(All images captured with the new GoPro Hero4 Black and Silver editions)
When we tested Honda’s new-for-2014 Forza last year we were as impressed with the capability of the mid-size scooter as we were with the fit and finish. Context is key, though, like any other area of motorcycling. And because scooters are an especially neglected category for enthusiasts like us to peruse, we needed to pit it against a worthy competitor to see if we were right to become Forza fanatics. Just in time, Suzuki introduced the Burgman 200 to the US market (see First Ride link below), so we filled up the two tanks and headed out for a clutch-leverless ride to find a winner.
On the face of it these two are pretty similar; around $5,000, in the neighborhood of 400 pounds with a full tank, and can boogie around town or down the freeway as painlessly as you please. Both are powered by four-stroke, liquid-cooled, single-cylinder engines, and sport disc brakes at both ends (the Burgman has ABS standard). At 279cc, Honda’s Forza has a displacement advantage of 79cc, which might not sound like much but with such tiny engines that works out to 40% larger (!) than the Suzuki’s mill. Big Red’s scoot also weighs 65 pounds more than the Burgman, 428 pounds to the Suzuki’s 362 pounds.
Leaving the very first stoplight it’s clear the Honda’s larger motor is a big advantage. Despite carrying extra weight the Honda motor makes noticeably more torque, which helps it accelerate faster than the Suzuki. Engagement of the automatic clutch is decidedly better on the Honda, too. Rather than having to wait for the engine to rev up and make enough power to accelerate, like on the Burgman, the Forza’s clutch engages crisply but smoothly at a much lower rpm. For experienced scooter riders it’s an odd feeling at first, but once accustomed to it there is no question it allows more precision in throttle application, especially at low speed. The extra oomph comes at a price of about 8 mpg—the Burgman averaged 60 mpg while the Forza got about 52 mpg during our test.
Both scoots are wide in the middle, especially compared to a motorcycle, but with the center of gravity being low, neither is intimidatingly heavy. The Burgman’s slightly taller (and massively wide) perch makes it a little more awkward to maneuver with feet on the pavement, but the seat is comfy when riding. We still preferred the Forza’s saddle though; it’s narrower while still being plush, and the more prominent butt-stop at the back offers better lower-back support.
Once up to speed the other glaring difference between these two scoots comes out, and that is wind protection. First, the Honda’s tall spine between the rider’s feet doesn’t leave quite enough room to hide legs behind the fairing, whereas the Suzuki offers a more complete step-through design, meaning the rider’s legs are properly shielded from weather. Second, the Forza’s low-cut windshield looks right at home in the city, but once on the open road the rider is subject to a much heavier wind blast. No such worries aboard the Burgman. Exact comfort will depend a little bit on rider height, but most people will find a satisfactory pocket of still air behind the Burgman’s substantial windscreen. It’s a double-edged sword though, as neither windshield is adjustable. Burgman 200 owners in hot climates could end up cursing the same still air that a Forza rider would beg for on a chilly morning.
In the cockpit, comparable amenities are standard. Nicely appointed dashboards display speed and engine rpm digitally, with trip meters, fuel gauges, and clocks all conspicuously placed. Other amenities are rarely found on motorcycles, and we forget how a scooter can spoil a rider. Both scoots feature lockable cubbies in the dash for storing small items (think snacks, gloves, etc.), and power outlets so that your phone or other device can charge as you ride. The Forza also has an emergency brake for awkwardly sloped parking areas, a handy item on scooters where you can’t leave it in gear to keep it from rolling away. (Center stands are a basic scooter accessory, too, and come stock on both of these machines).
And then there is the calling card of any step-through scooter, under-seat storage. Under the broad—just plain fat, actually—seat of the Burgman is a bulbous 41 liters of capacity. Honda claims 62 liters of stowage under the Forza’s saddle, though it’s longer, flatter, and we found it a little less usable. Both companies claim two full-size helmets will fit inside its scoot, but we struggled. The Burgman gets the nod here, because its space is more practical, and the Forza’s seat annoyingly doesn’t swing up high enough, making the front portion of the storage area difficult to access.
When it comes to handling, expect similar performance. Either of these scooters is entertaining to ride, and doesn’t immediately drag parts when leaned over. After a nice set of corners it has to be said that Honda’s Forza feels like a tighter package, and inspires more confidence than the Burgman. Brake feel on the Honda is also much better, and a clever linking system applies one of the front brake’s three pistons when the rear brake is engaged, stabilizing the scoot under deceleration.
Our Forza didn’t have the $500 ABS option, and based on our past experience we think ABS might soften feel at the lever, but the added safety is undeniable. Which makes now a good time to talk about pricing, because with ABS added to its MSRP the Forza lands at a cool $6,099. That’s $1,100 more than a similarly equipped Burgman, not to mention that $6,000 buys a pretty nice, full-sized motorcycle these days.
Dropping $5,000 to $6,000 on a scooter means you need to be serious about your scooting, and that’s exactly what you get with these two: legitimate all-around capability and all of the convenience of scooterdom, wrapped up in two refined packages. Choosing between them means deciding what’s most important in your scoot. Because we tend to lean toward performance when reviewing two-wheeled machines, the Forza gets our nod. It’s faster, handles better, and has a touch of quality about it that the Burgman can’t match. It just feels sportier and more invigorating to ride, and we think that’s worth $600.
|ENGINE||279cc, liquid-cooled single-cylinder|
|FRONT SUSPENSION||Showa 35mm fork; 3.7-in. travel|
|REAR SUSPENSION||Dual Showa shocks adjustable for spring preload; 3.8-in. travel|
|FRONT BRAKE||Nissin 3-piston caliper, 256mm disc with linked function|
|REAR BRAKE||Nissin one-piston caliper, 240mm disc|
|SEAT HEIGHT||28.2 in.|
|FUEL CAPACITY||3.0 gal.|
|MEASURED WEIGHT||428 lb. wet|
|TECH||Suzuki Burgman 200|
|ENGINE||200cc, liquid-cooled single-cylinder|
|CLAIMED HORSEPOWER||18.1 @ 8000 rpm|
|CLAIMED TORQUE||12.5 lb-ft @ 6000 rpm|
|FRONT SUSPENSION||33mm fork; 4.3-in. travel|
|REAR SUSPENSION||Dual shocks adjustable for spring preload; 3.9-in. travel|
|FRONT BRAKE||Two-piston caliper, 240mm disc with ABS|
|REAR BRAKE||One-piston caliper, 240mm disc with ABS|
|SEAT HEIGHT||28.9 in.|
|FUEL CAPACITY||2.8 gal.|
|MEASURED WEIGHT||362 lb. wet|