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There was a certain sense of Déjà Vu about this Honda launch. Three years ago we were at the same beautiful location in the South of France to ride the new Honda Forza 125. Since then it’s sold over 30,000 units in to Europe (although not too many of those sales are attributed to the UK). In those three years it has been the best selling luxury scooter in France and the third best in Europe (behind the Honda SH and PCX). It was and still is a great scooter in both capacities (the Forza 300 was reintroduced in 2013) but Honda have just made it even better.

First things first, the Forza isn’t the cheapest 125/300 in its respective class, it’s aimed at the kind of scooter buyer who takes riding seriously and wants the best machine for the job. The kind of professional commuter who wants great performance, ‘GT’ styling and the kind of quality you associate with Honda. This 2018 update to an already outstanding model only improves things further and should see the Forza going from strength to strength. If you’re planning to use a scooter everyday, buy the best you can afford.

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Made in Italy

The Forza is a model specific to Europe, designed for European riders and built in the Honda factory at Atessa in Italy. The scooter received an update for 2017, including the introduction of the Honda Smart Key, revised mirrors with integrated indicators/running lights, upgraded rear suspension, 3 new colours and of course it was built to meet Euro4 specs. The 125 also swapped to Michelin tyres, the 300 to Pirelli.

What’s new for 2018?

For starters the styling has been tweaked significantly enough to be different but subtly enough so as not to lose its identity. Hondas aim was to make it “Agile and classy”, I think they’ve succeeded. It loses weight, gains extra storage space, comes with a new dashboard, LED indicators/lights and an electric screen on both models, a first as far as I’m aware in this class.

Chassis

The 300 shares the same chassis as the 2018 125 Forza, this shaves a massive 12kg from the previous 300 and makes it more agile. It also has more than double the torque and almost 70% more power than the 125. Not that the 125 is slow by any stretch of the imagination. To make the 125cc chassis useable on both capacities the battery was repositioned, as was the radiator. The tweaks mean it now has space for two full face helmets within the voluminous 53.5 litre underseat space. Aside from being much lighter the 300 is also 26mm shorter overall, has a 35mm shorter wheelbase and a 64mm higher seat.

Engines   

The 125 now uses the ESP – Enhanced Smart Power engine, a compact and efficient 4-valve lump with side mounted radiator (as used on the PCX/SH). It’s the most user-friendly and quickest 125cc four stroke scooter engine I’ve used. The 300 gains a new exhaust and air filter, plus the transmission has been set up differently to give a sportier ride.

The 300 makes 24.8bhp at 7,000rpm and 20.06 ft lbs of torque at 5,750 rpm. This is a 90mph 300.”

It also gains traction control in the form of Honda Selectable Torque Control – HSTC. A first on a Honda scooter.

VIDEO | FORZA Launch – Nice
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First impressions

Although lots has changed, the Forza is still instantly recognisable but look a little closer and you can see it’s more stylish, sharper and classier than the 2015 version. As a whole package it looks and feels like the premium model you’d expect from Honda. To my eye it raises the bar and deserves to overtake its PCX/SH stablemates on the Honda podium in both 125 and 300 capacities. Looking at it from different angles and in different colours this is a classy machine.

Smart Key

Keyless ignition is getting more popular now and the Forza got it last year with the updated model. You can operate the scooter with the Smart Key in your pocket from up to 3 metres away (although you’d need long arms to reach it from 3 metres). Turn the centrally located dial to turn the scooter on and press the starter button with the rear brake pulled in to start it. Once unlocked you can also open the seat or pop the floor mounted fuel tank open. It seemed more user-friendly than the system used on the SH 300 a few years ago, a Smarter Key maybe?

On board

Although things have changed the Forza still feels familiar and the raised seat height isn’t a problem for me at 5’10”. I can still just about put both feet flat to the floor. The dashboard is much nicer looking, has more information and the LCD screen is bigger. You can toggle through the various functions using the ‘Info A’ and ‘Info B’ buttons on the left handlebar. The top section has the fuel gauge, time and engine temp. The next line down, ‘Info A’ has two trip functions, average fuel consumption and a time meter, whilst the middle section of the screen on ‘Info B’ has the odometer, range and instant fuel consumption. The lower section of the dash has the ambient temperature and battery charge condition. The LCD screen is flanked on either side by an analogue speedo and rev counter

Electric screen

The other new button on the left handlebar is for the electric screen. Some top end touring motorcycles and the odd larger capacity scooter get an electric screen but you don’t usually get one on a 300cc scooter and certainly not on a learner legal 125. Well you do now. The screen is fast, smooth and can be stopped in any position, it’s a great addition to the model.

