HONDA MSX125 GROM (2014 - on) Review
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£70|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
The other day my wife gleefully showed me a video of a chap on YouTube dancing and singing about a pineapple and a pen. To her and her friends, it was the most hilarious thing they had ever seen, and over 85 million folks appear to agree.
- Related: 2021 Honda Grom unveiled
Personally, I don’t get it, but that’s the whole point of a craze – to some it’s brilliant, to others it’s totally baffling. And that’s exactly the effect the Honda MSX125 has on riders.
For a company as straight-laced as Honda, it seems incongruous to have built a machine that has developed such a sub-culture as the MSX. But that’s what the Mini-Street Xtreme 125 has done – but not under the name Honda gave it.
To fully immerse yourself in the world of this bizarre Monkey for the modern generation you need to call it by its more popular street name – the Grom.
The actual meaning of the word ‘Grom’ is a source of conjecture, but it is generally reckoned to relate to an American surfer dude. But what isn’t up for debate is the Grom’s effect on two-wheeled culture. Every corner of the globe appears to have Grom owners’ clubs or groups of mates who gather together to ride this 125.
Dig a little deeper and you enter into the murky world of Grom customisation and performance enhancement. So what exactly is the appeal of a 9.6bhp mini-bike? Being 6ft 2in and 14 stone it was decided I was the ideal candidate to find out, so I grabbed the keys to a totally standard MSX125.
It’s not stupidly cramped, even for a tall chap like myself
Groms attract attention and in its Day-Glo yellow our particular bike certainly is a looker. With its Transformer’s style headlight and red calipers it just makes you smile. While the Grom is certainly a small bike, it’s not stupidly cramped, even for a tall chap like myself.
When it goes to full lock my knees hit the bars and the mirrors are so close I look sideways to see what’s behind, but it’s actually surprisingly roomy. Unlike a Monkey bike, which does feel like one of those clown mini-bicycles to ride, the Grom is mid-sized and can (just about) be ridden by anyone of any stature.
The start of my journey was on a main road and with the engine maxed out at 60mph (I once hit a dizzying 64mph) it was a little unnerving to look in the mirrors and see lorries close behind towering over me – though that’s nothing a big-bore kit wouldn’t sort.
In town the Grom is brilliant. Thanks to its small size you can zip through gaps and the low gearing means you can win most traffic light GPs, while the seating position puts you on a level with car drivers, so you aren’t ignored.
So can I now understand the fascination of the Grom? The Grom looks cool, is hysterical to ride and comes with a cool scene to get involved with, but it is also an excellent city bike, frugal to run and very non-threatening for newer riders.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
But Groms aren’t designed for main roads; they come alive on back roads and in busy cities, so I turned off the A-road and took to country lanes, which is where I started to understand the fascination with the Grom. On a tight and twisty road the Grom is hysterical.
Its short wheelbase of just 1200mm, and wide 12in tyres make it super-agile and you attack each corner as if it were your last, desperately conserving every single mph. I’m reminded of my days as a teenage hooligan on a 125 as I risked life and limb refusing to close the throttle and barreling around bends with only a small semblance of control.
The speeds are such that you never feel like you are going to hurt yourself, but the Grom’s light 101kg weight and small size means you just hurl it around and giggle. I can only imagine the chaos if a group of Grom mounted mates were added into the equation – which is exactly what most owners do and is why Grom clubs are springing around the globe.
EngineNext up: Reliability
In standard trim the Grom is great fun on backroads and a cool city tool with looks that make people stop and smile – but it is bloody slow, even for a 125. The bare bones are all there and the fact it is such a giggle and so charming has led to numerous companies devising solutions to the Grom’s failings.
If I had a group of Grom-mounted buddies I could see my garage being full of big-bore kits and the like, adding another amusing dimension to the experience. Crucially, the Grom makes me smile and at the end of the day that’s the underlying reason we all ride bikes.
The fun happens at sub-60mph speeds, making it far more licence friendly than a sportsbike as well as cheaper to run. So yes, this is one craze I could buy into.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
The Honda MSX125 is made in Thailand, like a lot of the smaller Hondas on the market, but the build quality and reliability is just what you would expect from the Japanese manufacturer.
We've had two owners' reviews for the Honda MSX125 Grom, and they're relatively positive in the main with a four-star score overall. The main drawbacks are ride quality and brakes.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
The Honda MSX125 has a claimed fuel economy of 185mpg – yes, you read that right – and a price of £3389, which adds up to some cheap motoring – although, on a day of murdering the little 125, I only got a slightly disappointing 100mpg.
You can pick up a used Honda Honda MSX125 for sale for a little over £2k.
Although the brakes lacked ABS up until 2018 they are strong and the fact they don’t have any electronic watchdogs means you can do skids or stoppies if/when you feel the urge.
