By Justin Dawes, Digital Media Producer

A mid-sized scoot that'll win you over

Mid-size scooters have always had me scratching my head and wondering, “Why?” I think of scooters as convenient two-wheeled rides for quick jumps to the local market or down to the beach. They absolutely have their place in congested downtown urban environs, but why wouldn’t you go for a small and light-as-possible machine for these uses? On the flipside, if you are looking to stretch out on the open road, why not a large-displacement mount for comfort and speed? The question that persists is whether or not mid-sized scoots are a less than perfect compromise or the best of both worlds. I couldn’t make up my mind. When Honda offered up a 2014 Honda Forza Scooter for a few weeks of testing, I decided to grab the key and find out what this medium displacement thing was all about.

The Forza is a new-for-2014 300cc-class offering that shares a family resemblance to its PCX150 and Silver Wing stablemates. The swooping bodywork is bulbous yet angular at the same time and lends further credence to my theory that all scooter designers are fans of Akira manga. It’s a good looking ride, especially in red (the only available color).

Powering the Forza is a liquid-cooled four-stroke 279cc Single that is tucked away neatly under the bodywork on the left side of the aluminum double-sided swingarm. Honda’s Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI) delivers the juice via single overhead cam four-valve head to the oversquare mill. The 72mm by 62.6mm bore and stroke is offset to the exhaust side of the cases by 5mm for more efficiency and less friction. Additionally, roller rocker arms further reduce mechanical losses. Power is put to the rear wheel via V-Matic transmission that uses a V-belt and variable diameter pulleys along with a torque-sensing cam mechanism for optimal gearing.

The Forza’s chassis is a double tubular steel backbone frame that is suspended by a 35mm conventional fork at the front and twin preload adjustable shocks at the rear. Travel is a modest 3.7 inches for the front 14-inch wheel and 3.9 inches for the 13-inch rear hoop. A dual-axis lower floating rear link controls the engine movement in two directions for minimized load transfer to the main frame. The system absorbs vibration in both the vertical and horizontal plane for a smoother ride and reduced engine vibration. A 60.9-inch wheelbase gives the Forza capacity for two people.

Braking duties are handled by a Combined Braking System (CBS) that links the 256mm front disc squeezed by a three-piston caliper and the rear single piston unit clamping a 240mm disc. For an additional $500 over the $5,999 base price, scooter fans can opt for the optional combined ABS stoppers.

Riders hopping on the Forza find an unsurprisingly low seat height of 28.2 inches, which feels even lower because of the thinner shape at the seat front. The reach to the ground shouldn’t be a problem for most riders, short or tall. Behind the rider is a large step to the passenger seat that locks the pilot into place. The seating position felt cramped for my 5’10” frame with the bars in close to my torso. Placing my feet flat on the floorboards further increased the claustrophobic feel, and raising my boots to the front areas wasn’t much more comfortable. For as large as the Forza is, there could have been more room allotted for taller riders.

The compact feel does, however, create a light and nimble ride when cutting through the cityscape. The slightest input from your body is met with a direction change. Darting around the town, the Honda really hits its stride with a character that isn’t too twitchy like smaller scooters while not being oafish or cumbersome either. Out on the open backroads, the Forza can carve a mean corner if the pavement is smooth. And that is a big if. The fairly low-tech suspension can be overwhelmed with moderate-sized imperfections. Truly rough roads will not be an enjoyable experience on the bright red Honda.

While the handling and cockpit of the Forza are less than stellar, the engine performance is damn good. Off the line the plucky scoot will snap forward with authority when the screws are turned. You will never have to worry about being overrun by antsy cagers with heavy right feet. Acceleration to 50 mph is brisk with less thrust getting up to a comfortable 60 to 65 mph highway cruising speed. For California freeways, this is merely adequate when the flow is free of obstructions and traffic. Speeds of 80 mph are possible but there is not much more on tap, not to mention the chassis gets more nervous as the needle sweeps past 70. So while freeway usage isn’t entirely pleasant, it is possible, making the Forza more attractive for scooter commuters living in suburban sprawl.

Just as impressive as the engine is the braking. Both the front and rear brakes haul the Forza to a stop with authority not expected from a scooter. The lever feel is excellent for both the front and rear. I didn’t even mind the combined braking, which is a first for me. Our unit was not equipped with the optional ABS, but I would recommend it for those who are less skilled with panic braking, as it is possible to lock the rear brake with a good squeeze of the left lever.

The dash behind the low-ish windshield is informative, but more analog than digital. An analog speedo, tach, fuel gauge and temp gauge are large and easy to read. A center-mounted LCD readout conveys the time, trip distance and mpg numbers. During our time on the Forza, we consistently saw 61-63 mpg on the dash, matching our manual calculations of fuel economy. This is a bit lower than Honda’s estimated 68 mpg, but we don’t ride in the most economical fashion.

One of my favorite features of scooters is underseat storage. The entire seat of the Forza lifts up from the rear to expose a long yet shallow space that will fit two helmets, provided they don’t have too many wings, vents or aerodynamic bits. Getting to the front part of the storage area is cumbersome, as the space between the seat and bodywork is tight. If the seat opened another 20 degrees, it would make it so much easier to fully utilize the area. Dual fairing pockets provide convenient storage for your house keys, mobile phone and whatever else you have cluttering your pockets.

I now understand the mid-size scooter concept. You do get the light feel of a small scoot with the highway prowess of a bigger machine. Is the Forza the best of both worlds? In most respects, yes. The power is excellent, the brakes are top-notch and the overall handling is more stable than your run-of-the-mill scooter. But there are some compromises, such as the less-than-roomy cockpit and so-so suspension. Even with those criticisms, I do say the mid-sized Honda Forza scooter is one of the better choices for out there for scooter fans.