REVIEW: KYMCO's new scooters are 'automatics for the people'

admin

With fuel prices once again reaching into the stratosphere, scooters are becoming more relevant to the success of the powersports market. With that in mind, KYMCO’s focus on this segment and its prolific lineup for 2012 make it a brand worth checking out. With 18 models from 50 to 500cc, KYMCO’s 2012 lineup offers customers a range of choices from city runabouts to tour-ready maxi-scooters.

As this was my first chance to ride the various models back-to-back, I started in the middle and then worked my way around the fleet. The middle in this case was the sporty and angular Downtown 300i ($5,599) and the new-for-2012 retro-styled People GT 300i ($5,399). Both feature modern liquid-cooled, fuel-injected 299cc SOHC engines that offer both good torque from the lights and enough top end for extended highway miles.

Interestingly, the People lagged behind the Downtown in roll-on tests, due in part to the GTi’s larger 16-inch wheels altering the effective gearing (as compared to the 15- and 14-inch front and rear wheels on the Downtown). However, both machines offered great balance between big bike engine performance (for scooters, mind you) and small city-scooter maneuverability.

This is worth restating: the 300 might be the perfect middleweight scooter size because it’s small enough to be user-friendly for nearly any potential rider and is great in stop-and-go traffic, yet it still has the engine power as well as the rider and storage space of a bigger machine. I’m 6’1” and I didn’t feel like I was riding a bike that was too small, but several other (smaller) riders also made comments that the machine wasn’t too big for them.

The only blemish I remember is lack of cornering clearance, especially on the kickstand side.

As much fun as the 300s were, though, there were plenty of other bikes to ride through the streets of Charlestown, S.C., on a corporate-sponsored motojournalist ride held in April. Next up was the Xciting 500 Ri ($6,299, $6,799 with ABS), the largest of the lineup.

Since I own a Honda Silverwing maxi-scooter, I was curious to see how the 499cc single would compare. The end result was pretty impressive. Despite an extra 106 lbs. over the Downtown 300i, the Xciting handled very well, with great turn-in and stability without the feeling of train-like length that comes with some other maxi-scoots.

Like the 300s, you need to be careful in hard left-handed turns. You could feel the extra weight as you twisted the throttle at low speed, with the engine groaning under the mass, but roll-on power and top speed were impressive. However, the other thing you could feel was the chassis jacking up from the drive torque, just like an older shaft-driven bike. You could actually blip the throttle and get a nice rhythmic bounce going as you cruised down the road. And of course, ABS is a worthy addition for any bike that will see the type of practical all-weather riding this machine would encourage.

Finally, getting back to the smaller machines, I made sure to get some seat time on the 200cc versions of the Downtown and People GT, as well as the new Like 50 LX. The 200s were both pleasant enough: just take the 300s, fit a smaller engine and hack off around $500 from the price. Still, with the 300s available, there probably isn’t a huge need for the 200cc versions.

As for the Like 50 LX ($2,199), it was a nice little urban machine with great retro style, but it obviously wasn’t going to start any fires with only 49cc.

Besides the right-size designs and the fun performance, what really stood out with the entire KYMCO lineup was the obvious build quality. In the not-too-distant past, alternative brands could (often rightfully) get slammed for shoddy build quality, engineering, fit and finish. The latest machines from KYMCO boasted great paintwork, cool styling cues (like the great LED lighting on the 300s), decent control feel, and smart design details like useful storage space and security features. Bodywork moldings were well matched and the overall build felt very solidly engineered. In addition, care was taken to ensure serviceability to make living with the machine that much easier. However, some models could use a bit more seat foam for a big lug like me.

With the absence of a full range of scooters from competing brands, KYMCO aims to target every potential scooter customer. With what we’ve seen, KYMCO might be ready to offer some stiff competition in this segment of the industry.

For our review of KYMCO's 2012 quad lineup, click here.

Like Dealernews’ Facebook page: