Scooter 16 incher test – 2

The second and final (and slightly late) installment of the 16-incher scooter test; how do the three scoots compare against each other?

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Words: Costa Mouzouris. Photos: Sam Dye (unless otherwise specified)

What separates scooters from motorcycles? They both have engines and two wheels. Well, two main features usually define scooters visually: a step-through chassis (so you don’t have to swing your leg over the machine to straddle it – very unladylike), and small-diameter wheels (though we’re not really sure why this should be a defining feature).

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16 inch wheels improve handling and suspension.

The scooters in our comparo all feature the classic step-through design, but in place of 10- or 12-inch doughnuts are true, almost-motorcycle-like, 16-inch wheels.

In part one of this test we gave you a ride report of each machine based on a single-day 600 km loop, which included everything from smooth highways to dirt roads, and single-digit temperatures in rain to balmy afternoon sunshine (I think I missed that last bit – ‘Arris).

As expected in a comparison test, we’ll provide a ranking of these machines, but what surprised us was just how close these scooters were in overall performance.

But enough of the intro babble, on we go with the nitty gritty …

Engines

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SYM HD 200 has most power but only marginal speed edge over the Honda.

Three scooters, three different engine displacements. The largest capacity scooter in this group, the Sym HD200 at 171 cc, uses a liquid-cooled four-valve single, and subsequently produced the most power, with a claimed output of 20 horsepower.

It held a slight top-speed advantage over the Honda SH150’s 153 cc liquid-cooled and fuel-injected two-valve single (the Honda’s the only machine in this test with digitized fuelling), which claims a more modest 15.5 hp. Both of these machines can maintain about 90 km/h easily with a modest power reserve for hills, though passing has to be planned carefully.

The Sym’s additional power wasn’t enough to overcome a larger load, however, like when portly Rob was riding it and I, with my slimmer, trimmer frame, sailed past on the Honda (I would add “shorter” too … and don’t make me get into shoe sizes while we’re at it  – ‘Arris).

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KYMCO People S comes with kickstarter as well as electric.

On either machine, svelte Samantha would have kicked both our asses. Also, the Honda, being tuned for a strong bottom end, felt the peppiest off the start, while producing the least amount of noise, exhaust or otherwise.

The KYMCO People S 125, at 125 cc, claims just 10.4 hp, but it wouldn’t be fair to call it underpowered in this test (it will easily outrun a Yamaha Vino 125, which I’ve ridden recently).

In fact, it did manage to mostly keep pace with the larger scooters, though it had no reserve power to catch up if it fell behind. It also displayed an occasional reluctance to start when cold, requiring several stabs at the starter button before firing (unlike the Honda and Sym which fired up immediately).

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KYMCO’s small engine size combined with wide open throttle = thirsty motor.
Photo: jp schroder

All three scooters sipped fuel, with the Honda taking the honours by sipping the least at a measly 3.1L/100 km. Second came the Sym at 3.6L/100 km, and close behind was the KYMCO at 3.7L/100 km.

Now, you might rightly wonder why the KYMCO – with the smallest displacement – ended up using the most fuel. Well, a 600 km ride on relatively small displacement scoots means that they’re held wide open a lot of the time.

The KYMCO (with the smallest motor) was held open pretty much all the time, so the engine worked harder than the other two. A test in the urban world would have likely garnered very different consumption figures.

Handling

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Honda was smoothest and plushest of the bunch.

One thing is to be said of all these scooters: they handle better and have better suspension compliance than the majority of scooters on the market.

The biggest factor contributing to this is their 16-inch wheels, which not only cope with bumpy roads better, but also add stability.

The plushest of this bunch was the Honda, whose electric-smooth engine contributed to a dream-like ride – really. Then came the KYMCO, then the Sym, the latter being a tad harsh in suspension compliance, but only when compared directly with the other two; otherwise, it, too, worked quite well.

Braking

All three scooters have more than adequate brakes with single disc fronts and drum rears, the differences coming down mostly to feel.

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Front wheels are almost identical. Disc brakes all worked okay, some more okay than others.

The Honda’s rear brake lever links to the front, though there was no clear advantage to this system unless you have an arthritic right hand (I personally find you can grab a handful without easily locking either wheel – a kind of cheap ABS, but that’s just me – ‘Arris). It did, however, provide the most accurate and linear feel.

The only other notable thing about the brakes was the Sym’s use of a stainless steel front brake line, though even with that, its spongy feel wasn’t entirely eliminated.

Comfort

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Derrieres: (left to right) Sym, Honda, KYMCO.
Photo: manufacturers

The actual seating position varied little from bike to bike, but some differences are worth noting. The KYMCO offered the best wind protection, the Sym the worst. The KYMCO also had the most floorboard room. The Sym had an agreeable drop in the handlebar ends that felt a little odd initially but also gave it a somewhat sporty feel.

