As many of the world’s residents move into densely packed urban areas, affordable, practical transportation has become even more important. But a vehicle that is easy to park and sips fuel has to be balanced against enough utility to carry important items, like groceries, a laptop or books for school. Small-displacement scooters, such as the 2013 Honda Metropolitan, don’t have the steep, often intimidating learning curve of a motorcycle, making them a viable two-wheel option.
Last available stateside in 2009, the Metropolitan has received key updates that should make it an even better alternative to mass transit. Possibly the most important improvement is a brand-new, air-cooled, two-valve, sohc, 50cc Single with Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI). Thanks to an auto-enrichment function, the Metropolitan fires right up and requires virtually no warm-up time before it’s ready to roll. Electric starting is backed by a kicker, just in case.
No one will ever call the Metropolitan “powerful” or “snappy,” but the new engine provides decent acceleration given its small size. Throttle response is crisp, which gives the impression that Honda squeezed every last drop of performance from the little Single. As for top speed, don’t expect to venture outside of town (or pit lane); I observed an indicated 42 mph, but that was downhill with a tailwind! On flat ground, expect to see no better than 35 mph on the speedometer, which resides in a redesigned dash.
Handling is light and quick. The Metropolitan carries its claimed 179 pounds (fully fueled, ready to ride) low, which, combined with 10-inch front and rear bias-ply tires, provides excellent maneuverability. Drum brakes at both ends get the job done, but they aren’t terribly powerful. To extract the most from the system, Honda mechanically linked the brakes rear to front when the rider squeezes the left handlebar-mounted lever. The front brake operates independently via the right lever.
Despite its small size, the Metro has lots of storage space. Accessing the 22-liter underseat compartment is easy: Simply turn the ignition key halfway between “On” and “Off” and push in, releasing the latch. A full-face helmet fits just fine. Additionally, in front of the rider’s knees, an open storage compartment for smaller items includes space for a 1-liter drink bottle. Above this, a large hook will safely secure a small bag of groceries.
Perhaps the Metropolitan’s two biggest selling points are its claimed 117-mpg fuel economy and $1999 suggested retail price ($50 less than in ’09). The other improvements simply sweeten the deal.