RideApart Review: Suzuki Burgman 400 ABS

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Scooters are rapidly shedding their dowdy image and limited performance for slick styling and 100mph+ top speeds. Now you can have all of the practicality of a commuter bike, a quiet four-stroke engine, ease of use, tons of storage space, lots of equipment and all in a package that is grandly called a luxury scooter. We took the plunge and headed off down the road on one of the best selling scooters in the U.S. — Suzuki’s Burgman 400 ABS.

Photos: Anne Watson

What’s New
Let’s make this clear from the start: Nobody is going to rush out and buy a scooter to replace their motorcycle. But what scooter ownership can offer is an alternative, cheaper way of getting about instead of using a car. You get a lot of carrying capacity, excellent fuel economy and the fun of being on two, albeit quite small, wheels.

Europe has known about scooters for years. It’s where they originated from in the aftermath of World War Two and where they are seen as a cheap and easy means of transport. That’s still true today with towns across Europe littered with scooters with everyone in the family from grandmothers to teenage kids using one to get about on, go shopping, or do the daily commute to the office.

But those noisy old Vespas and Piaggios of the past have slowly been replaced by sophisticated larger scooters that seem light years away from the original concept of being just a form of two-wheeled transport. They have also got faster, streamlined and more comfortable and have really nothing in common with the original concept except perhaps offering a utilitarian, practical appeal. But it comes at a price.

Underneath all of the flashy bodywork of a 21st Century “luxury scooter,” some of the original principles apply. Ease of use, nimble and convenient. Today’s scooters are just more technically advanced, quieter, faster and smoother and surprisingly still a lot of fun to ride.

Suzuki’s Burgman 400 ABS is a good example of how far scooters have come in recent years. Gone are the traditional scooter features of a sit-up-and-beg seat, stubby handlebars and a front cowl protecting the rider’s legs.

Instead, on the Burgman you’ll find design cues taken from Suzuki sport bikes such as the front end with its neatly faired-in headlight and turn signals, and a tire-hugging fender. At first glance, looking head on you, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Burgman is a motorcycle. To our eyes it looks like the offspring of a liaison between a sport bike and a scooter. But the big give away is its step-through seat and the tiny 14-inch front and 13-inch rear wheels. And when you see the Burgman’s side profile, it’s evident this is a scooter and not a motorcycle.

It’s a big scooter too. The wheelbase of a conventional Vespa is just over 50 inches. Suzuki has stretched the Burgman to 62.4 inches, primarily to accommodate a bigger engine, larger seats and large load carrying capacity.

That storage space is a striking feature of this Suzuki. There’s apparently more than 16 gallons of it, which is conveniently placed around the Burgman. Up front and just below the handlebars, there’s a good size glove box with an AC outlet to charge your phone or ipod. There are two separate smaller compartments alongside the instruments that can take a wallet or keys. The lids are a bit flimsy and are hard to latch securely but they serve their purpose.

But it’s under the seat where the real space lies. Lift up the seat and there is enough room to get a briefcase in if you’re off to work and once you arrive you can store your helmet, jacket and gloves in the compartment that can be locked. There’s also nice touch with a built in light that comes on when you raise the seat so you can find things in the dark.

You can actually stow two helmets in the under-seat space if you need to. This means that wherever you’re going, office, shops, or a restaurant you don’t have to walk around in your riding gear. With all of that carrying space on the Burgman you can ditch the backpack too.

The flip side is that this Suzuki weighs in at 438lbs, which is more than some large capacity motorcycles and with the Burgman there’s a lot less engine performance to move all that weight around.

In line with its utilitarian appeal, nearly all riders should at a stop be able to plant both feet flat on the ground sitting on the 28-inch high seat. The 400cc engine is mounted very low, so there is a low center of gravity, which makes it a doddle to ride at low speeds. Unlike some other modern maxi scooters, such as the Yamaha TMAX and the Burgmans’s 650cc big brother, the motor is mounted to the swingarm in conventional scooter fashion. That obviously impacts the ride, with large bumps upsetting the rear suspension, which then takes a while to recompose itself.

