HONDA MSX125 GROM (2021 - on) Review

Highlights

  • Euro5 engine is engaging but lacks top end
  • Small size doesn’t mean cramped riding position
  • Easily removed plastics for simple customisation

At a glance

Power: 10 bhp
Seat height: Low (30.0 in / 761 mm)
Weight: Low (227 lbs / 103 kg)

Prices

New £3,599
Used £2,800 - £3,600

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
3 out of 5 (3/5)

If you look up the word fun in the dictionary, I’m pretty sure a picture of a Honda Grom (or MSX125 in Honda-speak) will be sitting there.

A pit bike-sized bundle of joy weighing a smidge over 100kg wet, it’s one of the most engaging and enjoyable ways to zip across town on two wheels, and a reminder of just how brilliant bikes can be when you keep things simple.

First revealed back in 2013, it’s become something of a cult hit for Honda, selling over 750,000 units in that time and capturing the imagination of customisers across the globe. There’s even a HRC kit available to allow it to compete in a one-make race series in Japan. Very cool.

For 2021, Honda have given the Grom its fourth update. In the middle is a new Euro5 compliant single-cylinder engine complete with a five-speed gearbox (up from four cogs on the old one) as well as new quick-release bodywork and an improved dash.

There’s no fancy tech wizardry; just ABS upfront to help satisfy regulations, leaving you to focus on transforming your nearest city centre into your own personal kart track – dissecting lines of traffic with ease, before buzzing away from the lights faster than anything around you on four wheels. It’s silly fun and totally relevant in pandemic Britain.

At just £59 a month across three years on PCP, it’s cheap too and despite the dinky 761mm seat height, 1200mm wheelbase, and 12in rims it doesn’t feel like a clown bike to ride - with high bars and reasonably set foot pegs, plus plenty of room for your bum on the flat double bench seat. 

Riding the 2021 Honda MSX125 Grom

But what about when you leave the city centre? Well, the MSX impresses again – coming to life on a narrow backroad and allowing you to extrapolate everything from its hand-sized 9.9bhp engine.

The handling’s not half bad either, with the non-adjustable springs and Cheerio-sized CST tyres working in harmony to deliver a predictable, playful package that encourages you to scrape the pegs wherever you get the chance.

It’s hilarious fun, but it’s not perfect. You see, when you step away from the smaller backroads the MSX begins to feel lost, running out of breath just south of a speedo-indicated 60mph.

It’s fine in short doses, but venture onto 70mph dual carriageways and those cutesy dimensions and non-threatening engine suddenly leave you feeling a bit vulnerable.

With no onboard storage, it’s also not as practical as a small capacity scooter like Honda’s own PCX125 and the front brake is a bit wooden.

Ride quality & brakes

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

Despite its small size and Tesco Value price tag, the Honda Grom goes and stops in much the same way as a regular-sized motorcycle. It may look like a bit of a novelty and cars do seem much bigger on the move, but there was plenty of room on board for this 5ft6in tester. 

You may only have a six-litre fuel tank between your legs and tiny 12in rims below you, but the raised, wide bars offer a comfortable reach and there’s enough room to the foot pegs to prevent any pain in your knees.

There’s also a flat bench seat for a rider and pillion, which allows you to stretch out on longer journeys for a little extra leg room. I found myself doing this after more than 45 minutes of continuous riding. I'd imagine it would be a shorter time for taller riders. 

Not only is it surprisingly comfortable, but it’s also excellent fun through a tight bend. The chassis is unchanged for 2021 and there may only be basic non-adjustable springs at each end, but it soaks up the cracks of urban tarmac with ease and provides enough stability to confidently throw it about like a ragdoll out of town – sticking your leg out or scraping the tiny foot pegs like the world’s smallest supermoto.

Cornering on the Honda MSX125 Grom

It even manages to make road furniture like mini roundabouts and speedbumps into a game and you have absolute confidence in the road-focussed IRC rubber, which really impressed on our dry summer outing.