The Honda was the smoothest – uncannily so, as the engine felt as if it weren’t running. The KYMCO was the buzziest, though only when compared to the others, as it was still smoother than most motorcycles.

The Honda’s seat was the firmest, the Sym’s the squishiest (Rob’s notes read: “at the end of the day it felt like someone had slipped in a large haddock under the vinyl, thanks to the foam’s unanchored feel”), though all of these machines fared very well considering the long day in the saddle.

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The Honda had the best fit and finish as well as styling.

A welcome feature on the liquid-cooled models (that’ll be the Honda and the Sym) would have been the inclusion of heat vents in the forward panel (which covers the radiator) to provide at least some warmth on those chilly mornings.

Fit and finish

No surprise here that the Honda excelled in fit and finish. It had the most sophisticated feel of this trio, and all who rode it felt this instantly. Even the speedometer accuracy was almost prefect when compared to GPS readings.

The KYMCO trailed the Honda in this respect, with nicely finished panels, though its styling was somewhat bland. It was the only bike in this test that had an accessory outlet, mounted inside the under-seat compartment.

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KYMCO clocks – a tad optimistic.
Photo: jp schroder

Perhaps to make up for its speed deficit due to its reduced engine displacement, KYMCO included a very optimistic speedometer, which read 80 km/h at an actual 71 km/h.

The Sym had better than expected quality, though it had what seemed to be a stress crack in one front panel upon delivery, and its gauges looked contemporarily stylish – for the 1980s …

Also, the temperature gauge was either not working, or the engine just never reached a high enough temperature to make the needle budge.

The Sym was the only scooter to have a side-mounted lock to gain access to the under-seat storage (using the ignition key), and an external lockable fuel filler (the others were under their lockable seats).

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Sym fuel cap was a bit fiddly.

The Honda and KYMCO used the ignition switch for under-seat access.

What it all adds up to

The unanimous winner in this comparo was the Honda SH150. Everyone agreed it felt more refined than its competitors: it has power comparable to the larger Sym, and it has the cleanest-burning engine, with an HECS3 oxygen-sensing catalytic converter. Its fuel injection worked flawlessly and it consumed the least fuel to boot.

Also, to compensate for the reduced under-seat storage capacity (an unfortunate drawback of the space required for the 16-inch wheels to swing freely on all of these scooters), Honda has fitted a nicely finished, colour-matched top box at no extra cost.

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Honda top-box gave much needed storage capacity – enough for a pair of ‘Arris’ size 14 shoes (or two of Costa’s size 7s …).

That cost, however, is the highest at $4,999, though with that comes Honda’s reliability and renown.

The KYMCO, despite its displacement disadvantage, finished second. Had this been an urban-only test, it might have even taken the top spot due to its low $3,600 price tag, as well as the added capacity of a forward storage compartment (Honda top box notwithstanding).

Ridden around town at around-town speeds, the KYMCO probably would have consumed the least fuel, too. It left a good enough impression on us that we’ve requested to hang onto it as a long-term tester and are awaiting approval.

The Sym takes third spot, but by no means finishes last. It proved its worth handily, and at $3,995 makes a strong case with great value. It has lots of power, is comfy enough for the long haul, and heck, it even looks good. Just remove the suicidal flip-up sidestand if you want to keep it looking that way.

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The Sym comes with suicidal sidestand that flips up at the slightest touch.

If you’re looking for a scooter to shoot about town, any of these will do it competently. For longer commutes, the larger displacement Honda and Sym would be better choices.

You can add the convenience of a top box onto the Sym and the KYMCO for about $100, and aftermarket windshields are available for all of these machines if you’d like better weather protection.

Taking into account the benefits of 16-inch wheels versus the increased storage capability of small-wheeled scooters, we’d opt for the comfort and superior handling and suspension of the larger hoops, and leave the doughnuts for the rest stops.

