It’s been 11 years since Kymco, aka Kwang Yang Motor Co., jumped into the U.S. scooter market with just a handful of models available. In those early days the Taiwanese manufacturer struggled to gain credibility in the market when compared to the Japanese Big Four and the well-established European scooter mills. Kymco was often unfairly heaped into the same bucket as the cheap Chinese knock off scooters sold at strip malls and auto part stores. If you want to start a fight with a Kymco executive or engineer just claim China and Taiwan are one in the same. As I have come to learn, although they may speak Mandarin, that is about all the Taiwanese manufacturer has in common with Chinese scooter copycats.
Kymco has steadily grown and improved its products since its U.S. introduction. From an initial offering of four 50cc machines the lineup has grown in 2012 to almost 20, ranging in in size from 50cc to 500cc. In addition to its on-road offerings, Kymco also produces a slew of off-road ATVs and UTVs.
The quality of the newset crop of Kymco Scooters are are comparable to their Japanses and European counterparts.
So why the history lesson? Well, to be honest many in our industry still think that Kymco is trailing the Japanese competition by a large margin in quality and variety, but after attending the 2012 new model introduction in Charleston, South Carolina, I have to say they are closer than most think.
At our disposal at the on-road intro, Kymco had a handful of updated scoots and a few new for 2012 models for us to sample. Out of these models the People GT 300i is the feather in Kymco’s hat. Replacing the previous People S model, the new GT 300i is a completely new machine from the ground up. Gone is the slightly of the mark styling of the S, having been replaced by modern lines that look like they are from an Italian design house. If you removed the Kymco logos many people would be surprised that the People GT is not from Europe. Throw in some LED taillights and slick paint and the newest machine in the line-up is a looker.
In the fit and finish department, I have personally seen Kymco grow by leaps and bounds. Just five years ago the quality difference between the Taiwanese manufacturer’s machines and its Japanese competitors was easy to see. With this newest crop of scoots, however, a fine toothed comb is needed to find any discernable difference. From the joints between bodywork to the switch gear, quality of the People GT 300i can be seen and felt. The only quality issue that I experienced was a left grip that began to move a bit after trying to pop wheelies. In defense of the grip I was cranking on it with the grip of a former desert racer.
The People GT is just not just new in the looks department but newness is found underneath the sporty bodywork. A dual cradle frame is suspended by a conventional telescoping fork and dual rear shocks. Attached to that frame is the same 4-valve SOHC engine that resides in the popular Downtown 300i. Although the claimed weights of the Downtown and People GT are basically the same at 364 pounds, the GT feels considerably quicker. In fact the acceleration is more motorcycle-like than what is expected from a scooter. Right off the bottom the CVT clutch engages and the power is fed to the rear with authority. Twist it on further, and the People GT 300i just keeps giving all the way up to around 70mph. After that the acceleration begins to feel more scooter-like, but it will continue to push up near 90mph. As mentioned before with my grip-twisting wheelie attempts, the 28.7 horsepower of the square engine is conducive to mischief. On several occasions I entertained myself at stoplights with smoking burnouts just to see the surprised look on nearby riders’ and bystanders’ faces.
Sporty handling and strong engine performance makes corners on the People Gt 300i entertaining.
When bled properly the front brake on the 300i is plenty strong and has great feedback.
A scooter with such a spirited engine needs a chassis to perform at the same level, and the People GT does just that. Rolling on cast aluminum 16-inch wheels wrapped with Maxxis rubber, the 300i rides again delivers a motorcycle feel on the highway and fast roads. The ride is stable and laser straight even on uneven pavement. Toss it into a corner with a little body English and surprising lean angles can be achieved. Feedback from the front tire is excellent through the telescoping front fork. Rear tire feel is also above average as you sit just in front of the rear axle. One some of the wet cobblestone street after a thunderstorm flat-track slides were possible and controllable thanks to the decently stiff chassis. If hooligan maneuvers such as this are easy on the People GT, you can imagine how well it will do running to the local coffee shop or moving though crowded downtown streets. This thing is made for slicing through gridlock and backstreets.
Braking duties are handled by a single disk up front squeezed by a 3-piston caliper. Feel from the non-adjustable lever was great on the first People GT I hopped on, but the second unit had some serious sponge. A third unit was right in between, telling me that some brake bleed should be in order upon delivery of your new scoot. With the first unit’s firm feel and strong performance I would say the front binder is great, if bled properly. The rear brake lever doesn’t have the same level of feel coming from the 2-piston caliper that grips the rear disk, but it does work and is reasonably powerful.
Most people are not in the market for a scooter based on performance; usability and convenience weigh heavier in the decision to buy a scooter. In that department the People GT 300i performs admirably thanks to the large color-matched top case and flat floorboard area. The underseat storage is not as massive as the Downtown models due to the larger rear
The upright seating position and flat floorboard area make the Kymco People GT 300i a comfortable ride.
wheel infringing on storage space. This makes the opening shallower, but it still can hold one scooter helmet. There is also a 12-volt plug for a cell phone charger or GPS. Upfront in the leg shield a small compartment can hold a pair of sunglasses or a cell phone. The locking top case has room for a full face helmet and a jacket or a KFC family meal. A truly flat floorboard area gives your feet plenty room and makes a stable platform for your morning coffee.
At $5399 the price of the People GT 300i is commensurate with the quality and performance that is exhibited by this scooter. Kymco has a real winner with the People. Not only is it a great everyday scooter with all the convenience features you look for in a scoot, it has the speed and agility of a small motorcycle. What else could you ask for in an easy to ride two-wheeled machine?