Honda SH125i (2020) – Real world UK scooter test and review

 

With the UK government advising the population to avoid public transport for the foreseeable future, now, more than ever before, your choice of transport can have a massive impact on your health and well-being. Alternatives need to be quick, easy, cheap, reliable, and most importantly, safe to use in a socially distanced society.

The rest of Europe realised the advantages of scooters long ago, but the UK has been slow to follow, until now. The MCIA recently announced that scooter sales were up 43% in June 2020 compared to June 2019, and with a proliferation of value for money scooters available, we put Honda's middle-range bike, the facelifted for 2020 Honda SH125i through its paces, to see if this could be the silver bullet that everyone is looking for.

 

The 2020 SH125i is available in Pearl Cool White, Pearl Nightstar Black, Timeless Grey Metallic and Pearl Splendour Red

 

2020 HONDA SH125I Price

While Honda's extensive range of 125cc scooters starts at a very pocket-friendly £2,749 for the SH125 Mode (think of this as an SH-lite), the 2020 SH125i on test here retails at £3,459.

That puts the SH right in the middle of Honda's range (as detailed below in the rivals) but still represents excellent value when we look in detail at what's included.

The most obvious revision for 2020 is that the 32L colour-coded top-box is now standard fit - this was previously a £180 accessory. Our model on test is also fitted with a large screen and hand guards from the accessories catalogue, raising the on-the-road price to £3,630 (inc VAT).

The majority of scooters however, destined for utilitarian life of urban commuting, will be purchased under PCP or Hire Purchase schemes and it's here where the SH125i really shines. Available on PCP for a £250 deposit and just £66.57 per month (for 36 months) with a final payment of £1,161.81, or, if you prefer, a £250 deposit and £94.26 per month for 36 months  with nothing else to pay under Hire Purchase, whichever way you look at it, personal transport for less than £100 per month is nothing to be sniffed (or should that be coughed?) at. HP and PCP deals are always changing, so to make sure you get the latest info, check the Honda Website or with your local dealer.

 

We put Honda

 

Rivals

Ever since the inception of the C50 Cub, Honda have been synonymous with small capacity scooters, and the current range still reflects that with many of the key rivals to the SH125i coming from the same stable. Honda currently have five 125cc scooters in its range (plus the retro styled C125 Super Cub and Monkey and 125 motorcycles such as the CB125F and R and the MSX125 Grom). We've picked the closest competitors to the SH125i below, as well as bikes from Yamaha and Piaggio to show that there are bikes for all tastes and budgets.

While the 2020 SH125i is pitched as a middle range bike within Honda's range, it looks a premium product when stacked against the rest, but as you can see, there's not much between them all, each having its own features which may determine your buying choice more than just price alone.

 

Peak Power

(KW)

Peak Torque

(Nm)

Fuel Cap

(ltr)

Seat Height

(mm)

Wheel Size (R/Fr)

Weight

(Kg)

Price

(inc VAT)

Honda SH Mode

8.4

12

5.5

765

16"/14"

116

£2,749

Honda PCX

9

11.8

8

764

14"/14"

130

£2,999

Yamaha NMAX

9

11.7

6.6

765

13"/13"

127

£3,299

Piaggio Medley

11

12

7

799

14"/16"

132

£3,299

Honda SH125i

9.2

11.4

7

799

16"/16"

136.5

£3,459

Honda Forza

10.5

12

11.5

780

15"/14"

159

£4,799

Based on our current database of insured bikes, annual insurance premiums are roughly equal for all the bikes listed. Your own personal circumstances, such as location, age, experience and claim history will influence the price you pay though.  

Looking for scooter or moped insurance? Get a quote for this machine with Bennetts moped and scooter insurance

 

 

We put Honda

Enhanced Smart Power + - stop start and low friction design make the most of the 125cc

 

Power and Licence Eligibility

With a max power output of 12.3bhp (9.2KW), the 2020 SH125i is fully compliant to A1 licensing,  meaning you only need a CBT (typically a one day session, costing between £150 and £200) to be able to ride on the road with L-Plates attached. Valid for just two years, if you wish to stay on two wheels after this, you can take your two part A1 Licence and ditch the L-Plates, or just redo your CBT and get another 2 years on plates.

While twelve-and-a-smidge horsepower may not seem much, it's enough to power the bike to comfortable motorway speeds (actual Motorway usage is of course licence dependant) and more than enough to get a jump on the rest of traffic at the green light. Overtakes need to be planned well in advance, but once you get used to keeping up corner speeds, you can make very good progress and you will soon realise that, despite its diminutive engine, the Honda will be far from the slowest thing on the roads.

 

Silky smooth engine and whisper quiet exhaust make for a relaxed journey

 

Engine and Transmission

The 125cc liquid-cooled eSP+ engine (enhanced Smart Power plus) really is the star of the show with the SH125i and illustrates how much technology can be crammed into such a small package. Compliant to Euro5, the powerplant features 4 valves, fuel injection, low-friction design and 'Idling Stop' for reduced fuel consumption and noise at idle (the engine cuts when idling for 3 seconds and restarts at the twist of the throttle). Quick to rev, and as smooth as silk, the engine is the epitome of Honda engineering and no matter how hard it's worked, never seems to struggle. On the road, the engine is super flexible and happy to rev right up to the rev-limiter in top (giving an indicated 75mph).

Power is delivered via a traditional CVT (continuously variable transmission) arrangement, giving a simple twist-and-go, single gear riding experience which makes for effortless progress and a confidence inspiring ride. While some CVT systems can struggle with low speed pick up, meaning that take off from the lights involves high revs and not much forward momentum, Honda have got the balance spot on with the SH125i, making slow speed filtering and riding at a walking pace an absolute breeze.

 

 

2020 HONDA SH125I Economy

My usual test ride route takes in just over 100 miles of scratching B-roads, sweeping A-roads, some small stretches of Motorway grade dual-carriageway and some of the busiest city centre riding that Cambridgeshire has to offer. It’s a good mixture of high and low speeds, uneven roads and sweeping bends along with some rush-hour congestion just for the fun of it and not only did the Honda take it all in its stride, but returned an average fuel consumption figure of 103.7 mpg. While that’s shy of the official figures that Honda claim (at 134mpg), it's still quite an astonishing achievement. I had been purposely less than sympathetic, holding the little scoot at full throttle and using every one of the limited horses to get ahead and yet, with a tank capacity of 7 litres, the SH125i is still capable of running close to 160 miles for around £8 in fuel.

Putting that into real-world terms, you could be doing a daily commute of 32 miles for less than the price of a coffee. Travel doesn’t get any cheaper than this, unless you fancy walking!

 

We put Honda

Twin rear shocks are adjustable for preload, making the rear firmer for when carrying pillions.

 

Handling, wheels and weight

There's nothing unusual about the suspension on the Honda, with conventional telescopic forks up front and twin hydraulic shock at the back, adjustable for preload only via a c-spanner (supplied in the tool kit for a change). There's certainly nothing wrong with this set up and makes for a stable and predictable ride on the majority of roads. I did feel some choppiness on some of the badly maintained roads that we are all too common in the Cambridgeshire Fens, but a combination of short wheelbase and high riding position, this is to be expected and never felt unpleasant nor dangerous.

Handling on smoother roads and particularly through faster corners is excellent thanks to quick steering and a low centre of gravity, helped by the fuel tank and engine being positioned so low on the bike.

The 16" wheels, shod with Michelin City Gip tyres, also make for a smoother ride over scooters with smaller wheels while giving a slightly higher riding position which is ideal for seeing over cars and planning your overtakes and filtering. This sweet handling is also helped by the all up kerb weight of just 136Kg making the bike feel light and nimble and makes it easy to get up on the centre stand (yes it has one, despite having to chain to lube - Honda logic for you!).

 

Quality is evident in Nissin calipers and ABS as standard

 

2020 HONDA SH125I Brakes

As you expect, the 2020 Honda SH125i comes with ABS front as rear as standard. Up front, the single, twin-pot Nissin caliper and 240mm disc provide a good progressive action with no snatching that can unsettle smaller bikes. At the back, the 240mm disc and single-pot Nissin caliper provide good feel, making dragging the brake during slow speed manoeuvres a doddle. The rear ABS can be provoked with a good grab on the lever, and like the Honda Rebel I rode recently, allows the rear to momentarily lock up making for some entertaining squealing on corner entry, especially when the road is smooth and hot. A combination of front and back brakes provides such excellent braking that it will almost push you off the front of the seat, which makes the bike ideal for delivery riders, where last minute stops and U-turns are the norm.

 

 

Comfort and protection

The long, soft, well-shaped seat provides plenty of support in just the right places, while still allowing some wriggle room when aches do finally begin to set in. Despite a slightly higher than average seat height of 799mm, the narrow nature of the bike means that the all-important stand over (or inner leg curve as it is also known) is comfortable for all but the very shortest of leg. At 5'6" I was easily able to flat foot with one foot up and the bike never felt unwieldy or top heavy, even with the top box in place. The seat is stepped, providing a good 'nestled-in' seating position with excellent lumbar support and good pillion accommodation with a backrest built into top box and neat flip down footrests.

The wide bodywork protects your legs up to the hips, which will catch some rain but only when heavy. This bike had optional hand guards and screen fitted from the accessories range and, of the two, I'd keep the hand guards (which gave noticeable protection against wind chill) but lose the screen. While it did a great job of keeping the wind off (allowing open visor riding at 60mph), any rain soon makes the view difficult and as the plastic is soft, making it scratch easily, come the dark nights and bright oncoming headlights, this would make seeing ahead very difficult.

 

Digital dash can be difficult to read in the sun, the screen comes with everything you need for a factory finish, the SH - in all its guises.

 

Rider aids and accessories

Alongside the ABS we get HSTC, Honda's selectable traction control system – yes really!!  While I can't help thinking that this overkill for the majority of conditions, it would provide great peace of mind come winter, especially when traversing cobbles or newly surfaced roads.

Keyless ignition and remote releases for the petrol filler, seat and topbox make filling up, loading up and starting up a breeze while the twin dash display provides all the info you could need – apart from air temperature, which I would have liked to have seen.

LED lights all round give the SH that modern-tech look while providing excellent illumination to see and, perhaps more crucially, be seen.

The official Honda accessories range includes all the things that you should need for everyday use - lap blankets for rainy days and the screen and hand guards as fitted to the test bike. Based on those parts fitted, all parts look to be excellent quality and many have been considered during the design of the bike (the screen, for example, is supplied with metal uprights which bolt into the top of the speedo cowl and is even supplied with a replacement top cover to give a factory standard look. Fitting or removal truly a five-minute job requiring just 5mm and 6mm Hex keys). Don't forget that Bennetts Rewards members can claim 10% off everything, including tools, at Halfords.

There's a waterproof inner liner for the top box and a cargo net for lashing things to the pillion seat. Finally, with security in mind there's a U-Lock and a bike cover for when your pride and joy is parked up.

My advice would be to go for the lock, cover and hand guards, adding just £201 to the price, but making your ride noticeably more comfortable on colder days, and proven to be less prone to theft.

 

Plenty of storage for whatever size (or colour) helmet you need to stow. Remote release for the top box makes life easy

 

Storage

If the Honda SH Mode is seen as the entry level bike in Honda's range, the PCX as the trendy sporty number, and the Forza the luxury treat, the SH125i should be seen as the workhorse with an emphasis on carrying capacity. Alongside the 28 litres of underseat storage (large and deep enough for a full-face helmet), the 35-litre top box will fit a single full-face helmet, or (with some jiggling) two open face helmets.

Under the seat, the functionality continues with a natty phone holder right next to a USB charging port. While there is no storage in the dash (unlike the PCX, for example) there is separate shelf in the underseat luggage area for smaller (or more delicate) items. Naturally, being over the engine, it does get warm in there so anything heat sensitive is better off going in the lockable topbox.

 

We put Honda

 

Second Opinion – Honda PCX Owner

Bennetts Rewards member Gavin Farrow currently rides a Honda PCX125 which he uses mainly for commuting, but now also for delivering food parcels to his elderly shielding parents. We spent a (Bike)Socially distanced afternoon with Gavin as he tried the SH125i on a range of roads around Peterborough…

"While it's not the prettiest of bikes, it's far from ugly. It does remind me of my nan's old moped! At 6'(ish), I liked the high sitting position which is more suited to taller people and gave a good advantage when riding through town. However, by being slightly more upright I did find it a little more difficult to swerve and weave around manhole covers and potholes.  As with my PCX125, the bike delivers great acceleration away from the traffic lights, so I had no concerns about filtering to the front of traffic. For the commuter, the added topbox and under seat storage means you can carry all you need in the way of work equipment, whether it's a laptop or books and even a change of clothes.  The rear ABS was also a nice addition and was reassuring when needed.

"Overall, I feel the price point, even with the added top box and keyless start, is just a little too high, though this is definitely more of a serious bike when put alongside some of its counterparts"

 

We put Honda

Don't let the Italian plates fool you, this is a UK road test – coronavirus cancelled the original Milan launch which these bikes were allocated to.

 

2020 HONDA SH125I verdict

After spending a couple of weeks with the SH125i, I can honestly say that the bike was not found wanting in any area. I was just as impressed with the ride quality, ease of use and comfort as I was with the fantastic fuel economy and will be scouring the classifieds for a good example to add to my (hypothetical until funds allow) dream garage. While the styling of the 2020 Honda SH125i may not be to everyone taste, there is no denying that this is a fantastic bike, capable of taking you considerable distances in comfort, while still delivering more smiles-per-gallon than its spec sheet would suggest. I have always been a fan of scooters, so maybe I'm a little biased, but if you haven't tried one yet, get down your local dealer and get yourself a test ride. In the current conditions, it could be the best move you ever make.

 

For and against
  • ease of use
  • super sweet engine
  • luggage capacity
  • excellent Honda build quality
  • amazing fuel economy
  • choppy ride on bad surfaces
  • looks and riding position may not attract younger audiences

 

2020 HONDA SH125i spec

New price

From £3,459 (£3,630 as tested)

Capacity

124.5cc

Bore x Stroke

53.5x55.4mm

Engine layout

Single Cylinder

Engine details

SOHC, 4-stroke, Liquid Cooled, EFI

Power

12.3bhp (9.2kW) @ 8,250rpm

Torque

8.4lb-ft (11.4Nm) @ 6,500rpm

Top speed

75(ish) mph

Transmission

CVT drive, V belt with centrifugal clutch

Average fuel consumption

103.7 mpg tested/ 126mpg claimed

Tank size

7 litres

Max range to empty (theoretical)

195 miles claimed /160 miles tested

Reserve capacity

NA

Rider aids

ABS, Traction Control, Stop-Start, LED lights, Keyless Ignition

Frame

Tubular steel under-bone

Front suspension

33mm telescopic forks

Front suspension adjustment

None

Rear suspension

Twin hydraulic shocks

Rear suspension adjustment

Preload

Front brake

240mm disc, twin-piston Nissin caliper

Rear brake

240mm disc, single piston Nissin caliper

Front tyre

100/80 R16 Michelin City Grip (typical cost - £50)

Rear tyre

120/80 R16 Michelin City Grip (typical cost - £54)

Rake/Trail

26°/85mm

Dimensions

2,085mm x 740mm 1,129mm (LxWxH)

Wheelbase

1,353mm

Ground clearance

142mm

Seat height

799mm

Kerb weight

136.5kg

MCIA Secured Rating

Not yet included

Warranty

Unlimited miles / 2 years

Website

www.honda.co.uk/motorcycles

 

What is MCIA Secured?

MCIA Secured gives bike buyers the chance to see just how much work a manufacturer has put into making their new investment as resistant to theft as possible.

As we all know, the more security you use, the less chance there is of your bike being stolen. In fact, based on research by Bennetts, using a disc lock makes your machine three times less likely to be stolen, while heavy duty kit can make it less likely to be stolen than a car. For reviews of the best security products, click here.

MCIA Secured gives motorcycles a rating out of five stars, based on the following being fitted to a new bike as standard:

  • A steering lock that meets the UNECE 62 standard
  • An ignition immobiliser system
  • A vehicle marking system
  • An alarm system
  • A vehicle tracking system with subscription

The higher the star rating, the better the security, so always ask your dealer what rating your bike has, and compare it to other machines on your shortlist.

 

Looking for scooter or moped insurance? Get a quote for this machine with Bennetts moped and scooter insurance

 

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