SPECIFICATIONS & SPECULATIONS

KYMCO People S 125 Honda SH150 SYM HD200 Comments
MSRP $3,600 $4,999 $3,995 If you’re looking for more KYMCO power, the People S 200 costs $4,300.
Displacement 125 cc 153 cc 171 cc Largest displacement doesn’t mean biggest bucks.
Engine type Four-stroke sohc, 2-valve single, air-cooled Four-stroke sohc, 2-valve single, liquid-cooled Four-stroke dohc, 4-valve single, liquid-cooled Lo-tech to hi-tech, all perform accordingly. Sym surprises with a 4 valve head.
Horsepower
(crank – claimed)
10.4 @ 7,000 rpm 15.5 @ 8,500 rpm 20 @ 8,000 rpm Sym has highest claimed power output per cc
Torque
(claimed)
7.2 lb-ft @ 5,500 rpm 10.3 lb-ft @ 7,000 rpm 11.4 lb-ft @ 6,500 rpm Honda boasts most claimed torque per cc.
Consumption
Capacity
Range
– 3.7L/100 km
– 6.8 litres
– 186 km
– 3.1L/100 km
– 7.5 litres
– 239 km
– 3.6L/100 m
– 8 litres
– 221 km
Honda sucks the least. With KYMCO’s highway consumption and small fuel tank, you should stay in the city. 
Carburetion CV carburetor EFI CV carburetor The Honda’s EFI proved most efficient. Sym carb works better than the KYMCO’s.
Final drive CVT CVT CVT Smoooth sailing…
Starting Electric/kick Electric Electric A kick start would seem a logical addition on bikes that can’t be bump-started.
Tires Kenda 100/80-16 front; 120/80-16 rear Dunlop 100/80-16 front; 120/80-16 rear Duro 100/80-16 front; 120/80-16 rear Stable 16-inch wheels are our preferred rolling stock for step-throughs.
Brakes, front Single 260 mm disc with single-piston caliper Single 240 mm disc with dual-piston caliper Single 220 mm disc with single-piston caliper Different diameters, more or less pistons; all brakes performed sufficiently well.
Brakes, rear Mechanical drum Mechanical drum, linked Mechanical drum Rear drums suffice.
Seat height 800 mm (31.5″) 785 mm (30.9″) 787 mm (31″) Modest seat heights, but all of these machines are a bit wide in the midsection, so it may still be a reach for shorter riders.
Wheelbase 1,350 mm (53.1″) 1,355 mm (52.5″) 1,385 mm (54.5″) Sport-bike-spec! 🙂
Dry weight
(claimed)
116 kg (256 lb) dry 140 kg (309 lb) wet
(estimate 130 kg dry)
135 kg (298 lb) dry Honda’s heaviest here because they give wet weight. It felt top heaviest nonetheless.
Colours red, grey, silver, black red, black blue, red, silver All see red.
Warranty 12-month full/24-month limited 12-month/unlimited mileage 12-month full/24-month limited Warranty’s up on the KYMCO and Sym when the odometer turns 20,000 km.

8 thoughts on “Scooter 16 incher test – 2”

  1. I am a Sym HD200 owner and I have to say that I love my scooter. I really enjoyed your review but I feel a certain amount of responsibilty to inform your readers about a few of the things mentioned above concerning the sym. The first one being the temp gauge. It is indeed hard to get the needle to rise…it is not because it is not working. It is because the SYM is the only scooter tested that has ceramic lined cylinder walls. The expected result is lower operating temps and longer engine life.

    The next thing I want to point out is the suspension. The article never mentioned at what setting the rider had his suspension adjusted to. There is a remarkable difference between how it behaves on the softest setting vs the hardest and there are 8 options between.

    In reality…all.suspension complaints could be adjusted for within minutes with a.flathead screw driver.

    Also the Sym has better lights than both other models.

  2. I’m afraid you’ve been mis-informed about the E-Charm. The price is right, and it’s a nice bike, but it’s more directly comparable to the Kymco. The air-cooled GY6 engine has less power and reduced durability in severe service, compared to the liquid-cooled Honda and SYM. Having ridden all of them, in terms of engine performance the E-Charm is comparable to the Kymco 125, the Kymco 200 to the SYM 125 (not sold in Canada), and the Honda and Sym 200 are at the front of the pack.

  3. I ride a CMI FreePass(E-Charm)and have bin told that it and the Honda are pritty much the same Scooter. The front end design aside they do look really similar with almost the same spec engines. But how close are they to being the same scooter if at all?
    Thanks.

    P.S I’ll be rideing my Scooter in this years Mad Bastard Rally can’t wait.

  4. I’ve owned both a Kymco & SYM back-to-back for a year each. Both are top quality built bikes, great finish and feel solid. But even tho 16” wheels are bigger, they are also thinner. The Kymco felt very wobbly over 35 mph, the SYM much more stable, but neither can match the maneuverability of a Vespa with 12”. In the suburbs with wide smooth boulevards, I can see someone preferring one of these bikes. But for inner city gridlock traffic, even with uneven payment, the Vespa outshines them both. But for the money, Kymco & SYM are great value. BTW, the SYM only has 15hp.

  5. You are right, Dan. SYM does feel [url=http://www.w-precision.net/products/high-end-watches]better[/url]. Nice finish (not comparable to Honda, but still not so bad), good handling, great price!

  6. I recently rode Kymco and Sym 200’s back-to-back, and came away with different conclusions regarding ride, handling, seating and quality.

    The Kymco had better wind protection, but it felt wobbly compared to the Sym due to quirky throttle and clutch response, and a front wheel that wanted to tuck under. The Kymco also had a harsh ride compared to the more compliant and stable Sym. This may be due to my size, as I am 245lb and 6’2″ tall.

    The Sym’s cockpit was more roomy, the seat more comfortable, and the motor much stronger. Finally, the Sym displayed distincly better fit and finish.

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