There’s also both a center and side stand as well as a hand operated parking brake to keep the Burgman stationary when stopping on an incline or when you park.

The seat is huge and can easily take two people. A nice feature is the rider’s adjustable back support, which moves backwards and forwards across five points so you can find the ideal riding position. You passenger is not going to have many complaints either. There’s an excellent, well-padded rear seat, good grab rails and well-positioned boards for them to put their feet on.

At the heart of this Suzuki is a 400cc, single cylinder, water-cooled, DOHC four-stroke engine that has fuel injection. Suzuki does not publish any performance figures for its engines but we did some research and according to some European motorcycle web sites there is around 33bhp and 26lb-ft of torque. That, we feel, is just about adequate if a little modest for the job in hand.

The engine is coupled to a CVT transmission so there is no gear lever and final drive is via a belt to the tiny rear wheel. It’s really is a case of turn the ignition on, then twist and go. It’s as easy as that to get on this big scooter and just head out.

Up front you have telescopic front forks with 41mm inner tubes that give 4.3 in of wheel travel, while a motorcycle-style, link-type monoshock rear suspension offers adjustable preload, giving 3.9-inches of travel.

An excellent feature is the anti-lock braking which is what this scooter needs. Because there is a fair amount of weight being carried by those small tires, they would struggle for traction under heavy braking and ABS is a very sensible standard feature. There are twin 260mm discs at the front and a single 210 at the rear. But you have to adjust your riding style and use them smoothly together and in return you’ll be rewarded with sharp braking that brings the Burgman to a pretty swift stop.

The Ride
If you are expecting a dynamic, motorcycle-like ride with the Suzuki Burgman you’re going to be disappointed. The essence of a scooter is to be a practical run about. Sure it’s fun but it in no way replicates the dynamic ride you get on a bike.

It can also take you a bit time to get used to the scooter method of riding. There’s no clutch, no gear lever and you sit perched on the Burgman’s seat with your knees close together. It’s not unpleasant, just different from a bike and once you get the hang of it, it’s actually a lot of fun to settle back on that big seat and enjoy the ride.

For your money, you get a decent equipment level. There are a lot of instruments and the dash layout is not that dissimilar from one that you would find inside an average car. There’s a conventional fuel gauge, speedo and taco, as well as an engine and external temperature gauges. Plus you can monitor your fuel economy at a press of a button. It’s all nicely laid out, easy to read, and very accessible.

There’s such a lot of room in the front that we’re surprised that Suzuki has not offered a radio/cd player or GPS as part of the Burgman 400 equipment list. But whilst this would be a welcome addition it would undoubtedly push the price up.

The windshield looks like the result of some serious wind tunnel work by Suzuki’s design engineers. Aerodynamically it deflects a lot of the wind straight over the rider’s helmet, which means that, although you sit upright on the Burgman, you’re not struggling to keep your helmet up. But the downside is that you can’t look through the screen as its odd shape distorts the road ahead and on our test scooter it vibrated a lot.

You also sit up high, which makes you more visible to other people and from the Burgman’s seat you’re able to see a good way down the road. Rear vision is excellent too thanks to a pair of large mirrors, which would look out of place on a motorcycle, but somehow fit the image of this big scooter.

The thing to bear in mind when riding a luxury scooter is that you’re actually riding something of a compromise. At close to 650lbs, if you include a rider with some luggage on board, the Suzuki Burgman is no lightweight. The 400cc engine is still brisk off the line and will propel you along smoothly enough through rush hour traffic. You can lane split with it too but you need to remember there’s quite a large high rear end, so you need to pick your moments wisely.

The ‘twist and go’ approach is smooth with a quick pick up and it’s easy to see why this scooter is really in its element for town riding at urban speeds limits. The problem is that it starts to struggle a little when you head out on to the freeway. It’ll do it, but it’s not entirely happy and while the ride remains smooth and compliant the engine starts to get buzzy at anything over 60mph. It’s not inadequate, you just feel you could just do with a little more power for overtaking.