But what about the weak points? Well, whilst the suspension will cope amicably with most features of urban asphalt, it felt absolutely horrendous over cobbles – running out of travel at both ends before transferring the energy into your arms, legs, and back.

Then there’s the brakes which, whilst stopping you perfectly well, offer little in the way of feedback from either end.

That’ll be fine if you’re a new rider but may feel odd for an experienced pilot. That said, the ABS is unobtrusive no matter how hard you deploy the anchors and there’s none of that annoying hazard light flashing when you do so.

Riding the Honda MSX125 Grom in town

Engine

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

The Honda Grom gets a new single-cylinder engine for Euro5, distinguished from the old one by a redesigned exhaust and featuring plenty of low friction parts, fuel injection and producing a claimed 9.9bhp.

A tiny, air-cooled unit that’ll happily be thrashed until the cows come home, it’s a great introduction to biking that excels in certain scenarios and is disappointing in others. Let’s start with the good bits. 

With just 103kg to propel along, the whirring single is a hoot around town. There’s enough power to get away from cars at the lights, and you can thrash it in the first three gears without fear of a ticking off from the Old Bill.

There are no real annoying vibrations or flat spots, and it pulls cleanly throughout the revs – making something as mundane as popping to the shops a real biking treat.

The light clutch is also excellent and makes shifts and slow speed manoeuvres a piece of cake. The gearbox can be a bit sticky going from neutral to first though and you sometimes need to rock the bike gently to access the gear. 

The 2021 Honda MSX125 Grom gets a Euro5 friendly engine

And then there’s the fuel economy – it’s dirt cheap to run, returning a tested 109.1mpg for a potential range of 144 miles from six litres of fuel.

It was so good in fact that I was forced (honest) to buy a jumbo pack of millionaire shortbreads from the petrol station just to reach the minimum card spend, with an 80-mile day of testing costing me just £3.50 in petrol.

Out on faster rural roads, the engine remains just as engaging, singing its heart out up to a speedo-indicated 60mph and encouraging you to wring its neck along a nadgery backroad.

This is where you notice the inclusion of a fifth gear, allowing the MSX to sit at this speed without constantly pinging off the redline. This is despite Honda themselves claiming a top speed of just 58.4mph. Either that’s a conservative estimate, or the speedo’s telling pork pies.

Unfortunately, it starts to fall apart above this pace though – feeling lost on open country routes and faster dual carriageways, where it’s simply unable to do the national limit unless you’re heading down a long hill or catch a crafty slipstream from an upcoming lorry.

I saw 70mph on the dash a smattering of times, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable holding it there for long periods.

During one overtake on a truck, the gradient changed to an incline and the bike was simply unable to complete the pass – creating a build-up of disgruntled motorists behind me.

Drop the speed back down to 60mph and it’ll trundle along no problem, but the Grom would benefit from a couple more horse powers to make it truly versatile in all road scenarios.

Reliability & build quality

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

The latest Grom comes finished in typical Honda quality. There are no panel gaps or rough finishes, and you can’t help but look back and admire it when you’ve parked up – already grinning at the prospect of another tearaway ride together back home.

New body panels feel very well put together

Being a new engine, it’s hard to comment on reliability, but with so little power and no real electronic gizmos on board you shouldn’t have much to worry about. What’s more, owners’ reviews of the previous MSX are glowing, with only minor issues highlighted such as a rusted exhaust when stored outside.

As with any 125 though, if you’re approaching the Grom as a used purchase, keep an eye out for any signs of crash damage or sub-par maintenance.

Value vs rivals

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

At launch. the Honda Grom comes in at a reasonable £3599, or £59 a month on PCP across three years with an initial deposit of £544.82. That monthly figure is less than many people pay for their week's shopping and undercuts full size 125s from fellow major Japanese and European manufacturers.

It’s also £300 less than Honda’s own miniature Monkey 125 – which shares the same shrunken recipe, only with more retro styling and fatter balloon tyres.

But Honda don’t have the modern minibike market all to themselves, with the Chinese-built Benelli TNT125 and Bullit Heritage 125 offering a similar pantomime experience for considerably less money.

