2022 Honda Navi First Ride Review



Honda is looking to attract new riders with the Honda Navi; a price well below $2,000 makes it attractive to more than newbies.

Honda is looking to attract new riders with the Honda Navi; a price well below $2,000 makes it attractive to more than newbies. (Honda/)

In today’s rapidly changing business vocabulary, the term “mobility” is used to embrace anything that deals with human transportation. The rapid rise of alternative means of mobility, such as ride-share and bicycle/ebike/electric scooter rental apps, coupled with a pandemic that has encouraged making those trips solo, has challenged the traditional urban/suburban transportation model.

It would be easy to assume that this scenario would also propel ICE (internal combustion engine) scooter sales. And for the most part, it has helped boost sales in the category to their first double-digit growth in decades. But the American public is a long way from wholesale acceptance of scooterdom, which most still consider a minor niche by the US motorcycle industry despite the outsized role it plays in other world markets.

Honda is hoping to change that perception with its 2022 Navi.

A motorcycle-like layout, including footpegs and a rear brake pedal, set the Navi apart from its scooter competition.

A motorcycle-like layout, including footpegs and a rear brake pedal, set the Navi apart from its scooter competition. (Honda/)

There’s really not much differentiating the Navi from other scooters/minibikes on the market where features are concerned. Sure, it’s got a keyed storage compartment that’s big enough to hold a small bag of groceries, but so do many other scooters. It has a 109cc engine, larger than most in this category (usually 50cc), but there are plenty of scooters with larger engines. And it uses a CVT (automatic) transmission with belt drive, just like most other ICE scooters on the market.

What really sets the Navi apart from all the others is the price: At $1,807 MSRP, the Navi significantly undercuts the $2K barrier, something very few scooters can boast these days. Sure, there may be other scooters priced a few hundred dollars more, but the perception of price, basically the reason a product will retail at $49.95 instead of $50.00, is everything. And those scooters that do come under the $2K mark certainly can’t match the build quality or established dealer/parts network of a Honda.

The Basics

Ergonomically, the Navi is like most scooters, with an upright riding position and comfortably padded seat made for comfort and ease of use. What’s different is how those ergonomics are achieved; the Navi blurs the distinctions between scooter and motorcycle. For example, instead of the usual scooter-style integrated handlebars and step-through floorboard, the Navi has a standard tubular handlebar and footpegs with no step-through space like a scooter. The rear brake on most scooters is usually actuated by the left-side lever on the bars; on the Navi, the rear brake is actuated by a pedal on the right side, just like a motorcycle. Like a scooter, the Navi has a centerstand; like a motorcycle, it also has a sidestand.

The Navi’s saddle is comfy enough for two, and the single shock does an adequate job of absorbing minor pavement irregularities. The keyed panel behind the steering head accesses the 0.9-gallon fuel tank; note the fuel petcock (remember those?) just above the storage bin.

The Navi’s saddle is comfy enough for two, and the single shock does an adequate job of absorbing minor pavement irregularities. The keyed panel behind the steering head accesses the 0.9-gallon fuel tank; note the fuel petcock (remember those?) just above the storage bin. (Honda/)

You need to remember that the Navi is aimed at approachability for the non-riding general public, unlike the other miniMOTOs in Honda’s lineup like the Grom and Monkey, which have some overlap to motorcycle enthusiasts. Honda reps are hoping the Navi’s motorcycle-style controls may ease the transition to a full-size bike should the owner want to move up to one. We’re sure some motorcyclists will scoff at that notion, but Honda should be commended for its efforts to bring more nonenthusiast people into the motorcycling fold.

The 15-liter storage compartment is big enough to fit a rolled-up jacket and gloves or a small bag of groceries. Plus it’s water-resistant, keyed to the ignition key, and removable.

The 15-liter storage compartment is big enough to fit a rolled-up jacket and gloves or a small bag of groceries. Plus it’s water-resistant, keyed to the ignition key, and removable. (Honda/)

Because the 109cc OHC air-cooled single-cylinder engine (sourced from the highly successful Activa scooter sold in India and Mexico; in fact, US-bound Navis are assembled in Mexico) is mounted in the rear, there’s a nice key-locked water-resistant 15-liter storage bin where an engine would normally be found. It’s not big enough to fit a helmet, but it’ll carry a rolled-up jacket and gloves or small bag of groceries. And it’s removable. Speaking of helmets, although the seat pops off via a keyed latch, there are no helmet hooks underneath.

Access to the 0.9-gallon fuel tank is through a keyed door just behind the steering head; Honda is claiming 110 mpg from the Navi, so it should be able to travel a good distance before needing a five-spot to fill up. There’s a fuel gauge next to the speedometer, but since the Navi uses a 16mm carburetor, it also has a reserve setting on the fuel tank petcock (remember those?). Honda also says that the engine only needs an oil change every 2,500 miles, and the air filter every 10,000 miles.

Only the bare-bones basics for the Navi’s instrument panel, but you don’t need anything more than that, and it’s easy to read at a glance. The left handlebar lever is for the parking brake.

Only the bare-bones basics for the Navi’s instrument panel, but you don’t need anything more than that, and it’s easy to read at a glance. The left handlebar lever is for the parking brake. (Honda/)

The Navi’s styling is obviously more on the motorcycle side with integrated bodywork and big fork-mounted headlight. American Honda is hoping that the Navi will generate the same cult/customization following as the Grom and Ruckus, with several customized examples shown at the press launch.

