Friday, February 26, was a busy day for the local motorcycle industry. That day, we covered the virtual launches of the new Honda PCX160 and Yamaha NMax 155, which were presented by the two big manufacturers almost back to back.
But before the online presentation, Honda Philippines organized a quick test ride of the 2021 PCX160 at the Honda Safety Driving Center (HSDC). Here’s how this much-discussed scooter fared on a short, highly technical course.
In recent years, the premium scooter segment has been one of the best performers in the sales charts. While the PCX has certainly sold well, keeping the same body styling for an extended period poses a big challenge for this popular city ride to keep up with its competition.
The PCX160 is loved by scooter fans for its sharp yet classy overall styling, and now features a new LED headlight and taillight, along with redesigned alloy wheels. Honda’s designers even came up with new color schemes (Pearl Fadeless White and Asteroid Black Metallic for the ABS variant, and Matte Dim Gray Metallic and Pearl Fadelesss White for the CBS) that make the PCX160 more dignified-looking.
I would like to believe that the new PCX will draw more respect and courtesy at police checkpoints, provided the rider dons full safety gear as well. Come to think of it, with its uniform color and lack of graphics, the Pearl Fadeless White PCX160 could also pass as a police bike.
The Honda PCX has already made a mark as a scooter that pampers riders with its wide, well-cushioned seats and ample-spaced step board. The bike offers an upright riding position that is comfortable even during heavy traffic.
The PCX’s two-step seat and high-positioned foot pegs give the passenger a good sense of safety by having a good view of what’s up ahead. The grab rail, however, needs to be stretched a bit to prevent the pillion rider from moving backward just to get a safer grip.
There was also an improvement in the locking system of the underseat compartment. Unlike the one on the current PCX, which takes several attempts to close, the locking mechanism here catches the seat’s metal U-bar with precision. That’s the fit and finish Honda motorcycles are known for.
The new scooter is packed with a bit of additional power after Honda increased the engine capacity from 149cc to 157cc. Its little mill now produces 15.6hp, as compared to the PCX150’s 13.3hp. The new eSP+ (Enhanced Smart Power Plus) engine technology still applies a four-valve, SOHC, liquid-cooled layout.
I felt the slight increase in engine displacement as I closely tailed the HSDC instructor while negotiating the slope. The course has a small yet steep bridge that requires the rider to slow down before making a quick left turn upon entry to the highly elevated structure. The uphill climb test was like a walk in the park.
From S-turns to the cornering sections, the swift, smooth throttle response allowed me to accelerate from the apex and regain speed with ease before heading to the next course. Braking modulation was effortless, too, while establishing a rhythm in speed attacking corners.
Ride and handling
The riding dynamics of the PCX160 are very easy to get familiar with. This gave me the guts to keep up with the instructor’s pace, knowing that this scooter heeds to the rider’s wish.
The sharp cornering traits and nimbleness of the PCX gave me smiles while doing a figure-eight. I was impressed with the PCX’s stopping power when I executed the brake test at 30kph. Whether it was the Combi Brake System or ABS, it took just a little pressure on the levers for the calipers to effectively clamp the front and rear discs.
But honestly speaking, I prefer the ABS variant since I feel more at ease using 90% of the braking up front than at the rear. Aside from giving the PCX160 a beefier look, the bigger tire upfront also boosts its cornering abilities.
The most important feature of the new PCX160 is the Honda Selectable Torque Control, which functions just like traction control. In the absence of wet or slippery surfaces at HSDC’s proving ground, I did not feel any difference in road traction even after toggling the system on and off.
Honda has fitted the new PCX160 with Idling Stop System, a USB charging socket inside the front cubby compartment, and a keyless entry system with anti-theft and answer-back features. Just like with the outgoing model, this version comes with a 3o-liter underseat compartment—enough to take a full-face helmet and raincoat.
Under the new normal, millions are still looking for a decent, respectable ride to the office as an alternative to four-wheeled vehicles.
The 2021 Honda PCX160 might have fallen short in terms of having a full TFT panel or connectivity feature, which its nemesis—the new Yamaha NMax 155—does have. These features will come, sooner or later, since they are now available with other Honda motorbikes with smaller engines recently launched abroad.
Nonetheless, the prices of the Honda PCX160 ABS and CBS variants will probably make you decide to go for the scooter from the Red Brigade, since it shines in terms of styling and performance. Thisalso leaves you with some savings for accessories or riding gear.
Specs: 2021 Honda PCX160
Price: P115,900 (CBS), P133,900 (ABS)
Engine: 156cc SOHC single-cylinder
Power: 15.6hp at 8,500rpm
Torque: 15Nm at 6,500rpm