Stop/Start

The other new button is the Stop/Start button on the right handlebar. With it turned on the scooter will cut out if you’re at a standstill for 3 seconds or more. Twist the throttle and it bursts instantly to life and you’re away. This also seemed to react a bit quicker than the PCX we tested a couple of years ago. It saves fuel and doesn’t compromise a fast getaway so I’d probably use it all the time if I bought a Forza.

HSTC

As mentioned previously the 300 also gains traction control in the form of Honda Selectable Torque Control. It prevents the rear wheel spinning faster than the front by cutting power if needed. It’s not at all intrusive, can be turned off if you prefer and is worth having as an extra safety measure.

125cc on the road

If you read our 2015 launch report you’ll remember that we were mightily impressed with the performance of the 125, back then we got a good blast down a stretch of quiet motorway, head down I clocked 81mph on my GPS. The 2018 model feels no slower, it accelerates with more punch than a 125cc four stroke has the right to do. You can confidently nip to the front of any traffic queue, let the Stop/Start cut the engine and still beat even the most determined car driver away once its clear. The 125 also has plenty of torque on tap, it’ll climb hills easily and gives you a feeling of confidence that you don’t ordinarily get with a modern 125. That feeling also translates to faster flowing roads where you can easily keep up with traffic, 70mph is easy to reach and the scooter still has a bit more left. I hit 76mph on the GPS and could feel the rev limiter kicking in, I imagine I could have seen 78-79mph given a little more space on the motorway but it’s maybe a couple of mph down on the 2015 model, thanks no doubt to Euro 4 tweaks. Even so, this is still the quickest and most useable 125 scooter I’ve ridden.

Motorway use

Riding a 125 on the motorway isn’t unusual if you come from a classic scooter background where travelling hundreds of miles to scooter rallies is a normal weekend pastime. It’s still a subject that confuses many riders (and non-riders) but if you have a full licence it’s perfectly legal to ride a 125cc on the motorway in the UK. The Forza 125 makes it safer and more enjoyable though, simply because it has enough oomph to sit at 70mph, has power left over to overtake and also has a great road presence. I’d happily do a couple of hundred miles of motorway on the Forza 125.

Brakes and suspension

This is a premium model so you kind of expect it to ride very well, you won’t be disappointed. The Forza has a quality feel to everything, including the brakes and suspension. The twin rear shocks are adjustable to 5-positions, they feel plush and well damped on both models, the front forks are also very good. The same goes for the brakes, loads of power and plenty of feel at the levers. Of course both models also have ABS and it just sits in the background for when you need it. Even during some twisty mountain riding whilst chasing another rider on the 300 it wasn’t intrusive, I probably only felt it cut in twice during the whole day.

HSTC

That goes for the HSTC as well, some traction control systems cut the power at times when you don’t really want them to, the Honda system needs you to get things a bit more out of control for it to activate, that’s a good thing as far as I’m concerned and it can also be turned off using a button on the top of the left handlebar. When HSTC is active and it cuts in you’ll see a flashing ‘T’ on the dash.

Optional extras

One worthy addition is the colour-coded Honda topbox, it’s coded to the Smart Key and the transponder is contained within the rear bodywork of the scooter so no space is lost inside it. It also has a rear backrest for the pillion. No price has been released for this yet but expect it to be pricey.

Honda also offer an alarm, U-lock, bike cover, heated grips and the Forza wheel stickers that were on the test bikes.

