PCX as a Commuter Scooter
If you’ve been browsing our reviews for a while, you’ll notice a marked lack of Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, BMW & Vespa reviews. That’s because these manufacturers won’t provide “media” scooters to us. JustGottaScoot.com is not considered a “real” website because we don’t accept advertising dollars. When we do get a Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, BMW, Vespa or Piaggio scooter to review, it’s because of the kindness of a local scooterist who owns one, the kindness of a local dealer, or because we bought the scooter. In this case it’s a combination of the last two. Scooterville in Minneapolis knew we wanted to review a PCX AND they offered us a good deal on a nearly-new low mileage one.
The Honda PCX 150 is made in Thailand. We have reviewed the Honda Elite 110 that is made in China and were impressed with the component and build quality. Honda has a well-deserved reputation for quality products. Will the PCX 150 contribute to that reputation? Let’s have a look.
Speedometer Reading/Speed/Fuel Economy
Not since our review of the Kymco People 150 have I had such a thoroughly broken in scooter to test. No excuses about this being a “new” scooter when it comes to mileage and top speed. I do still plan to utilize the excuse of a heavyweight test pilot, but that’s certainly not the fault of the scooter in question. The exposed bar of the PCX made it super-simple to mount a GPS and begin testing. Surprise, surprise, the Honda PCX 150 is very nearly spot on in speed and distance. The VAST majority of scooters we test are optimistic to the tune of 10% – 15%. Not so with the PCX, at an indicated 30 MPH the actual speed was….. 30 MPH. At 40 MPH indicated the actual speed was 39 MPH and at 50 MPH indicated the actual speed was 48 MPH. The Honda PCX 150 is ever so slightly optimistic. The odometer was right on with our actual test of 11 miles indicating 11 miles. The top speed I saw on the GPS was 63 MPH on a level surface.
Fuel economy was very good. I ran three tests of varying distances. The first test was only over 50 miles and included my searching for that top speed and some highway runs. That time I got 80 MPG. The next test was 50 miles of just about all parkway riding at 30MPH – 40MPH and I saw 93 MPG. The last was the cumulative mileage over 180 miles and included the first two checks for an average of 88 MPG.
The Honda PCX 150 is powered by a 153cc liquid-cooled, fuel-injected single cylinder 4-stroke engine and gets power to the 14 inch rear wheel through an automatic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). The first thing I noticed when starting the scooter is how quiet that process is. The PCX doesn’t have a conventional bendix starter motor, but instead utilizes the alternator as a direct drive starter.
The control configuration is MOSTLY standard for a modern automatic scooter. The left hand controls the rear and front brakes – linked brakes are more commonly found in larger machines. The high and low beam headlight switch is on top with the horn coming next and the turn signal switch on the bottom. This is a little unusual, the horn is typically on the bottom and I hit the horn switch by mistake thinking I was cancelling the turn signals more than once. The right hand controls the throttle, front brake, engine kill switch and electric starter. The multi-function key operated switch is also set up just a little differently from the standard configuration. There is a security cover to help prevent punching out the ignition (becoming a fairly standard feature). There is also a key position between “ON” and “OFF” that allows the switch to the right of the key-switch to operate the seat and fuel filler door releases. Kind of cool. There is a parking brake lever on the left side lower down on the leg shield interior.
The mirrors spaced a touch close for me. Luckily there are several good choices for mirror extenders if you need a wider field of view. Lighting is adequate. The headlight is good, but the brake and turn signal indicators are conventional bulbs. LED would have been nice. The dash is straight-forward and basic. A large round analog speedometer in the center, turn signal indicators on either side in the upper position, a temperature warning light in the left/center position along with the mode button and a high beam indicator below that. On the right side of the speedometer is a digital multifunction display in the center and an engine indicator in the lower position. The digital pod includes a fuel gauge and odometer. The mode button displays and resets the trip meter.
Storage is adequate with a small glove box and good underseat space. The tall tunnel eliminates any possibility of floorboard storage. I had no problem fitting my XXL three-quarter helmet under the seat. Adding a topcase requires the addition of a mount and it looks to me like drilling out the cover of the existing grab rail is the only way to attach a topcase mount.
The PCX 150 seat is large enough for two and there are flip-out foot pegs to accommodate a passenger. The seat on the 2013 PCX 150 suffers from somewhat restrictive ergonomics. One of the changes for the PCX in 2015 includes a modified seat that is supposed to be more accommodating. More on the seat as we look at the ergonomics of the PCX.
The Honda PCX fired up quietly and just about instantly (thank you alternator/direct drive starter) and I gave a moment to finding a comfortable riding position. The bars are just a touch low and rearward for my personal taste, but I got used to the position very quickly and didn’t find it inhibiting my comfort. The seat has a fixed position support for the driver that is right on the edge of intrusive for me. Seat height is 29 inches and the floorboards on either side of the tunnel offer both flat and foot-forward positions for the rider. At 5′ 8″ with a 29 ” inseam, I was just fine with the ergonomics. Beverly also rode the PCX and she was completely happy with the ergonomics (she’s 5′ 5″). I took off the small support, but that left two large holes and a loose seat cover. Beverly didn’t want to hear about giving up that support as she quite liked it. Yes, as you probably have figured out, the Honda PCX 150 is best suited to average and shorter riders. The new seat for 2015 may address this. Of course some custom seat work could also change the ergonomics considerably. I noticed a large number of custom seats for the PCX on eBay and none of them had that little support so I’m pretty sure a lot of taller riders have already come up with a fix for the factory seating position.