Long distances on the freeway on this version of the Burgman are not going to be a rewarding experience. For that you should consider the Burgman 400’s big brother, the 650cc version but then you’ll be looking at several thousand dollars more.

The 400 though is an excellent runabout for around town, or for a daily commute but with limited freeway riding. It handles well too. Steering is precise and direct even with that tiny front wheel and it hustles along and is super easy to maneuver both at low speeds and when you’re in fast moving traffic.

You can also make it lean over well in the corners – Suzuki claims a bank angle of 43-degrees – but don’t go too far or you’ll start scraping the center stand.

In smooth, fast sweeping corners the Burgman 400 has absolutely no problem and goes round them extremely well feeling composed and solid. Tighter curves make it a little less nimble and you’ll soon discover the Burgman doesn’t have the agility of some smaller scooters due in part to its long wheelbase.

It’s zippy and accelerates well all the way up to 50mph and you can quickly move this scooter around out on the road. But it’s no sports machine even though the optimistic speedo says it can reach 110mph. We found 75mph was about as fast as you’d really want to go. Braver souls than us have claimed they have got up to 100mph on a Burgman 400 and we don’t disbelieve them. We just didn’t want to try that.

Out on city roads it lopes along nicely, keeping up well with the ebb and flow of traffic. But where it scores best is under 50mph. It’s sprightly and you can move in and out and of fast moving traffic with a high degree of flexibility. The Burgman is quiet too and the flat black version we tested looks unpretentious despite its “luxury scooter” tag.

The best bit about this whole scooter experience is the fuel economy. While that 400cc engine has to work extra hard at the top end it just sips gas at anything under 50mph. That’s a good thing as this scooter is equipped with a 3.6-gallon tank which on a mid-size motorcycle would mean you’d be lucky to get a 150 mile range. However, with the Burgman, we were seeing a consistent 50-60mpg just running around town. So potentially you’re looking at a 200 plus miles between fill ups.

It’s estimated that most people live on average 10 miles away from their work place. In theory you could commute on this Burgman, carrying a laptop and brief case. When you arrive, change into your work clothes and store all your riding gear under the lockable seat. And you still wouldn’t need to fill up for at least seven days. But when you do, it’s going to cost you less than $15 at today’s gas prices.

What’s Good
The Suzuki Burgman is a sensible, cost saving alternative to using your car for running around town or commuting to work. There’s heaps of storage space, good overall build quality and great gas mileage.

It’s maybe a compromise between a motorcycle and a scooter, but as an economical, comfortable means of transport for getting from A to B in an unfussy, predictable way it’s hard to beat.

What’s Bad
Not many things at all. You may have some trouble explaining to your motorcycle loving friends as to why you bought a scooter. The engine on the Burgman 400 gets buzzy at high speed and it is definitely more at ease on urban streets than cruising on the freeway. The aerodynamically styled windshield, while it’s very effective at deflecting airflow away from the rider, it’s almost impossible to look through as it distorts the rider’s vision too much.

Overall build quality is excellent apart from the cheap, fragile lids on the Burgman’s front two storage compartments, which are not at the levels we have come to expect from Suzuki.

What Others Say
“The Burgman is something of a hybrid, with the luxo-scooter representing the offspring of a sport-touring motorcycle and 50cc scooter. The Burgman does its best to meld the two worlds but taking the controls after throwing a leg through, instead of over, the machine, the differences are noticeable right away. Claiming a dry weight of 438 lbs, the Burgman is a different beast altogether from its smaller scooter siblings, yet the low center of gravity and 28-inch seat make it scooter-like easy to control at low speeds or when stopped.” Motorcyle-USA

“With the ability to hit almost 100mph should sir require, tons of luggage space with enough room to stow away a weekend’s worth of luggage, and fuel consumption that’s not going to trouble the world oil crisis, the Suzuki Burgman is an often over-looked big to medium scooter.” — Bennett’s Insurance

The Price
At $7899, the Suzuki Burgman 400 ABS offers reasonable value if you are looking for a big scooter. There are good levels of equipment, easy to ride convenience and practicality built in. If you want more performance and even more kit you can shell out a further $3,100 for its big brother the Burgman 650 ABS.