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VIDEO | FORZA 300 on the loose

300 on the road

Riding up into the twisty switchbacks on the hills above Monaco gave me a chance to ride the Forza 300 a bit harder than we had been all day. Sensing some prey ahead I got a shift on and hunted down the fellow journo in the distance. Before long he was under pressure as I filled his (very good) rear view mirrors. We had a little tussle for a few miles, working the brakes and tyres hard. The Pirellis are certainly up to the job, leaving the scooter well planted and letting me know what was going on beneath them. It’s a great engine for playing on this kind of road. In fact it’s a great all-rounder, slow town riding on both the 125 and 300 is very stable, you can literally ride to a stop in the slowest traffic without needing to dab a foot for stability. A foot dabbed down costs you penalty points during my solo filtering game.

VIDEO | forza 125/300 road test

Top speed

Get the 300 on the motorway and it’s eager to go, press the button to get the screen to its highest setting, get your head behind it and you’ll soon see over 80mph on the clock. I was behind the Honda lead rider and had to back off before I could get the scooter flat out. Overtaking the leader puts you on the naughty step. Even so, my GPS recorded 88.5 mph and there was still more to come. Plus it felt stable enough, some scooters start to wallow a bit at similar speeds but the Forza handled itself very well. This is well capable of touring, or doing longer fast commutes. I’d have happily ridden it home rather than wait for the delayed flight home later that night.

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SLUK Verdict

Overall the Forza is a well finished, high-spec, quick scooter. Whether it’s the learner legal 125 or the A2 compliant 300, both scooters are at the top of their class in terms of finish, equipment and the way they ride. You can buy a cheaper scooter from other manufacturers, you can also buy a budget scooter but if you’re serious about riding and can afford it the Forza will pretty much blitz them all and still have a good resale value when you part-ex it for your next Honda in a few years. It’s a fantastic machine. Give one a try at your local Honda dealer.

Words: Iggy

Photo and video: Zep Gori, Francesc Montero, Ciro Meggiolara, Dom & Chris Read-Jones. Rowan Muskin

Video Edit: Iggy

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Alternative 125 choices

  • Yamaha XMAX 125: £4599
  • Honda PCX 125: £2929
  • Kawasaki J125: £4099
  • Sym Joymax 125i Sport: £4299

Alternative 300 choices

  • Yamaha XMAX 300: £5199
  • Honda SH 300i: £4799
  • Kawasaki J300: £4599
  • Kymco X-Town 300i: £4599

2018 Honda Forza 300 specifications

Engine: 279cc liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, 4-stroke, 4-valve SOHC

Power: 24.8 bhp @ 7000 rpm

Torque: 27.2 nm @ 5750 rpm

Brakes: Front 256mm single disc, rear 240mm disc, two channel ABS

Wheels: Front 120/70-15, rear 140/70-14 tyres

Suspension: 33mm front hydraulic forks, twin rear shocks – 5-position preload

Seat height: 780mm

MPG: 76.9 mpg – 375km tank range

Weight: 182kg

Dimensions: Length 2140mm, width 755mm, height 1470mm

Tank capacity: 11.5 litres

Warranty: Two years

Colours: Crescent Blue Metallic, Pearl Nightstar Black, Matt Cynos Grey Metallic, Matt Pearl Cool white

Price: £5099

Contact: www.bikes.honda.co.uk

2018 Honda Forza 300 gallery

2018 Honda Forza 125 specifications 

Engine: 125cc liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, 4-stroke, 4-valve SOHC

Power: 14.75bhp @ 8500 rpm

Torque: 12.5nm @ 8250 rpm

Brakes: Front 256mm disc, rear 240mm disc, two channel ABS

Wheels: Front 120/70-15, rear 140/70-14 tyres

Suspension: 33mm front hydraulic forks, twin rear shocks – 5-position preload

Seat height: 780mm

Weight: 162kg

Dimensions: Length 2140mm, width 755mm, height 1470mm

Tank capacity: 11.5 litres

Warranty: Two years

Colours: Matt Carnelian Red Metallic/Pearl Nightstar Black, Matt pearl Cool White/Matt Cynos Grey Metallic, matt Lucent Silver Metallic/Matt pearl Pacific Blue, Matt Cynos Grey Metallic/Matt Carbonium Grey Metallic, Black/Matt Cynos Grey Metallic

Price: £4689

Contact: www.bikes.honda.co.uk

2018 Honda Forza 125 gallery

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