2018 Kymco Spade 150, Xciting 400i ABS, Xtown 300i ABS, & Like 150i ABS - FIRST RIDE REVIEW

It’s always the quiet ones…

kymco spade 150 on-road action
Kymco Spade 150Michael Spain-Smith

While better-known manufacturers are beefing up their mid-sized motorcycle offerings, Kymco is quietly gaining ground in the scooter and mini-bike markets. This might be one of those brands you've heard of but can't quite place. Despite producing engines for Honda over the last three decades and churning out power plants for BMW, Kawasaki, and Arctic Cat, Kymco is probably cemented in your mind merely as a scooter brand. If that's the case, the first bike in this story may surprise you.

Kymco has a knack for building oddly named, affordable bikes with competitive features. Enter the soon-to-be-released 2018 models we recently tested at a soggy two-day press intro in Asheville, North Carolina. The first day included a stint on the Blue Ridge Parkway and various winding backroads aboard two maxi-scooters, one 400cc and one 300cc. The second day saw us winding around downtown and the hills above on two smaller bikes: a 150cc Italian-styled scooter and a 150cc motorcycle. So much for just scooters, then — here’s the new Spade 150.

While it is a direct competitor for the Honda Grom and Kawasaki Z125), the Spade has retro styling instead of the streetfighter look of the Grom, Z125, and earlier-model Kymco K-Pipe. Ironically, the bike's performance is sportier than its competition, thanks in part to the larger displacement and five-speed manual transmission. Unfortunately, with storms constantly passing through the Asheville area, the press ride stuck to city streets and tight, twisty roads outside town; thus we did not have the opportunity to test the Spade's top speed or highway performance. But then, these likely aren't items high on the list of Grom or Z125 owners.

kymco motorcycle dashboard details
An elemental instrument panel: everything you need, nothing you don’tMichael Spain-Smith

What I can say is this: the Spade is a hoot to ride, offering up a more visceral feel and relatively throatier growl than its similarly sized brethren. The air-cooled, 4-valve single produces a claimed 11.8 hp at 8,500 rpm and 8 lb-ft. of torque at 7,000 rpm, with power delivered quickly as the bike revs to redline in no time. First gear is only good up to about 10 mph, necessitating shifting almost immediately from a stop. Shifting again at 20 and then 35 mph felt about right. The EFI delivered fairly smooth response across the rev range; however, this was interrupted by some driveline lash when rolling on after a shift. The shift lever has an unusually long throw, complicating downshifting to 2nd and 1st gears even at low revs, though this could have been a function of our riding pre-production models.

A tubular steel frame and swingarm connect to 12” wheels (same as on the Grom and Z125), a departure from the K-Pipe’s 17” rims. Brakes are comprised of a single 220mm disc with dual-piston caliper up front and a 140mm drum in the rear, which provided ample stopping power for our sub-55-mph speeds. Hidden in the tail section is a secret (though non-locking) stash box; just pop the plastic cover off, and you can stow your wallet, multitool, and house keys.

kymco spade 150 headlight details
Styling touches like these sleek turn signals add to the Spade 150’s custom lookMichael Spain-Smith

Though the Spade has the lowest seat height in its class at 28”, the riding position did not feel cramped. A curb weight of 266 lbs. makes it over 30 lbs. heavier than the Kawasaki or Honda, but the low seat should help newer riders manage the additional weight. It's still incredibly easy to ride, being relatively light and very nimble. Despite the short wheelbase (47”), the Spade felt planted while navigating tight corners in the hills above Asheville.

