Honda Gets Throwback Right

Throwback models can be hit-or-miss in a lot of cases, and brands are taking the very life and soul of an oldschool treasure into their hands when they bring one to market. Sometimes they do it right, like Ford, with the Bronco or F-150 Lightning. And sometimes they do it wrong, like GM with the Blazer, or Ford, with the F-150 Lightning. I’m not even going to comment on the new Supra.

Average new Supra discussion.

Honda took just such a risk when they released the Motocompacto electric briefcase scooter to the world, a new-age throwback to the early 80s Japanese market factory add-on, the Motocompo. They risked being seen as committing one of the worst possible throwback product sins – making electric that which once burned gasoline.

Brown, black and white make for a stylish new-but-slightly-vintage appeal.

Thankfully, the world wasn’t attached to the Motocompo in its original form. Few had need for a folding, compact gasoline scooter capable of fitting in the back of a hatchback and spilling assorted automotive fluids on the carpet. In fact, the original was only sold for two years in Honda’s home country. I would expect if any market could sustain a product like that, it would be Japan.

Enter, the Motocompacto, an entry level electric scooter for just a few hairs under a thousand bucks. It’s treated just like the original, listed as a Honda part costing $995.00 and available at the Honda dealer. It’s stylish, versatile, and teetering precariously on the line between useful and gimmicky.

It looks at home nearly anywhere.

A 500w hub motor pulls the Motocompacto around the way most Hondas are driven – by the front wheel. It’s great at front-wheel burnouts, so long as you take some weight off it, or start up a wet incline. On flatter ground, it’s a blast to ride, reaching 15mph before it cuts acceleration. Downhill I was able to get it to 18mph – I’m sure speed is theoretically unlimited depending on the decline. If you can handle the suspension-less ride and small seat, zipping around is fun to do even when you don’t need to ride it somewhere. Honda claims a range of 12 miles, which I am sure is attainable on flat ground and a modest speed.

Braking, like accelerating, is also done from the least optimal wheel, the rear wheel. In my testing, lockup was frequent, though reasonable driving typically avoided it. The Honda handled about as well as any scooter, clattering down the sidewalk with the briefcase-shaped plastic cladding singing the song of its people so that all may witness the return of the Motocompo.

As a real-world test, I rode the Motocompacto to my local grocery store. We have hills around here, which proved to be the ultimate test for this single-person runabout. The moderate inclines of a Missouri river town brought the Motocompacto to a crawl. It ascended milder hills at around 5mph, while more substantial hills brought it to a stop altogether, requiring me to walk it the rest of the way up. While this is understandable, it also defeats also the primary reason I would want a scooter. Walking or biking on flat ground is one thing, but hills are another! I suppose the Honda experiences the same difficulties.

Some funny looks are better than a stolen scooter.

When I arrived at the store, I folded the Motocompacto. It’s not the easiest process, but it does fold up relatively nicely into what I would call two briefcases worth of space and several worth of weight. Carrying it through the store was tiring, and got me a lot of weird looks – but I was not asked not to bring it in, which I feel would be the main benefit of this scooter. Its unobtrusive form factor means you’ll probably be allowed to bring it into most buildings and not have to risk leaving it locked up outside for someone with a cutting tool to help themselves to.

It might pass as a briefcase to someone who’s unfamiliar with briefcases.

I bought my one item – a box of microwave popcorn – and rode back home with it in the small storage compartment. I again had to walk it up some of the hills, and noticed it seemed to be holding back even with a mostly full battery. On the mild incline leading up my street, it finally gave up, displaying a trouble code which Google revealed was for thermal protection. On the low 70s day it was, I assume it has to have been the hills that caused this, since I’m within the weight limit Honda advertises.

Cargo room is limited…
…but useful.

In a city with flatter roads and walks than what I’ve got access to, I am sure the Motocompacto would be perfectly usable to avoid driving and parking a car. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t have felt safe on an actual road with this scooter, even with the built-in head and taillights. It’s a good last-mile transport though – I could see it being useful for going from a charging EV to a nearby destination, or from a parking lot to a venue.

I think it’s safe to say Honda did a good job with this throwback. It looks great, is genuinely fun to use, and doesn’t insult the original. If I were to offer any remarks, I’d say that a higher output option might be worthwhile even if some range were sacrificed. I can’t imagine riding the full 12 miles on this thing.

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