HONDA MONKEY 125 (2022 - on) Review

Highlights

  • New five-speed gearbox
  • Upgraded twin shocks
  • Classic Monkey styling

At a glance

Power: 9 bhp
Seat height: Low (30.5 in / 775 mm)
Weight: Low (229 lbs / 104 kg)

Prices

New £4,049
Used £3,800

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
4 out of 5 (4/5)

As intrinsically linked to the 1970s as flares, the Honda Monkey first appeared as a child’s plaything in a Tokyo amusement park in 1961 before being made road legal and exported to Europe in 1963.

After booming sales in the 1970s driven by campers who strapped them to the back of their RVs, the Monkey’s popularity dropped off, only for Honda to rekindle the brand in 2018 with the all-new Monkey 125 to cash in on the retro craze.

Now, with Euro5 regulations forcing it to clean up its act, Honda have upgraded their mini bike with a new motor taken from their Grom and some new shocks – and that’s about it.

Honda Monkey on the road

It is becoming a recurring theme but as with a fair few ‘new’ Euro5-compliant 2021 or 2022 models the Monkey 125 feels almost identical to before.

The switch of engine has done very little to alter its character or performance and aside from marginal changes to the shocks and a new colour scheme (Pearl Glittering Blue which has blue anodised forks), it is effectively the old Monkey with an extra gear that slightly drops the revs and the same terrible dash. Is that a bad thing? Not in my book as Honda have really nailed the Monkey (aside from the dash...) and it remains a charming and fun bike that while fairly impractical makes you, and everyone around you, smile when you ride it.

Although they could just be laughing at the huge bloke riding the tiny bike... If you are in the market for a mini retro that has a bit of heritage behind it, your choices are basically limited to the Monkey or the new DAX125. Or you could go all modern and opt for the MSX125 Grom.

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Not much has changed on the Monkey’s chassis aside from the upgraded twin shocks, which now feature two-stage springs and revised damping rubbers to improve their ride quality on bumpier roads and reduce bottoming.

With 102mm of travel I can’t see how on earth anyone ever bottomed them out (remember the Monkey lacks a pillion seat) but maybe RV drivers are more substantially built than me... The Monkey does deal with rough surfaces really well but as you are generally travelling quite slowly on a bike that weighs about the same (or less) than its rider this isn’t unexpected.

The same is true of its tarmac cornering ability, which is expectedly a bit sketchy due to the tiny 12-inch wheels but once you get used to how it feels you can motor on quite merrily and have a (slow-burning) blast on backroads. And stop well, too.

Honda Monkey turning left

Honda have kept their IMU-based ABS on the 2022 Monkey and it is very nice to see a 125 with a proper system such as this rather than the cheaper option of linked brakes and no ABS. Hit the front stopper hard and the system helps keep the bike level and the rear on the ground, which is reassuring, and overall it is a basic but effective safety net.

Engine

Next up: Reliability
3 out of 5 (3/5)

The Monkey 125’s all-new Euro5 motor remains a pleasingly basic air-cooled SOHC 2-valve design (taken from the Grom) and has the same claimed power and torque figures as before with only a very small 250rpm change in where they are delivered and happier polar bears.

To ride it feels very similar to the old engine and it has to be said remains fairly sluggish with 55mph about your top speed. The introduction of a new fifth gear (the old model only had four) basically gives you an overdrive which drops the revs yet does very little to the speed as by the time you are ready to shift up into fifth the little motor has given all it has got to give.

Top speed is a claimed 57mph, which is about right on flats but an indicated 65mph is possible on downhills – not that you can read it on speedo...

Honda Monkey engine

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
4 out of 5 (4/5)

There are a fair few Monkeys out there and a huge number of MSX125s, which share basically the same motor. In terms of reliability, the engine seems to come out very strongly but there again, what do you expect from such a basic four-stroke motor? A few owners grumble about the quality of the chrome finish on the Monkey, which can start to corrode, but overall these bike tend not to get used that much, especially in the wet, so all seems well.

Honda Monkey rear light

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
4 out of 5 (4/5)

At £4049 the Monkey is quite a lot of money for a very small bike but you are buying from a ‘known’ brand and that also means you can get good finance packages. Honda are offering PCP deals that work out at £59 a month or HP that are £99 a month, both over three years with 6.9% interest and deposits of around £500.

Insurance is minimal on the Monkey and it is very cheap to run in terms of its fuel economy. Over a variety of roads (all mainly taken flat out...) the Monkey averaged between 100 and 126mpg, which is short of Honda’s quoted 190mpg. Despite the extra gear, Honda don’t claim any improvement in the Monkey’s economy figures when compared to the old model.

The engine requires servicing every 4000 miles, which is impressively long, but every service includes a valve clearance check. Assume about £200 a go but it is easy to do yourself if you are happy operating spanners and a feeler gauge.

Honda Monkey left side

There aren’t many natural rivals for the Monkey however the Grom is £3799 and Super Cub £3699. There is no price announced as yet on the DAX. If you want something modern (and mad) the Benelli TnT 125 is £2499 or the Italjet Dragster 125 £4999, neither of which have the Monkey’s retro cool.

Equipment

3 out of 5 (3/5)

With IMU-controlled ABS as standard, there isn’t much more you can ask for on a retro 125. The Monkey comes with an LCD dash that ‘winks playfully [annoyingly!!!] when the ignition is turned on,’ however it also remains terribly dim and almost impossible to read while on the go.

Even a Monkey can break speed limits in restricted areas so this is a very annoying oversight by Honda that should have been rectified in the update. Unlike the Grom, very few Monkey owners go to town when it comes to customising their bike so nearly all used bikes are standard. If you really want to be seen, loud pipes are available and you can tune the engine using hop-up parts for the Grom. Not that it is a very good idea...

Honda Monkey dash

Specs

Engine size 124cc
Engine type Air-cooled, 2v, sohc single
Frame type Tubular steel backbone
Fuel capacity 5.6 litres
Seat height 775mm
Bike weight 104kg
Front suspension Inverted forks, non-adjustable
Rear suspension Twin shocks, non-adjustable
Front brake 1 x 220mm discs with two-piston caliper. ABS
Rear brake 190mm single disc with single-piston caliper. ABS
Front tyre size 120/80 x 12
Rear tyre size 130/80 x 12

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption 110 mpg
Annual road tax -
Annual service cost -
New price £4,049
Used price £3,800
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two years

Top speed & performance

Max power 9 bhp
Max torque 8.1 ft-lb
Top speed 57 mph
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range 160 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

  • 2018: Honda Monkey – Honda relaunch their iconic Monkey.
  • 2021: Honda Monkey – The Monkey gains a Euro5-compliant engine with a fifth gear and revised shocks.

Other versions

Honda now have three small 125 models in their range built around the same engine. The Dax 125 is even more retro than the Monkey or if you fancy something more modern you can opt for the Honda Grom.

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