2018 Kymco Spade 150 Review – First Ride

Gabe Ets-Hokin
by Gabe Ets-Hokin

What's up, niches?

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).

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
Ergonomics/Comfort 8.0/10
Appearance/Quality 8.0/10
Desirability 8.0/10
Value 8.0/10
Overall Score74/100

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 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.”

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.

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.

Gabe Ets-Hokin
Gabe Ets-Hokin

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