BMW C600 Sport vs. Honda NC700X DCT vs. Yamaha Majesty | Practicality Check

Which One of These Is Not Like the Others?

By Zack Courts, Photography by Kevin Wing

Now more than ever, worlds are colliding. The line between scooters and motorcycles is becoming more and more blurred, and much of it has happened in the past 18 months. First, Honda brought its innovative NC700X to the U.S. for 2012, available with a Dual-Clutch Transmission (DCT), and in doing so broke many of the rules that motorcycles and motorcycling follow. Within months, BMW debuted its new Urban Mobility line, which includes two super scooters-the slimmer of the two being the C600 Sport featured here-that the company claims have rewritten the book on how a scooter must look, handle, and perform.

So, a motorcycle that’s halfway to a scooter, and a scooter that boasts more performance and versatility than the category has ever seen. We agree that the NC700X is an innovative, important bike, and in riding the BMW C600 Sport scooter we were all impressed. On paper it’s a head-scratcher, and at that point there’s only one thing to do: Bring them together and see how they stack up.

To mediate the comparison between the BMW C600 Sport and the Honda NC700X DCT ABS we employed the services of Yamaha's curiously named Majesty. Boastful name aside, the Majesty represents nearly a decade of longevity in the scooter industry, and therefore an ideal measuring stick for this discussion. Suzuki's 650 Burgman was another choice, but based on price-point, size, and practicality we felt the Majesty more accurately characterizes scooter-dom as a whole. (Plus, we couldn't get a '13 Burgman in time for our test.)

Scooters represent not only different technology than motorcycles, but also a substantial cultural gap. The structure of a scooter is different; the frames are low-slung and long, the engines are set farther back in the chassis, and continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) displace conventional clutches and gears. Typically the wheels are smaller, the suspension is less advanced, and performance is compromised for pragmatism. They are, in short, designed more as appliances to get from one place to another than to stir emotion like a conventional motorcycle does, and the philosophy surrounding scooters is much the same. Function over form, sensibility over excitement.

And it is precisely for that reason that bridging the gap between motorcycles and scooters has become an intriguing prospect for people and motorcycle companies alike. The motorcycle industry and the general public are suffering through the same challenging economic times, and both are interested in new ways to accomplish their transportation goals. Motorcycle companies want to sell bikes (or scooters), and people want to get places efficiently and comfortably.

For a company like Honda, the concept of an efficient and cost-conscious machine is not foreign. In many ways, it’s been the foundation of Honda’s success (including its automotive side) as a company, especially in the U.S. More specifically, Honda offers the CBR250R and CRF250L, two economical motorcycles based on the same 250cc single. So it adds up that that the NC700X exists, being that it’s the next step in a long line of economical innovations from Honda.

For BMW, however, the stereotype of a scooter being economical is a double-edged sword. Yes, scooters typically get good gas mileage and are cheap to own and maintain, but BMW is more riding that wave than creating it. The dilemma lies in the fact that BMW views itself as a premium brand and does not want to stray too far down the socio-economic ladder. What BMW is obviously banking on is people being willing to purchase a heavy, expensive, and luxurious version of a vehicle that is defined by thriftiness and minimalism. As long as it’s a BMW.

The three companies represented here—BMW, Honda, and Yamaha—have approached the concept differently. Yamaha’s methodology is simple: the evolution of the scooter. Just as sedans in the automotive world have grown from humble people haulers to luxurious, feature-laden transportation havens, so have scooters. Yamaha’s Majesty is a modest illustration of that, but punches above its weight in terms of amenities. Power comes from a four-valve, liquid-cooled, 395cc single that produces enough power to get going freeway speeds, but not in an inspiring way. To give an idea of Yamaha’s performance aspirations for the Majesty, the horsepower number isn’t even listed on the website. Hint taken.

Ergonomically the Majesty is low and accessible, but with a low handlebar and forward-biased foot position it's a little cramped for taller riders. Still, wind protection is extremely thorough, especially when compared to the NC700X, and even compares favorably to the C600. The 13-inch rear wheel and 14-in. front share the same single 267mm disc, and while it might not seem like enough braking power for its weight (473 pounds wet), the Majesty manages to stop confidently.

