Getting around town has never been so fun (and inexpensive)
Unlike Europe and Asia, America has been slow to truly embrace scooters. A large reason for this is the fact that for decades Americans left cities and moved to the burgeoning suburbs, where vast sprawls of distance begged big vehicles to make the increasing commutes more comfortable. That’s changing. We’re currently in a seismic shift that has new generations leaving behind the quiet and subdued suburbs in favor of a more charged lifestyle in the radical gentrification and explosion of hip that is sweeping through inner cities everywhere.
With commutes diminishing—or vanishing altogether—public transit slowly gaining riders, parking space at premiums, and Uber and Lyft offering affordable alternatives to getting where you need to go, there is decreasing need for many city dwellers to own a car.
That said, there is still a desire to possess a certain degree of independence and mobility. This is reflected in the increasing number of people using scooters and small displacement motorcycles to navigate their new lives in the city. Scooters, though utilitarian in premise, possess an inherent fun factor that makes getting from point A to point B somewhat more enjoyable than dealing with driving, and have an ease of operation that allows anyone who can ride a bicycle the ability to join the rank and file of the scooter crowd.
Enter Kymco. The Taiwanese company is celebrating its 54th year of manufacturing engines and vehicles for industry partners (including Kawasaki, BMW, and Arctic Cat) as well as for the Kymco brand. The second largest scooter manufacturer in Taiwan, and fifth largest in the world, Kymco has introduced its lineup for 2018 that provides a range of vehicles to suit specific needs and application.
Click here to read this in the Cycle News Digital Edition Magazine.
By Jeff Buchanan
In the traditional “twist and go” category for 2018, Kymco offers the Like 150i ABS, the Xtown 300i ABS, and the Xciting 400i ABS, and in an all-new category is the Spade 150, a miniature motorcycle that has a clutch and five-speed transmission. The machines tested represent a diverse approach to tackling two-wheel mobility.
The company’s choice of Asheville, North Carolina, to showcase the new machines provided the perfect environment to see how the machines perform in diverse urban situations, with a dash into the surrounding Smoky Mountains for some recreational riding. Then the North Carolina clouds opened up and drenched the roads we were traversing through the Appalachian Mountains. Though not the most inviting conditions for riding, it did provide a real-world test of the bike’s ABS systems in a scenario more likely to be encountered when a vehicle is to be used for commuting as opposed to waiting for weekend sunshine.
Like 150i ($2599)
The Like 150i is a lightweight, easy-to-operate scooter intended for simple around-town jaunts. The electronically fuel-injected 149.8cc four-stroke, single-cylinder, SOHC, four-valve, air-cooled engine produces 13.5 horsepower, which pulls its 264 pounds with decent response, the automatic twist-and-go transmission getting the little Like off the line surprisingly well.
Though top speed is limited, it provides more than adequate performance—especially when you consider the stop-and-go pace of most inner cities. Equipped with a Bosch ABS system, the 150i provides added confidence (especially for less experienced riders) in braking, not only for the ubiquitous panic brake situations that arise in the city but also when dealing with oily and wet road surfaces.
Despite my height and weight (5’11”, 185 lbs.) the Like’s cockpit didn’t feel cramped. Stable, with responsive handling, the little Like’s suspension absorbs broken and uneven pavement with ease. The scooter’s narrow profile allows the rider to turn just about any free sliver of space into a parking spot.
The Like 150i has a self-retracting side stand as well as a center stand. The scooter is fitted with a USB port, a glove box, and a lighted under-seat storage space. Twelve-inch aluminum alloy wheels and stylish design cues grant the 150i some hip character. With a claimed 89 miles per gallon, the Like will cover a great deal of inner city, downtown miles while just sipping from its 1.8-gallon tank. Available in Pearly White, Deep Blue Metallic, Bright Red, Plain Gray, the Like 150i ABS has an MSRP of $2599.
Xtown 300i ABS ($3999) & Xciting 400i ABS ($5999)
To satisfy a more dynamic and demanding application of inner-city transportation, yet remaining in the scooter category, Kymco offers the Xtown 300i ABS and the Xciting 400i ABS. Both machines are full-bodied scooters, saddled with decent power while retaining the ease of operation of a traditional twist-and-go automatic transmission.
The 300i and 400i machines are not merely the same scooter separated by 100cc; they are two completely different designs with distinct performance, handling and especially ergonomics. The 300i is intended as a maxi scooter at a value price. Saddled with a 275.6cc, electronically fuel-injected four-stroke, two-valve, single-cylinder, liquid-cooled engine, the 300i gets its 23.2 horsepower (at 8000 rpm) to the pavement via a twist-and-go automatic transmission and final belt drive.
With its weight centered and carried low, the Xtown 300i defies its wet weight of 429 pounds. The machine is powerful enough to travel at highway speeds in relative comfort, but the rider is advised to think out their approach on onramps, as the machine does take a little effort to get up to speed. Kymco claims 69 mpg, but that number is certain to drop as it’s too tempting to get into the Xtown’s throttle while riding. With a 3.3-gallon fuel capacity, expect a range in the neighborhood of 200 miles.
The Xtown is equipped with ABS, which mates a 260mm rotor with three-piston caliper on the front and a 240mm rotor with a two-piston caliper on the rear. The resulting braking performance is adequate for what the machine is intended for. The bike has a decent disposition in terms of handling and ease of operation, whether navigating city streets or getting out to the edge of town.
