We were snuggled into a conference room in the upscale Aloft hotel in Asheville, North Carolina, when PR man Peter Jones kicked off Kymco’s 2018 new-product launch by telling us that scooters in the U.S. market are “such a small thing, they’re not even really a thing… scooters and soccer, they’re just not a part of our culture.”

But the lack of scooter culture has made Taiwanese manufacturer Kymco itself a thing. After staying doggedly in the American scooter market for the better part of two decades, Kymco has a coast-to-coast dealer network, a good reputation for reliability and value, and is basically the only purveyor of value-priced, high-performance maxi-scooters.

¿Que? That’s right, Kymco’s flagship model is the new-for-2018 $5,999 Xciting 400i, and as far as I can tell, Piaggio’s $6,399 Beverly 350 is its only competition, showing how the market has changed in the last decade. Suzuki’s Burgman 400 retails for $7,999, but Suzuki didn’t import them for 2017; dealers may have leftover models. Vespa’s GTV and GTS look gorgeous and ride like champs, but their air-cooled mills don’t have the testicoli to keep up with Kymco. Honda and Yamaha have dropped all their mid-sized scooters from their 2017 lineups – like Mr. Jones says, selling scooters to us gringos is just not enough of a thing.

2018 Kymco Xciting 400i in the rain

Riding in rain is uncomfortable but feels safe on the Xciting, with its ABS brakes and solid, easy handling.

So what’s the thing we’re riding? The Xciting 400i ABS is replacing the Xciting 500Ri ABS. I’ve ridden that scoot many times over the last dozen years, and it was a good, solid bike, but it didn’t stand out – it was heavy and had an old-fashioned feel eclipsed by more modern designs. Kymco greatly revamped the engine, frame and suspension, delivering a modern and fun scooter that can run proudly with European and Japanese designs.

There’s a long list of improvements over the 500. The 400’s engine is a liquid-cooled, four-valve, fuel-injected Single rated for 34.5 horsepower at 7,500 rpm – very gutsy for this class. The steel-tube frame is new, as is the front fork and rear twin shocks. It’s restyled and offers an aggressive 42 degrees of lean angle, according to Kymco. Slick Kymco-branded twin radial-mount front brake calipers and Bosch’s small and light 9.1M ABS are standard, and the rear brake has a parking lock function. But maybe the biggest improvement is how lean and mean the 400 is at 425 pounds of claimed wet weight, compared to the 500’s portly 462 pounds.

So how is it to ride? Well, my only experience on the big fella was riding it in heavy spring rains on the winding country roads near Asheville, so I wasn’t able to really push the limits, but the limited riding I did revealed a fun, fast and capable scooter.

2018 Kymco Xciting 400i front

Kymco’s in-house design studio is catching up with its Japanese and European competition.

The Xciting is big. Big enough to accommodate two big people, and big enough to intimidate smaller riders with its wide stature and 31.9-inch seat. It’s heavy for a scooter, making low-speed maneuvering noticeably more challenging than smaller scoots – there are better choices for smaller and/or less experienced riders. Once you’re moving, especially at high speeds, the Xciting feels noticeably lighter than the 500 it’s replacing, but it’s very stable and steers easily, with more of a motorcycle feel.

More motorcycle feel, but still not a motorcycle. Yamaha’s TMAX (no longer available in the USA) and the Burgman 650 mount the motor between the wheels, isolating the motor’s mass from the rear suspension, but Kymco still follows the standard scooter model of an unsprung engine doubling as the rear swingarm. That makes it feel back-heavy and reduces the effectiveness of the front brakes and suspension, but luckily the rear shocks are well damped and do their job. I was also pleased with the rear brake’s power and feel. Some real engineering and development have gone into this model and it shows.

Power is impressive as well. The big Single is smooth and quiet, starting quickly and revving without flat spots. Thanks to the CVT, the power is always on tap but flat, so you won’t stretch your arms when you twist the grip to the stop, but it does build power all the way to redline, making high-speed passing safe and fun. This is a machine built for long-distance commuting and mild touring, with a responsive, sporty motor.

2018 Kymco Xciting 400i

The Xciting is big on amenities for this price point.

It’s sporty but not short on amenities. I liked the big underseat stowage (big enough for a full-face helmet and more stuff) and hydraulic struts that lift the seat. Sitting on the bike, I liked the firm, supportive seat and big, comfortable lumbar support. Wind protection is okay – the “sport” screen sends wind right at your chest – but there is lots of room on the seat and floorboards to adjust your body position on long rides. The rides will be long, too, with a 3.3-gallon tank and claimed 64 mpg.

At $5,999, the Xciting 400i offers a lot of features and performance for the money. Is it enough to make scooters a Thing? Probably not, but Kymco may be the last man standing when it comes to offering a high-performance, affordable middleweight scooter in the USA.

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  • Old MOron

    When you say, “Peter Jones,” do you mean Storanello? Just curious. I’ve never met him, but I used to love reading his stuff.

