2012 Kymco People GT300i | First Ride

Power to the People

It was no Hollister, but it was a riot. A dozen hooligans on scooters charging down the cobblestone streets of historic Charleston, South Carolina, confusing local traffic with our poor navigational skills and delighting passersby with the occasional hard-won burnout. We'd been invited to sample the 2012 lineup from Taiwanese manufacturer Kymco, which boasts nearly as many scooter models as South Carolina's "Holy City" has churches.

There have been numerous tweaks to Kymco's existing machines, including a price reduction for the Like 200i and Agility 50 and 150 models. The Downtown model has returned with a new 200cc engine option, and there will be retro-inspired Special Edition versions of the Like 200i and 50. But for us power-mad motorcycle folk, the standout addition is the new People GT300i.

Kymco's People models have always been big sellers, but this new version-which now incorporates the company's fuel-injected, liquid-cooled, SOHC, four-valve engine-offers enhanced power, efficiency and style. The 200i is a decent around-town machine, but the 300i-which replaces the People 250S-will take you farther, faster. It's an ideal commuter, especially if your routine includes some freeway miles. It also squirts off the line with more gusto than the 200, which not only makes it a hell of a lot more fun to ride, but also safer from stoplight to stoplight, as you'll be the vehicle overtaking traffic instead of being overtaken. Twenty-eight horsepower might not sound like a lot, but because the 300i is so lightweight (a claimed 378 lbs. wet), it moves very effectively. Agility is impressive, as is stability. Whether we were dicing around Charleston's beehive-like historic district or making up miles on the freeway, the People never felt the least bit squirrelly thanks to its sturdy 16-inch cast-aluminum wheels, solid cradle-type frame and adjustable twin shocks.

The GT300i may ride like a motorcycle, but the look is pure Euro maxi-scooter. That appearance is balanced by convenience items such as a flat floorboard, a small flyscreen and a standard color-matched trunk that's just big enough to secure a full-face helmet. Fit and finish on all the Kymco scooters was impressive, and the 300i in gold (forget the black and silver) is a head-turner from fender tip to trunk.

While Kymco has a scooter to fit everyone's budget (from the entry-level $1399 Agility 50 to the long-haul, ABS-equipped $6799 Xciting 500Ri), the GT300i is sure to cause a stir. Maybe not a riot like the Gypsy gang sparked back in Hollister, but for those of us swilling sweet tea in South Carolina, the introduction of Kymco's new line turned out to be one big party for the People.

tech SPEC

** Price:** $5399
Engine type: l-c single
Valve train: SOHC 4v
Displacement: 299cc
Transmission: CVT
Claimed horsepower: 28 bhp @ 7500 rpm
Claimed torque: 22 lb.-ft. 6250 rpm
Frame: Steel double-cradle
Front suspension: Telescopic fork
Rear suspension: Twin shocks with adjustable spring preload
Front brake: Kymco three-piston caliper, 260mm disc
Rear brake: Kymco two-piston caliper, 260mm disc
Front tire: 110/70-16 Maxxis
** Rear tire:** 140/70-16 Maxxis
Seat height: 31.9 in.
Wheelbase: 57.1 in.
Fuel capacity: 2.4 gal.
Claimed curb weight: 378 lbs
Contact www.kymcousa.com

VERDICT 3.5 out of 5 stars

Scooters have their benefits, and the GT300i has them all. But it's still a scooter.

They say: "The city should be your playground."
We say: So you don't want to stray too far."
The People’s fuel-injected 299cc engine is pretty peppy. Acceleration off the line is respectable and top speed is around 85 mph, so highway travel isn’t remotely out of the question.