Ergonomics are slightly cramped for my 5’11” frame. However, the bike has a relatively smooth ride, courtesy of well-balanced suspension offering 4.33 inches from the 37mm fork, and 3.9 inches rear wheel travel in a twin shock setup with five-way preload adjustment. The front wheel is 14 inches, the rear wheel is 13 inches.
Instrumentation is efficiently laid out and easy to read, with speedometer, odometer, tachometer, clock, fuel gauge, engine temp, ambient temperature and electrical voltage meter. All this for an MSRP of $3999 makes the Xtown 300i a smart choice for the scooter rider desiring efficient transportation for a price. Available in matte black, matte white, Matte Silver Crystal and gray metallic.
The Xciting 400i ABS is Kymco’s flagship scooter. The liquid-cooled 399cc SOHC four-stroke, four-valve, single-cylinder engine generates 26.5 horsepower to push its ready-to-go wet weight of 451 pounds—the weight centrally located for a low center of gravity. Automatic transmission and belt drive make up the powertrain, while 15-inch front and 14-inch rear wheels help span the potholes of city commutes, augmented by a conventional fork delivering 4.33 inches of front-wheel travel and 4.21 inches of rear-wheel travel, with five-way preload adjustment in a twin shock system. The responsive handling and stable manners of the 400i is due in part to the double-cradle steel frame, which provides rigidity and minimal flex.
The 400i’s cockpit is a great deal more spread out than the 300i, providing a comfortable riding position and the ability to use the floorboards for foot placement to accommodate the ride; forward for a cruising stance, or feet directly below the body for more spirited riding. The seat is plush enough for all-day riding.
The Xciting 400i has a sporting character (for a scooter), typified with dual 280mm rotors on the front, which are radial-mounted and are coupled with four-piston calipers, providing exceptional stopping power. Bosch ABS mates the front to a single 240mm rotor on the back end, the stopping package completed by a parking brake. Despite attempts to lock the wheels, decelerating aggressively from 60 mph in the wet, the Bosch ABS performed superbly, bringing the 400i down to a controlled stop despite slippery pavement. The 400i is no slouch. It motored the back roads of North Carolina with a kind of playful aplomb. On one section of open straight I saw 85 mph on the speedo.
There’s 42.7 liters of (lighted) under-seat storage; enough space to store a full-face helmet or a full-size laptop computer (this is the kind of important consideration for the inner city application of scooters). LED running lights, analog tachometer, a glove box with a 12-volt charger, and a pneumatic piston-augmented seat hinge round out the creature comforts.
The Xciting 400i performs quite well on winding back roads, with a compliant and predictable turn-in and stable manners, even at highway speeds. The scooter’s power allows for comfortable riding on expressways and highways, without fear of being constantly under pressure to keep up with traffic.
What both the Xtown 300i and Xciting 400i offer is the simplicity and ease of operation inherent in a twist-and-go scooter, both machines easily maneuverable in city commute scenarios. Either one of the scooters would be suitable for new and beginning riders, as well as the more experienced enthusiast. What the two scooters offer in addition to inner city mobility, is enough performance to actually allow for jaunts into the hills for some recreational riding. The Xciting 400i has a price tag of $5999 and is available in Diamond Silver, matte white, matte black and Pearly Black.
Spade 150 ($2999)
I’ve saved the best—well, the most fun—for last. The Spade 150 is a miniature motorcycle that packs a great deal of joy into its tiny package. Fitted with 12-inch wheels, the 150’s specifications don’t really do the machine justice. After all, to see 11.8 horsepower on the spec sheet doesn’t sound too promising. But crank the little Spade over and blast around the city streets and you’ll be enjoying a smile fest.
Just 149.4cc in an SOHC, four-stroke, four-valve, air-cooled, single-cylinder plant, is married to a five-speed transmission operated through a traditional clutch. The resulting riding experience is laugh-inducing, yet provides a good deal of practicality—especially if you have another motorcycle in the garage, as you don’t have to adjust the mindset of a left lever brake versus clutch, as is the case with most scooters.
Weighing just 266.2 pounds wet, and with a seat height of 28.1 inches, the Spade is easily managed by even the smallest riders. Yet strangely, I was able to ride the little Spade for hours and not experience any cramping. Braking is handled by a single 220mm disc and two-piston caliper on the front, and a tiny 140mm drum brake on the back end. The brakes work fine given the Spade’s small size. Suspension is provided by a 37mm telescopic fork with 3.74 inches of travel on the front end, and the dual shock system on the back offering 3.39 inches of travel. Ride is relatively smooth and the units absorb the big hits fairly well.
Flogging the little 150 Spade around town is a great deal of fun and with an estimated 91 mpg and a fuel capacity of 1.6 gallons, you’ll get decent range. However, most likely you’ll find yourself severely gouging that estimate by keeping the little Spade in the sweet spot, which actually arrives at 9000 rpm (the redline is indicated on the tachometer at 8000, but the extra revs didn’t strain the engine).
Who ever would have thought in a time of over-powered sport bikes that 11.8 horsepower could be so much fun? The Spade 150 packs a great deal of fun into its diminutive size. And with an MSRP of $2999, I can see the bike becoming an add-on to many riders’ garages as an errand-runner—and maybe sparking a whole new genre of underground parking-lot racing.
Kymco encourages customizing the Spade, offering a full line of aftermarket bits and pieces for owners to shape the machine to taste. The Spade is available in white, brown, matte black and blue.
Stepping It Up
Kymco has significantly stepped up the quality of their build and design, which is reflected in the ride quality and performance of the new lineup. Coupled with the brand’s reliability record it sets the stage for affordable, smart transportation options for the burgeoning loft life of downtowns everywhere. CN