As an everyday urban or commuting machine, the Majesty shines. Any rider will be immediately spoiled by the convenience of 60 liters of storage under the seat, and the welcoming nature of a low center of gravity. The riding experience, however, is less than majestic. Yamaha's scoot is perfectly agile for a bike with nearly 62 inches of wheelbase, but conservative steering geometry and a somewhat reclined seating position mean there isn't a lot of feedback. Acceleration is more than a little muted, too, an unavoidable side effect of substantial heft, a small engine, and a CVT instead of a conventional transmission.

At the other end of the moto-scooter spectrum is the acronym-laden NC700X DCT ABS. Honda's goal with the NC was to steal a few moves out of the step-through playbook to create a genuine motorcycle with some of the practicality of a traditional scooter. Exhibit A: Moving the fuel tank under the seat, slinging the 670cc parallel twin forward, and creating 21 liters of storage between the saddle and the steering head.

To further distort the line between scooters and motorcycles this NC is equipped with the optional DCT, meaning no manual shifting required. It adds weight, making for a 502-lb. package, but it also reduces intimidation for new riders and adds convenience for everyone. Very scooter-like indeed. Where the NC differs most from scooters, Majesty and C600 included, is its stance. Honda’s New Concept clearly has the look of a conventional motorcycle, with 17-in. wheels, a conventional swingarm and drivetrain assembly, and most notably, all that mass between the rider’s legs, rather than air.

While the NC700X reaches from motorcycling towards the benefits of scooter-dom, BMW’s C600 Sport has aimed to redefine what a scooter is capable of. It is the heftiest of this bunch, tipping our scales at 557 lbs., but that’s pretty much where the downsides end.

The BMW-designed, Kymco-produced 647cc parallel twin makes a claimed 60 horsepower and is consistently surprising to use. The CVT engagement is reminiscent of the Majesty’s basic scooter acceleration, only with a lot more power on tap. The Yamaha is obviously outgunned, but it’s more than just displacement that makes the BMW so strong. The motor comes across as more aggressive. Once the centrifugal clutch engages, allowing the engine to sit at its preferred rpm, there is a rush of power that feels constant all the way to freeway speeds (and above).

The BMW is also extremely well equipped by any standard, and especially in the realm of scooters. Our C600 came with the optional $605 Highline Package that includes heated grips, heated seats (passenger, too), and tire pressure monitoring system. ABS is standard, along with other nice features like an adjustable windscreen and LED illumination in the storage compartment. Cargo capacity is bolstered by two cubbies in the dash for smaller items and an ingenious system called the Flexcase that expands into the space over the rear wheel to hold an additional helmet or other cargo under the seat, but only when the scoot is parked.

Out on the road, the BMW feels much more like the Majesty than the NC700X, for obvious reasons, though despite its weight the BMW is much more poised than the Majesty thanks to stiffer suspension. Overall, the C600 most definitely fulfills BMW's stated goal, which was to take scooters to a new level of performance. The C600 Sport absolutely sets a new standard for super scooters. Part of raising the bar in the category comes simply from over-engineering. Things like 15-in. wheels with Pirelli Diablo rubber, powerful brakes-dual 270mm discs up front squeezed by two-pot calipers-that inspire confidence, or the single-sided swingarm and inverted fork.

All of those characteristics don't necessarily make for a usable, capable machine, but they do in the case of BMW's scooter. Riding along twisty roads we were amazed at how much confidence the C600 inspired braking late into tight corners, or leaning over expecting parts to drag. Except nothing ever touched down. A 550-lb. scooter with all the amenities of a sport-touring bike and not a single spark was thrown while carving canyons. We were surprised and intrigued to discover that, when ridden by equivalent riders, the C600 and the NC700X are comparable from the aspect of sporting capability.

