Big oil will hate little Honda

PAUL OWEN
Last updated 07:10 01/12/2012
Honda PCX 150
Honda PCX 150: The best sub-250cc scooter on the market.

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As one half of the duo who holds the official fuel economy record for driving from Cape Reinga to Bluff, I know the worth of an automatic stop-start engine system.

AT A GLANCE
Engine: 153cc liquid-cooled SOHC 2v fuel-injected single; 10kW (13.6bhp) at 8500rpm and 14Nm of torque at 5250rpm.
Transmission: Constantly variable transmission mounted on rear swingarm.
Frame: Steel-tube underbone frame with aluminium swingarm, 31mm telescopic front forks with 100mm of travel, twin rear shocks with 75mm of travel.
Price: $4995.
Hot: A perfect ride for aspiring fuel economy record setters, the PCX is so frugal that you will wonder what to do with all those petrol discount supermarket vouchers.
Not: Fails the Arai full-face helmet stash test, windscreen too short to be effective, front compartment for mobile phones/wallets is unlockable.


Click photo at left for more views of the Honda PCX 150.


The diesel Mini that Mark Whittaker and I drove to our five milliseconds of fame automatically killed the engine when it came to a stop, then started it up again as soon as the driver's foot left the brake pedal.

 

Such shutting down of fuel combustion when stopped helped us set the record of 3.5 litres per 100km as we drove the length of both main islands. Car makers say that a stop-start system can prune fuel consumption by as much as one litre per 100km during city driving. So what happens when a lightweight scooter embraces intelligent stop-start technology? I only wish I could tell you.

I tried to run the new $4995 Honda PCX150 out of fuel during my time with it, but failed by a margin of half a tank. After a week of running errands and doing the odd 43km motorway commute on the PCX, the fuel gauge was still reading half full. Honda reckons that the 5.9-litre tank of the 150 carries enough juice to allow the PCX to travel 263 kilometres, but I reckon this little jigger is even better with fuel than that.

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My test travelled 190km in total, and if you take the fuel gauge reading as gospel, then there was still another 190km to go when I handed it back. That equates to an incredible 68 kilometres of travel for every litre of fuel consumed (1.4 litres per 100km or 192 miles per gallon).

It makes the 100mpg of my historic 1960 C50 Cub seem profligate and wasteful, and it appear the HSV of the Honda scooter world. No doubt the intelligent stop-start system helps delay any visits to fuel stations for the PCX.

As such systems go, the Honda's is an absolute beaut, shutting the engine down on cue when the scooter's 14-inch wheels stop rotating, and instantly reigniting it again as soon as the throttle is given a twist.

Honda has fitted a rocker switch on the right side handlebar should anyone want to the turn the idle-stop system off. However, such is the instantaneous service that the system provides - quicker than any current car's - that I can't imagine anyone ever giving that switch a flick.

Riding my Vespa 300 GTS to pick up the PCX threw another benefit of a stop-start system into the ring. It was a hot Friday afternoon, and the clogged Auckland streets soon had the normally cool and unruffled Vespa threatening to overheat. The engine management system had to keep turning on the fan when stopped to prevent the Italian single from having an epic fail. Yet there was no such problem for the PCX on the return ride home thanks to way it kept shutting down its engine when it wasn't required.

I suspect such systems have the potential to increase reliability as well as curb fuel use.

It's easy to concentrate on Honda's world-first implementation of stop-start technology in a scooter and forget all the other technical highlights of the PCX.

The bike-maker says the bike has eSP - enhanced Smart Power - a reference not only to the idle-stop system but the host of other new fuel-saving technologies incorporated into the powertrain of the new scoot.

Like the recent NC700 parallel twins, the single-cam two-valve, fuel-injected single uses an offset cylinder to reduce friction between the piston and cylinder wall. New bearing efficiencies and reduced oil capacity in the constantly variable transmission also reduce frictional losses by 20 per cent.

There are further benefits of these new technologies. The 150 is astoundingly capable at motorway work for a scooter of such modest engine capacity.

Although it accelerates only as quickly as a family saloon, it will happily sit at 110kmh all day and conquer every gradient without losing too much speed. Quiet as a churchmouse, it's as smooth and refined as it is frugal.

The large diameter wheels (for a scooter) also help stabilise the little bike's handling at open-road speeds. Yet the 129-kilogram PCX still steers with urgency, and the linked brakes (left lever retards both wheels, right operates just the front disc) and plush suspension are other dynamic highlights.

I just wish it carried more stuff, and looked a little more elegant. Chunkiness is a trend for designs seeking to attract an audience new to bikes, yet it doesn't result in enough underseat storage capacity in the PCX to lock away my admittedly large, full-face helmet.

That said, look no further for the best sub-250cc scooter on the market, especially if seeking a hi-tech ride that's easy on the wallet.

- Stuff

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