Review: Honda X-ADV

It was on a drizzly winter’s day that I was reflecting on the coming motorcycle season. I wanted to try something different, something special. So I got in touch with Jean.
“I want to test a maxi scooter,” I said.
Silence. Then, with a hint of disbelief: “You want to test a scooter?”
“Yes,” I answered.
“A scooter?”
“Yes.”
Silence again.
“Which one?”

I know nothing about maxi or mini scooters, except that they’re highly popular in big cities. Just join the daily traffic jams on the Brussels Ring and you’ll see many of them lane-splitting. So I became curious about those maxi scooters. But which one should I test?

Soon I bumped into the Honda X-ADV. Not just “a scooter”, but one that claims to be in a class of its own: a motorcycle with the sitting position and the comfort of a scooter.

The X-ADV is part of Honda’s adventure range, which is justified by giving the X-ADV some adventure characteristics: a larger front wheel than on traditional scooters, adjustable front and rear suspension, switchable traction control, hand guards and a beautiful digital dashboard similar to the one of the CRF450 Rallye. Combined with tough “armored” colors and rugged Bridgestone tires, the X-ADV just looks cool.

Motorcycle or scooter?

Right from the very first meters I notice how agile the X-ADV is. Ideal for city traffic, where it really plays out its scooter nature. The sitting posture takes some getting used to. It’s upright, with wide handlebars, and feels a bit like an adventure bike. But my feet in front of me and nothing between my legs, that’s new to me. Yet, it doesn’t take long before I throw the scooter from one corner into another. When I stop at a pub, I can easily store my helmet in the 21-liter compartment under the seat.

When I leave the city and can pick up the pace, the X-ADV’s stability stands out again. Here its motorcycle nature appears. A little touring trip absolutely isn’t a punishment. The windshield is adjustable in five positions which not only differ in height but also in angle.

The hand guards are identical to those on the Africa Twin and function well. The heated grips have five positions, remembering the last selected position when switching off the engine. The dashboard reflects sunlight a bit too easy but it’s still easy to read, both during the day and at night.

DCT & co

The 745 cc parallel two-cylinder engine delivers 54 hp and 68 Nm. Enough for a lively ride. The X-ADV is equipped with Honda’s famous Dual Clutch Transmission. The gear ratios are chosen in such a way that the engine reacts energetically at low speeds and runs peacefully at higher speeds. You can choose between the normal D mode or the sporty S mode. That D stands for Drive, but it could just as well mean Dead, although that would maybe be a bit too rude. In any case, the D mode shifts up very early and shifts down very late, even when accelerating full throttle. As a result, sometimes a dead moment occurs in which nothing happens.

The S mode feels much better: with every input from the throttle, the transmission responds sufficiently quickly. You can use the flippers together with the S mode to manually shift up (on long straights) or down (just before a corner), resulting in an extremely efficient and comfortable semi-automatic. The DCT can also be set to M (from manual) so that you can choose gears yourself.

When it comes to sound, the X-ADV was less convincing. Despite the optional Termignoni exhaust, it just sounds too much as a moped.

The mirrors deserve a special mention because they’re the best mirrors I’ve ever seen on a motorcycle. Despite the vibrations in the handlebars, the mirrors offer a crystal-clear view at any time.

The brakes do their job more than adequately. There are levers for both the front and the rear brake on the handlebars: the rear brake on the left, the front brake on the right. Which makes the X-ADV a real scooter. You can brake in a very delicate way, but when using both levers the ABS at the rear intervenes very quickly.

The traction control also does this in position 2. You’ll notice how rough the X-ADV starts reacting. Fortunately, there’s a button to switch to position 1 or even turn off the traction control completely.

Adventure

So how about a little adventure in the woods with this Japanese beauty? First you’ll have to touch the G-button. We’ve seen that button before, on the Africa Twin. It stands for “gravel” and adjusts the traction control for off-road use. The ABS remains fully active and cannot be switched off.

Riding off-road feels better standing upright, which is possible on the X-ADV thanks to the optional aluminum foot pegs. The standing position is so good that I caught myself standing up for every speed bump. Moreover, it’s very easy to steer the bike by simply moving your weight. The smaller wheels (17 inch in front and 15 inch at the rear) and the limited suspension travel limit off-road possibilities, but you certainly don’t have to avoid gravel roads.

The foot pegs are also ideal for a more active sitting position: you still sit upright but as a motorcyclist the angle of your legs will feel more familiar, although you don’t have a tank between your legs to cling on to. So it’s still a weird sensation when you hang deep into corners.

Two-wheeled outcast

Motorcyclists do not greet scooter riders, as I experienced myself. Even at a red light a brief look wasn’t an option, let alone a nod or a chat. I felt like an outcast. My motorcycle buddy also confirmed: “I don’t greet scooters. They’re wannabe motorcyclists!”

Personally, I greet everything that has two wheels and an engine. From a tattooed Hell’s Angel to some chap on his Chinese copy-of-a-Dax. Riding the X-ADV is indeed riding a motorcycle. All the sensations of a motorcycle are present and with its capable steering behavior and dynamic engine, it can even leave many of those “real” bikers behind. So isn’t it time to welcome those scooters into the motorcycle family?

Conclusion

Did the unique concept of the Honda X-ADV convince me? Absolutely. Will I buy one soon? Probably not. Not because I don’t find this all-rounder appealing. On the contrary, I had a lot of fun with the beautiful X-ADV and kept discovering new possibilities. If I’d live on the outskirts of the city and had to face traffic jams every day, then an X-ADV would surely get a spot in my garage. But I don’t live on the city’s outskirts, and moving there just to buy one, that would be a bit crazy, no?

Photography: Kenny VH

Pros

+ It’s a motorcycle!
+ The adventure concept works
+ Great finish, as we’re used from Honda

Cons

– It’s a scooter
– Rough traction control
– The DCT’s D mode: yawn …

Tech specs

Engine

Bore × Stroke (mm): 77 x 80
Carburation: PGM-FI
Compression Ratio: 10.7:1
Engine Displacement: 745cc
Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, L2, SOHC
Max. Torque: 68N m
Max. Power: 54 Hp
Starter: Electric
Oil Capacity (Litres): 4.1L

Wheels

Brakes Front: 296mm, double disc
Brakes Rear: 240mm, single disc
Suspension Rear: Prolink with Rear Shock Preload adjustment
Tyre Size Front: 120/70 R17
Tyre Size Rear: 160/60 R15
Wheels Front: 17 inch
Wheels Rear: 15 inch
ABS System: 2 Channel

Dimensions and Weights

Battery Capacity (VAh): 12V-11.2AH
Caster Angle: 27°
Dimensions (L×W×H) (mm): 2245x910x1375
Frame type: Steel Diamond
Fuel Tank Capacity (Litres): 13.1L
Fuel Consumption: 27.5km/l
Ground Clearance (mm): 162mm
Headlights: LED
Kerb Weight (kg): 238kg
Seat Height (mm): 820mm
Trail (mm): 104mm
Wheelbase (mm): 1,590mm

Transmission

Clutch: Wet multiplate Hydraulic Dual clutch (DCT)
Final Drive: Chain
Transmission Type: 6-speed

Instruments and Electrics

12v Socket: Yes
Headlights: LED
Instruments: Digital
Tail Light: LED

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