2013 Honda Metropolitan 50 Review
Before you laugh out loud at this tiny scooter being ridden by a six-foot-five, 230-pound rider, consider two very important things; 117 miles per gallon and $1,999.
Yep, that’s what it gets and that’s what it costs. Both remarkable figures in this day and age, particularly when you consider that the older, carbureted Metro (this one has fuel injection), was $500 more expensive
Along with the electronic fuel metering system, the new Metro gets a tidied up headlight module, a new handlebar and a new instrument panel. Of these, the fuel injection is the most important addition. It improves the gas mileage by a few miles per gallon, and makes starting and riding a smoother, better-integrated experience.
A twist of the key turns the little machine on, and a stab at the starter button (or a kick at the retained kick-start lever on the left side of the rear-mounted engine) has the 49cc overhead-cam single puttering to life. All that’s left is to swing a leg over the generous seat, pop the bike effortlessly off its centerstand, then twist the right hand grip.
Honda calls its CVT transmission V-matic, and it works smoothly and seamlessly, launching the small bike gently into motion and keeping the engine in the meat of its modest torque band (which peaks at just 2.6 pound-feet). Like many serious motorcyclists, I used to think that these little scooters were not worth considering because of their distinct performance disadvantage against other road users.
But I have a couple of friends that use them and like them, and they’ve taught me that 50s are great for running around the neighborhood. They are infinitely better than walking anywhere, and the fuel cost is pretty much insignificant.
The Honda has a couple of useful features that make it even more convenient. There are useful pockets behind the front shield that will take small incidentals like phones, water bottles, sunglasses, and house keys. A fairly large (23 quart) underseat compartment will hold a folded jacket, raincoat, or scooter-type helmet. We tried a big full-face Arai, and it wouldn’t fit.
There are also hooks behind the front body panel to secure bags, so a little light shopping isn’t out of the question. But this is a determinedly solo machine. No pegs are offered for a passenger, and that’s probably a good thing. Honda’s Metro is a very light machine, and it responds to the lightest pressure on the bars. The best way to ride it is with feather-light inputs.
Then it handles quite well, with quick responses and stable cornering. We were able to explore quite a bit of lean angle without anything snagging, and the bike’s tiny tires never felt anything but adequate to the task.
Another aspect new for 2013 is linked brakes, accomplished here by double brake cables at the front drum brake. One handlebar lever operates the front and rear brakes while the other adds power just to the front. While the tiny drums cannot promise the braking performance of a disc, squeezing both levers produced quite dependable stops.
While I still think I’d make the financial stretch to a 150cc scooter for use in a big, spread-out city like Los Angeles, where it’s handy to be able to use the freeways, the Metropolitan is a perfectly nice way to get around the suburbs, or a small town or college campus.
With comparatively little travel in the suspension systems, the diminutive telescopic fork up front worked well under my crushing weight, but the rear shock would easily bottom out on bigger bumps. But that’s hardly a fatal flaw in a machine intended for smaller riders.
In fact, on the upside, it’s light enough and so easy to use that beginner riders will soon feel at home. Intermediate and experts are more likely to use a machine like this as a pit runabout or RV accessory, but whatever the purpose, the Metropolitan promises all the durability and steadfast charm typical of Honda two wheelers.