Aimed squarely at the retro/custom market, the Spade will come out of the gate with custom aftermarket parts immediately available. MNNTHBX has already prepared styling and performance accessories, including custom triple clamps, clip-on bars, turn signals, rear fender, under-tail kit, exhaust, Öhlins shocks, and more. If the bike’s $2,999 price tag doesn’t max out your budget, you’ll have plenty of options for turning the Spade into a singularly entertaining ride.

custom kymco Spade 150 by mnnthbx
This custom Spade 150 is the work of small-bore specialists MNNTHBXMichael Spain-Smith
custom kymco Spade 150 by mnnthbx
Custom Spade 150 by MNNTHBXMichael Spain-Smith

Speaking of which, if you’ve never been on a group scooter ride in the center of an artsy metropolis, you are missing out on one of the greatest joys of motorcycling: laughing at yourself. You just can’t take anything seriously when you’re zipping past grinning pedestrians on a couple hundred ccs of humble power. And so we come to the scooters.

The all-new Xciting 400i ABS is the performance king of the lot. It will replace the current Xciting 500 ABS as the company’s flagship touring model, offering a lighter chassis and improved power delivery for sportier performance. At 451 lbs. wet, the Xciting 400i is the lightest of the bikes in its class. The engine offers smooth, abundant power, putting out a claimed 35 hp at 8,000 rpm and 26.6 lb-ft. of torque at 6,500 rpm. Unlike scooters that emphasize low-end torque for in-town speeds, this model’s 399cc, 4-valve single is tuned for mid- to high-end power for highway cruising and passing. This explains why the 400i gets on the pipe — or, rather, on the band — at 5,000 rpm, where the scooter suddenly feels noticeably faster and lighter. Despite this bias towards high-rpm power, the continuously variable transmission essentially ensures you’re always in the right gear, even when powering the bike up hills from a near-stop.

2018 Kymco Xciting 400i on-road action
2018 Kymco Xciting 400iMichael Spain-Smith

The chassis provides a stable, planted feel, thanks to a long wheelbase and wheel sizes that are larger than usual for its class. The Xciting 400i sports a 15” wheel up front and 14” in the rear, compared with the 14”/13” combination of some other maxi-scooters. The brakes work well enough, though having the bulk of the bike’s weight in the rear robs you of a lot of feedback up front, and the real stopping power comes from the rear brake.

The seating position is as comfortable as any touring scooter, with a broad, cushy seat, perfectly placed bars, and roomy floorboards. Given the seat’s wide stance, the 31.9” height made it a slightly long reach to the ground for my 31” inseam, putting me on the balls of my feet. Touring amenities include nearly 43 liters of illuminated underseat storage, a 12-volt power outlet in the glove box, digital speedo and gauges, and a 3.3-gallon tank that promises good range at sane speeds.

kymco xciting 400i running lights details
LED running lights on the Xciting 400i add visibility and ultra-modern stylingMichael Spain-Smith

The Xciting 400i’s most Xciting feature may be its price. At $5,999, it’s two grand less than the Suzuki Burgman 400 ABS and much cheaper than the Burgman Executive ($10,999, no ABS), Honda Silver Wing ABS ($9,270), and Yamaha TMAX ($10,490, no ABS).

If price is a concern, the Xtown 300i ABS is an attractive, if less exciting, option. This is the workhorse of the group, designed to transport you cheaply and efficiently while commuting or on weekend tours. For $3,999, you get a previous-generation, 276cc 2-valve single making a claimed 23 hp at 8,000 rpm and 16.6 lb-ft. of torque at 6,500 rpm. This engine is tuned for immediate, low-end grunt; it has a flat power curve with a much more limited top end than the Xciting 400i. It takes more effort to get the 300i up to higher speeds, but it chugs along solidly once at speed. Just don’t expect much when you need to pass a line of cars.

2018 Kymco Xtown 300i on-road action
2018 Kymco Xtown 300iMichael Spain-Smith

The ride is noticeably less comfortable than on the 400i. The suspension is a bit harsher over bumps in the road, owing to a combination of half-length fork legs and shorter travel rear shock (107 mm travel on the 400i, versus 100mm travel on the 300i). The 300i also has a smaller seat and slightly crunched ergonomics — even my 5’5” frame was a bit too large for the riding position. With a seat height of 30.7”, it’s at least more manageable for those of shorter stature.