    Speaking of reading good stuff, you turn a good phrase, too, Gabe.
    “…but their air-cooled mills don’t have the testicoli to keep up with Kymco.”
    Ha ha ha!

    • Thanks OM.

      As for Peter, he’s been a motojournalist for a pretty long time, on the mastheads at the big mags. I don’t know about the Storanello stuff.

  • Born to Ride

    Six grand buys you a LOT of potential motorcycle goodness. Leftover SV650s and FZ07s or a Duke 390 comes to mind. But it looks like a good place to spend the day if you’re on vacation in Hawaii or something like that.

    • TC

      That’s the gorilla in the room. The motorcycle mags (online or paper) need to extoll the virtues of the latest and greatest offerings, even if ‘new’ only refers to the paint color, while there are loads of clean, low mileage bikes on the market. The last bike I bought off the showroom floor was a 1996 GPZ1100.

      • We should review used bikes and compare them to new ones?

        • Born to Ride

          Hell yeah! I’d love to see a comparison of my multistrada 1100s to the new 950. A comparison of the CB1100s old and new. That’d be awesome.

        • TC

          There’s a bike for every rider. Some of us don’t need ESA, ABS,ride by wire, traction control, lean angle sensors, infotainment systems, and multiple power curves.

        • Vrooom

          That’s what I always think when people say “a used xxxx would be so much better”, unfortunately without new bikes we’d never have used bikes.

          • TC

            Good point. We would still have used bikes, but they would cost more and have higher mileage.

        • John A. Stockman

          I love to read almost everything “motorcycle”, but this could be a “thing” also Gabe! Good idea, never thought of it, but I’d definitely read it. I read a lot about older bikes, the used market, what’s iconic, market-changing, good and bad, but an actual comparison? Sure! I know resources seem to be dwindling regarding publishing both internet and paper-based magazines. Especially paper. Some have gone to only 6 issues a year and/or changed their formats/presentations entirely. Not a fan, but I’m not a publisher or moto-journalist, just a simple enthusiast that grew up with all the paper mags that my grandfather shared with me, even the British ones. By all I mean every US-based magazine starting in the early 60s when I started out reading. Getting Cycle News every week was my highlight. Grandpa would give me his copy and we’d talk about all the racing since it wasn’t on TV back then. Times change. I’m happy there are still passionate folks that write about this stuff and I’m able to read all of it!

        • c w

          Actually, I think used bike reviews have some merit. A monthly comparison piece between a new bike and comparable used might carry some interest. One of the most common bits of advice for noobs is “buy used”. For “experienced” folk, there’s the allure of finally getting to own a bike you couldn’t before.

          Outside of that, the used market is just another source for interesting content. I spend a fair amount of time watching segments on YT about them and recently binged “The Motorcycle Show” on Netflix.

      • Born to Ride

        It really depends on what you are buying TBH. If I had the cash I would pay full pop for a Street triple RS. I’d shop around and get the best deal, but at the end of the day, that is a bike I could see myself keeping for 10 years. If Ducati came out with a brand new, big bore desmodue multistrada that looked better and performed better than my current sled, I would pay full price because that’s a bike I’d ride until it died. The issue comes with sport bikes and commuters and more or less “disposable” bikes. It makes no sense to buy one and trade it in a few years later. You’re losing money hand over fist.


    I like the idea of a scooter. It makes me think about Mods and Rockers.

  • Titus C

    In Europe 125 and 250 cc scooters make more sense. This one’s too heavy for lane splitting. But I heard in USA lanes are wider. Anyway, I have three motorcycles that I keep exclusively for out-of town journeys, as my two scooters, one 250 the other 50 are way more practical in town. Clean clothes and shoes, place for one/two full face helmets under the seat, more fun to ride short street segments between intersections as there is no gear change just continuous acceleration.

    • We can only split lanes here in California, so I couldn’t test the 400’s lane-splitting capabilities on this intro in NC. But since it’s no wider or heavier than your average motorcycle, it should lane-split just fine, especially if you’re following the CMSP recommended guidelines.

  • John A. Stockman

    I got a left-over 2008 Burgman 400, changed my mind about scooters. It handles quite well, has a great lean angle, fantastic brakes, good power for a 400 and it’ll do 70mph all day when I need to get on the freeway. I do get the “retracted” wave, as from the front it doesn’t look like a scooter. Who cares? I ride because I LOVE it, not because I need to look cool or receive acceptance from other riders. I was skeptical at first, but a local dealer said “just take a test ride, then make your decision.” Before I put the kickstand down after that ride, I’d made the decision to buy the bike. Couldn’t deny that it changed my perspective, so I thought “don’t be a poseur, don’t care what others think…”, and they delivered it to my house the next day, since it would’ve been a week or so to arrange a ride to pick it up.

  • Troy Hendrickson

    Funny, have the page open for the 2018 X Max 300cc ABS from Yamaha…