HONDA PCX125 (2021 - on) Review

Highlights

  • Frugal Euro5 engine promises more power
  • Enough under seat storage for a full face helmet
  • Novice-friendly, enjoyable riding experience

At a glance

Power: 12 bhp
Seat height: Low (30.1 in / 764 mm)
Weight: Low (287 lbs / 130 kg)

Prices

New £3,169
Used £3,200

Overall rating

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

The Honda PCX125 has been a runaway success story that’s sold over 140,000 units across Europe since its arrival in 2010. Updated in 2014, 2016 and 2018, it’s a proven CBT-friendly, bicycle-sized workhorse that combines decent practicality and superb fuel economy and presents a serious alternative to public transport for the inner-city dweller.

In the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, when commuters were itching to ditch trains and busses, the previous PCX became Britain’s most popular motorcycle, outselling the BMW R1250GSA at a ratio of 2.37 to one in June 2020 alone. In both 2018 and 2019 it also took the accolade of best-selling scooter, with MCIA statistics showing 2840 and 2333 UK registrations respectively.

For this year though, there’s a new one; claiming more power, fresh styling, revised chassis parts and Euro5 compliance – all for £120 more than the old model. But is it worth swapping in the old one for it?

Well, after 147 miles across two days pitting the bike against cityscapes, dual carriageways and country backroads the short answer is: no, not really. The changes are welcome and it’s just as impressive as before, but they won’t revolutionise your commute if you’ve already got one.

However, if you’re in the market for something new to beat the traffic, or run errands across town, the 2021 PCX is worthy of serious consideration. The new engine returns a tested 100.3mpg when thrashed, with more oomph to keep comfortably ahead of the traffic and the extra luggage space will now genuinely swallow a full-face lid. It’s not that comfortable over distance and the front brake is still quite poor, but the predictable handling – aided by new beefier shocks – will have you laughing all the way to the office. Tempted? It’s yours for just £49 a month on PCP.

Riding the Honda PCX125 on UK roads

Ride quality & brakes

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

Although the new PCX still feels very similar to sit on, beneath the bodywork lies a new tubular steel frame and aluminium swingarm. The rear wheel has also been descaled by an inch to a 13in and both tyres are now 10mm wider. Wheelbase has increased by 2mm, too.

The result is a competent package that you can chuck about like an oversized bicycle. If you’re looking for an easy life on two wheels, with an ability to take the absolute Michael out of traffic and pull U-turns in a single lane, then this is for you.

Around town it’s child’s play but it is hindered by a vague front end when you really want to press on out of town. Prolonged stints at speed in the slightly crouched riding position can also lead to mild backache, too.

That said, the chances of PCX owners going weekend scratching or taking on hours in the saddle at the national speed limit are slim to none, so we can forgive these issues. What we can’t ignore though are the brakes.

Weak front brakes let the PCX125 down

The updated bike wears the same front two-piston disc brake set-up as the old model and this is disappointing. The ABS is unobtrusive, but there is a disconcerting lack of feel from the lever and stopping at speed requires the addition of the rear drum, which is much stronger. It also doubles up as a makeshift clutch during manoeuvres to help modulate speed.

Fortunately, Honda have improved previous criticisms elsewhere. The rear shocks on the old PCX125 were too soft and went to jelly when pushed above town speeds. Harsher potholes also saw some energy transferred to the riders back for good measure.
Honda have equipped the new one with heavier shock springs and increased the stroke by 10mm to 95mm.

The result is a scoot that feels much more composed both over rutted urban landscapes and outside its natural habitat on twisty roads. It’s no Goldwing, but it doesn’t jolt or wallow when pushed on a backroad and along a nadgery lane you’ll be grinning from ear to ear. Whether a pillion will upset the non-adjustable applecart remains to be seen, however new passenger grab rails are said to help make the job easier.

Engine

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

To help the PCX125 meet Euro5 emissions rules, Honda have given the 2021 machine a new single-cylinder engine, crammed with low-friction parts, plus piston oil jets derived straight from the CRF450R motocross racer, to help maintain consistent cooling.

Smooth and unintimidating as before and still equipped with stop-start tech to save fuel, the new lump produces a traffic-beating 12.3bhp, capable of a speedo-indicated 71mph. Distinguished from the old bike by a more prevalent exhaust, Honda say the new liquid-cooled SOHC unit is quicker from a standing start or roll-on. Riding around Peterborough city centre it’s hard to disagree - excelling below 35mph and comfortably stripping lengths out of the surrounding car drivers from each set of traffic lights.

Riding the Honda PCX125 around town

It’s also well fuelled and feels most at home below 60mph – whirring in protest as it is stretched to motorway speeds. After 147 miles across two days, it returned a tested fuel economy of 100.3mpg, meaning a potential range of 178.7 miles from its 8.1-litre tank. This would likely increase noticeably if kept around town though, with our test also taking us onto a series of dual carriageways and backroads where owners are unlikely to venture.

It’s an excellent little unit that’s well fuelled and nails its design brief. My only criticism is it was sometimes a little hesitant to start at the beginning of our time together, but I put that down to the battery. A few hours in the saddle and the issue disappeared.