You get LED headlights, LCD digital dash with speedometer, twin trip meters, fuel gauge and a clock, so it's a pretty basic affair especially compared to the TFT Bluetoothiness of competitors like the KTM 125 Duke.
|Engine type||Air-cooled 2-valve single cylinder|
|Frame type||Steel mono-backbone frame|
|Fuel capacity||5.5 litres|
|Front suspension||USD Front Forks, 31mm|
|Rear suspension||Mono shock, steel square pipe swingarm|
|Front brake||ABS - Single 220mm disc with hydraulic dual-piston brake caliper|
|Rear brake||Single 190mm disc with hydraulic single-piston brake caliper|
|Front tyre size||120/70-12|
|Rear tyre size||130/70-12|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||185 mpg|
|Annual road tax||-|
|Annual service cost||£70|
|Used price||£2,300 - £3,300|
How much to insure?
Top speed & performance
|Max power||10 bhp|
|Max torque||8 ft-lb|
|Top speed||60 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
|Tank range||224 miles|
Model history & versions
Honda Launched the MSX125 in 2014. In America it is known as the Honda Grom. In 2018 the bike got a styling upgrade and ABS was added.
Owners' reviews for the HONDA MSX125 GROM (2014 - on)
5 owners have reviewed their HONDA MSX125 GROM (2014 - on) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£70|
Yes, it’s only a 125 - but it is brilliant. And I’m surprised at myself for saying that when my last bike was a 1200cc touring bike with all the bells and whistles. It’s light, zippy out of the blocks, easily flickable through the bends, cost little to buy, less to insure and nothing in petrol. And it’s a hoot to ride.Are there issues? No. Niggles? Sure. It’s just a little underpowered. I’d love to see a little more BHP, or a 150cc version, but that’s certainly no show stopper. The seat’s a little hard - but then when was the last time you spent all day in the saddle of a 125? And the OEM Vee Rubber was not confidence inspiring in the cold and wet. A new set of tyres solves that for very little.But when it comes to smiles per mile - I think this little package is unbeatable at this level.
The seat isn’t all-day comfortable. You certainly wouldn’t want to take a pillion on the back for a long journey - but you can (and it’s hilarious). The front nose-dives under braking. So, there’s room for improvement. But on the plus side, there is plenty of feel. There are no electric wotsits and ninja modes for dampening throttle responses according to the phases of the moon. There is a direct link between you and the road, and your right hand and the back wheel. Four gears are plenty. The ratios are spot on. I wouldn’t sacrifice any top end for a smaller cog up front either. The MSX accelerates swiftly enough as it is. I guess the only trade might be if you’re a heavier rider, then acceleration might need some pepping up.Rear suspension is supple without being overdamped. A good compromise given the hard seat. Plenty of suspension for my 85kgs. Sufficient damping for my 40 year old bones.
Bulletproof - I just want a teeny, tiny little more power. Just one more horse. Still, it’s a super little engine. Revs freely and willingly up to its red line at just over 8000rpm, but curiously doesn’t sound overly buzzy, or feel overly vibey. That said, “cruising” at a constant 6000+ rpm does give a bit of vibration through the pegs and bars. Nothing that causes your teeth to chatter, but it’s there. I probably only notice it because my last bike was a tourer.Also, worth mentioning ‘only’ four gears. This isn’t an issue at all, the little ‘box has great ratios and pulls well - it’s surprisingly torquey for such a tiny engine - but coming from a big bike means the habit searching for 5th and 6th takes a few miles to break!
It’s a Honda. What more do you need to know?
No idea what it costs to service. It’s a single cylinder 125. Service it yourself. The engine is bulletproof and half the fun of this bike is the time spent fettling and learning how it’s plumbing works.Brand new, they’re perhaps a little expensive, but with the imminent arrival of the new version, there are always deals to be had.Running costs are laughable. I’m still ‘running in’ the engine, so I’m not wringing it’s neck. But at nearly 105mpg, that figure will only go up as everything settles down. Then it might come down as I get revved up... so, less than a fiver for a full tank and I get 100+ miles from that. What’s not to like?
I love this bike because it has no accessories... but the one thing I miss is heated grips, and I’m terrified of putting an aftermarket set on that the alternator and battery can’t cope with.I didn’t like the Vee Rubber tyres. In the cold and wet Yorkshire winter, the left me feeling totally skittish as the were just no good at getting, and keeping, warm. I permanently felt like I was on the edge of grip in the wet. Replaced them with a set of Anlas Winter Grip 2 tyres. Who? What? Yes, me too. But they’re phenomenal. And actually damn good in the warm and dry, too.
