“Would you like to run this year’s Mad Bastard Scooter Rally,” Editor ‘Arris asked. “Errr, yes”, was my reply – “Could I please ride the biggest maxi-scooter available?”
We’ve already covered most of the big maxi-scooters out there, though, so ‘Arris lined up a smaller one for me, the Kymco Downtown 300i. Would that be a maxi-scooter, or a medium-scooter? In any case, it was my ride for this year’s day-long romp through Ontario, down hundreds of kilometres of back roads, secondary highways and small towns.
Home Ergonomics: A
I’m used to long days in the saddle, but I was still advised I’d need my Airhawk when I left on the 2013 MBSR. Not so – I ended up lending mine to another rider, whose butt wasn’t forged out of the same stern stuff my own posterior was constructed of, or maybe he was just closer to his appropriate BMI … In any case, the Downtown’s seat isn’t as comfortable as the best motorcycle saddles I’ve sat on, but I could have kept on riding the bonus loop at the end of the MBSR, if I’d had time. I was quite impressed.
The Kymco’s floorboards let you slide your sneakers back and forth; during a long trip, you can adjust your legs to avoid cramps. You can even prop them up in a feet-forward position, similar to what you’d find on a big cruiser, but I found the scooter’s handling a bit top-heavy after I tried this.
On a bigger scoot like this, you could expect the windblast to be tiring over a day-long ride at brisk speeds, but I found the Kymco’s windscreen did a great job of keeping me comfortable; all the bodywork up front blocked most of the showers we rode through earlier in the day during the MBSR as well.
I suppose a higher-priced scooter could offer a cushier ride, but to me, the Downtown’s ergos are more than adequate, and probably better than most motorcycles in the same price range.
I didn’t have a chance to get a good overall idea of how the Downtown performed in the fuel economy department, as I ran much of the MBSR at open throttle. However, I did note I managed 31.4\ km per litre during the rally, which is a very respectable 74 mpg US (89 mpg imperial). Considering my throttle-happy activity, I was happy with that.
Locker Tidiness: B
First of all, it took me a while to get used to opening the Downtown’s under-seat storage; you have to turn the key backwards in the ignition to open it. It sounds simple, but I found it a bit fiddly in practice, and I was worried I’d break the ignition or the key.
There is plenty of room in the Downtown’s trunk, although the storage compartment is long, and not as deep as you might find in other scooters, which might make it difficult to pack some items. Kymco reckons you can fit two helmets in there, but I never checked that.
There’s also a storage compartment in the Downtown’s dash; it’s a handy storage spot for sunglasses, your wallet, and the like, but this felt sort of cheap, like the seat release. One nice touch is a 12v outlet inside this compartment, enabling you to charge electronic devices while riding.
There is an optional top trunk, if you feel you need more storage.
Accelerated studies: A
I expected the Downtown to be a bit poky, but I was pleasantly surprised – this step-through can haul right along with all but the maddest of traffic.
Like most scooters, the Downtown has an auto transmission (CVT); that means acceleration isn’t as hard-charging as most motorcyclists want, but once you’ve built up a head of steam, you can cruise secondary highways at lose-your-licence-and-your-scooter speeds. Indeed, I was keeping a nervous eye open for Johnny Law while I rode through the rolling hills around Bancroft.
I even managed to hang with a group of big-displacement cruisers I met on the tight, twisty Faraday Road.
Captain Kidd and his band of two-wheeled pirates thought they’d get rid of me quickly, but the Downtown’s keen handling and respectable power kept me right behind them.
I even considered passing them, but that a cheeky move like that might end up with me being stomped roadside by a group of peg-legged cruiseratti in matching chaps and do-rags.
Deceleration Studies: A
What can I say? The brakes work. There’s no ABS, but I didn’t miss it. I’m not always a fan of a handlebar-mounted rear brake, but that’s standard for scooters. And, it seemed to make gravel parking lot quite easy. Sadly, the residents of rural Ontario didn’t seem to be impressed with my slideways experimentation.
As I said earlier, this scooter handled the tight stuff on the MBSR, like the Faraday Road, extremely well. It’s very stable at speed; I did long sections of the rally with only one hand on the bars (and thankfully was not accosted by the OPP for that grievous transgression – I hear it can earn a stunting charge).
The only handling problem I had was when the scooter wasn’t under speed. When parking the machine, I had issues with the kickstand; a few times during the day, I had the scooter roll off the kickstand (thankfully, I caught it before it fell). I don’t know if the kickstand’s angle is wrong, or if the leg is too long or too short, but I found it a bit sketchy.
Social studies: A
I’m not a huge fan of plastic bodywork, but for a machine like the Downtown, I think it works. The styling didn’t make me feel like I was riding a Transformer, despite the headlights’ angular lines.
The orange paint (it’s also available in red and black) looked sharp as well. Really, I think the designers nailed the look for this one.
Ask yourself: Would you spend $6,000, plus tax and other charges, on a made-in-Taiwan scooter? Your answer to that question will determine whether or not the Downtown is right for you.
Its closest made-in-Japan competition would be the Suzuki Burgman 400 ABS, with a $8000ish price tag, and the new-for-2013 Honda Forza 300 is just $400 more at $6,400. Kymco’s own People 200i has a top speed just under the Downtown’s (in the 120 km/h range), and is available for $5,000.
So, while the Downtown has a price tag that’s not unreasonable, compared to its competitors, it’s not pitching itself as a bargain, but then why should it? It’s a scooter you can ride all day long and cover distance in relative comfort. People have spent much more money on vehicles that can do much less.
Check out all the pics that go with this story! Click on the main sized pic to transition to the next or just press play to show in a slideshow.
|Bike||2013 Kymco Downtown 300i|
|Engine type||Liquid-cooled, single cylinder, four stroke|
|Tank Capacity||12.5 litres|
|Brakes, front||Single disc, dual-piston caliper|
|Brakes, rear||Single disc, dual-piston caliper|
|Seat height||775 mm|
|Colours||Black, orange, red|
|Warranty||Two year limited warranty|