You could also consider Honda’s Silver Wing ($9270) that offers a larger engine and different specification to the Burgman but at a higher price. Or you could stick to one of the originals and go with a Vespa GTS300 Super Sport SE ($6399) where you’ll get all the Italian styling you could ever want but on a smaller capacity, less well equipped scooter.

The Verdict
We said at the outset you are unlikely to ever want to swap out your motorcycle for a scooter. But the Suzuki Burgman 400 makes sense as an alternative means of transport for a host of other good reasons.

It can be used instead of a car for running errands or even going to work on every day. It will effortlessly and comfortably whiz you around town, take you to the office, carry home groceries and cost you very little to run. On top of that you’ll be riding something with two wheels, which whilst it may not be a motorcycle, it is still a pretty entertaining way to get out there on the road.

RideApart Rating: 7/10

  • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

    So Tim, other than the always nebulous character and soul, what does a cruiser motorcycle do that this scooter can’t?

    • Tim Watson

      A cruiser motorcycle is more fun to ride; goes faster and I’d prefer to be in the saddle on a cruiser all day than a scooter. It’s a case of horses for courses… But I should ask the same question of you Wes. What does a sport bike do that a scooter doesn’t? Apart from the obvious of go faster!

      • Guillaume Béliveau

        Pick up chicks.

        • Mykola

          First words from a girl on the Honda Reflex who’s been on the Z750: “Oh my god this seat is so *nice*!”

      • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler


        • Tim Watson

          Fast ones or slow ones? I think this scooter will get you in the slow ones.

        • Michael Howard

          “It’s more fun riding a slow bike fast than riding a fast bike slow.” Riding my Yamaha Majesty like a sport bike and making it do things it wasn’t intended to do – and outriding “real” bikes – never fails to put a smile on my face.

      • grb


  • Theodore P Smart

    Scooters have no chrome to polish — Cruiser boys spend more time cleaning than they do in the saddle.

  • JP

    I can’t believe people actually spend more than 6000 on something like this. Who is that person? It’s like a Toyota Camry that got cut in half.

    • Davidabl2

      Honda got it right when they named their equivalent ride the “Silverwing’
      A smaller around-town Goldwing.

    • Michael Howard

      I’m that person. My Yamaha Majesty is my only vehicle here in the midwest. I buy my groceries every week and carry them home beneath the seat (over 60 liters of weatherproof storage). I ride through the winter (when the roads aren’t slick) protected from sub-freezing temps behind the large fairing and leg guards. I routinely humiliate local H-D riders who think their loud pipes make them fast. Something special about the look on the face of someone as they realize they’re being passed at 85mph by “a scooter”.

      • Davidabl2

        Finally, something to like about these things…other than the “practicality.”
        And that I suspect scooterists don’t get wiped out as often as motorcylists.

      • Richard Gozinya

        I’ll never forget the time I witnessed a Vespa smoke a Harley stop light to stop light. I still laugh about it.

        • Davidabl2

          Too bad you couldn’t put it up on Youtube..

        • Afonso Mata

          That’s me! Every single day :D (not quite everyday. There aren’t many H-D at city center. But whenever there’s one. It gets smoked by EVERY scooter around :P )

      • JP

        Thanks for the info Michael.

  • Davidabl2

    The bad: It’s ugly, ugly–from any angle. From all angles, in fact.
    I think I have the answer to Wes’ question:”what does a cruiser motorcycle do that this scooter can’t?”
    Answer: get you laid.

    • Jack

      If you’re getting laid due to your choice of transportation….you deserve a cruiser.

      • Davidabl2

        For me, choice of transportation has always been more about getting TO the event than anything else, heh,heh. Although one of the bikes i have actually is a cruiser

    • Andrew Ackerman

      What a tool. I could drive a pinto and get laid more then you. Any asshole who talks about getting laid, doesn’t get laid…

  • Davidabl2

    I will say that this thing makes Suzuki’s M-109 look like a thing of beauty.

    • Piglet2010

      The Burgman is not photogenic, and looks much better in real life.

      • Davidabl2

        That is a good thing.

