Honda’s Ruckus and Metropolitan 50cc scooters are just toooo slow, and its 541-pound Silver Wing is just toooo big. And expensive. This new Forza slots into the lineup nicely. Its 279cc sohc four-valve liquid-cooled single pushes it easily and reasonably quickly up to 85 mph, which means freeway blasts are no problem, and its 424-pound wet weight (Honda’s claim) means it’s pretty easy to wedge in and out between the lawn mower and the bicycles and all the other garage junk. On the other hand, its all-encompassing bodywork makes it a great candidate for sleeping under the stars; just rinse and ride.
She’s pretty well appointed for a scooter, with full instrumentation that includes a 9,000-rpm tach, fuel gauge, temp gauge, and clock. An average fuel-consumption gauge stares prominently from center stage, where it vacillated between 56 and 68 mpg during my couple of months with the Forza—while my actual mileage was closer to 60-62. Honda says the tank holds three gallons, so you should be good for 180 miles. I was never brave enough to look at the needle on empty for that long.
There’s a locking glove box on the left side with a 12V cigarette lighter socket inside, and a non-locking one on the right. Two helmets will fit under the seat if you arrange them just right, and there’s another helmet lock to hang one outside the seat. Storage is pretty good, but sort of narrow and downsloping toward the front of the scooter, where small objects wind up being awkward to retrieve since the seat doesn’t open all that far up. It would be easier to get stuff out of there if the seat hinged at the rear, wouldn’t it? But some wiseacre told me that’s probably a liability thing; somebody might attempt to transport a boxcar spring and be flung off into traffic. Speaking of which, Contributing Editor Jamie Elvidge wasn’t too fond of the passenger seat, feeling like she might slide off the back.
Slightly recumbent seating fits people not much taller than about 5-foot-10 best; our biggest staff member, at 6-foot-4, didn’t like the way the Forza and its seat bolster locked him in place a bit too far forward. The fact that you’re sitting a little more feet-forward than on most scooters makes you look for smooth lines on your commute; the twin shocks out back (with progressive springs) blow through their 3.8 inches of travel pretty easily over bumps. But the rider’s part of the seat is nice and plush, the grips are right where God intended, and the low windshield bores a clean, buffet-free hole in the air. Headlight’s nice and bright, too.
No complaints performance-wise. Even quickish Audis and loud Electra Glides (is there any other kind?) seem surprised when you holeshot them, and the Forza’s CVT is completely glitch-free, along with its fuel injection; an indicated 80-85 mph comes up quick enough to maintain that lead, even with Jamie on back, and she’s stable as most motorcycles at that speed. The Forza, that is. Squeezing the right brake lever makes you think the brakes could be better; squeezing the left one too reminds you these brakes are linked, and the Forza stops hard when you use both. A standard Forza costs $5,599, but our ABS version leaves the dealer at $6,099.
That’s not an unreasonable amount for a scooter as versatile as this, but when I first started riding the Forza, I thought for not much more money I’d way rather have one of the most functional motorcycles Honda’s produced in years—the NC700X—which has almost as much storage as the Forza, gets about the same mpg in spite of having way more power and performance, and is capable of taking you pretty much anywhere. (The automatic NC gets like 52 mpg; the six-speed manual returns fuel mileage figures in the 60s.) Then I spent enough time on the Forza to realize it’s a completely different experience. The Forza encourages you to explore your own backyard, to stop at places you’ve driven past a thousand times; its low CG wants you to be centered in your own hometown, which is actually kind of nice in a wandering-the-beach-with-metal-detector sort of way.
Yup, some people just want a dead-reliable low-maintenance scooter. Maybe your garage already has a sportbike and a sport-tourer and good on you. Just peek at the Forza’s coolant window now and then, check the oil dipstick occasionally, fire and forget. The poor thing only holds 1.5 quarts of oil, and Honda says you only need to change it every 8000 miles or 12 months. Seems so cruel, but some things thrive on abuse. For leaving neglected out in the rain and hopping on at a minute’s notice to run errands in your kilt, this one is a Forza to be reckoned with. Sorry.
|ENGINE TYPE||279cc liquid-cooled four-stroke single|
|BORE & STROKE||72.0mm x 68.6mm|
|VALVE TRAIN||SOHC; four-valve|
|INDUCTION||PGM-FI with automatic enrichment|
|TRANSMISSION||Honda V-Matic belt-converter continuously variable automatic transmission|
|FRONT SUSPENSION||35mm telescopic fork; 3.7 inches travel|
|REAR SUSPENSION||Twin shock; 3.9 inches travel|
|FRONT BRAKE||Single 256mm disc with three-piston caliper with CBS|
|REAR BRAKE||240mm disc with single-piston caliper with CBS, Combined ABS|
|RAKE (CASTER ANGLE)||27º|
|SEAT HEIGHT||28.2 inches|
|FUEL CAPACITY||3.0 gallons|
|FUEL ECONOMY ESTIMATE**||68 mpg|
|CURB WEIGHT*||424 pounds|