What the hell is this new Honda Integra anyways? It’s feet-forward, doesn’t have foot controls, has room for a 3/4 helmet under the seat and is twist-and-go, just like a scooter. But, that transmission isn’t a CVT, it’s a dual-clutch arrangement that’s actually more advanced than that used by the VFR1200. The 670cc engine is located between the rider’s legs in a steel tube frame, both of which will also be shared by future Honda motorcycles. The forks are beefy 41mm items which hold a 17-inch wheel. Same diameter at the rear too, where there’s also a Pro-Link shock. It makes more power than a 1,200cc Harley, yet returns over 65mpg. Can something be both a motorcycle and a scooter? And, does such a combination even make sense?
The Integra has been designed for markets — Europe, Asia — where people actually use powered two-wheelers as practical transportation. Visit a city like Milan, for instance, and you’ll see hoards of large-capacity scooters like Yamaha TMAXs, Piaggio MP3s and Suzuki Burgmans on the highway, piloted by people in business suits as they commute into the city for work. Highway speeds, ease of use, weather protection, storage and very low running costs just make maxi scoots extremely practical and extremely popular. Enter the Integra, which promises to eliminate the last of the configuration’s problems — handling, power — while raising the bar for fuel economy and running costs. One maxi scoot to rule them all?
Don’t be fooled by the visor, that’s a 3/4 helmet under that seat; all that will fit.
But, in adopting a motorcycle’s wheels, suspension and frame, it also loses some traditional scoot strengths. The configuration was likely chosen by Honda to facilitate a low price. By sharing R&D and manufacturing costs with two future models — a naked and a street-focussed ADV bike — all three models can come in a little cheaper. But, some drawback are immediately apparent:
Storage: you can only fit a single 3/4 helmet under the seat. The TMAX, for example, can hold two-full faces with room to spare. Optional panniers and a top box expand storage massively, but sort of miss the traditional scooter point — convenience.
Passenger accommodation: the pillion pad is nearly sportsbike like in its diminutive size. Other Maxis have gigantic, comfy lounge chairs in comparison.
Weight: at 525lbs (wet), the Integra is 35lbs heavier than that TMAX. There’s also the question of how that weight is carried. Do the motorcycle frame and engine raise the center of gravity, making it more of a chore at very low speeds?
Having said that, the all-new engine, advanced DCT and fancy chassis also bring huge benefits:
Fuel economy: the 670cc engine makes a strong 50bhp and 45lb/ft of torque, yet returns 65mpg (US). In comparison, the 44bhp TMAX only delivers 47mpg.
Ride: Traditionally, scooters locate their motors on the swingarms. As you’d expect, this contributes massively to unsprung weight, destroying the ride and leading to handling issues at higher speeds when you hit a large bump. The cheapo shocks aren’t really able to cope with the momentum of a wheel, tire, swingarm and engine bouncing up and down. The TMAX fixed that by moving the engine off the swingarm, but the Integra goes one step further, adding that shock linkage. That’ll create a more linear path for the shock, improving ride, traction and handling. The 17-inch wheels will help there too, being less subject to flaws in the roadway.
Handling: well, more like stability. That shock linkage, the big wheels, the beefy forks, the strong frame and mid-mount engine should all contribute to motorcycle-like steering, turning and stability at highway speeds. Smaller wheels, cheaper suspension and weird engine locations can have other scoots feeling nervous as you approach 100mph.
Technology: ABS brakes are standard and that DCT transmission is already awesome in the VFR, so here benefiting from a reduced weight (not specified, but current version is 17lbs), it’ll provide a much better connection between throttle and rear wheel than that traditionally offered by the belts and pulleys of CVTs. That transmission also brings switchable driving modes — manual (with buttons), sport and regular drive. Unlike a CVT, there are actual gears in a DCT.
So what does all that add up to? We see a bike that’s going to handle better, be faster and be more confidence-inspiring on the highway than a traditional maxi scoot. Over a motorcycle, it’ll be much easier to use, more comfy and add some practicality in the form of all that weather/wind protection and dinky underseat storage. Good fuel economy too. But, with less onboard storage and inferior passenger accommodation than a traditional scooter and a big question mark hanging over its price tag, the Integra could face an uphill battle for acceptance over the super convenience and cheap-as-chips prices of regular scooters.