      • Lee Scuppers

        I’ve seen one in real life. The sheer sprawling ungainly bulk of the thing doesn’t come through in the pictures, IMO. And I actually think scooter-sized scooters are pretty cool.

        • Piglet2010

          No accounting for taste (this is *not* meant as an insult). I like the look of maxi-scoots much better than the Fat Man, Large Marge, or whatever the latest overdone cruiser is called.

          • Lee Scuppers

            If you put it that way, it’s sort of a coin flip…

  • Honyock Undersquare

    I suspect the power outlet in the front compartment is DC, not AC – or is there an espresso machine up there?

  • Piglet2010

    The Burgman 400 is too much of a tweener for me. I would rather move up to something more freeway capable such as the TMAX, or down to something more nimble such as the Forza 300i (the latter could be No. 6 in my garage).

    • Afonso Mata

      I don’t know what’s the average freeway speeds in the US, but I consider 80mph a proper freeway speed ;)

      • Piglet2010

        Where I live, you can ride anything on the freeway that can maintain 40 mph, so my Elite 110 is legal. However, having cagers close at 30+ mph on me on a regular basis is not something I want to happen, so my freeway use has been limited to one short ride in a weaving lane between on and off-ramps at a low traffic time (just so I could say I have done it).

        I would want at least 25-hp at the rear wheel for regular freeway use (similar to my pre-gen Ninjette).

        • Afonso Mata

          I ride an 11hp 125cc scooter on a daily basis and 70% of my commute is a commuter freeway. When the traffic is jammed it is as good as any other bike for lane splitting. Some can argue it’s a bit better because it’s slim and you can scoot perfectly in-between cars (pun intended).
          When it’s not jammed, the average speed on the fast lane is 80+mph so I don’t even dare to go there, but since the cages on the other lanes are usually doing between 40 and 75 mph, i feel pretty comfortable maintaining a constant speed of 55 mph and having a bit of power remaining to get out of some trouble, given my scooter’s top speed of 70 mph.
          It’s not the ideal, but when you’re on a budget, it’s a matter of getting used to it, and not being afraid of 18 wheelers ;)

  • Chris Cope

    Having grown up in Texas and Minnesota I have always wondered: where are these places that an “around town” bike is practical? Even in large cities like Houston or the Twin Cities there is a lot of freeway driving. And when I lived in San Diego, CA, I had to get on the freeway even to go to the grocery store. Apart from three, maybe four cities in the U.S. it seems to me things like this are not practical. They are just fun toys.

    • Afonso Mata

      Here in Europe these bikes make a lot of sense, because although there are a lot of commuting freeways, big cities are virtually indivisible form it’s suburbia.
      For example, I live in the suburbs of Lisbon, Portugal, 12.5 miles away from city center, where my office is. I can either take the freeway (lane splitting is “tolerated”), or do some “rat racing” through suburb town’s streets. And I’d still arrive in my office half an hour before someone who’d be taking his car through the freeway.

      • Chris Cope

        Fo’ shizzle I agree on their usefulness in Europe. I live in the UK now and though I have a CBF600, I can easily see the value of a scooter here. It’s their usefulness in the US that I question.

    • BigHank53

      Seattle. Better weather protection than a motorcycle, lots of bodywork keeps the roadway scunge out of sight, and two wheels means you get to filter to the front of the line for a ferry ride–and pay a lot less for that ride.

    • Lee Scuppers

      It’d be pretty handy in Portland, ME, though for the same money you could get a used ten-year-old CR-V and a little scooter, and get ten times the functionality and twice the fun.

    • roma258

      First of all, I thought the whole point of the Burgman 400 is that it can handle a quick freeway jaunt without any issues. Second, there’s the entire Bos-Wash megalopolis with 80 million people in it. Washington, Baltimore, Philly, New York, Boston- not to mention some of the medium sized cities inbetween. If you live in any of those the cities, a 125cc scoot would be extremely practical.