Cornering left on the 2021 Honda MSX125 Grom

The TNT (or Benelli Tornado Naked T 125 to give it its full name) comes in at £2299 – over a grand less than the Honda – and produces a claimed 1.2bhp more power.

Then there’s the Bullit, which is even cheaper – advertised by some dealers for just £1749.

Those in international markets may also consider the Kawasaki Z125 – another Japanese miniature that unfortunately never arrived in the UK.

Although both the Benelli and Bullit are tempting propositions and could save you a huge whack of change, neither bike shares the same level of equipment, or dealer backup as the Honda and some may prefer to pay more for the added peace of mind.

Equipment

3 out of 5 (3/5)

As you might expect from a sub-four-grand minibike, the spec is fairly basic. But that’s okay because it creates a blank canvas for owners to mod their machines to their heart’s content – with aftermarket suspension, fairings, exhausts, and even big-bore engine kits all available.

For this fourth generation Grom, Honda have even helped them out by installing new minimalist body panels that are removed with just six bolts on each side – making modding and maintenance jobs a doddle.

Elsewhere, there’s ABS up front to help it comply with Euro regulations and the LCD display has now been updated to display both your revs and gears.

It’s easy to read and houses everything you’d ever need but doesn’t particularly stand out from the competition. 

The MSX125 Grom's LCD dash is updated for 2021

Sticking with the front end, the mirrors offer plenty of visibility and the non-adjustable levers and chunky switchgear feel like they’ll stand up to novice drops and year-round usage.

The non-adjustable gold USD forks offer an air of sophistication, too and draw your eye to the tiny front rim that looks like a miniaturised BST carbon design.

Specs

Engine size 125cc
Engine type Air-cooled, two-valve single cylinder
Frame type Steel mono-backbone frame
Fuel capacity 6 litres
Seat height 761mm
Bike weight 103kg
Front suspension 31mm USD forks, non-adjustable
Rear suspension Single shock, non-adjustable
Front brake Single 220mm disc with two piston caliper, ABS
Rear brake 190mm disc with hydraulic single-piston caliper
Front tyre size 120/70 x 12
Rear tyre size 130/70 x 12

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption 109 mpg
Annual road tax -
Annual service cost -
New price £3,599
Used price £2,800 - £3,600
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two years

Top speed & performance

Max power 10 bhp
Max torque 8.2 ft-lb
Top speed 58 mph
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range 144 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

  • 2013: First-generation Honda MSX125 launched, powered by an air-cooled two-valve four-stroke 124.9cc engine sandwiched within a dinky steel backbone frame. Known as the 'Grom' in Japan and America, the MSX name stood for 'Mini Street X-treme' and sold over 3000 units across Europe in its first eight months alone.
  • 2016: The Honda MSX125 gets a styling update. By this point, over 300,000 MSX125s had been sold globally. The rounded single headlight was removed and replaced with a more modern stacked design, complete with LEDs. The 5.5 litre fuel tank was reshaped, with new side panels, alongside an updated tail. The pillion seat was also raised and made shorter, with the high-mounted single exhaust also swapped for a low-slung alternative.
  • 2017: A year later, the MSX was updated for Euro4. Gentle revisions were made to the single-cylinder engine and ABS was added to the front brake. A choice of grey, white, red, or yellow colour options were also available.

Other versions

There is only one model of Honda MSX 125 Grom for 2021, however Honda also sell a Monkey 125, which sports a similar minibike recipe but comes draped in a retro-inspired look based on the original Honda Monkeys that first arrived in the early 1960s. For 2021, the Monkey gets a new Euro5 friendly engine, plus a five-speed gearbox. It also comes with a slightly higher base price of £3899.

Honda also introduced a HRC kit for the MSX in October 2020, ready for the start of the 2021 racing season. Only available in their domestic market, the kit was available from Japanese HRC Service Shops from March 2021 and transformed the bike into a mini racer to compete in the HRC Grom Cup.

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