Nearly instant starting, smooth idle, flawless function, yes there’s good reason for Honda to have the reputation they do. 14 inch wheels front and rear and adequate if a touch soft suspension gives a VERY compliant ride over what passes for roads in the Twin Cities these days. Right out of the parking lot and on to Minnehaha Parkway and I hit a big pothole at about 40 MPH. The PCX soaked it right up. I felt it, but it was not nearly as jarring as it would have been on most other scooters. On smoother roads (when I could find them) the PCX returned a comfortable, confident, just-a-little-soft ride. I headed on to a highway to test Honda’s claimed “faster” performance. Honda lists the top speed of the PCX 150 at 70 MPH, but I was not able to achieve that. 63 MPH was all I could get out of it. OK, so the PCX 150 is probably NOT the best choice for a highway scooter, but I don’t really know of ANY 150cc scooter that IS. Short highway runs at 60ish were no problem and the 14 inch wheels on the PCX gave a more stable ride at that speed than smaller-wheeled scooters. I’ve said it before, if you need regular highway performance get a scooter in the 250cc to 350cc class.
Braking was good, not dramatic, and easy to modulate under normal conditions. The disc front and drum rear combination is strong enough for a scooter of this size and the linked brakes help in most conditions. For those times when sand, wet leaves, loose gravel, etc., are present, I’d rather have the ability to lead with just the rear brake. I pushed the PCX a bit with several sequential hard stops and the brakes worked fine with no noticeable fade. Pushing the handling envelope surprised me a bit. Given the soft feel of the suspension, I expected to bottom it out pretty quickly under hard use but was pleasantly surprised by how far I could push the PCX. It’s not a Blur by any means, but had better handling than I expected.
Acceleration is good considering the relatively large size of the PCX. At 279 pounds, it’s one of the heavier scooters in its class. It’s responsive off the line if not quick. Acceleration is linear up to about 50 MPH and then steps down a bit until it reaches top speed. Roll-on was good from 15MPH to 40MPH but was a little hesitant at higher speeds. The body of the PCX provides good protection from wind, weather and road grim up to a point and that point is about mid-torso. The upper part of the rider is completely exposed and one feels it. There are aftermarket windshields in mid and tall heights so those seeking more coverage can find it.
Fit & Finish
It’s a Honda. Yes, it’s a Thailand Honda as opposed to a Japan Honda, but it’s still a great example of first class components and manufacture. The fit of the body panels is flawless as is the color-coat. Glossy, even and durable are the words that come to mind. The switches and controls feel solid and I would expect them to hold up over time. Nothing squeaks, nothing rattles, everything works.
Honda PCX 150 vs. The Competition
For this review, I chose to compare the Honda PCX with the Genuine Hooligan and Piaggio Fly. The PCX and Hooligan share a modern, utilitarian appearance and even the Fly’s more classic layout is an updated version of the traditional scooter look. I did not include the Vespa LX 150 or Primevara 150 because of the much higher price and clearly classic look and layout. I don’t believe that Vespa buyers are potential PCX buyers. I also didn’t include any scooter that is carbureted as opposed to fuel injected. That being said, if pressed on the matter, I will admit that my current favorite 150cc fun scooter AND favorite utilitarian scooter are both carbureted….. and no longer available. For fun, the Genuine Buddy Black Jack. For utility, the Kymco People 150. Too bad you can’t buy either unless you find a used one.
OK, back to the reality of scooters that ARE currently available in the 150ish class. The Honda PCX offers liquid cooling, fuel injection, 14 inch wheels and Honda quality. The Genuine Hooligan has friendlier ergonomics over a broader range of sizes and better brakes. The Paiggio Fly 150 3V has excellent quality, performance, looks and ergonomics. In my opinion, all three scooters are great choices but I would have to give the Fly 150 a slight advantage overall. That’s just my opinion and I freely admit it’s based on my preference for the looks and comfort of the Piaggio.
The Honda PCX 150 is a wonderful scooter. The build quality is second to none and I expect reliability to be class-leading. Having shelled out good money for this scooter, I plan to play with it a bit and set it up as my idea of an ideal commuter. That’s going to mean a taller windshield, a topcase, and probably some work on the seat. Stay tuned to see how it all comes out. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a modern, practical scooter you’d have a hard time doing better than getting a PCX.
