2024 Honda Motocompacto Review – First Ride
A cult classic scooter electrified and reimagined for Gen Z
It doesn’t take long to scoot around Honda’s US headquarters in Torrance, California to see how the new Motocompacto makes a lot of sense. Honda HQ is effectively a campus, with multiple buildings interlinked by arteries of short roads. Walking is the usual method people use to get around. Cars get the job done too, but they don’t even get warm by the time you’ve reached your destination. A golf cart would be a nice middle ground, but littering the facility with those would just be chaos. Getting around on a Motocompacto is the ideal solution. It’s light, compact, easy to ride, and stores away easily. In a sense, Honda HQ is a microcosm of the real world the Motocompacto was meant for.
As I rode around from Honda’s main lobby to another building that houses the design center for Honda’s Acura car division, I was starting to get it. Having lived in cities where I didn’t even own a car or motorcycle, the Motocompacto would have been the ideal way to get around. Even for the non-motorcyclist (which, make no mistake, this is clearly aimed at), the Motocompacto is completely unassuming and can integrate into one’s lifestyle just like a bicycle. That’s not a coincidence.
A Classic Reborn
One day, buoyed by the Motocampo scooter from the early 1980s and inspired by today’s need for first- and last-mile mobility solutions, a drawing of a modern-day interpretation of the Motocampo made it into Honda’s suggestion box in Torrance (yes, that’s a real thing). It was small, it was light – and it was a rectangle. Oh, and it was also electric. Lo and behold, management saw the rectangle on wheels, liked it, and gave the green light for it to come to life.
In a nutshell, that’s the story of how the 2024 Honda Motocompacto came to be. Yes, it’s spelled a little differently than the original, but there’s no question where the inspiration came from. As Jane Nakagawa, Head of R&D at Honda America pointed out, the Motocompacto was born at Honda’s Torrance HQ – not in Japan. The team that brought it to life was made up of people from both Torrance and Honda’s Marysville, Ohio auto facility, who essentially took on the development as a side project to their main jobs.
It was all led by Nick Ziraldo, who designed and engineered the Motocompacto, also in his spare time. The engineering brief was simple: small, compact, and foldable transportation that’s extremely user friendly with the quality people expect from Honda. Afterall, with college campuses being a focal point, the Motocompacto could very well be a young person’s first experience with a Honda product – not to mention Honda’s first e-mobility product.
Ziraldo would often test prototypes after hours, after everyone had gone home, in far off corners of the office since it was far too cold during some Ohio winters to venture outside. Apart from being inspired by the original Motocampo, Ziraldo says his inspiration for the design was very simple: the back of a laptop. Clean slabs would leave lots of room for personalization, and from a practical standpoint, it would also allow the Motocampacto to pack away easily when folded up and not in use. Eventually, as word about the project grew, more and more team members would volunteer their time to help bring the Motocompacto to life. Unlike new car and motorcycle models with dedicated teams, the Motocompacto became a passion project for everyone involved. And the result is no less interesting.
The Nuts And Bolts
Motocompacto Sales and Marketing lead Ryo Yamada admitted that the competition for the Motocompacto came from brands like Segway, who have pioneered the wave of e-mobility we’re seeing today. But if Honda were to enter this market, it knew it would have to deliver a premium product. This is what makes the Motocompacto impressive: the marriage of industrial design and engineering. When folded it looks like a white suitcase. Then, when opened up, it basically still looks like a white suitcase – on wheels.
The underpinnings consist of an aluminum frame and wheels. Within that frame lies a 6.8Ah battery powering a permanent magnet hub-mounted motor inside the front wheel delivering 11.8 lb-ft of torque and a max speed of 15 mph. You get 12 miles of range, and plugging in the Motocompacto-shaped charger to a standard 110v wall outlet tops off the battery in 3.5 hours. Power is metered by a control unit resting just behind the headlight. A thumb-controlled throttle gets you going and a drum brake in the rear wheel slows you down. And if you’re really desperate, dragging your feet on the ground, Fred Flinstone style, also scrubs off speed really quickly. There’s also a phone app on the way that will let you adjust personal settings, change the lighting and ride modes via Bluetooth. It wasn’t ready yet at the time of our ride.
Folding everything up starts by lifting off the seat, tilting the saddle vertically, and storing it in the tray below. Then release the handlebar lock mechanism, rotate it vertically, release the lock holding the stem in place, and fold the entire assembly into the tray. Finally, tuck the rear wheel inside its home and you’re done. When all is said and done, the Motocompacto lives up to its name and measures 29.2 x 21.1 x 3.7 inches when folded. At 41 lbs, you wouldn’t want to carry it up multiple flights of stairs, but it’s easy enough to lug around the subway station until you get outside. There’s a comforting click when everything is stored away properly, and transforming it back into a scooter is just the opposite of the folding procedure. Honda were smart enough to add sensors into the main folding mechanisms to prevent the scooter from working if sections aren’t fully deployed and locked in place.
With the power turned on, you can select one of two modes. Mode 1 limits speed to 10 mph and requires you to push off before using the throttle. I could see this being useful on campuses where you might stop to talk to someone and they thumb the accelerator without knowing that it’s on. Mode 2 gives full power and can be used even if you’re leaving from a stop.
Whichever mode you choose, the ride is defined by how easy everything is. Power comes on smoothly and shouldn’t be intimidating to even the greenest of users. The left hand brake (which will take a little adjustment by pure moto heads) works well enough without any drag in the lever, and again, because it’s so narrow and low to the ground (seat height is 24.5 inches), it’s easy enough to just put your feet down.
With a tap of the power button, the LED headlight will flash, making it easier for others to see you in daylight. Tapping it again leaves it steady. The rear LED is red and illuminates when you use the brakes, but there are no turn signals or mirrors.
If I were to nitpick, the main issue I have with the Motocompacto's ride is the lack of suspension from those little wheels. You definitely feel bumps, even those you didn’t know existed. Also, those little wheels can make the ride feel flighty when you’re hovering at the 15 mph limit and making sudden moves. But getting off into the weeds about the ride quality is missing the point of what the Motocompacto offers.
As a former student and Chicago resident, I could see my former self owning a Motocompacto to get around. It’s perfect for places like these where a car wouldn’t work or is simply overkill, but walking would be a bit of a trek. Scooting from the dorms to class is a no-brainer, as is scooting from my apartment to the bus stop or train station. Then, after getting where I’m going, packing it all up and storing it to the side should be easy. And if I have to leave it unattended, a convenient hook loop on the side stand is compatible with most bicycle locks.
Where To Get It
The Motocompacto will sell at a reasonably priced $995. Being targeted primarily at Gen Z’ers, Honda has a ton of accessories available for the Motocompacto, too. From different skins, to backpacks, and more. The weird thing is that it’ll be sold at two places: a dedicated website – Motocompacto.Honda.com, and at Honda and Acura car dealerships – a place where Gen Z probably won’t be going anytime soon. Maybe the plot is to convince mom or dad to add a Motocompacto to the loan of their new car that kiddo can then use. This whole thing is a gamble, but at the same time, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Motocompactos popping up at college campuses throughout the country.
2024 Honda Motocompacto Specifications
Permanent magnet, direct drive
11.8 lb.-ft./16 Nm
3.5 hours (110v)
Up to 12 miles
Length (ready-to-ride / folded)
38.1 inches / 29.2 inches
Height (ready-to-ride / folded)
35.0 inches / 21.1 inches
Width (ready-to-ride / folded)
17.2 inches / 3.7 inches
More by Troy Siahaan