The scooter market is an increasingly crowded and competitive segment of the U.S. motorcycle business. Going after the urban commuter dollar are everything from inexpensive rides like the Kymco Like to high-powered freeway fliers like the Suzuki Burgman to super deluxe $10,000 models like the Vespa 946.
Honda is splitting the difference and aiming for the middle of the target with its 2014 Forza.
Sharing some genetic material with Honda's earlier Helix and Reflex scooter lines, the Forza is a sleek, smart-looking 300cc unit that features smooth power, a liquid-cooled and fuel-injected engine, an optional anti-lock ABS braking system and capacious storage.
You can go 70 mph on the freeway, comfortably, and you can store two full-face helmets under the seat, conveniently. Plus a jacket. Plus your sunglasses, sunscreen and maybe a sandwich in additional but smaller storage areas.
As with any machine, it has trade-offs.
The machine has a solid feel but is heavy at 422 pounds. It gets 68 mpg but may feel underpowered with a passenger on board. It boasts Honda's traditionally high-grade fit and finish but may seem expensive at $5,599.
There is much to recommend here. The Forza sits low and comfortably, and the ride, behind a well-designed windscreen, is suitably wind- and vibration-free. The V-matic transmission presents an almost seamless application of power to the rear wheel. The bike has the traditional scooter center stand but also has a side stand. It has a fuel gauge too, which ought to be mandatory on any motorcycle and is welcome on a machine that gets such good fuel consumption that you may forget it needs gasoline at all.
Honda is even offering a transferable one-year unlimited warranty.
But like any bike, it's not for everyone. Despite multiple long rides around town and commutes to and from work, I couldn't find a seating posture that suited me. From the Barcalounger school of scooters, the Forza has laid-back ergonomics, with the rider's feet up front, rather than directly below -- the same sit position that Honda is using on its small-bore cruiser CTX700D and larger-bore CTX1300.
That made getting my feet on and off the bike awkward. Also, the high capacity trunk means the Forza is not a step-through scooter like a Vespa but a step-over scooter, more like a regular motorcycle.
Die-hard Honda owners may be pleased to know that the Forza comes in only one paint scheme -- a "Pearl Red" variation on Honda's trademark color.
To them, Honda says, "May the Forza be with you."