As an upside, the Xtown 300i offers front-brake ABS as a standard feature, along with a lighted underseat cargo space, rear luggage rack, digital info display (with analog speedo and tach), and 3.3-gallon tank. The mirrors deserve an honorable mention as well, as they are the most easily adjustable I’ve ever used. All in all, the 300i has a strong feature set for a $4K scooter.

Next up is the Like 150i ABS. At $2,599, it’s the least expensive of any major manufacturer’s bike in its class, though it looks anything but cheap. Designed in Italy, the 150i might be the best deal of the bunch, with impressive styling and performance for the price. This bike has a new air-cooled, 4-valve, single-cylinder engine with improved balancing, a more rigid frame, and a low-to-the-ground fuel tank. All of which results in a peppy machine that is truly fun to ride.

kymco like 150i headlight details
Kymco calls this look “futuristic retro”Michael Spain-Smith

Light weight and a short wheelbase provide nimble handling both in town and on twisty, hilly roads. The fairly modest power is delivered smoothly and immediately, with a claimed max of 13.5 hp at 9,000 rpm and 8.7 lb-ft. of torque at 6,500 rpm. The brakes are almost overkill, as the rear offers more stopping power than you’re likely to need at slow speeds. However, given that this is primarily a city bike, it doesn’t hurt to have powerful, stable brakes.

Similar to its 400cc brother, the Like 150i offers lighted underseat cargo space and a USB power outlet in the glove box. One unique feature, coming in spring 2018 models, is the new Noodoe interactive display panel (think Instagram for scooters). Pairing with your phone via Bluetooth, the Noodoe shows gauges and your choice of photos while riding, and switches to social media notifications when the bike is stopped. It will also let you design your own dashboard, with a variety of customizable info displays.

kymco like 150i sidestand details
Beware the self-retracting sidestand. Even the Kymco reps warned us to use only the centerstand when parking the bikeMichael Spain-Smith

All of these bikes are slated to hit U.S. shores in August 2017, and perhaps this time this Taiwan-based brand won’t slide under the radar. Four significant new models in the Kymco lineup may just be enough to remind you that Kymco makes more than engines for someone else.

Jessica's Gear

2018 Kymco Spade 150 studio side view
2018 Kymco Spade 150Courtesy of Kymco
ENGINE TYPE Air-cooled, SOHC, 4-valve single
SEAT HEIGHT 28.1 in.
PRICE $2,999
2018 Kymco Like 150i ABS studio side view
2018 Kymco Like 150i ABSCourtesy of Kymco
ENGINE TYPE Air-cooled, SOHC, 4-valve single
SEAT HEIGHT 31.1 in.
PRICE $2,599
2018 Kymco Xtown 300i ABS studio side view
2018 Kymco Xtown 300i ABSCourtesy of Kymco
ENGINE TYPE Air-cooled, SOHC, 2-valve single
SEAT HEIGHT 30.7 in.
PRICE $3,999
2018 Kymco Xciting 400i ABS studio side view
2018 Kymco Xciting 400i ABSCourtesy of Kymco
ENGINE TYPE Air-cooled, SOHC, 4-valve single
SEAT HEIGHT 31.9 in.
PRICE $5,999
2018 Kymco Like 150i on-road action
2018 Kymco Like 150iMichael Spain-Smith
2018 Kymco Like 150i static side view
2018 Kymco Like 150iMichael Spain-Smith
2018 Kymco Spade 150 on-road action
2018 Kymco Spade 150Michael Spain-Smith
2018 Kymco Spade 150 static side view
2018 Kymco Spade 150Michael Spain-Smith
2018 Kymco Xtown 300i on-road action
2018 Kymco Xtown 300iMichael Spain-Smith
2018 Kymco Xciting 400i on-road action
2018 Kymco Xciting 400iMichael Spain-Smith