to much fun on these curvey back roads. Every stop light is a drag race, though only you know it.

  • Dan

    I commuted every day for 5 years on a Kymco scooter that I bought used and other than needing a battery and headlight bulb it was 100% reliable. A co-worker bought one and is in her 6th year of commuting on it with the same experience. Extremely reliable products.

    • Jon Jones

      Agreed.

    • Craig Hoffman

      It is inevitable. There is a Kymco People 300i scooter in my future. Dunno when, but it is going to happen eventually, as it is perfect for those quick little two wheeled excursions that my motorcycle is simply unsuited for, and yet it can handle faster more open environments as needed. Sounds about perfect.

      • Dan

        yep, I found myself never riding my FJ-09 around town when the scooter was so much easier to hop on, and saved on tires, chains, etc. The People 300i will be my next scooter as well.

      • Born to Ride

        Idk, these minibikes make the prospect of scooter ownership less and less appealing. YMMV

        • Craig Hoffman

          My typical scooter mission would be to pick up a 6 pack and/or a few groceries. The tail trunk would be good for that 😉

          These mini bikes do look like a hoot though. The idea of going nuts on a kart track or even an empty business park on a tricked out Grom like thing has appeal!

  • Campisi

    This, or a VanVan?

  • Mahatma

    I’m not sure that marshmellow analogy is quite accurate since marshmellows are too sweet IMO .

  • Mark D

    Man, this thing ticks all the boxes. An ideal second bike for the city.

  • ScottRod

    Looks like a Honda Ape/Skygo Pony clone w/ dual shocks.