2021 Honda ADV150 First Ride Review

Automorbit, Motorcycle – Scooters are user-friendly, capable city commuters and that’s all they can be, right? Wrong. Ample storage and an automatic transmission are typical scooter features that can attract the everyday urban rider, but what Honda’s new 2021 ADV150 adds to the pot is a bit more versatility for taking on the city streets and a little bit beyond.

The press launch for this scooter was held in Orange County, California—one of the state’s larger and more populous counties. On the docket was a metropolitan cruise followed by some dirt on the outskirts of the OC’s suburban sprawl. Honda gave us a brief overview of the model and history about how its design came to fruition via a worldwide Honda design competition—one that Thai and Indonesian designers ended up winning.

Honda said that prior to its US introduction the model saw the most popularity in Southeast Asia, which makes sense considering the competition winner. The designers knew that the population needed something that could take on the rougher paved or gravel roads that span the region’s cities and surrounding areas. Honda’s Thai Studio Manager, Bongkarn Sawatsutipan, stated, “Because of this commuting situation [in Indonesia and Thailand], I think it would be nice to have a little sense of play every day. That’s why I hope the adventure-style ADV150 will make your commute more enjoyable.” Although I would argue that the US may not have as many rough and rugged roads to commute on like other parts of the world, Honda’s key target audience of younger and first-time buyers is still valid.

Before our 60-mile ride Honda also pointed out the scoot’s design shares much with the company’s street-focused scooter, the PCX150, in both double cradle frame and 149cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder engine. The ADV150 does differ in exhaust and intake track that improves low- to midrange torque, they told us.

On the road, Honda’s focus on low- to midrange torque is made clear as the 149cc single pulls off the line smoothly, but tapers when speeds increase to the 50-mph range. Riding more congested city streets highlights the purposeful and accommodating torque that is put to the rear wheel via the V-matic automatic transmission. Streetlight-to-streetlight stop-and-go and traffic-avoiding filtering is wholly uncomplicated. Taking to the outskirts, pinned up the back hills of OC, the little engine does struggle, on some of the steepest parts I noted 55 mph, but on the straights and downhill declines (again at full pin) I saw 60–67 mph. This scoot is by no means meant to compete with a motorcycle in outright performance.

During the first portion of the ride, I positioned the two-position adjustable windscreen at its highest setting and found that the piece deflects wind nicely, only hitting my collarbone/upper chest area without buffeting the helmet, after the foray into the dirt, I lowered it and felt more wind on my chest, but it is not an uncomfortable amount of force.

When our ride leader took us to the washed-out dirt and partially paved road section in the hills I was impressed with the scoot’s modest off-road capabilities. Its 14-inch front and 13-inch rear wheels with block-pattern tread design do well in maintaining traction when the road switches from slick gravel-covered pavement to undulating dirt dips. Traction is also adequate in the soft sand of the washed-out dirt portions.

In the dirt, the nonadjustable 31mm telescopic fork’s compression damping is spot-on; it was plush enough to absorb smaller bumps, and firm enough to provide a good front end feel through the dips, though I did notice an occasional loss of feel on the sharp crests of the washboard surfaces. No bottoming out thanks to the 5.1 inches of travel. Rebound returned to static ride height fairly quickly under hard braking, but it was not so fast as to upset the composure of the ADV150′s chassis. At the rear, the ADV150 is equipped with twin Showa shocks (remote piggyback reservoirs and triple-rate springs) that provide 4.7 inches of travel and this, too, did not bottom out, and soaked up the rutted road comfortably while keeping the rear wheel planted as a result of the well-sorted rebound setting.

In terms of ergonomics, the ADV150 offered plenty of legroom from seat to floorboards, enough so that standing to utilize my legs on the dirt sections (if needed) is easily possible. When seated on the firm but comfortable seat, however, my longer arms are a tad tight with the close handlebar causing my elbows to be at 90-degree angles at my sides. With that said, the riding position is upright and generally comfortable for the city commute and workable for rough roads.

Following the dirt portion we did a few rounds on twisty pavement. The ADV150 is nimble on switchbacks. The scooter is able to tighten in midcorner if need be, though I could have used a little more power for exiting the turns to add a bit more excitement on the tarmac. While I did not close the gap of the 6.5-inch ground clearance to cause any scraping, fellow moto-journos did voice that the centerstand touched pavement for them when pushing the limits.

The braking department consists of a single 240mm disc (with ABS) at the front and mechanical 130mm drum at the rear. The front setup, though on the soft side, is noticeably more responsive than the spongy rear drum.

After we concluded the 60-mile loop, I was impressed that the fuel gauge notified me that about three-quarters of a tank remained and the average fuel consumption indicated on the LCD dash read 70.8 mpg (with a total of around 200 logged miles on the odometer). With a 2.1-gallon gas tank that means roughly 140 miles between fill-ups.

The dash displays quite a bit of information: Speedometer, fuel meter, date, clock, odometer, two tripmeters, instantaneous fuel mileage (with tiny, hard-to-read numbering underneath), average fuel consumption, battery voltage, and air temperature. While the speedo is front and center and easy to read, the rest of the information was packed into the corners (a few of which you had to toggle through) making it almost too much information to process when glancing quickly at the monochromatic screen.

I must also of course touch on storage. There are two locations to stash your personal items: Under the seat and on the front left of the cockpit. Under the seat there is a 27-liter weather-resistant compartment that is claimed to hold most full-sized helmets. My medium Arai Regent-X did fit though it was tight; visor-equipped ADV-style helmets will likely have an even harder time squeezing in. The 2-liter storage on the left side of the cockpit easily holds a smartphone with enough room for a wallet and other smaller items. The 12-volt cigarette-style charging port is located within the cockpit storage to allow for charging on the go.

Although admittedly the thought of an adventure-styled scooter was a bit perplexing, after riding it through the city and down some dirt roads I can appreciate a practical use for such a machine. It allows for a bit more freedom to run errands and if you see that the shortest path getting to your errands is a dirt road, take it.

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