Through all of this the Majesty ends up in the shadow of the Honda and the BMW, but it's not hard to see why. The Yamaha gives up 252cc to the BMW, 275cc to the Honda, and then there's the price. The Majesty will set you back $6850, which is admittedly a lot for a single-cylinder scooter, but it seems pretty cheap when compared to the NC700X DCT's base price of $8999, or the C600's staggering $9590 starting point (our test scoot was into five digits, at $10,195.)

Near the end of our test, an impromptu drag race between the C600 and the NC700X DCT did wonders to shed light on the concept of motorcycling merging with the scooter world. The NC's DCT engages the clutch pretty abruptly, especially when applying the throttle heavily from a stop, and so the Honda took an early lead. But from then on, all the way to 60 or 70 mph, the two were dead even. Interesting, then, that one of the more lethargic motorcycles we have had the pleasure of riding offers the same straight-line performance capability as the fastest and best scooter on the market.

Most comparisons are a mystery at the start, but sometimes the statistics on paper tell the story before it begins. This test was especially unclear at the beginning because it's not a direct comparison, but rather an exploration of what is happening in this segment of the market. Compared to a conventional motorcycle the NC700X feels like it's halfway to a scooter, and likewise the BMW is so willing to carve corners and shoot away from stoplights you could argue it's nearing the motorcycle realm. But the truth is, even as comparable as their performance and statistics are, riding these machines together illustrates that there is still a sizeable gap between these two genres.

And for that we are thankful. What we learned is that we are excited about what the future holds for this category of motorcycling. Yes, the C600 raised eyebrows and the NC700X continues to impress us with versatility. But more importantly, two giants of the motorcycling industry are in uncharted territory, and seem to be on the verge of creating more machines that not long ago would have been too improbable to even exist.

Off the Record

Marc Cook
Editor in Chief
Age: 49
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 195 lbs.
Inseam: 32 in.

This was a fascinating comparison that opened a few eyes and proved a few things. Among them: I'm not a scooter guy. Sorry, just not. I don't have the predilection for windup motors and CVT, apparently. Even so, I am genuinely impressed with the BMW for its finish and performance, and recognize that for the affluent urban commuter it might well be the perfect vehicle. You can't argue with all that integrated storage space and the amenities.

But here's the thing. As someone with his fair share of road rash, I can't see commuting in anything but full gear. Even with the speedy Aerostich Roadcrafter, donning proper gear takes time and involves inconvenience at your destination. This eats whatever convenience advantage the scooter carries. If I'm gearing up, I'm going to ride a motorcycle.


Ari Henning
Road Test Editor
Age: 28
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 177 lbs.
Inseam: 33 in.

Prior to this comparison, the only scooters I'd ridden were an unremarkable rental in Portugal and Zack's spicy little Aprilia SR 50 R. I appreciated both bikes for their convenience and utility, but the over-simplified scooter experience doesn't do anything for me. That being said, the C600 Sport is an impressive piece of equipment, and takes scooters to a whole new level. It's bound to make many riders very happy, but I'm not one of them. Statisticians recently announced that for the first time in history, more of Earth's seven billion people live in cities than outside them. Scooters and their ilk have their place, especially in an increasingly urban world. But if I'm after practicality, affordability, and fun, I'll take a $5500 Ninja 300 ABS and have more fun for less money than on any of these quasi-bikes.


Zack Courts
Associate Editor
Age: 29
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 185 lbs.
Inseam: 34 in.

Okay, I like scooters. I'm immediately addicted to storage under the seat, and frankly, I stop caring about not having a clutch. As my gritty old ADV-dad always points out, though, most motorcyclists ride for the experience, not convenience. And he's right. Truthfully, I typically recommend small/cheap scooters to motorcyclists as a second bike, so they don't have to fight with a 650-pound sport tourer just to take a spin for a loaf of bread. I maintain that scooters can be a rewarding way to get around, but not a replacement for a motorcycle.

As a one-and-only vehicle between these three, I would have the BMW. Yes, it's expensive, but it will carve a canyon without dragging parts (unlike the Yamaha), has lots of luggage space (unlike the Honda), and has just enough pep to open your eyes.

