Honda Motocompacto Review - Wait! That Isn’t A Car!

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
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honda motocompacto review wait that isnt a car

In any urbanized area, parking sucks. City planners hate dealing with parking because those spaces use up land that could be productively used for housing or commercial use. Drivers hate parking in town due to the hassles of finding a scarce spot, as well as the risk of vehicle damage due to the cramped quarters. Fun fact - nearly every automaker, when signing over vehicles for testing to journalists, forbids urban street parking due to the risk of damage.

So much talk has gone into “last mile solutions” within the urban planning space. It’s the idea that commuters might drive to a decentralized parking location, disembark, and find a better way into town. Right now, the idea seems far-fetched, but a stroll through any big city reveals scores of rental scooters and bicycles mixed in with privately owned two-wheelers. There is a market there, but it remains to be seen how big the market is.

It’s perhaps not surprising then that Honda is the automaker stepping up to give this new market a try. After all, the company came here first as a purveyor of small, friendly motorcycles long before four-wheelers entered the chat. With the new Honda Motocompacto, the company is banking on the idea that individualized urban transport can possibly be cool.

[Disclaimer: Honda invited journalists to a recent event near Detroit to test out the Motocompacto, and we got to glance at a prototype of the coming Honda Prologue EV. They served food - I think I had a cookie and a Coke.]

Let’s get the hard facts out of the way. The Honda Motocompacto is a lightweight electric scooter that folds down into its own, easily luggable carrying case. It will be sold at Honda and Acura dealers, as well as on a dedicated Motocompacto website, for $995. It’s packed with a charger that will recharge the scooter in 3.5 hours via a standard 120v outlet, and the charge is rated for up to 12 miles of riding. The maximum speed is 15 mph. Like virtually every other product released in this world in the past few years, there is a dedicated mobile phone app that allows you to customize riding and lighting modes. 

The electric motor produces 11.8 lb-ft of torque and 490 watts of power - which if my math works out correctly, is roughly two-thirds of a horsepower. So you aren’t riding a full-sized horse, just a two-thirds-sized one. Maybe a Shetland pony made of steel and plastic? Is it the Li’L Sebastian of modern mobility solutions? Like nearly every Honda ever, it’s front-wheel drive. 

The Motocompacto, whether delivered via website or dealer, comes in a cardboard shipping box not much larger than the 29.2-inch long, 21.1-inch high, and 3.7-inch width of the scooter when folded. There is a learning curve to deploying it out to the riding position - pull and twist a lever to extend the rear wheel and then lock it, pull out the footpegs, remove and install the seat, retract and extend the handlebars - but I’m sure that within a few rides it’ll be second nature. Once in riding position, the Motocompacto is 38.1 inches long, 35 inches high, and 17.2 inches wide. The seat is 24.5 inches off the ground.

Most notably, the Motocompacto weighs 41.3 pounds. No, it’s not something you’ll want to toss in an overhead compartment on the plane, but it shouldn’t be too much of a hassle to lift if you need to haul it up a set of stairs from the subway or to your apartment. The wheels still roll when the scooter is folded, after all, so you can easily drag it when you aren’t riding. The kickstand has a welded loop sized to fit a standard bike lock should you need to park it outside.

Of course, Honda has engineered as much safety into this package as they could. The control unit within the Motocompacto will not send power to the motor unless the seat, handlebar, and wheels have been deployed correctly. All of the latching mechanisms have redundant locks to ensure everything stays in place while riding.

The build quality feels stellar for something so light. Honda acknowledges that the Motocompacto is manufactured in China, like so many other inexpensive consumer devices. However, the attention to detail throughout is surprising. The stitching on the handgrips, especially, is quite pleasing.

The riding experience requires a brief learning curve. Upon sitting on the scooter, you are presented with a small display and a single button. Toggling through the screen with the button allows you to turn on and off the headlamp, as well as choose between one of two riding modes.

Mode 1 limits the top speed to 10mph. More notably, the scooter will require a push start to get moving when the controller is in Mode 1. This gives new riders a little bit of control, as immediately twisting the thumb lever throttle could send an unprepared rider careening. Mode 2, on the other hand, bumps top speed to 15 mph and lets the motor get you moving from a standstill. Within the mobile phone app, you can change the default startup mode easily.

I will note that in my testing, I didn’t see the 15 mph top speed in the coned-off area adjacent to a racetrack. The onboard display indicated 13 to 14 mph with the “throttle” button fully depressed. I’ll chalk this up to additional mass over the typical design standard - though I’m finally well below the 265-pound maximum listed by Honda. Still, at 13-ish mph, the Motocompacto moves briskly and should work well in urban bike lanes. It’s a blast to ride, honestly, and much more comfortable than a stand-up rental scooter. There’s even a bell, activated by the left thumb, to warn other riders and pedestrians.

