Review of Honda PCX125 motorcycles with new features

For the better part of a decade, the UK’s best-selling powered two-wheeler has been completely redesigned for 2021, but how does the latest Honda PCX125 ride? To discover out, we took one for a drive.

Honda’s PCX125 has been a sensation since its 2010 launch. Honda pioneered a new class of scooter, bridging the gap between entry-level step-throughs and high-end luxury scooters of the day. It has consistently led sales charts both in the United States and throughout Europe (selling over 140,000 units on the continent), and is a solid favourite among commuters and couriers alike. For 2021, a new model has been introduced that promises improved performance, more specification, and even lower emissions.

At first sight, the 2021 PCX appears to be rather similar to the one that has flown out of showrooms for the last decade, but the reality is that nearly everything about it is brand new. It’s rather usual of Honda to introduce it quietly – the PCX is that kind of machine – and, to be honest, they probably don’t need to. The PCX is already flying out of dealer showrooms, and that trend does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon.

The first thing that strikes you about the PCX is how small and light it is. It’s extremely straightforward to wheel it out of the garage. Young or old, male or woman, this is mainstream motoring: a realistic A1 licence scooter that can be ridden without a CBT.

With keyless ignition, all you have to do is approach the vehicle, twist the control switch to ‘on,’ pull the brake lever, and thumb the starter button. It comes to life virtually silently and takes off with a simple twist of the throttle. A Honda PCX is a straightforward motorcycle to ride. Period.

Honda PCX125
Honda PCX125

My pals think I’m bit strange because, while they’re constantly espousing the charms of the latest Ducati and other exotica, I’m constantly selling the merits of this ubiquitous little scooter. What I love about the Honda PCX125 is that it is nearly perfect at doing what it is intended to do, which is why it sells so well – it is simply so dang good at doing what it is intended to do.

I was a huge lover of the old model, and let me tell you, the 2021 model is superior in every aspect possible. Of course, we’re not talking about radical design changes here, but rather a gradual evolution of a proven winner in practically every category.

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The new engine is the focal point of attention. Manufacturers have been forced to examine their powertrains and cut their emissions as a result of this year’s Euro5 requirements. The ancient two-valve engine was adequate, but lacked the zest of its major rival, the Yamaha NMAX.

Honda PCX125
Honda PCX125

Honda has recently replaced the old engine with a new four-valve unit, bringing it more in line with the Yamaha and resulting in an increased peak speed with no discernible loss of fuel economy. There is a lot of nerdy stuff going on within the engine to reduce friction and pollutants, which we will not discuss here, but the end result is an engine that is exceptionally smooth and quiet, as well as cleaner than the one it replaces.

Additionally, it features a’stop/start’ mechanism similar to that of a car, which shuts down the engine while stationary and seamlessly restarts and pulls away with a twist of the throttle.

Additionally, the all-new chassis is a significant improvement. Whereas the previous edition felt a little thrashy and skittish due to its narrow IRC tyres, the new scooter’s larger and wider wheels, not to mention the updated Michelin rubber, made it more assured and comfortable. ABS brakes and traction control are also significant safety features. I spent more time than I wanted riding the PCX in muddy, damp circumstances, yet it instilled such confidence, especially on slick roads.

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However, what distinguishes the Honda for me is its practicality. Perhaps mundane details, but the ample underseat storage space, the fact that the accessory top box integrates with the central locking system, and the overall quality feel of the device all stick out for me.

The underseat storage is a significant feature. Scooters are designed to be utilitarian, and the ability to carry a bag of groceries, motorbike security locks, a gym bag, or a change of work clothes is a critical selling factor for me.

Honda PCX125
Honda PCX125

Honda recognises this and has expanded the capacity of the underseat storage compartment by 2.4 litres over the previous generation, to a total of 30.4 litres. In practise, this means that you may store your full-face helmet in the trunk when parked and still have room for some waterproofs or similar items.

While the majority of scooter manufacturers state that you may fit a helmet under the seat, this frequently refers to a smaller jet style helmet. While I cannot guarantee that any helmet design will fit beneath the seat of a 2021 PCX, I can state that I (successfully) tested five different brands and models during our test and encountered no complications.

To put that in context, I tried the same five helmets on in a similarly priced model from another manufacturer and found that only one fit. The PCX does indeed feature a spacious boot.

There are lots of less expensive scooters available, but what luxury brands, particularly Honda, provide is that exquisite attention to detail. If you require additional storage, there is an optional top box that adds 35 litres.

Whereas most aftermarket luggage requires the user to carry an additional key, this one is keyless and operates through the bike’s central locking system. Heated grips are also available as an option, and because they were created specifically for the PCX, they integrate seamlessly with the scooter’s electrical system.

Additionally, there is a small glove compartment on the scooter’s left side that has a USB-C port for charging a phone.

This is particularly useful for folks who enjoy using their smartphone as a sat-nav. The PCX does not provide cell phone connectivity in the way that some more priced scooters do. The PCX125 has chromed handlebars that are quite functional.

They’re a design detail carried over from the previous model and are ideal for those of us who prefer to mount our phones with something like a Quad Lock when riding, especially given the USB charging point’s location. Many other scooters include a plastic ‘finisher’ on the handlebars, which looks better but complicates device installation, while Honda’s design has an aesthetic disadvantage, since the PCX features a spaghetti of cables, hoses, and cabling exposed on display.

It’s ideal for the commute to work, however. The 12.3bhp engine purrs up to and comfortably maintains 60mph. That is optimal for single-carriageway highways and sufficient to maintain a safe distance from trucks and buses on dual-carriageway roads. It is unquestionably faster than the previous model, and while top speed is not the be all and end all of these types of motorcycles, it is certainly a factor for people who must spend time on open highways.

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I’ve rode scooters that struggled to reach 55mph, and I can attest that those few more miles per hour make a significant difference while going on A roads and attempting to stay in the flow of traffic. For the record, we observed 70mph on the PCX clocks while descending a minor inclination, but you won’t be able to hold it if you encounter a hill or headwind.

Honda PCX125
Honda PCX125

The vehicle accelerates quickly away from traffic signals, making it as rapid as any other vehicle across packed city streets. Additionally, it is cost effective to operate. Official fuel consumption figures based on the World Motorcycle Test Cycle are around 133mpg, but we achieved an average of over 100 miles per gallon while riding the PCX at full speed on lengthy sections of dual carriageway throughout our test. With an 8.1-litre tank, you should be able to travel at least 200 miles between fill-ups, if not more.

Additionally, I believe the PCX125 looks fantastic. The colours are understated but elegant, with four possibilities available (red, white, black, or grey). There are LED headlights, a modern and easy-to-read dashboard, and the interior is also rather comfortable. There is ample leg room for riders of all sizes, and I found the heavily sculpted and stylish saddle to be extremely comfortable.

At £3169, the Honda is reasonably priced, even a few hundred pounds less than the Yamaha NMAX, its chief competition. Honda is also promoting PCP offers starting at £49 per month for a three-year period.

In general, my admiration for the PCX has grown. It strikes the brief blow on the head once more. To be fussy, I would have preferred increased weather protection and the ability to connect to my smartphone, but that is about it. Nonetheless, there is an optional windscreen (which we did not test), and for an additional £1700, Honda can sell you the Forza 125, which is physically larger and features an electronically adjustable screen.

Scooters like these are ideal for commuting, and for sheer affordability, it’s difficult to beat the PCX.

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