Buying experience: Bought from a dealer, brand new. Asking price was £3499 OTR. Purchase price was £3015 OTR. I didn’t really have a dealer experience as I bought in lockdown. I emailed and said I wanted a MSX and had seen one online for £2995, could they match it. They did, plus £20 for tax. Collected it the next day. Dealer also happened to have three very tasty RC30s in the showroom.
Annual servicing cost: £70
As a 59 year old 20 Stone bloke, I was somewhat dubious that the Grom would hit the spot, but boy oh boy, it's a hoot. Its my 27th Motorcycle in 42 years of biking and its some of the best fun I have had. I look like an utter spoon on it, my fixated smile makes me look a few biscuits short of a full barrel, but when I stop, I have the biggest crowds round my bike and the most questions and "Wow I want one moments". Don't think about getting one, just do it.
Superb brakes, but I have got Hel Braided lines on mine. Handles a dream with Michelin Power Pures fitted and just flicks through the bends. You don't need a throttle, just flat out and laughing maniacally. Seat is not good for the Farmer Giles, so wear a pair of Lycra Cycling shorts under your Kevlar Jeans!
It's a 125! What do you expect. Mine will pull 65 with my massive lardy butt on it and I cruise at 50 ish. Changed the chain and sprockets, got a 14t on the front. Pulls fine and on National Speed limit roads, you can have some big fun.
It's a Honda, they invented reliability.
£5 to fill the tank and it seems to run on vapour! I keep forgetting to fill up. Far too embarrassing to pay cash at my local garage, so always use pay at pump, otherwise people think you are filling up your lawnmower!
Just knocked of 1 point for the seat. Once you have bought one, you will be surprised at how much you spend on bolt on goodies, so the OE parts although good for the price, will end up in boxes in your garage. Go for Pro Taper Bars, Yoshimura Exhaust, Micheline Power Pure Tyres. Aftermarket shocks and upgraded front springs (I am saving for Ohlins). Tail Tidy, Crash Bungs etc etc etc.
Buying experience: Paid £2650 for mine, four years old, four owners. With 2700 miles on the clock!!! and three months MOT. Full service history. (Passed three months later, no faults). Change the oil and clean the rotary filter regular. Use good oil, there is only a litre in it. Main thing is keep all your receipts for bolt on goodies, in a sealed envelope, only to be opened on your death! Otherwise your Mrs will sell it for what you lied to her you spent on it!!!
Annual servicing cost: £70
Best feature is fun! Although the Grom is fairly slow for. 125 , it handles well , is roomy and comfy, but delivers a ride experience that just makes you laugh out loud. Plus it is ridiculously frugal. I have had over 200 miles on one tank , around 170 mpg! It is well built easy to maintain and costs little to buy.
Budget but no real issues for the bike that it is.
Slow yet simple.
Overall very reliable but the quality of the chain and sprocket set is dire. OE tyres lack grip in the wet but once these two things are changed no problems.
4000 mile service intervals, low costs on oil as there’s hardly any in the bike. Everlasting brakes ! Nut and screw valves. Easy to home service.
Everything you need.
Buying experience: Dealer bought. £2600 new, good discount of £300 on list.
Version: Non ABS SF
Pros, fun bike that will put a smile on yours and everyone else's face. Cons, poor stock suspension and lack of speed.
Front forks really benefit from either of the fork mods and heavier oil, rear shock is OK and cheap aftermarket one's can be had cheaply.
Go down one in the front or up in the rear and with with only 4 gears you are soon trying to shift into 5th.
It's an air cooled Honda, nuff said.
Service it yourself for coppers.
Digital speedo and fuel gauge is a nice touch.
Buying experience: Honda dealers used to offer 0% finance on these bike's with a free helmet or CBT
Annual servicing cost: £60
Lighter and cheaper than many scooters, more agile than any bigger motorcycle, faster off the line than most small cars. There is no better way to move around town.
One of the most agile vehicles you can purchase thanks to its compact dimensions. The low, narrow seat makes it easy for shorter riders to use. However, it is quite hard. Rear suspension is spot on while the front is far too soft and slow to rebound. Brakes are adequate.
A very simple 2-valve, air-cooled single that can trace its origins back to the 1970s, it is fuel efficient and super reliable. However, it is slightly lacking in power. The gearbox is poor: sloppy on downshifts, and could do with an extra gear.
Exhaust may rust if stored outdoors, otherwise fit and finish is very good. Excellent reliability.
Low price, simple construction and excellent reliability combine with good fuel economy to make the MSX125 one of the cheaper bikes to own.
Quite good for a bike this small and this cheap. The fully digital dash also has a rev counter, fuel gauge and clock. Newer models (2016-on) also come with an IMU-based ABS on both wheels. Only thing keeping it from scoring 5 stars here are the poor stock tyres.
Buying experience: Bought brand new in 2015 for €3500.