Honda’s new mid-size do-it-all scooter

They say: “Convenient, practical, and fun.” We say: “Fun is in the eye of the beholder.”

My coworkers think I'm crazy, and maybe you do too. I say scooters are fun, some of them even cool. Honda's new Forza, otherwise known as the NSS300, is a perfect example of how scooters are evolving into machines that are not only capable transportation but good enough to exceed expectations.

Before I make it sound revolutionary, know that the Forza is a conventional scooter through and through. A steel chassis cradles a liquid-cooled single-cylinder motor, which powers a 13-inch rear wheel via a V-belt-driven CVT. The front wheel is an inch larger in diameter, and both ends are sprung with Showa components—a 35mm fork up front and two basic shocks astern.

For a small motor, the Forza chassis is surprisingly big. The seat is low, at 28 inches, but wide bodywork and a claimed curb weight of 422 pounds means it's not as approachable as some of the more slender 250cc scoots. Plenty of legroom and a cushy seat come in handy, as less than 3 inches of suspension travel on either end makes for an adequate, but not especially plush, ride.

A benign exhaust note suggests thrashing the engine will be the only way to get around, but the sewing-machine pitter patter coming out the pipe belies the capability that lurks within. The Forza's diminutive, four-valve, 279cc engine genuinely surprised me. Urban acceleration is necessary on a bike like this, but I honestly never expected it to keep up with California freeway traffic, which it does pretty happily.

Handling is light and precise despite fairly wide tires; widths are 120 front and 140 rear. Honda's combined brakes mean one piston in the front brake is applied when the rear-brake lever is pulled, while the rear is unaffected by the front lever. Our model doesn't have the $500 ABS option, and based on our experience we agreed that ABS would probably diminish feel, but as always it's a great option for commuters to have.

Brake feel and power are among a handful of traits that impress when riding the Forza.The dash is nicely appointed as well, looking and feeling a little more expensive than it is. While general build quality is high, there are a couple of problems. One, the storage space is a little awkward for stowing anything other than clothing. More problematic, though, is that the seat doesn't swing up quite high enough, making the front of the storage space near the hinge (which will hold a full-face helmet, incidentally) difficult to access.

The aesthetics are decidedly mainstream. The lines are sleek and stylish without being particularly unique. However, I'll defend the Forza by pointing out that it was not designed to stick out in a crowd or impress your friends and coworkers. It was made to take you from one point to another efficiently and without drama. That it does.

Convenience comes at a price, though; $5,599 to be specific, which, as you know, buys a pretty nice little motorcycle these days, even new. Me, I'm sticking with scooters. I like the format, capability, and great potential of the genre for growing the industry and introducing people to two wheels. All told, Honda's new scoot accomplishes all of that in spades, with more refinement and capability than any of us expected.


Price $5599
Engine type l-c single
Valve train SOHC, 4v
Displacement 279cc
Transmission Automatic
Frame Steel-tube under-cradle 
Front suspension Showa 35mm fork
Rear suspension Dual Showa shocks adjustable for spring preload
Front brake Nissin three-piston caliper, 256mm disc
Rear brake Nissin one-piston caliper, 240mm disc
Front tire 120/70-14 Dunlop Scoot Smart
Rear tire 140/70-13 Dunlop Scoot Smart
Seat height 28.2 in.
Wheelbase 60.9 in. 
Fuel capacity 3.0 gal.
Claimed curb weight 422 lb. 
Contact powersports.honda.com

VERDICT: Completely capable and surprisingly refined but slightly overpriced for what it is.



Considering the Forza’s legitimate freeway capability, it would benefit from a slightly taller windscreen, but that might detract from the otherwise sharp, urban look.