I think I just rode two bikes at the same time.
Oh don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t Editor ‘Arris’s latest attempt to save money by having us review two bikes simultaneously (he learned his lesson the last time, and I believe CMG is still sending out both apology letters and legal affidavits over that particular incident). No, what I was riding did only have two wheels, a single engine, a single seat, and the usual number of other bits that go into a bike. It’s just that the bike I was riding was not the same as the bike I was seeing.
When I first walked up to the Honda Forza I was immediately struck by the striking red and black paint, the lack of chrome, the aggressive styling. It takes a second glance before your brain files it under “Scooter” and even then you get the feeling your grey matter is only doing it tentatively.
It has the kind of look that leaves you feeling vaguely uncertain, as though you shouldn’t leave your wallet under the seat in case you’d come back and find it had spent it all snorting high octane gas in a lost weekend with a group of shabby pit-bikes behind the shed at the racetrack.
But climb into the seat and things are … surprisingly different. The throttle is very controlled, with a slight twist giving you an easy acceleration and a heavier twist sending you down the road in a much more spirited fashion. But you never feel (as the looks might imply) that it is about to send you through a turn sideways, and possibly on fire.
It brakes very well indeed, has easily understood gauges that actually tell you useful information, and is so well balanced you get the impression that if a team of circus performers were balancing on the rear seat, you wouldn’t even notice.
For a bike named “Forza” which is the Italian word for “Strength, forcefulness, nerve, brunt, potency” – a bike with black and red Anime anti-hero looks, you might expect more madness, more passion, more crazy accessories that were dreamed up by a designer in a white jacket, with a single sleeve that fastens up the back.
But what you get instead is a very, very well engineered scooter that is equally at home doing a quick commute on the highway, or a trip downtown.
The Forza has a liquid-cooled single cylinder 279cc SOHC engine, with PGM-FI electronic fuel injection and an automatic transmission. From a stop, it will leave many cars behind without any problem – but you’ll have to be willing to give a serious twist to the throttle.
Top speed I’d estimate is in the 140 km/h range … but if you have to do part of your commute on a highway the bike will likely be happier cruising at a speed somewhat less than this, and acceleration past 110km/h will be much slower than going from zero to eighty.
The Forza comes equipped with Honda’s Combined Braking System – which means that if you pull the left brake lever you activate both brakes, with the right just controlling the front (though I have to admit I didn’t fully test this as using both brake levers is a habit I find it quite difficult to break).
Braking is very good indeed, giving quite good feel and despite some fairly hard braking in the rain, I couldn’t even feel the ABS at all – I’m not sure if the system is that smooth, or if I just didn’t cause the ABS to kick in, but any way you look at it the braking system works extremely well.
The suspension, while good on smooth pavement, only has about 94 mm of travel in front and 96 in back – which wasn’t quite enough to deal with some of the ruts and potholes on my way home. All in all the suspension makes the bike quite responsive and fun to drive while on smooth pavement, but a bit annoying in the rough.
The seat, while a bit on the firm side, is reasonably comfortable with a rear support that — as my wife puts it, when she tried sitting on the Forza — “Hugs your bum.” This does give you more support and keeps you firmly planted as the bike moves, but doesn’t allow you to move around much as you ride.
This had the side effect of making the dual position footboard effectively a simple position footboard (with the way the footboard is shaped, you can use a “Feet Forward” position by putting your feet against a slanted bit at the front of the footboard) as my legs didn’t bend in a way to allow for my feet to go forward without discomfort.
The switchgear is well placed and works well. Gauges are easy to read and well placed, with a combination of analog and digital readouts.
The Forza has two front glove boxes (one locked, one unlocked, with the locking one containing a 12v accessory plug for recharging bike related accessories or your cell phone.)
Under-seat storage is very long, and at first glance quite large, but the ridges under the seat do limit what can be placed in there. My (admittedly very large) full-face helmet would not fit under the seat and allow it to be easily latched, but a ¾ or a smaller helmet would likely have better luck.
The Good, The bad, and the Ugly
Fuel efficiency is good, with a combination of 401 highway and stop and go traffic getting somewhere around 60 mpg or 3.9l/100km. An 11.6 litre fuel tank would then likely give you a range of a few hundred kilometers, meaning you won’t be filling it up much.
The Forza has a very low centre of gravity, and is extremely well balanced – so that the weight (194 kg or 428 lb wet) isn’t something you notice unless you have to push it up an incline (but given the range, you’d have to work hard at running out of gas to have to push it anyways).
What’s bad? There certainly isn’t anything terrible about the bike… perhaps the seat could be improved, as it is a bit on the firm side. Or the windshield, which is difficult to clean on the inside (it runs very close to the front fairing for most of its length, and tends to show dust in the area that you cannot easily reach).
$6399 is the MSRP for the 2014 Forza, which is about $400 more than the KYMCO Downtown 300i (a comparable 300cc range bike). That’s a pretty reasonable price, especially given Honda’s reputation for quality and the feature set of the machine.
If you want one scooter that will do the occasional trip out of town, hop on the highway when you need to, and take you downtown for a show – you really can’t go very wrong with the Forza. It isn’t as highway capable as a Burgman, nor as light as a smaller capacity scooter – but in a pinch it’ll hum the tune well enough to convince you it knows what it is doing.
It’s an extremely well put together, solid machine with a fit and finish up to Honda’s usual standards – and at a reasonable price for what you get as well. Oh, and with just enough of a dangerous look to keep you (and people seeing you out on the road) guessing.
Which is a good thing, because being just sensible might work for a toaster, or a living room chair, but every bike needs just a hint of crazy lurking somewhere behind the headlights.
Especially with a name like Forza.
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 Honda Forza|
|Engine type||Liquid-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke, CVT|
|Tank Capacity||11.6 litres|
|Brakes, front||Single 256mm disc with twin-piston caliper, Combined Braking System|
|Brakes, rear||Single 240mm disc with single-piston caliper, Combined Braking System|
|Seat height||716 mm|
|Wet weight*||194 kg|
|Warranty||One year, unlimited mileage|