On a chilly, gray fall day at the M1 Concourse in Pontiac, Michigan, myself and several other local journalists became the first to take a hands on look at Honda’s briefcase-sized answer to that last little bit of any adventure; the all-electric Motocompacto.
As someone with the body of a heavy reader with complex medical problems, I was not sure how I’d handle the Motocompacto. Part of me considered not going on the drive at all. I stay away from two wheeled conveyances because my balance is pitiful and some days I hurt myself just walking. I’ve recently become nervous on bicycles, and have never ridden a motorcycle or moped. So a rectangle with a seat and two narrow solid tires seemed like a big ask.
While the Motocompacto looks very futuristic, it’s based on a foldable scooter sold in Japan between 1981 and 1983 called the Motocompo. It was a trunk scooter included with the subcompact Honda City. The Motocompo was designed to fit perfectly in the City’s trunk but it wasn’t exactly a last-mile solution. First off, the Motocompo weighed just under 100 pounds. By the time you parked your City and luged the ’80s Motocompo out of the back, you’re already starting to sweat. And it’s not like you can easily get it up and down stairs in apartments, so you’d better hope there was some empty parking for your Motocompo nearby. The old ’compo also required liquid fuel to motivate its 2.5-horsepower, 49-cc two-stroke engine.
Our new friend is much more in keeping with the original vision of the Motocompo, if not the execution. This svelte little fella comes in at only 41 pounds. It can handle 265 pounds of human and is specially designed to be comfortable for the majority of people, regardless of height. The seat and handles are non adjustable, so if you’re very tall, you might have a hard time. But then again, you already do with all the jokes about playing basketball and the weather up there.
The Motocompacto comes with a permanent magnet, direct drive 250 watt motor with 11.8 lb-ft of torque going to the front wheel. Its 36-volt, lithium-ion battery takes about 3 to 3.5 hours to charge to its full 12-mile range on a regular outlet and it comes with two drive modes — one, which increases speed slowly and two, which takes the ride from 0 to full throttle in no time. There’s no key, no ignition. Just press the small throttle on the handle forward and wooosh to a top speed of 15 mph — a surprisingly easy maximum to reach on the narrow scooter.
Honda says you can pick up this little guy for $995 via its dealer network in a few weeks, though there are no current plans to include it as an optional addition when ordering a vehicle. Everything on the bike is serviceable at a dealer or by the owner. A few screws are all that stand between you and replacing a battery pack or the rear drum brake yourself. An accompanying app allows the owner to take it apart, put it back together, or order parts for delivery to your home or to your Honda dealer.
When parked, the Motocompacto can fold up the handle bars and seat. A small lock ring on the bottom of the kickstand allows you to protect your precious ’compacto on the mean city streets. Everything is waterproofed to the nines, so it can stay parked outside in any weather if needed.
The entire set up all clicks and folds together quite nicely with redundant levers and seals to keep the rider safe. Once you get the hang of where to clamp down what, the bike comes together and apart relatively quickly.
Will the Motocompacto shake the transportation world? Probably not. Just driving it around on a chilly day in Pontiac brought up so many questions; how do the narrow, airless tires handle snow and ice? (Not well.) How about cracked sidewalk? (See previous answer.) That pretty much discounts it as a workhorse in any spread-out, northern rust belt town. But it’s great for who it’s for; city dwellers who need to a fun-as-hell way to travel short distances, possibly from a parked car back to an apartment. Or the tech-obsessed suburban adult who wants to zoom along with their scooter-riding kids. The Motocompacto definitely has a place in our transportation landscape, it’s just not nearly as universal as Honda seems to hope.
More from Jalopnik