Reliability & build quality

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

It’s hard to comment on reliability of the new PCX, however it’s built with typical Honda quality. It’s put together nicely, it all works as it should and even with another £500 on the asking price, it would still be a steal. Even the pillion pegs have been thought about and slot away seamlessly into the fairing when not in use.

Our gushing praise is supported by MCN owners’ reviews of the out-going 2018-2021 model, who score it an average of 5/5 stars for reliability. Add to this a two-year warranty and strong dealer network and it’s a very attractive proposition.

Honda PCX125 engine

Value vs rivals

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

The latest model may have climbed £120 in asking price, but it’s a better bike than the old one. It handles bumps more efficiently, can take more luggage and has a little more bottom end pep – without adding to the claimed 130kg wet weight, or diddy dimensions.

If you fancy owning the PCX on PCP, it’s yours for just £49 a month over three years with an initial deposit of £580.24. That is seriously cheap and offers a tempting urban transport solution for less a month than many people’s weekly food shop.

It’s also still comfortably cheaper than the £3400 Yamaha NMAX 125, which has also been reworked for Euro5. That isn’t stopping people buying it though and in May 2021, figures from the MCIA revealed it was the most popular motorcycle in Britain that month, with 659 new registrations.

Other cheaper options include the £2399 Suzuki Address 110, however it lacks the performance and mod cons of either the Honda or Yamaha. The £4249 Kawasaki J125 was also not updated for Euro5, but remaining stock may be available in dealers at a reduced price and could be the weapon of choice if you’re looking for maxi scooter proportions.


Watch a video review of the rival Yamaha NMAX 125 below:

Equipment

4 out of 5 (4/5)

Considering the Honda PCX125 is less than £3200 all in, it boasts a truly impressive spec sheet. It’s shod with quality Michelin rubber and there’s unobtrusive ABS up front. Keeping you seen is full LED lighting and there’s a revised, easy-to-read colour LCD display, which is kept out of sunlight by a dark screen, which has also grown marginally for 2021 and offers effective protection from the wind at any speed.

A small panel controls the ignition and luggage

Offering an additional safety net is Honda Selectable Torque Control (that’s traction control to you and me) designed to limit slip in the wet and is highlighted on the dash by a ‘T’ logo.

Although a nice touch, the excellent City Grip tyres offer more than enough traction and even deliberate attempts to engage the system on patches of gravel failed on our dry test, which begs the question why it’s needed at all. I spent two days on the old model last year and at no point did I feel it was missing any form of rider aid.

Other electronic upgrades include restyled LEDs front and rear, which are integrated into fresh bodywork. The bike retains the same contemporary side profile, but the front headlight assembly bears a resemblance to the quirky X-ADV adventure scooter, and the overall build quality outstretches its modest price.

The metal flakes in the paint glint wonderfully in the summer sunlight, with the deep red of our test bike contrasting wonderfully well with the gun metal rims. It’s just a shame Honda retained the chrome bars and central trim, which cheapen an overall elegant look.

Elsewhere, Honda claimed the old PCX125 could take a full-face helmet. We begged to differ. However, there’s now 2.4 litres more capacity under the seat, giving just enough space to successfully swallow this tester’s Shark Race R Pro – the same helmet I was wearing when I rode the previous incarnation. In that same space you’ll also find room for your gloves, essentials and even a splash of PPE.

If that’s not enough, a compartment up front will also easily take a wallet and smartphone, with an in-built USB-C socket for charging. For ease of use, there's also keyless ignition, which operates the ignition, fuel cap and seat storage.

Specs

Engine size 125cc
Engine type Water cooled, SOHC 4v single
Frame type Tubular steel duplex
Fuel capacity 8.1 litres
Seat height 764mm
Bike weight 130kg
Front suspension 31mm telescopic fork, non-adjustable
Rear suspension Twin shocks, non-adjustable
Front brake 220mm disc with two-piston caliper, ABS
Rear brake 130mm drum
Front tyre size 110/70 x 14
Rear tyre size 130/70 x 13

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption 100.3 mpg
Annual road tax £21
Annual service cost -
New price £3,169
Used price £3,200
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two years

Top speed & performance

Max power 12 bhp
Max torque 8.7 ft-lb
Top speed -
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range 179 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

  • 2010: Model launched – a 125cc four-stroke commuter scooter, complete with stop start technology – the first of its kind in Europe.
  • 2014: PCX updated for new bodywork, full LED lighting and a 12V AC adaptor. Honda also claimed greater fuel efficiency of 133.8mpg and over 230 miles of tank range.
  • 2016: Honda PCX125 becomes Euro4 compliant, thanks to tweaks to the twist-and-go engine.
  • 2018: New frame, new wheels, new tyres and upgraded rear suspension – repositioned with spring rate altered for greater compliance. ABS added to front wheel, plus more peak power from the engine.
  • 2021: PCX is updated for Euro5 with a fresh engine, revised styling, and more storage under the seat to now swallow a full-face lid. There’s keyless ignition, rudimentary traction control and an updated frame and swingarm.


Watch our expert 2018 Honda PCX125 review video below

Other versions

No other versions of the Honda PCX125 are available.

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