Scooter Review: Honda SH300i
By: Web Editor
I had grown quite attached to our long term Honda SH300i, which was a surprise to me because it’s not ordinarily the kind of scooter I’d go for – and I wasn’t initially even meant to be getting my hands on it anyway.
I’m not a regular commuter; my usual ‘journey’ to work involves simply traipsing down a flight of stairs to the office at home so there’s no congestion or time management problems to worry about. Most of the riding I do is for pleasure, which often means a ride of a few hundred miles or more to a seaside resort with a group of mates (rather than riding around aimlessly for fun), or for work, which can be anything from a round trip to the office for a road test, to an airport dash for a launch, or a visit to a dealer or importer anywhere in the country.
Luckily, the Honda is more than capable of doing pretty much anything I ask of it. At first glance the SH300i didn’t excite me; after all I take pride in my scooters and prefer something that will get noticed. Although the Honda is attractive in its own way it’s not the sort of scooter I’d buy on looks alone. So what made me become attached to it and why was I sad when we made our final journey together?
In a nutshell it’s because the Honda is just so much fun to ride. It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing; it rides like a full-on sports scooter, accelerates very well from a standing start, has loads of power for overtaking and it’ll stop on a sixpence thanks to those ABS/CBS equipped brakes. I had the SH300i for almost two months in total, by default really. Mau had been riding it, but I ‘borrowed’ it and liked it so much that I didn’t bother to give it back.
The very thing that stopped me being interested in the Honda initially was also the thing that made me enjoy riding it so much. Its styling is so unassuming and subtle that other road users easily mistake it for a small capacity scooter and don’t really give it the respect it deserves, so when you overtake everything in sight it gives you a smug feeling of satisfaction. It’s especially good at carving through twisty back roads and will upset a few unsuspecting bikers, a feeling that I like to exploit whenever possible on a scooter – probably due to some deep-rooted psychological feeling of under powered inadequacy. If you can’t beat them on acceleration or power, outride them instead, that’s my philosophy. To be honest, I doubt if any of these imaginary opponents are even bothered if a scooter overtakes them, but it makes me feel better about myself and my weedy looking machine.
I mentioned last month that storage space wasn’t too generous on the Honda; even with the standard issue topbox it’s not as spacious as it could be, but for normal day-to-day use you should be fine. My issues came while trying to carry enough gear for a weekend away, but a rucksack fastened to the rear seat was all it took to accommodate my glad rags and if I was taking a passenger, a set of throw-over panniers would have done the trick. The other grumble I had was the lack of a screen; it’s a shame Honda doesn’t fit one as standard because you do notice a difference, especially in winter, when you’re riding a scooter without one. Honda does offer one in the accessories range, so it’s well worth buying if you’re likely to be doing any decent distances.
Sadly Honda wanted the scooter back just before Christmas... I’d grown quite attached to it and, even though the SH didn’t excite me when I saw it parked up in the garage, I still loved every ride. My final blast was from home in Nottinghamshire, back to the office in Lincolnshire. It was a cold and damp day, but the route is made up of some lovely twisty roads and the Honda performed as well as ever. It’s fair to say that we made good progress and despatched every car we came across with effortless ease.
The 279cc fuel injected engine has plenty of grunt and will see a top speed of around 85mph, which isn’t bad at all and it certainly makes trips like this all the more exciting. The other thing about the SH300i is that it handles very well, more like a sports scooter than a lot of scooters that claim to be in that category, not bad for a mild mannered commuter. As you’d expect, the Honda brakes are second-to-none as well, the ABS/CBS is so well sorted that you hardly know it’s there, unless of course you find yourself needing to brake hard on a wet or slippery surface. In which case the Honda will stop without locking the wheels, usually with much more finesse and control than an experienced rider could even contemplate without the system.
Two wheel fanatics are usually quite partial to a specific marque and will often stick religiously to their chosen brand throughout their riding years, at any cost. On the traditional scooter side there are two distinct camps, Vespa and Lambretta. Personally, I’ve always owned and ridden Vespas (and probably always will). Honda is another manufacturer with a loyal following; its machines are known for superb, almost faultless build quality and robust reliability, attributes that endear them to their followers. Quality comes at a premium though and the Honda SH300i isn’t cheap; it costs £4700, which, even with ABS/CBS braking is a lot of money when compared to the competition. That competition got a whole lot tougher when Piaggio launched the Beverly 350 Sport Touring recently. The fantastic high spec Italian-built Beverly has a 330cc, 33bhp engine and ASR traction control, as well as ABS. Its price is attractive too at £4599. Other commuter style scooters worth considering are the very capable Sym Citycom 300 at £3599 and the Aprilia Sport City Cube, which is just £3389. Those prices make the Honda seem like quite an expensive proposition, or maybe reassuringly expensive, but it is going to have to up its game if it wants to keep the SH at the top of the mid capacity class.
• See the full review and more in Twist & Go magazine, March/April 2012!
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