2012 125cc Scooter Shootout [Video]
Three different takes on economical transportation
2012 Honda PCX ($3399)
In a nutshell, the Honda PCX is smooth. Thumb the starter and it purrs to life with hardly a vibration, twist the throttle and discover it takes hardly any effort to turn. When moving, the automatic transmission is virtually seamless — just the way it’s supposed to be.
Scooter buyers are generally a frugal lot, so when the PCX, built in Honda’s Thailand manufacturing plant, costs more than the others, naturally one wants to know what they get for the money. The answer is Honda’s typical attention to detail, causing Kevin to note, “It’s the most comprehensively engineered scooter in the class.”
Powered by a 125cc single cylinder with only two valves, what gives the PCX the edge over its rivals is liquid-cooling. This edge was clearly evident during our impromptu drag race, as the PCX not only leaped from the line quicker than the others, but also pulled a gap from them on the way to its 65-mph top speed.
“The Honda definitely has the most responsive engine,” Tom notes. “It was the fastest from a standing start, leaving the Zuma and Typhoon in its wake.” Despite this advantage, neither was enough to sway Tom’s or Kevin’s opinions.
It’s easy to overlook the performance potential of the PCX based on its Euro-contemporary styling that’s worlds apart from the Piaggio and Yamaha. The PCX isn’t a true step-through design, per se, either, as the fuel tank is integrated into the floor between the leg shield and seat, but lifting a leg over the hump doesn’t require much effort.
Regardless, this look is polarizing, and both Tom and Kevin didn’t like it as much as the rugged-looking Zuma and Typhoon. I, on the other hand, value function over form and immediately found myself gravitating towards the Honda. On top of the aforementioned performance advantages, it also boasts the best recorded mileage of the bunch at 70 mpg. Still well short of Honda’s claimed 110 mpg figure, but impressive all the same considering how hard we flogged it.
Also winning top billing is the PCXs storage capacity. Because of the fuel tank’s positioning, there’s room to stow away a full-sized helmet and then some — the only scooter in this test able to do so. Bonus points are awarded to the PCX for the included (although non-lockable) glove box, perfect for stashing away small items.
Riding the PCX takes a little getting used to, as it has a more relaxed riding style than the Piaggio and Yamaha, aided in part by its 29.9-inch seat height, lowest in this test. Taller riders are advised to remove the integrated butt pad for extra room, though it comes at the pillion’s expense. Otherwise, passenger accommodations are pleasant, with a nicely padded seat and grab handles integrated into the tail section.
Our biggest complaint with the Honda is its softly-set suspension. Quite the opposite from the Yamaha, the PCX “is tragically undersprung,” says Tom. “It feels like a pogo stick and is constantly bottoming out on minor bumps and potholes even at moderate speeds.” Unlike the Typhoon and Zuma, the PCX has no off-road pretenses and is subsequently sprung to provide a plush ride, but we think Honda might have gone too far, especially for heavier riders.
Damping rates aside, all three testers agreed the taller 14-inch wheels and skinny tires (90/90 - 14 front, 100/90 - 14 rear) combine to give it a more linear steering response and confidence-inspiring handling when compared to the 12-inch knobby tires on the Piaggio and Yamaha.
Braking is also impressive on the PCX, as the 220mm front rotor is mated to a three-piston caliper. A drum brake resides out back. With Honda’s Combined Braking System, when the rear brake is applied, one of the three pistons in the front is activated. If just the front is applied, the two remaining front pistons activate. All told, the difference in stopping power with both levers applied is noticeable and necessary when emergency braking.
The Honda’s initial sticker shock when compared to the Yamaha, and especially the Piaggio, is understandable, but take a moment to fully understand where the extra money is going. Mechanically speaking, the PCX is a superior scooter. It ticks all the boxes buyers look for, and if nothing else its styling attracts attention. But that doesn’t necessarily make it a winner in our book...