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HONDA MONKEY 125 (2018-on) Review

Published: 13 March 2020

Updated: 13 March 2020

The Monkey is back and it’s 125cc of pure joy

MCN's Gibbons rides the Honda Monkey

The Monkey is back and it’s 125cc of pure joy

Overall Rating 4 out of 5

Honda produced the very first monkey bike back in 1967 and the new model carries on the ethos of the original. The frame and engine are from Honda's MSX125, which also donates its wheels, brakes and front suspension, meaning the monkey bike is now powered by a four-stroke 125cc motor.

Size wise we’re talking small, the Honda Monkey 125 has 12in wheels and a seat height of only 776mm. From new in 2018, it cost £3699 and it was hugely enjoyable to ride, and able to keep with, and cut up traffic with ease.

For riding around town, the little Monkey is quite simply brilliant. It’s so small, light and nimble that it slips through traffic with ease but unlike other dreary commuting bikes, it’s a laugh a minute.

The Honda Monkey is a laugh a minute

The biggest compliment you can give the Monkey is that it works just like any other modern 125 – with a sheet chucked over it you’d be hard pressed to tell you were riding something that looks so daft.

Honda have built a bike that not only looks good, but also functions in the modern world. On some retros that isn’t always the case as, frustratingly, styling so often takes priority over ride-ability.

As with most 125s, the Monkey can be ridden on L-plates with a provisional driving licence, as long as you've taken a CBT.

Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5

Key in, turn it on and the Honda Monkey bike's LCD dash bursts into life and gives you a cheeky little wink (no really). Stab the starter button and nothing happens. Except it does happen – it starts like normal – it’s just so damn quiet you’d be forgiven for thinking it was broken.

Then just click it into gear and set off on one of the most grin-inducing rides you can imagine. The little Monkey is unbelievably fun.

It's my derrière’s best friend

Because it’s so small you can just fly around town, hitting gaps in traffic that aren’t really on, before buzzing off into the distance. The suspension is ultra soft, as is the enormous seat, but on the rough roads of London’s West End, it was my derrière’s best friend.

The only downside to this soft ride is that there’s a max system weight of 105kg, which you could easily reach if you’ve got all your gear on and a bag full of swag.

Motorway miles

It’s bloody dull, but, yes, you can take the Monkey on a motorway, not that I would recommend it. This is a bike designed for urban living, something it demonstrates by making light work of a heavily congested Stratford.

In town the Monkey is excellent and you appreciate its ultra-light clutch and feather-light gearbox, which changes ratios with little effort. It is so physically small that you seldom encounter a gap it can’t fit through and the soft suspension dispatches potholes with ease.

Even the ABS, which is linked to an IMU to keep the bike level under hard braking, is faultless and the only time I manage to get it activating throughout the day is on some very aggressive traffic calming bumps.

Endless joy

People instantly warm and respond to the wacky Monkey bike. From the petrol pump attendant who laughed at its size to the builders on the M40 who filmed the Honda as it crawled past a lorry, everyone reacted positively to it. Throughout the day we spent together there were so many small moments as people reacted to the diddy Honda that made me smile.

Engine 4 out of 5

The little air-cooled single has enough poke to keep things interesting and because it weighs nothing it pulls away quite quickly. It only has four gears though, so it does seem to run out of puff around 55mph, but that's more than enough for inner-city riding.

While that’s fine for sitting in flowing traffic, overtaking is pretty much ruled out. It accelerates well and you can outgun cars into roundabouts and up to about 40mph, but even 50mph lorries require a very long stretch of clear road to crawl past.

The Honda Monkey's throttle is delightfully smooth too, without any hint of snatchiness at low throttle openings – quite something on a modern polar bear friendly fuel injected bike. It’s also remarkably vibe-free, except at tick over when it shakes like a miniscule Harley-Davidson.

Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5

All the classic details are there, including the old-school Honda Wing logo on the tank, but it doesn’t look any worse for the modern features either.

Did we mention it does 189mpg

It even exudes an air of old-school Honda quality because all the shiny things are proper metal, not just plastic with a chrome veneer. The Grom has a good rep for relability, so there’s no real reason the Monkey shouldn’t do. Did we mention it does 189mpg!

Insurance, running costs & value 3 out of 5

At £3695 at its launch, the Honda Monkey is exactly £300 more than the Honda MSX125 Grom that it’s based on but, in our eyes at least, it’s worth it for the extra cool factor alone.

Like all modern manufacturers, in 2018 there were a couple of finance options available including PCP for £65 a month and HP for £100 a month.

However, available at the time, you could have a larger Honda CB300R for just £59-a-month, or a Honda CMX500 Rebel cruiser for £89-a-month, which both make the little Monkey look like poor value. But do they offer the same cool factor? You decide.

Insurance group: 12 of 17 – compare motorcycle insurance quotes now.

Equipment 5 out of 5

Amazingly the wee Honda Monkey is full of the latest tech. For a start the little LCD dash features a digital speedo, two trips plus a six bar fuel gauge. The little key fob has a button to ‘answer back’ in case you lose it in a crowded bike park or indeed a field with tall grass…

There’s also LED lighting throughout and most impressively of all an IMU for anti-tilt ABS on the front wheel. This is the system found in the 2014 to 2016 Honda Fireblade. It works well too, although the rear brake, which isn’t part of the ABS, is poor in comparison.

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 2018
Year discontinued -
New price £3,695
Used price £2,600 to £4,300
Warranty term Two years
Running costs
Insurance group 12 of 17
Annual road tax -
Annual service cost -
Max power 9.25 bhp
Max torque 8.1 ft-lb
Top speed -
1/4-mile acceleration -
Average fuel consumption 189 mpg
Tank range 235 miles
Engine size 125cc
Engine type Air cooled SOHC four-stroke, 2 valve
Frame type Steel backbone
Fuel capacity 5.6 litres
Seat height 776mm
Bike weight 107kg
Front suspension Non-adjustable USD forks, 100mm travel
Rear suspension Non-adjustable twin shocks, 104mm travel
Front brake Single 190mm disc, with IMU ABS
Rear brake 190mm disc
Front tyre size 120/80 x 12
Rear tyre size 130/80 x 12

History & Versions

Model history

Although the Monkey 125 was launched in 2018, the Monkey name has been around since the 1960s, starting in 1961 as an attraction for children at a Japanese theme park, complete with dinky five inch wheels and rigid suspension.

This then spawned a variety of other models, each sporting their own style and size. The first road-going Monkey arrived in 1963 and remained in Honda's line-up until 2009. Nine years later, it makes its return. See the above review for a more in-depth infographic of model history.

Other versions

The Honda Monkey 125 is based on the similarly-sized Honda MSX125, or Grom as it's also known.

Using the same wheels, brakes and front suspension, the humble Grom has been with us since 2013 and, in that time, has recieved updates to make it Euro4 compliant.  

Owners' Reviews

No owners have yet reviewed the HONDA MONKEY 125 (2018-on).

Review your HONDA MONKEY 125 (2018-on)

Photo Gallery

  • MCN's Gibbons rides the Honda Monkey
  • Twin shocks retain the Honda Monkey's retro look
  • The Honda Monkey 125 has some lovely details
  • Digital clocks are a neat feature on the Honda Monkey 125
  • Upside down forks mix retro with modern on the 2018 Honda Monkey 125
  • LED lights on the Honda Monkey 125
  • A retro Honda badge is a nice touch on the Monkey 125
  • The Honda Monkey is great fun around town
  • The Honda Monkey outside the Ace Cafe
  • The Honda Monkey at The Bike Shed
  • The seat offers plenty of padding on the Honda Monkey 125
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