(MotorAuthority) – I’ve always adhered to the old adage that it’s better to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow. Turns out that applies to tiny electric scooters as well. Last week Honda let a bunch of journalists loose on the new MotoCompacto battery-powered runabout at its HQ in Torrance, California—and it was a blast.
The MotoCompacto is meant to be a last-mile solution for transportation. You know, for those who have to park across town or whose bus stop is two miles from the office. Ride it to your final destination, then fold it up and carry it to your desk.
If this all sounds familiar it’s because Honda did something similar in the 1980s with the MotoCompo. Only offered in the Japanese market, the collapsible MotoCompo was an option with Honda’s subcompact cars. It wasn’t terribly popular, but it’s since developed a bit of a nostalgia factor, especially among my colleagues.
All moto, all compacto
The MotoCompacto e-scooters are all unfolded when my group arrives. We don helmets and are given a quick tutorial, not that there is much to teach. A small LCD screen displays battery life and speed. There is a hand brake and throttle. A little bell warns pedestrians of our presence.
While the scooter has a headlight, a taillight, and side markers, there are no turn signals. It also has very little storage capability. I have a computer in my tote bag along with a bottle of water and some sunscreen that I am able to fit in the narrow center opening that houses the seat and handlebars when the scooter is folded up, but buyers will want to invest in a good backpack.
We take it vaguely easy as we toddle around campus, as we get used to how the MotoCompacto rides. It reminds me of riding a Chinese monkey bike through Mongolia. I have to be patient and not expect too much performance out of the little guy. However, when our leader turns into a parking area set up with a small track marked with cones, all bets are off.
If there were a group of people who drive more like gleeful a@#holes than auto journalists, I don’t know who it is. It’s double the a@#holery when the stakes are low. After all, we’re only riding a two feet or so off the ground so laying it down won’t hurt. We’re all cutting each other off, fighting for the best line, and racing down the straight. We quickly learn how to do a front-wheel burnout and lay down rubber while braking. All of us are laughing like mad-people. I feel like a kid who has been given a surprise afternoon recess.
With just 490 watts, or 0.66 hp, of peak output and 11.8 lb-ft of torque, how quickly you accelerate to the maximum speed of 15 mph depends on your size, though Honda says it reaches that top speed in seven seconds. One slender writer pretty much beats all of us with his excellent power-to-weight ratio. I manage to stay mostly ahead of him but he eventually passes me—and runs down his battery earlier too. It’s good for 12 miles of range and can be fully charged in three and a half hours on a 110-volt outlet.
It will take a bit of practice to quickly fold up the MotoCompacto. The seat comes out and folds flat, then is stored in the narrow center space. The handlebars rotate 90 degrees and then fold into the same area. The front wheel retracts with the twist of a latch and once it’s folded up everything is perfectly balanced. Final dimensions: 29.2 x 21.1 x 3.7 inches. It’s so wee!
It’s not all fun and games
I have a few quibbles. After 15 minutes of riding the seat gets to be really uncomfortable. Granted, the idea of the MotoCompacto is not to ride it around and around a makeshift track for an hour or so, but those with sensitive bums might want some padding.
Also, the thing ain’t light. I’m not in the best shape, but I work out a fair amount and at 41.3 pounds, I do not want to lug this thing on a bus, or up the stairs, or even down a New York City block.
Fortunately, the handlebars can be folded in half way and by not retracting the front wheel, I can roll it along like a 40-pound suitcase.
Honda will sell the MotoCompacto for $995 and you don’t need to buy a car to go with it. Accessories will also be available and I bet you’ll see some pretty dope custom liveries on these things as well. You can snag one online or at your local Honda or Acura dealership.