Redesigned for 2013, Honda’s smallest and cheapest street-legal vehicle offers a number of changes from the last Metropolitan offered in the USA. The fairing is new, with the headlamp now mounted on the headset, a more ’60s look than the Metropolitan II’s cyclopean fairing-mounted unit. The instruments are new, as is the taillamp and bars. A new stowage bin in the legshield can hold a one-liter bottle of your favorite beverage, and there’s a new hook to hang your groceries or Adam’s tiny leather man-purse.
There are big changes in the engine bay, too. The 49.4cc, overhead-cam, two-valve, four-stroke Single is fed by Honda’s PGM fuel-injection – that means cold starting is quick and easy, and although it’s not exactly fast (okay, it may be the slowest thing ever tested by Motorcycle USA), it is peppy and frugal – Honda claims 117 mpg, and we just couldn’t ride it enough to drain the 1.2-gallon tank to confirm.
Under that sculpted bodywork, it’s pretty standard scooter stuff…only smaller. A tube-steel chassis puts just 46.5 inches between the two 10-inch tires. The seat is as low as it gets in this test at 28.3 inches, and it’s also the lightest scooter: 179 pounds soaking wet.
That’s why we characterized it as the most beginner-friendly, easy-to-ride bike here. “The small wheels and compact size made it easy to throw around,” said Justin. “Think light and nimble.” Waheed agreed, saying, “It’s a super-friendly ride that doesn’t take a whole lot of skill to master.”
He also thought the linked rear-to-front brakes were a good pick for the targeted demographic. It also has the most storage, outstanding fit and finish, and the most dealers. Honda’s product developers were on the job, helping the Metro feel like the most polished – almost luxurious – product here.
The elephant in the room, however, is that it may be the slowest street-legal two-wheeled vehicle you can buy. In Irvine, land of broad, dusty, fast multi-lane expressways, the Metropolitan is a dingy on the North Atlantic Ocean. Top speed, if you can wait that long, is something like 35 mph, and I had to pull into the bike lane many times to let annoyed-looking, cellphone-conversing minivan drivers get by. How the mighty have fallen. “It really isn’t that useful unless you’re riding around a small college campus,” wrote Waheed. “Here in California the elevated everyday pace on the street makes riding it a bit sketchy.”
Up to 30, though, it’s pretty punchy, with sorted fueling, gearing and transmission. Dawes preferred its off-the-line torque to the Piaggio scooters, and even Waheed was impressed by its immediate response.
Handling is also impressive. The teensy wheels, feathery weight and dwarven wheelbase made it easy and fun to toss into turns. But the small hoops and squishy suspension – intended for a comfy ride instead of parking-lot GP (yes, we did that – Irvine Park Department, if you charge us to get in, expect us to get our money’s worth) dominance – had the downside of limiting cornering clearance, making it easy to drag the centerstand in corners.
But that’s okay – for the right buyer, it’s the right scooter. “If I were to drop two grand on a scoot it would be the Honda…” wrote J.D. “It’s not the fastest and looks like a girly ride, but it put a smile on my face every time. It doesn’t pretend to be a motorcycle with crazy bodywork and graphics. It’s simple and fun. That is what I want a scooter to be.”