2016 Honda SH300i
The SH300i may look as conservative as Maggie Thatcher’s belly warmers but beneath the surface lies a power plant capable of some serious fun (not that I’d want any fun with the long dead ex-PM). Add into the equation a fine-handling chassis and this mild-mannered commuter suddenly turns into a wheel-spinning, tyre smoking urban missile and back road scratcher. On an SH 300i The Monday morning commute suddenly becomes a journey to look forward to.
Although the restyled 2016 model SH is sleek and classy the styling still might not be everybody’s cup of tea but overseas buyers know a good thing when they see/ride one and the SH is a top seller in many countries.
Over a million scooters have been shifted since the SH-line arrived 30 years ago, so Honda must be doing something right. In the UK, style often comes first. I’m guilty of crimes of aesthetics myself and often, metaphorically speaking, look at the mantelpiece whilst poking the fire. I like what I like; a scooter to me is a compromise between style, character and practicality. If being sensible was high on my list of priorities I wouldn’t still be riding a 1958 Lambretta long distances for weekend fun.
Even so, a classic scooter riding friend asked me for recommendations for a mid-capacity auto to use as a workhorse, I suggested the SH300i and sent him our tyre-smoking video, he still wasn’t impressed. That’s one of the barriers to selling modern scooters in the UK, looks and perception are deemed more important than what a machine is actually capable of. He wasn’t interested in a 90mph scooter that can handle, stop and beat bikes off the line. He wanted something with a ‘look at me’ paint job and sportier looks. You can only tell people though, the uninitiated must seek enlightenment.
I also have another little secret. Whilst having the SH in my garage for a fortnight, my classic and modern scooters got overlooked, I took the SH out at every opportunity. A 500-mile two’s up round-trip to Devon for a night out, no problem. 450-mile trip to Southend for a test ride, then on to Stansted airport to fly out for a launch… sorted. I did almost 1000 miles in just four days. Riding for both business and pleasure. So let’s have a look at what makes this urban warrior so much fun in a world where something this ordinary looking shouldn’t really stand out from the crowd.
The 2016 Honda SH300i
Heavily reworked and revised for 2016 the new Honda SH300i has evolved into a more dynamic machine both in terms of looks and performance.
Let’s start with the engine. It was the first Euro 4 compliant version from Honda. It’s a 279cc single-cylinder, liquid-cooled lump, controlled as you’d expect by PGM-FI fuel injection. It utilises a SOHC 4-valve head and has a peak power of 24.8bhp and peak torque of 25.5nm.
The engine has been developed to be punchy off the line and have a good spread of low to mid-range grunt. Internally, low friction bearings and a revised cam profile help to give the scooter good fuel economy. When ridden sensibly, it achieves 33.3km/l on the WMTC testing routine (World Motorcycle Testing thingamajig). In reality I was harming the Japanese efforts at saving the planet by riding it like a loon. Even so I was achieving around 120 miles to a tank and having much more FPM (Fun Per Mile) than MPG. Isn’t that what riding is all about? If I wanted to save the planet I’d wear shoes fashioned from my own faeces, commute by foot and live off the land.
My fuel economy, according to the on-board computer was 51.2mpg but don’t dwell on that figure, I’d imagine that could be up into the high 70s-80s if ridden sympathetically. That fuel figure was mostly done on the motorways of Great Britain, with the on-off switch pinned wide open. Sorry Greenpeace.
Despite significant reworking the SH is still instantly recognisable, it’s simply been refined. Modern LED lights look the part, are brighter than the old ones and reduce engine drain so help with efficiency. Overall weight has been reduced by a kilo and new 16” wheels help to give the SH a confident feel on the road. Honda have also introduced a Smart Key, keyless ignition. With the Smart Key you can start the scooter from two metres away and also open the seat. It took me a while to fathom it out when I first got the scooter, I’d fumble with the blue-lit dial after pressing the button to unlock it and struggle to get the steering lock off. It was operator error rather than electronic obstinance. Once I got to the last resort – reading the manual – I sussed it out. Surely ‘womanual’ would have been a better name for an instruction book, blokes don’t bother to read them until they’re ready to smash things with a large hammer…
On the road
What makes the Honda SH300i so much fun? To be honest it doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary but it does everything very well. In normal day-to-day use it’s quick off the mark, stable at low speeds. It’s nimble and is great for cutting through traffic. Those 16” wheels make a difference over rougher surfaces and the upright riding position is comfortable and helps you to be seen over the roof of cars. All good attributes for a city scooter.
The engine is powerful and smooth, so it accelerates well. Gaps can be filled, overtakes done quickly without fuss and the front and rear discs are outstanding. As is the norm from Honda, their ABS system is close to perfection. It’s there in the background if you need it but it doesn’t turn up to spoil the party if you’re simply out having a bit of fun. Nobody likes a party-pooper.
Back road scratcher?
Head out of the city and the SH takes on a new persona, that mild-mannered commuter likes to let its hair down now and again. Back road scratching, corner hunting fun is the name of the game. The Honda loves bends, the Metzeler Feelfree tyres are designed specifically for high-performance scooters and they stick well in the wet or dry. The 130/70-16 rear gives you the confidence to enjoy yourself. I loved every mile on the SH but twisty country roads were where it comes alive. Bikers really need to give a half decent scooter a try, the more you ride them the more fun you’ll have. They may not have supersonic top speeds but that doesn’t dilute the fun. Get one out on to a decent stretch of road with a rider who likes to enjoy him, or herself and you’ll realise you’ve been missing a trick by sticking to a bike with more power and potential than most riders will ever be able to do justice. Riding scooters quickly is where the real fun is…
Looking at the SH I wouldn’t instantly think of it as a two’s-up weekend away scooter but my passenger is always the first to let me know if she’s not happy. Heading down to Devon for a last-minute dash to a scooter rally was the first time she’d been on-board. It was a cold Saturday morning, in fact despite it being the end of April when we tested it, we ended up riding through a blizzard and plenty of rain but she was quite happy on the back.
The stepped dual seat is roomy and comfortable, without being overly high. The pegs are well positioned so she could reach them easily enough and she didn’t moan, always a bonus. She covered 500 miles on the back for a night out, no complaints. That’s almost unheard of, so that makes the SH a great scooter for a weekend away, albeit with limitations on luggage space. Extra space can be added though if need be.
Power: 24.8bhp @7500rpm
Torque: 25.5nm @ 5000rpm
Suspension: 35mm telescopic front fork, twin rear shock absorbers
Brakes: Front and rear discs with two-channel ABS
Tyres: Front 110/70-16, rear 130/70-16
Seat height: 805mm
Dimensions: Length 2131mm, width 728mm, wheelbase 1193mm
Fuel capacity: 9 litres
Colours: Pearl white, Pearl Nightstar Black