The Ride

Approachability means ease of use; the Navi easily fits that bill. The 30.1-inch seat height feels much lower than that, probably because of the Navi’s overall small size, and yet I didn’t feel pretzeled by the ergos at 5-foot-8. Release the parking brake, which is a little more difficult to release than a parking brake should be, via the left bar lever; pull in the front brake lever; and hit the starter button (there’s also a kickstarter as backup).

Acceleration from the 109cc Navi, is enough not to feel totally outgunned in town.

Acceleration from the 109cc Navi, is enough not to feel totally outgunned in town. (Honda/)

The 109cc engine gives a lot more acceleration than any 50cc scooter, allowing easy holeshots and effortlessly keeping up with city traffic. And the CVT automatic transmission means no gearshifting to think about. The Navi accelerates up to 45 mph pretty quickly, and 55 mph is possible if you wait long enough, but that’s about the limit for speed as the transmission runs out of gearing at that point.

The 10-inch rear and 12-inch front wheels obviously translate to quick and agile handling, permitting you to easily dart and navigate through tight traffic situations without any flightiness or instability. The telescopic fork and single rear shock provide a decently smooth ride over most imperfect urban pavement, although big or sharp bumps and potholes expectedly overwhelm the suspension and are definitely felt through the chassis. Bigger wheels and better suspension would be helpful, but that under-$2K price point had to be achieved somehow, and it’s an acceptable compromise.

A 109cc OHC air-cooled single-cylinder engine sits at the rear, leaving room for a handy storage area in the middle of the frame.

A 109cc OHC air-cooled single-cylinder engine sits at the rear, leaving room for a handy storage area in the middle of the frame. (Honda/)

That price point obviously came into play with the brakes as well. The Navi uses drum brakes on both ends, surely disappointing the motorcycle enthusiasts who only remember how most drum brakes worked on full-size bikes. In the Navi’s case, the brakes are more than adequate, providing quick and drama-free stops with moderate pressure. Jam on them very hard in a panic braking situation and there’s only a hint of wheel lockup (on dry pavement, of course). You could stop the 236-pound Navi quicker using the higher-end braking hardware, but then you’d also be asking for more skill from the rider as well.

The Navi’s 26.8mm inverted fork provides 3.5 inches of decent suspension action, although you’ll still feel the big hits through the chassis. The drum brakes may look price-point, but they work adequately for the Honda’s intended purpose, plus the rear brake pedal is linked to the front brake as well.

The Navi’s 26.8mm inverted fork provides 3.5 inches of decent suspension action, although you’ll still feel the big hits through the chassis. The drum brakes may look price-point, but they work adequately for the Honda’s intended purpose, plus the rear brake pedal is linked to the front brake as well. (honda/)

Interestingly, the front and rear brakes on the Navi are mechanically linked. As with the C-ABS units on Honda’s full-size bikes, pressing on the rear brake pedal also actuates the front brake to a certain degree to help with slowing the machine. For the novice riders who will surely make up the majority of the Navi’s market, that’s probably a plus.

The Verdict

The Navi has actually been available in India and Mexico for several years; Honda obviously feels the time is right to bring its form of mobility to these shores. Will the Navi be the icebreaker that finally brings small-displacement machines into the American urban transportation mainstream? Looking at it from a financial standpoint compared to using public transportation or rideshare apps for a month, owning a Navi compares favorably even when factoring in registration and insurance. Of course, there’s the added responsibility of requiring an M (motorcycle) driver’s license endorsement; on the flip side, acing the DMV motorcycle riding test on the Navi is basically assured.

Beyond the Navi’s new-rider intended audience, Honda is hoping that it will also inspire a cult following similar to the Grom and Ruckus. This customized version from Tennessee’s MNNTHBX features the usual trick aftermarket components, plus the storage bin has been converted to a music speaker system.

Beyond the Navi’s new-rider intended audience, Honda is hoping that it will also inspire a cult following similar to the Grom and Ruckus. This customized version from Tennessee’s MNNTHBX features the usual trick aftermarket components, plus the storage bin has been converted to a music speaker system. (Honda/)

In any case, the Navi represents a major step forward in making the enjoyment of motorcycling more accessible than ever. That’s a very good thing, no matter how you look at it.

2022 Honda Navi Claimed Specifications

MSRP:$1,807
Engine:OHC, air-cooled, four-stroke single; 2 valves
Displacement:109cc
Bore x Stroke:55.0 x 55.6mm
Compression Ratio:9.5:1
Transmission/Final Drive:CVT/belt
Fuel System:Carburetor, 16mm bore
Clutch:Dry, automatic centrifugal operation
Engine Management/Ignition:TCI
Frame:Steel chassis
Front Suspension:26.8mm inverted fork, nonadjustable; 3.5 in. travel
Rear Suspension:Single shock, nonadjustable; 2.8 in. travel
Front Brake:Single 130mm drum, mechanical actuation, w/ parking brake
Rear Brake:Single 130mm drum, mechanical actuation
Wheels, Front/Rear:Pressed steel; 12 in. / 10 in.
Tires, Front/Rear:90/90-12 / 90/100-10
Rake/Trail:27.5°/3.2 in.
Wheelbase:50.6 in.
Ground Clearance:6.1 in.
Seat Height:30.1 in.
Fuel Capacity:0.9 gal.
Wet Weight:236 lb.
Availability:January 2022 (February 2022 for California)
Contact:powersports.honda.com



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