      • Michael Howard

        “A quick freeway jaunt”? These big scoots will easily exceed the highway speed limit – two-up – anywhere in the U.S. (I’ve been pulled over for speeding twice). I practically NEVER get passed by anyone unless they’re even more of a speed-freak than I am. ;)

      • Keith

        i live in Beijing and my SilverWing 400 works well in the city and on the highway here …speed limits on the highways here is 80 kmh … i can get around the city much faster then a car here.

    • Piglet2010

      95% of the trips I need to make can be done on my Honda Elite 110, which maxes out at ~50 mph.

  • Afonso Mata

    Thank you guys! Finally maxi scooters (as we call them here in Europe) are getting the buzz from across the pond ;)
    Next you should review (in this order): Yamaha X-Max 250; Vesta GTS 300i; BMW C600 Sport; Yamaha T-Max 530

  • Gonfern

    Got a chance to ride BMW’s C600 the other day and I must admit i was impressed. I was expecting a bigger version of a quirky Honda Rukus ive rented in (insert vacation spot here) but not the case at all. more comfortable than any of my bikes, surprisingly capable performance and very good looking. But at almost 10k, I agree, couldnt get someone to trade their adventure tourer or sport tourer that offers same practicality for similar prices with much higher capabilities.

  • Alec Boyle

    I definitely think you should have mentioned both the Honda Forza as an alternative (a cheaper, lighter one too), and the Piaggio BV350, which offers 33 horsepower for less than 6 grand.

    • Tim Watson

      Good suggestions. The Forza has less equipment (no ABS) and a smaller engine as does Piaggio’s BV350.

      • Gabe

        The Honda Forza NSS300 comes with combined ABS as standard and it is a fantastic machine. It is a great cruising machine and looks great. I often get asked on the road if this is a scooter or a motorcycle, which is kind of funny since my answer is usually “this is an automatic motorcycle, but you can call it a scooter if you like….” :-)

  • Generic42

    “conventional fuel gauge, speedo and taco”

    But what FLAVOR taco is mounted on the dash?

  • CHansen

    I’m a fan of scooters. I’m a fan of motorcycles. I really just don’t get the maxi scooter trend. Scooters should top out at 150cc. Motorcycles should start at 250cc. Shifting isn’t hard enough to warrent the mark up on maxi scooters, and you can get a decent 250 or 300 from a number of manufactures at this point. I used to ride a CB400 with a massive back pack on in Philadelphia, and found it to be just a comfortable in terms of riding position as most maxi’s. Different 4 strokes for different folks?

  • data

    A good test overall. I have the 2012 400z abs model. Here in ‘Urop’ it
    comes with heated grips, hand guards, passenger backrest, and of course
    the abs brakes. The only thing I don’t understand it the comments about
    the bike needing a bit more power or being less able at speeds above
    50-60mph on the freeway. In ‘Urop’ Suzuki sells the bike as a long
    distance high speed cruiser/tourer/commuter. It works too. I can cruise
    all day at 75-80mph with no problem over big distances, and I do
    regularly. I wonder if the tester has any experience of smaller short
    stroke higher revving engines and there capabilites. They are not
    stressed at high revs even if they sound a bit busy. The shorter stroke
    engine design means lower piston speed and less stress at high rpm than a long stroke engine at the same rpm. Thats why they last so long!
    There are several of these in my home town with 85,000 mile plus on the
    clock and they are still fit to do the same again. I bought my Burgman
    after selling my GSX1400 and my DL1000GT which I had for years. It’s
    both more comfortable, and much more practical than either bike. It’s a
    dream to service with eveything easy to get to and very little to do.
    The handling is as good as any good motorcycle (but not sport bike of
    course) and on my regular two up trip of 370 miles, I get the same ride
    satisfaction as my motorcycles but with greater comfort for me and my passenger. Oh, and did I mention I can get 85mpg (Uk gall), although cruising at 75 she does 73-4mpg on the freeway. You really need to ride on to see what all the fuss is about!

  • Jim

    My 08 400 Burgman has a Yasumura exhaust w/ a 10 click tuner it rolls sweet spanks crotch rockets & keeps up w/ tuned HD’s 6,000 mi per yr till the roads get iced up in N C Wisconsin.