Jeez, people, have we really gotten this crusty? After I posted a pic of the new Honda Navi on my Facebook a couple days ago (cause that’s how crusty I am) at its SoCal coming-out party, my old pals pounced. “A face, body, and everything only a mother could love”, “another Honda styled by tupperware.” “Ugly. Looks like I picked a good time to retire,” said one recently retired Editor in Chief. “My Trail 90 looks really good today,” said another.

Fine, I’ll quote Led Zeppelin: “Does anybody remember laughter?” Most of the critics probably pounced before they saw the bottom line: $1,807. Have we all forgotten our childhoods, and aren’t you all the same old boomer bast, er, fellas, who regressed immediately to 13 years old when Honda brought out the new Monkey a couple years ago?

No big, really, since most of my FB friends are decidedly not the target audience for the Navi, which Honda is aiming mostly at impecunious youth. Your $36 payment on a new Navi could be cheaper than taking the bus, says Honda. Good point.

Eighteen-hundred bones is less than half the price of a new Monkey, and only a bit more than half of a $3,399 Grom. How they did that, I don’t really know. For one thing, the Navi’s been for sale in other markets since 2016, including India and Mexico. In fact, word on the internet is it was designed by Honda’s Indian arm, and American Honda tells us its Navis are manufactured in Mexico. But it’s only now that American Honda made the decision to import it to the US.

You have to guess that, with the plethora of cheap electric and small ICE scooters and things flooding the market lately, the bottom line beckoned. You also don’t need any container ships to get things to the US from Mexico. Heck, at 110 mpg, it’d be profitable, though possibly legally perilous, to hire the immigrant caravan to ride them across the border.

Purists

The Monkey/Grom purists seem upset that the Navi’s actually a scooter in mini-moto clothes, with a swingarm-mounted engine and constantly variable trans instead of a real motor/gearbox and chain drive. That means we can’t leave Honda’s scooters out of the conversation either: The 49 cc, $2,799 Ruckus is also going to set you back $992 more than the Navi, and suddenly the PCX of my dreams is also looking wildly extravagant at $3,799.

That tiny exhaust poofter is crying out for about a 1.5-inch hole saw.

Well, the PCX is actually worth it, because it’ll go 70 mph in stock form. The Monkey can do 55 on a good day, but the Navi’s 50-ish mph top end will blow the doors off the Ruckus, thanks to its 109 cc single-cylinder powerplant – and it’d probably give a stock Grom a run for its money, if there are any stock Groms: While your Monkeys/Groms are busy shifting all those gears, you’ve got the full-auto Navi pinned and putting the power down. With this kind of speed on hand, you’re not afraid to venture out of your own cul de sac.

2021 Honda PCX Review

The happy speed seems to be right around 45 mph, which the Navi achieves pretty quickly, and 50 or so will come around shortly, depending on wind velocity and altitude. A quicker-throw throttle would be a nice addition, since it’s pretty much either closed or WOT 99% of the time.

What’s the Catch?

You can’t get ABS brakes. But you really don’t require them, since the drums the Navi uses front and rear are nigh-on impossible to lock up – in the dry, anyway. Having said that, the right-hand front and right-foot rear slow the 236-pound scoot pretty dang effectively anyway. On any kind of small vessel like this in traffic, the key is always to anticipate when accel and decel will be required as far in advance as possible. In fact, tiny vehicles like this teach you acute, meerkat-like traffic awareness. Some larger mammal could still turn left in front of you, but somehow it feels less likely since their brainstem has probably already identified you as a potential food source, which beats not registering you at all.

You’ll never have to bleed these brakes, which actually stop the lightweight Navi okayishly.

Really, apart from the brakes, the Navi’s not half bad. It might look tiny in the photos, but it’s spacious enough for a full-size adult, maybe two. Our luxurious 50.6-in. wheelbase is 5.6 in. longer than the Monkey’s, and the Navi provides passenger footpegs which the Monkey does not.

At 30.1 inches, the seat’s a few inches higher than most cruisers, and gives ample legroom for even tall people. The seat itself is reasonably comfortable, and so is the entire ergonomic triangle. For offroad pounding, the handlebar could be a bit wider, but that’s not really what we’re here for.

Sudden inputs into the grips can send the Navi rapidly off course, thanks to the tiny 12- and 10-inch tires, but if you don’t make any sudden moves, neither does the Navi. It remains nice and stable at top whack, right around 50 mph according to the cartoonish speedometer.

What more do you need? That’s genuine faux carbon fiber. (JB photo)

Suspension is not cutting edge, but the inverted fork (26.8 mm tubes) does cushion the ride with 3.5 inches travel, and the trick single-sided swingarm/engine monoshock out back gives 2.76 inches of wheel travel. That’s ¾-in more than the new H-D Sportster S. It’s good form to stand on the pegs when you see big bumps coming.

Not a toy

Overall, then, though the Navi might look like some kind of a toy at first glance, it actually makes as much sense as most small-bore scooters or “minimotos” or whatever you wish to call them. Which is to say, it makes all kinds of sense for around-town sashaying and errand running, allowing you to happily frolic through your daily tasks and appointments while leaving your bigger motorcycle or gas-guzzling car in the garage.

JB iPhone photo

Then the Navi plays its trump card: Its scooter architecture means there’s a sweet little lockable cubby where the engine ought to be. It’ll easily swallow a rolled-up jacket, a couple bags of Del Taco, and it looks like a 6-pack of cans should fit easily enough.

Mmmmm Gummy bears…

Bottom line

After working my fingers to the bone these 30-some years, I personally feel like I’ve earned the luxurious comfort and prestige that comes with Honda PCX ownership. But if my wealth was less immense and if I didn’t need the blazing 70-mph performance of the PCX, the Navi’s not a bad little scoot, not by a long shot.

You can look at its 18mm carburetor and worry about maintenance, or you can think of it as a door opening – an opportunity to learn all about the miracles of tuning internal combustion engines, if you haven’t already. All I know about drum brakes is I’m pretty sure nobody’s ever touched the ones on back of my ‘95 Ranger truck, and it still stops fine. Though there is a weird squeal lately?

The Navi’s 109 cc single should be robust enough, since Wiki tells us it’s descended from the Honda Activa, whose Indian roots go back to 1999. The entry includes this snippet: “During the month of September 2013, 141,996 Honda Activa scooters were sold, nearly equal to Honda’s entire annual sales in North America.”

Aftermarket suppliers like Vance & Hines et al are already stepping up with parts to eke even more performance out of the Navi, just like they did with the Grom, Monkey, Z125 and others before it…

The Steady Garage guys were on hand with their custom Navi, which they admit they spent more than $1807 customizing. (JB photo)

MNNTHBX is on board. (JB photo)

Cheap skates

Monkeys and Groms and Trail 125s are all well and good, but at the end of the day we motorcyclists are chiselers, let’s face it, and three or four $K can get you a pretty swell grown-up used motorcycle if you keep your ear to the wind. For $1,807, though, it’ll be very curious indeed to see what becomes of the Navi. From where I sat yesterday, cruising all over town on it, it deserves to do well. It feels like a perfectly nice little scooter/minimoto Soichiro wouldn’t be at all embarrassed to have his wing displayed upon. And at this price, it feels like a great stocking stuffer, just in time for the Holidays.

 

 


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