Tech Spec

BMW C600 Sport - $9590

Engine type: l-c parallel-twin
Valve train: DOHC, 8v
Displacement: 647cc
Bore x stroke: 79.0 x 66.0mm
Compression: 11.6:1
Fuel system: EFI
Clutch: Centrifugal
Transmission: Automatic
Frame: Steel-tube under-cradle
Front suspension: Marzocchi 40mm inverted fork
Rear suspension: Sachs shock with adjustable spring preload
Front brake: Dual Nissin two-piston caliper, 270mm discs with ABS
Rear brake: Nissin two-piston caliper, 270mm disc with ABS
Front tire: 120/70ZR-15 Pirelli Diablo Scooter
Rear tire: 160/60ZR-15 Pirelli Diablo Scooter
Rake/trail: 25.4°/3.6 in.
Seat height: 31.9 in.
Wheelbase: 62.6 in.
Fuel capacity: 4.2 gal.
Weight (tank full/empty): 557/532 lbs.
Claimed horsepower: 60 bhp @ 7500 rpm
Claimed torque: 49 lb.-ft. @ 6000 rpm
Fuel mileage (high/low/avg.): 42/40/41 mpg
Colors: Cosmic Blue Metallic Matte, Titanium Silver Metallic, Sapphire Black Metallic
Available: Now
Warranty : 36 mo., 36,000 mi.
Contact:
BMW of North America
P.O. Box 1227
Westwood, NJ 07575
800.831.1117
www.bmwmotorcycles.com


Honda NC700X - $8999

Engine type: l-c parallel-twin
Valve train: SOHC, 8v
Displacement: 670cc
Bore x stroke: 73.0 x 80.0mm
Compression: 10.7:1
Fuel system: EFI
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate
Transmission: Automatic or manual
Frame: Steel-tube twin-spar
Front suspension: Showa 41mm fork
Rear suspension: Showa shock with adjustable spring preload
Front brake: Nissin three-piston caliper, 320mm disc with ABS
Rear brake: Nissin single-piston caliper, 240mm disc with ABS
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Metzeler Z-8
Rear tire: 160/60ZR-17 Metzeler Z-8
Rake/trail: 27.0°/4.3 in.
Seat height: 32.7 in.
Wheelbase: 60.6 in.
Fuel capacity: 3.7 gal.
Weight (tank full/empty): 502/480 lbs.
Claimed horsepower: na
Claimed torque: na
Fuel mileage (high/low/avg.): 62/55/59 mpg
Colors: Light Silver Metallic
Available: Now
Warranty: 12 mo., unlimited mi.
Contact:
American Honda Motor Co. Inc.
P.O. Box 2200
Torrance, CA 90509
866.784.1870
www.powersports.honda.com


Yamaha Majesty - $6850

Engine type: l-c single
Valve train: DOHC, 4v
Displacement: 395cc
Bore x stroke: 83.0 x 73.0mm
Compression: 10.6:1
Fuel system: EFI
Clutch: Centrifugal
Transmission: Automatic
Frame: Steel-tube under-cradle
Front suspension: YHS 41mm fork
Rear suspension: YHS shock with adjustable spring preload
Front brake: Nissin two-piston caliper, 267mm disc
Rear brake: Nissin single-piston caliper, 267mm disc
Front tire: 120/80-14 Dunlop L305F
Rear tire: 150/70-13 Dunlop L305L
Rake/trail: 27.0°/3.9 in.
Seat height: 29.9 in.
Wheelbase: 61.6 in.
Fuel capacity: 3.7 gal.
Weight (tank full/empty): 473/450 lbs.
Claimed horsepower: na
Claimed torque: 26.6 lb.-ft. @ 6000 rpm
Fuel mileage (high/low/avg.): 54/45/50 mpg
Colors: Charcoal Silver
Available: Now
Warranty: 12 mo., unlimited mi.
Contact:
Yamaha Motor Corp. USA
6555 Katella Ave.
Cypress, CA 90630
800.962.7926
www.yahama-motor.com

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