You’ll note that many, if not all of the photos you’ll see of the Motocompacto in action show riders wearing helmets. Generally, helmets are not required - though local laws likely may vary - but Honda wants to err on the side of caution. They had loaner helmets available during our testing, and most journalists wore them. I had my own full-face helmet with me - I’d been on track in another vehicle the same day - so I’m sure I looked a bit goofy. Folks riding to the office will likely eschew the extra measure of safety to avoid helmet hair.

No, we haven’t pivoted the focus of this site. This isn’t The Truth About Non-Automotive Mobility Solutions That Sometimes Look A Little Geeky. We are still TTAC, and we still love driving here. But nobody loves driving in heavy urban traffic, especially when some cities are charging heavy congestion charges just for the privilege of driving on public roadways. 

Plus, there are many places in this world where cars aren’t welcome, nor are they appropriate. As the father of teenagers, I’ve been spending more time on college campuses lately looking to help the kids figure out where they’re going in the near future. And I’m seeing more and more electric scooters and e-bikes whizzing past me as I ponder a potential six-figure investment into my kid. I can’t help but imagine that something fun, funky, and stylish that helps people get to class on time is something worth considering. 

This isn’t the first electric scooter on the market, nor is it the most affordable. One can readily click and buy a number of electric kick scooters on websites and from discount stores. Where the Honda Motocompacto shines is right there in the name. Consumers know the Honda name and know the company will stand behind this product. If you need a replacement charger for a no-name scooter bought third-party from an online store, you might as well buy another scooter. Not so with the Honda, making it a smart investment for personal mobility. And a fun investment, too.

[Images © 2023 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in ebay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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3 of 24 comments
  • Tassos Tassos on Nov 02, 2023

    The seat is too damned close to the ground at 24". My legs are already two feet long, and your sold does not touch the ground, but the pedal some inches above ground. Uncomfortable.

    I also need some cargo carrying capacity so I can take it to the grocery store etc. At least one shopping bag on each side, but I don't see anhy provisions for that.

    You can already get REAL electric bikes with higher speed and far more comfortable seating position than this, for the same price. See the Electrec webpage for examples. This is just a gimmivk when you take your car anyway and then use it to avoid walking (Lame. You need the exercise, especially the obese writer of this article))

    • MaintenanceCosts MaintenanceCosts on Nov 02, 2023

      You can't put a REAL electric bike in the trunk of your car or bring it with you into an office building. That's the whole point of small electric scooters.

  • Dpriven Dpriven on Nov 02, 2023

    Imagine a CR-V (or better, an Accord wagon) with docks to securely store and charge up to four of these in the back. That would be so cool.

    As it is, these are still cool, for their limited use. I have a folding bicycle (Dahon) and these serve some of the same needs.

  • JLGOLDEN It's really cute, and I'm sure the EV driving experience is a delight for those who give it a whirl. I hope this is enough to keep FIAT on the North American map! But, I fear dealers won't move enough units to justify investments in FIAT parts/service training for the long haul.
  • JLGOLDEN After most of these cars left their duty in rental fleets, they went on to lives with multiple changes of ownership and visits down the auction lane. Can Ford find the current owners and get these things repaired?
  • Abraham I rented a Kona EV - or tried to. I got in, turned it on and the battery had not been charged, displaying only about 25% state of charge and remaining range of 72 miles. It was driving ran outside and I was deciding if I wanted to keep it and find a charger or give up and get a regular vehicle. After about 3 minutes the displayed range dropped to 67 miles, then two minutes later dropped again to 64 miles, all without moving an inch with nothing turned on except the ignition. So the true remaining range was a complete crap shoot. I gave up and got a crappy Buick Encore with “unlimited” range instead.
  • Analoggrotto Committed? That would be your typical NA Miata driver with 10 degrees of negative camber dragging their body work on their rims with over stretched tires. I'm guessing that I described 80% of your friends right there.
  • Theflyersfan And in other breaking news, the sun rose in the east, water is wet, and there are a few people here who need committed as soon as possible. Of course they fall short! Automakers are going to publish the rosiest numbers possible with a big old "*" next to them to CYA. It's the same thing with ICEs. The worst offenders are the 2.0L turbos in 5,000 lb CUVs. The numbers look all fine in the EPA tests, but in the real world, loaded with people and stuff, with weather and hills, and driving like you're late for practice, and keeping the mouse-motor in constant boost, that 28 mpg in mixed driving becomes 18. EVs are no different. I guess CR and everyone who reported it needed clicks today.