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Honda Motocompacto – return of the Motocompo?

Has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including most of the world’s biggest bike titles, as well as dabbling in car and technology journalism.



Motocompacto logo 1


Above: New Motocompacto trademark shows stylised logo of new folding, self-balancing electric bike

For a bike that was only sold in Japan and discontinued after only two years having failed to meet its planned sales targets the Honda Motocompo has become something of a global celebrity. Everyone seems to be familiar with the tiny folding bike that was intended to fit in the boot of a car and used as ‘last mile’ transport to get you into busy city centres, even though it was only ever offered for sale in Japan and was discontinued nearly 40 years ago.

Now it looks increasingly like Honda has ideas of revisiting the concept, having trademarked the name ‘Motocompacto’ in 2020 and now added a new trademark for logo to go alongside the name, showing an icon-style outline of a suitcase-shaped motorcycle.

While the original Motocompo failed to hit its planned 10,000 sales-per-month target in Japan, with a total of 53,000 finding buyers during its two-year run from 1981 to 1983, the idea behind it appears to be a sound one. With city centres increasingly unfriendly to four-wheeled traffic and growing use of low-speed electric scooters (something Honda is investing in with its Striemo sub-brand in Japan), the idea of a bike-in-your-boot makes more sense than ever.


Original Motocompo


Above: The original Motocompo wasn’t a sales success, but the idea has lived on

The Motocompo perhaps failed to attract the sales Honda hoped for because it was still a petrol-powered machine, and not the easiest thing to ride. That meant it smelt of petrol in the boot of the car and didn’t appeal to casual commuters. Electric scooters solve both those problems, so unsurprisingly the Motocompacto will be battery-powered.

Honda’s trademark application states that the logo seen here is to be used on ‘Land vehicles, namely, self-balancing electric scooters’ – so not only will the bike be electric, but have some sort of control system to prevent it from falling over. Whether that’s a gyro-based system or something more like Honda’s Riding Assist concept, which automatically steered the front wheel to balance itself, even when stationary, in much the same way that a trials rider does, isn’t clear (but the effort Honda has put into the latter system means it’s sure for production eventually).

From the look of the bike in Honda’s logo, the Motocompacto will essentially be a box on wheels, suggesting that there’s luggage space inside. In fact, it looks more like a wheeled suitcase than a conventional motorcycle or scooter – but for the sake of practicality, that shape might make sense.

With more than two years between the initial trademarking of the Motocompacto name and the new logo, it looks like it’s a project that’s been underway for quite some time and one that might be set to be officially announced fairly soon.



Above: Honda’s unreleased 2011 design and the same year’s Moto Compo concept

Honda has toyed with the Motocompo idea several times since the original. In 2011 the firm registered designs showing photos of a prototype scooter that looked like a stretched version of the original Motocompo, powered by an existing four-stroke single, but despite its production-style appearance the machine was never unveiled officially. The same year, Honda showed the Moto Compo, an electric folding bike designed – like the original – to fit inside a car. Ten years before that, in 2001, Honda showed the e-Dax (below) and e-NSR as a duo of folding electric concepts at the Tokyo Motor Show.


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