Cheap scoots: Honda SH125 vs Kymco Agility City

Published: 08 May 2017

Sticking two fingers up to the daily grind...We all know 125cc scooters are practical, cheap to run and a cinch to ride, but let’s not forget they’re fun, too.

Here's how we got on when put Honda's SH125 up against Kymco's Agility City 125i...

The MCN riders

Michael Neeves - Age: 47

Height: 6’0”

CV: MCN Road Tester for 14 years and a proud scooter fan 

And...

Alison Silcox - Age: 47

Height: 5’10”

CV: 11 years riding experience, just bought this SH125 

The test

Granted, these learner-legal city commuters aren’t exactly RCV MotoGP replicas in the bedroom department and they’re sniffed at by many a ‘proper’ biker. But these lightweight workhorses have two wheels, an engine and that, in my book, makes them every inch a proper motorcycle as something faster and more powerful. 

In fact, they’re even more fun at low speeds than a big bike. Riding something slow at 100% will always be more of a giggle than trickling around on a big bhp monster at 1%. Remember the fun on the mopeds and 125s we grew up on? (If you're currently on a 125 you'll no doubt soon know what we mean).

As rush hour traffic gets heavier and expensive trains descend into deeper chaos scooters are a clever choice, which is why they’re becoming a more familiar sight on our roads. Sliding effortlessly through gridlocked traffic, they slash journey times, cost peanuts to run, are easy and free to park, have storage space for a light shop and put a big fat smile on your face in the process. 

New scooters can be expensive and you’ll pay big-bucks for new Japanese 125s, like the £3299 Honda SH125i, £3799 Kawasaki J125 and £4149 Yamaha X-Max 125. 

The good news is you don’t have to pay anywhere near that for your new congestion-slaying machine, especially if you go non-Japanese. You can ride away on a brand new Taiwanese-built Kymco Agility City 125i CBS in the pictures above for £1999. 

Shop around and you can find second-hand Japanese 125s for less than half that, like this £700 (also see pics above) - 34,000-mile, 2002-vintage Honda SH125, recently bought by MCN’s Office Manager, Alison. 

Laughing in the face of the perception that non-Japanese Asian bikes are rubbish (some still are), the Kymco is a quality machine. Yes, it’s built down to a price, but it’s well made and doesn’t feel cheap or nasty. 

The SH125 is shining proof that bulletproof Honda build quality isn’t a myth. Used as a workhorse for the past 15 winters by six different owners, it’s a bit rusty and corroded around the edges, but it starts on the button and will no doubt go on for decades more. 

Alison has owned middleweights like the Triumph Street Triple R, Kawasaki ER-6N and Honda CB650F over the years, but buying a125cc scooter was an easy choice, as she explains: “My seven-mile commute to work changed a few months ago and now there’s far more traffic. The journey takes me 35-minutes, stuck in my car, but with my new scooter it takes just 10. 

“I didn’t want to get into debt, so it didn’t cross my mind to buy new. I set myself a budget of less than a grand and wanted a bike with the bigger wheels for stability. 

“It was up for £850, but the tyres weren’t great and it needed a bit of work, so I got it for £700. I’ve since spent another £400-or so on new Metzeler FeelFree Wintec tyres and a service, including new oil, air filter, a new clutch, drive belts and rollers. It’s much nippier now. I’ve also fitted new levers, heated grips and a brighter headlight bulb. 

“It does everything I want it to do and more. It’ll do a comfortable 60mph, sits at 65mph and you can push it to 70mph, as long as there’s no hills. Part of my journey takes in the busy A1M and I never feel vulnerable or like I’m holding up traffic. 

“One of my favourite things is the top box it came with – it’s a revelation. It holds my handbag, lunch, gym kit and is big enough to store my helmet and gloves when I’m at work. It’s so handy I haven’t needed to use the underseat storage yet. The glove box is big enough to hold a smartphone, too. 

“It’s easier to ride than I thought it would be. I’m not a fan of automatics normally and don’t like the feeling of it just taking off, but it didn’t take long to get used to it. It’s really nimble through traffic and easy to get on and off, but I miss not having a side-stand. It’s light enough to get on and off the centre stand, though. 

“Most of all it makes me smile. Coming to work is now much more enjoyable than sitting in traffic in a car and getting cross.” 

Despite its age and wear and tear, the SH125 rides well. Some of the bearings are loose and rickety, the brakes aren’t great and the seat has been worn into such a shine your bum slides gracefully forward when you shut the throttle. 

But the Honda does everything the brand new, grand more expensive Kymco can. It’s fun, zippy and doesn’t mind being yanked over to full lean into roundabouts. The new-generation Meztelers are reassuring in the wet, it boasts a 2.3-litre bigger fuel tank than the Kymco and producing a extra 5bhp it’s a fair whack faster, too.  

If the old Honda is so good, what’s the point of buying the new Kymco, which is almost identical spec right down to the 16” wheels, single disc brake set-up and curry takeaway hook? 

Well, unlike the used Honda you get a two-year unlimited manufacturer’s parts and labour warranty, new-bike tight and accurate handling, excellent brakes and some extra creature comforts, like a side stand (although it annoyingly flicks up by itself), a 12v charging socket, a natty-looking fuel cap and a screen. 

Scooter storage

We loaded our scoots up with a light grocery shop: bread, cheese, eggs, teabags, milk and toilet rolls. The Honda’s aftermarket topbox swallowed the lot, but the Kymco’s underseat space was big enough for everything except the toilet rolls. 

Unlike the Kymco, the Honda’s glovebox is big enough to hold a smartphone, but it has a 12v socket. 

The scooters in numbers

43.3mpg – Honda (although Alison has got more than 75mpg)

54.6mpg – Kymco

£17 – yearly scooter tax

£8 – a month insurance for Alison and her husband via MCN Compare

3 – times quicker for Alison to get to work compared to her car. 

The verdict

You don’t have to spend big money to get your scooter kicks. The Kymco gives you the chance to own a cracking quality new scoot, with two years warrantee, for two grand, but buy wisely and you can get a used Japanese for half that. Whichever way you go you can bask in the smug glow that your journey to work is quicker, cheaper and more fun than everyone else’s. 

Scooter specs -

HONDA SH125 £700

Engine: 125cc 2v single air-cooled

Power: 13.8bhp@9000rpm

Suspension: Non-adjustable forks and twin rear shock.

Brakes: 220mm disc with two-piston caliper. 220mm rear drum brake disc with single-piston caliper

Seat height: 780mm

Tyres: 100/80 x 16 x front 120/18 x 16 rear 

Tank size: 8.3-litres

Torque: 8.5ftlb

Dry weight: 123kg 

KYMCO AGILITY CITY 125I £1999

Engine: 125cc 2v single air-cooled

Power: 8.8bhp@8500rpm

Suspension: Non-adjustable forks and twin rear shock.

Brakes: 220mm disc with two-piston caliper. 220mm rear drum brake disc with single-piston caliper

Seat height: 840mm

Tyres: 100/80 x 16 x front 120/80 x 16 rear 

Tank size: 6-litres

Torque: 8.5ftlb

Dry weight: 120kg 

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