The Honda PCX as a Daily Commuter
Clearly, I’m not the only one who thinks the Honda PCX 150 would make an excellent daily commuter as long as regular extended highway use isn’t part of that commute. Criag from California has a PCX with a taller windshield and topcase added as well as a full body wrap on the scooter. He makes regular use of the scooter in his dog walking and pet sitting business (www.CraigsCrazyCritters.com). While I’ll certainly add some reflective checkerboard someplace on the PCX, I don’t think I’m going for the full wrap. I did add a Givi taller windshiled and a SHAD topcase to our Honda PCX 150. My regular daily commute to the office includes 22 miles (round trip) and I have a LOT of route options. From 30MPH – 35MPH surface streets to 45MPH surface thoroughfares to 55MPH highways. I have a lot of choices on how to get to and from work. I also have frequent need to visit clients in the metro area and several “regulars” are within easy distance of my office. Let’s see how the PCX does on a daily basis.
I have a couple of features that I really like on a commuter scooter: some protection at least of the torso and enough storage to handle my man-purse (briefcase) and small items. The extremely short screen on the front of the PCX just didn’t cut it for me, so I ordered a Givi medium height windshield. I got the one with the slight tint because I thought it would look good on the PCX. I have NOT had great luck with Givi windshields, and this one was no exception. To replace the factory screen, one removes two screws inset above the headlight and CAREFULLY removes the thin plastic cover/panel at the base of the screen. From there, everything is exposed and it’s just four bolts. Off with the old and on with the new. CRACK!!!! I didn’t even flex the new Givi windshiled hard, just lined it up with the existing mounting points, and it cracked all the way through from the mounting hole to the edge. This area is very thin and I’m surprised that it wasn’t designed with more material there. From past experience I know that Givi doesn’t offer any warranty or service of any kind – for example, it’s not possible to order replacement grommets without purchasing complete new mounting brackets. A grommet from Grainger, a couple of washers, and the broken Givi is mounted. I’m happy with the height. I covers my torso and allows me to easily see over the top edge of the windshield.
Next up was a topcase. Now I’ll admit that I have had better experiences with Givi topcases than their windshileds. The Honda PCX doesn’t come with a luggage rack and, frankly, I didn’t like the look of the combined small backrest/rack from BikerBitz. I just want to mount a topcase. The Honda OEM topcase kit was $350, more than I wanted to spend. I went for the SHAD system. The proprietary PCX mount is part number HOPC10ST and the MSRP is $64. I picked the SH39, a 39 liter capacity topcase that some would consider a bit big for the PCX, but I need something that can hold my briefcase. The MSRP on the SH39 is $185. For a combined total of $249, one can have what I consider a better quality and more usable topcase at $100 LESS than the Honda OEM package.
I’ve had VERY good luck with SHAD products. They are often a bit less expensive than Givi and of equal if not better quality. To install ANY kind of rear rack on a Honda PCX, you will need to do some drilling. The rear grab rail is covered by a hard plastic piece that is easy to remove. Turn it over and you’ll see round markings that line up with the existing threaded receiving nuts that already exist on the lower part of the grab rail structure. I drilled a small pilot hole in the middle of each of the four marked locations and utilized a drill press to drill out the rest of the large hole. I believe it’s supposed to be 22mm, but I didn’t have a bit that size so I used 7/8 inch and was fine. When you lay the plastic cover over the grab rail you’ll see that you now have clear access to the four receivers. I re-attached the plastic grab rail cover and the SHAD mount fit perfectly. Just bolt it down and you’re ready to add the base that came with the topcase. One of the reasons I like the SHAD so much is that it’s easy to take on and off and mounts securely when locked on. Two keys are provided with the topcase. In the locked position, the topcase is closed AND secured to the base. Unlock it and one can open and close the topcase AND easily remove it from the base for use as luggage. Very practical.
The SHAD SH39 passed my test – it held my man-purse/briefcase. It also held my full-face XXL helmet with room to spare. The same PCX mount will accommodate the base from any size SHAD topcase. The smaller ones like the SH29 will hold a helmet a lot of people think they look more appropriate on a scooter the size of the Honda PCX. I suppose I could have gone for the very large SH50 which I have on my Suzuki Burgman 650…. but, yeah, THAT would look too odd on the PCX, even for me.
Armed with better wind protection and some luggage, I started commuting on the PCX. October in Minnesota can swing either way – gorgeous autumn or early winter. This year (2014) has been one of the good ones. The mornings may be nippy, but I’ve been enjoying afternoons in the high 50s and low 60s. My regular work commute is 22 miles round trip. I have several routes to pick from including highways, surface roads and some parkways. The PCX has been wonderful on all the routes. In fairness, the highway commutes have been at speeds of 50 – 55 MPH IF I’M LUCKY. Rush hour on Highway 36 is mostly slow. Those of you from the Twin Cities know what I’m talking about. There are plenty of days that I don’t get above 45 MPH on the highway during the entire trip. I’ll continue to commute on the PCX as much as I can this season. Over the winter I’m considering some seat modifications to the PCX and I’ll report on those changes as they occur.
So far, the Honda PCX 150 has been a very fine commuting machine as long as highway use is limited. It’s comfortable, reliable, cheap to run, and offers a wonder attitude adjustment after a long day at the office that I just don’t get from any car.