Honda PCX: Paving the way – Twist & Go Magazine

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Scooter Review: Honda PCX: Paving the way

Published: 02:55PM Oct 20th, 2010

Honda’s new PCX125 has arrived in the UK, without anyone noticing really. As Phil Turner found out, the technology hidden under the hood is definitely worth a fanfare or two.

Honda PCX

No one seems too fussed about the arrival of the PCX125 in the UK, not least Honda. There was no launch event, no press photo call, no grand unveiling, not a thing. All journos got was a press release in our inboxes.

It didn’t even have a picture with it.

To be honest, it’s easy to understand why the Honda UK PR machine didn’t ‘get on’ this one. You see, the majority of riders in the UK aren’t really too fussed about scooters; we’re a bike-buying nation really and large capacity ones at that; a 125cc twist and go isn’t exactly front-page news for the majority of motorcycling publications.

The thing is though, the PCX isn’t quite the run-of-the-mill twist and go it appears to be and I think everyone’s missed a trick here, especially Honda. Why? Well underneath the PCX’s fancy bodywork is something very clever, something very clever indeed.

Turn the key, press the starter and you’re off, like any other scooter. It does exactly what it says on the tin, until you come to a stop. Pull up at traffic lights or a junction and something very strange happens to the PCX; the engine stops running. It stays like that until you turn the throttle twist grip, then it fires up again and you’re off.

A fault? Not at all, it’s called an ‘Idle Stop Switch’ and it’s a first for Honda. It’s certainly a first for scooters; in fact I reckon it’s a first for any two-wheeler.

So, what’s it for? Well, think about it; how long do you reckon you spend sitting at traffic lights, junctions and roundabouts on your way to work in the morning; about five minutes? OK, double that to include the journey home, then multiply by five for each working day: that’s 50 minutes. Add in a few runs to the shops and anywhere else you usually ride and let’s say that’s about one hour a week when your engine’s merrily chugging away, taking you nowhere.

That’s a fair amount of fuel wasted and quite a bit of Co2 pumped into the atmosphere too. The Idle Stop Switch has the potential to save all that. Honda reckons it’ll improve fuel efficiency by around 5%.

That doesn’t sound a lot, but put simply, that’s 5p in every £1 you spend on fuel, saved.

That’s not all Honda have done to the PCX either. Add the PGM-Fi to that, the brushless ACG starter works as both a starter motor at ignition and a generator while on the move, saving weight and an innovative ‘built-in’ radiator, to keep the engine compact, cool and lighter still and the result is a potential 130mpg. Pretty sound stuff when fuel’s £1.20 a litre and rising, don’t you think?

So how has all that affected the PCX’s performance? Well perhaps a little. It’s not the sprightliest 125cc, four-stroke single I’ve ridden and it takes a bit of time to get moving.

But that’s not what the PCX is about; it’s about economy and getting from A-B with the least amount of fuss and fuel possible. Honda quote 11bhp and 8.5ft-lb of torque; plenty in town and enough to keep pace with traffic out of town too. It takes a fair bit of time to get going from a standstill, but once on the move, it’ll happily buzz its way up to an indicated 67mph, and although it knocks the performance a bit, it’s also fairly comfortable two-up.

That’s in both senses of the word too; the engine copes OK with the extra weight of a passenger (although a bit of planning is involved to keep momentum) and both pillion and rider have plenty of room on the seat. There’s also a rail-cum-top-box-rack for the pillion to grab onto and proper foldout footpegs too. Most riders will feel pretty comfortable with the extra weight on the back too, as the PCX’s seat is nice and low at just 761mm, allowing most people to get feet firmly on the ground.

The PCX suspension isn’t really phased by the extra weight of a pillion. Chunky, 31mm telescopic forks up front and twinshock rear (adjustable for preload) keep things upright and solo or two-up, the PCX chassis is responsive and balanced enough to cope with filtering through tight traffic and stays planted at higher speeds too. Damping (both front and rear) isn’t the most sophisticated I’ve ever felt, but it does the job of soaking up the potholes and keeps the tyres firmly on the Tarmac.

Honda PCX

Combined with the 14-inch wheels, it all makes for a well-balanced, responsive and reassuring ride.

Also very reassuring is the braking. The PCX gets the usual front disc/rear drum set up; the former is a single, 220mm item nipped by three-piston caliper and the latter a 130mm drum with combined leading/trailing shoes. Both are linked via Honda’s Combined Braking System and offer plenty of stopping power with enough feel and control for even the most nervous of hands.

Inexperienced and experienced riders will feel at home with the controls and dash layout. The latter is well laid-out and clear enough to read on the move; the large central analogue speedo is framed by the usual array of warning and indicator lights, plus a digital fuel gauge and odo/trip meter. There’s also an Idle Stop Switch indicator, so you don’t freak out when the engine stops running if you really can’t get used to it, you can turn the system on and off via a button on the right switchgear.

It took me a bit to get used to the way the PCX looks; it’s not ugly by any stretch of the imagination, but it does occupy a strange middle ground between the small and large wheel genres. Honda say: “. the PCX belies its small displacement, giving a substantial feel allied to a flowing and curvaceous shape”. They’re not far wrong; the PCX does look a lot bigger than it is.

It makes for good presence on the road, but is still compact enough to feel and be quite manageable.

It’s also nice and easy to manhandle into tight parking spots and once in, there are centre and side stands to choose from, a glovebox in the legshield and a large underseat storage area to swallow a helmet, gloves, oversuit and whatever else you need for the journey. If that isn’t enough, there’s an optional 26 litre topbox, a tall screen and a few more extras to help make the daily grind that little bit more comfortable.

With an OTR price of £2270, the PCX would be a fairly impressive package with a normal engine unit, but add in the built-in radiator, PGM-Fi system, dual starter/generator unit and the Idle Stop Switch and you’re getting a serious machine for a not so serious price.

Look at the bigger picture though and the PCX starts to become even more impressive. You see, it’s already been on sale in Thailand for a year and is currently rolling out across Japan, Europe and the USA. That’s thousands of PCXs on the road, and thousands of journeys being made on them each and every day.

If everyone who buys one turns the Idle Stop Switch on, imagine how much fuel will be saved and how much less Co2 there’ll be floating about.

What’s more, the PCX could well be a test bed for the technology (the dual starter/generator was first seen on the Zoomer, remember) and if it’s a success, soon the entire Honda scooter range could be using it, perhaps the motorcycle range too. Honda sold a staggering 15,042,000 powered two-wheelers last year; imagine if all those had the Idle Stop Switch system. Do the maths and it’s mind-blowing stuff.

It might not seem very exciting now, but I reckon the PCX could be the start of something big. In a few years time, when the latest generation Fireblade is lighter and faster than ever before (thanks to an integrated radiator and dual starter/generator) and makes it through the Euro emissions regulations because of the Idle Stop Switch, everyone will be saluting Honda’s achievements, but will anyone remember it was the PCX that got there first?

Honda PCX
Honda PCX

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