While we focus a lot on the best beginner motorcycles here, as the name of the site states, and we sometimes forget that the term motorcycle encompasses more than just the rip-snorting sport nakeds, the rumbling cruisers, or the screaming supersports.
Not everyone wants, or even needs, a large displacement bike to get around. In fact, not everyone even wants a full-on motorcycle. This is where the venerable scooter, the mass mover of people that you see everywhere in Europe and elsewhere, enters into the equation.
For the purposes of this list, I am allowing anything up to 160cc’s to be counted as viable, be it a motorcycle or scooter. With that in mind, I present the best three motorcycles and best four scooters of 2020 with 125cc or thereabouts for displacement.
#4: 2021 Honda Super Cub C125 ABS
Despite looking like a scooter, the Super Cub C125 ABS qualifies as a motorcycle as it has proper pegs, not a full floor, for the rider to rest their feet upon. Having been in continuous production since 1958, the Super Cub is the single best selling motorcycle of all time by production volume, with well over 100 million produced and sold.
Powered by a tiny 125cc air cooled single putting out 9 HP , the Super Cub is not meant to set any speed records, but it will get you around town effectively and efficiently. The low seat height at 31 inches makes the bike usable by everyone short and tall, and the power is easy to manage and will not overwhelm the rider. And you get legendary Honda reliability as well.
#3: 2021 Kawasaki Z125 Pro
Billed by Kawasaki not as a mini motorbike, but as a “junior streetfighter,” the 2021 Z125 Pro is meant to be a little trouble maker. And with angles like it has, it definitely has the potential. More of a sporty naked than a runabout, it will still plaster a grin on your face on the ride to the corner store.
However, on the flip side, it is the most powerful of the bikes listed here today, with 15 HP from its 125cc single, which is horizontally mounted to keep as much weight down low and close to the center of gravity, which among these small bikes makes it extremely flickable, only adding to the fun factor.
#2: 2021 Honda Trail 125
Originally a motorcycle from the 60s and 70s, the original Honda Trail was a lightweight, durable, and surprisingly fun little adventure bike. It could get you into, and out of, wooded trails and campsites buried deep at the end of them, all while being totally serene about it all.
For 2021, Honda has decided to bring the Trail back to life with the Trail 125, which uses the same engine from the Super Cub C125, putting out about 9 HP. Unlike the Super Cub, it has beefier suspension, a built-in package/luggage shelf, and a semi-automatic four-speed transmission. This gives it not only the ability but also the credibility, of getting around off the beaten path and enjoying a mini-moto built for fun adventures!
#1: 2022 Honda GROM
Looking like something that would leap off the screen of a TV cartoon, the charm that the Honda GROM holds over many a rider is undeniable. The 2022 GROM has no real new mechanical parts, but it does have a few new color options including Cherry Red, Blue Raspberry, Incredible Green, and Halloween Orange. And yes, those are the official color names.
The GROM is the perfect little runabout bike if you need a sanity break from wrenching on your larger displacement bike, or need to hop down to the corner store for a couple of things to bring back in your backpack. As well, there are GROM clubs in many cities around the US and Canada, and it’s always comically brilliant to see a swarm of tiny little mini motorbikes go buzzing by.
#4: 2021 Benelli Caffenero 150
Leave it to the Italians to make even a small scooter look exciting. Instead of following the trend of European manufacturers to go as retro as possible, the Caffenero 150 is much more angular and sporty. It also can get up and go with a little more gusto than most, with a 150cc single pumping out 12.5 HP.
Of particular note is the fact that the Caffenero 150 has an estimated range of 180 to 200 miles. From a 2 US gallon tank. While being able to go up to about 60 MPH, 70 MPH with a good tailwind, and going downhill. So not only does it look Italian, but it also goes as an Italian scooter should.
#3: Piaggio Liberty S 150
While the Benelli above could be considered a “regular” scooter, the 2020 Piaggio Liberty S 150 is the “sport” model. With a 155cc producing nigh on 13 HP and using an automatic CVT transmission, this little scooter is able to beat many cars off the line and up to the speed limit.
It is also immensely handy, with a huge (for a scooter) storage compartment under the seat, a bag hook on the front column, and more than enough power to handle two-up riding on city streets. It’s not a Ferrari of the scooter world, but more of an Abarth model Fiat. Not surprising, as Piaggio is the parent company of supersport manufacturer Aprilia.
#2: Yamaha Zuma 125
The 2021 Yamaha Zuma 125 is one of those little things, like the Honda GROM, that is just silly, but in a great way. A lightweight scooter with pretty much everything slung down low and surprisingly stiffly sprung, the Zuma will still get you around the city comfortably.
It’s when you want to have a bit of fun that the Zuma perks up. It is amazingly tossable, has enough grunt to make cornering fun, and has impressively large brakes for a scooter, speaking to its fun-loving character. It’s no wonder that it’s often the favorite of scooter racers. Yes, scooter racing is a thing.
#1: 2021 Honda PCX150
For 2021, the Honda PCX150 sits perfectly at the center of the three most important things about scooters: efficiency, usability, and fun. Borrowing the styling from maxi-scooters, the PCX150 has a very city-friendly shape and makes two-up riding a breeze as well.
The 149cc engine also has some great poke, with 14 HP and a super-efficient fuel injection system that sees the efficiency approach 110 MPG. It also, unlike many scooters in the class, has a 12V accessory adapter, LED headlights, a bang-up-to-date digital dash, and enough storage to carry at least two decent bags of groceries under the seat.