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MD First Ride: Kymco 2011 – Power to the Peoples

People GT 200i

Charleston, South Carolina, is a city steeped in tradition—while looking to the future. It’s a melange of old and new, a bouillabaisse of different cultures, an eclair of eras and languages, a veritable Wal-Mart Super Center of, um..well…

Okay, I suck as a travel writer. But Charleston is a beautiful city, and who knew? When you think of historic American cities, New Orleans or maybe Boston pop into your mind, but Charleston deserves a visit if you’re interested in history, architecture, art, food—all the things that cities are celebrated for. And maybe that’s why Kymco USA decided to use that 340-year-old location as a backdrop for its 2011 new product launch.

I write that because if you think about scooters, Kymco may be the fifth or sixth brand that occurs to you, and that’s unfair. As I reported in 2009, Kymco has been building high-quality automotive products in Taiwan since 1963 and has had a presence in the North American market for at least a dozen years. The Kymco products I’ve ridden have been well-designed, well-built and offered outstanding economy, performance and reliability. Scooter dealers love to carry them, and Kymco owners (judging by the traffic on scooter fora) are a loyal bunch. And yet, scooterists ride past the Kymco shop for the other brands.

People GT 300i

So what’s new for 2011? An all-new model and an all-new engine. The engine is a 205cc four-stroke Single, fuel-injected and liquid-cooled. If you’re familiar with the Kymco line-up, the addition of a powerplant so close in displacement to the 174.5cc mill in the Yager 200 may seem odd, but apparently Kymco has no problem with engine development (in fact, the company makes motors for BMW and Husqvarna models). A more powerful and fuel-efficient powerplant was needed for the European market (which sells a lot of scoots in the 150-250cc range, perfect for Europe’s crowded, narrow streets), which Kymco has clearly set in its sights.

The 205 goes into the new People GT 200i. The People represents Kymco’s line of big-wheel scooters, similar to Aprilia’s Scarabeo. It gets 16-inch hoops front and back, with motorcycle-ish 110/70 and 140/70 tire sizes. Five-position adjustable dual shocks suspend the back, with conventional forks up front. Wheelbase is 57 inches, and claimed dry weight is 364 pounds. Yikes! Add gas, coolant, battery and whatever else and you’re looking at a 400-pound 200cc scoot.

Downtown 200i

Luckily, the new 205cc mill is pretty good. It fires right up, has excellent throttle response, and goes exactly as fast as you need a scooter to go. The riding we did was pretty sedate (and I have to admit I missed a day of riding so I could attend another event), but we had a few chances to try to hit top speed and I couldn’t do it, even with 70 mph on the speedometer. Acceleration was brisk, considering the small size of the engine and the weight of the bike. A 2.4-gallon tank should get you most of the way to 150 miles, depending on how you ride.

Styling may be polarizing, but it’s pretty staid compared to the Yager. It’s an interesting combo of sharp angles and sculpted shapes, original without being wacky. The seat is a little high at 31.9 inches, but it’s narrow and low at the front, so shorties can handle the bike easier than the numbers suggest, further aided by a scooter’s low center of gravity and quick steering. Handling is very good, light and predictable yet stable. The brakes are also very serviceable, although it’d be nice to see the ABS option the flagship Xciting 500i offers.

A drawback of the People’s big wheels is the lack of storage. The underseat area is but a shallow tray that won’t even fit a half helmet. However, there are two helmet hooks, as well as a standard rear trunk, with a lock matched to the ignition and ample room for a full-face helmet, or maybe a large pumpkin.

The People line is also reinforced by the People GT 300i. This uses the 299cc motor I experienced in the Downtown 300i I rode in 2009. That’s a good powerplant, for sure—it’s smooth and powerful and I remember going 80 or more mph in an undisclosed location back then. What’s interesting is that Kymco, through transmission tuning (did you know CVT trannies use little weights in a device called a “variator” that can be changed to deliver different acceleration characteristics?), has made the Downtown 300 and the People 300 feel like very different scooters. The People GT will walk away from the Downtown in low-speed roll-on tests, and I can only assume that the Downtown will have a higher top speed. But other than different acceleration and vibration levels, the 300i feels a lot like the 200i. Kymco claims the same weights for the two models.

One thing that surprises me about Kymco is the pricing. Scoots from mainland China are as cheap as two-wheeled transportation gets, but these new Kymco models are priced like a luxury brand. The People GT 200i is $4899, and it’s $5399 for the 300i. The Downtown 200i is $5199. But Kymco is hiding some bargains, as well—the very functional (but air-cooled and much slower) 163cc Like 200i has had its MSRP slashed to $2599 and the bare-bones Agility 125 is just $1799. And all Kymco scooter models get a two-year factory warranty, double what the Japanese factories offer.

With gas prices always an issue these days, motorcycle dealers are reporting renewed interest in scooters. And new scooter buyers aren’t as price-sensitive as traditional motorcycle shoppers—after all, $5000 won’t buy you a lot of car, particularly if you’re trying to save money on gas.

My brief rides on the new Kymco models showed me they deserve premium pricing—whether American consumers will agree will soon be apparent. Maybe they’ll book a flight to Charleston as well.

People GT 200i

44 Comments

  1. Al says:

    How come no one brings up the insurance and maintenance cost of motorcycles v scooters along with the gas mileage and easy parking? It’s cool not to wake up your neighbors. Scooters are cook and Kymco has the best dealer network of any scooter manufacturer in the country.

  2. Pinksteel says:

    I own a few vintage Honda scooters, and an ’09 Piaggio BV250 – and they’re all a hoot to drive. I’d gladly own a Kymco…they have a great reputation for value and durability.

  3. Fester says:

    Ride your own ride, I’ve been riding for 40 years, Street, Enduro, MX, and Scooters, They all have a place and uses. The newer Kymco and SYM’s are a bargain for what you get, and what other motorbike company is still making and selling 60’s and 70’s classics like the SYM Wolf 150 and the Symba?

  4. Gary says:

    Glad you did a report on something other than the usual HonSuzYamKawHarleys models. How about some tests on Hyosungs and other soon to be more reconized makes and models? Sounds like Kymco does have their act together, and I see more dealers popping up in my area.

  5. Gronde says:

    Is Walmart going to be selling this scooter?

  6. Mack says:

    I own a Star Roadliner and a Kaw ZX11 so you know I kinda like power, but I gotta tell you, i love scooters. I have owned them in the past and I have absolutely have no complaints about them. They are so fun to zip around the city on. For those that say get a small motorcycle, i would rather buy a scooter than a starter motorcycle anyway. If I am going to get something that small it might as well have the practicality that a scooter brings. Quit being egotistical snobs people. Scooters are great vehicles. Some of the people that turn their noses down at scooters have a Corolla or some other econo car in their garage. Whats the difference?

  7. Roadrash1 says:

    Gabe,
    See if you can find someone to let you have a Sachs Madass 125 to review. I can’t get into the scooter thing, but for some reason, I could see myself on a Madass.

  8. xchr1s says:

    If I’d wanted a scooter, I’d look closely at the Aprilia Mana 850-GT w/ABS.

    • tron says:

      I thought of the Mana also, its kind of a slick design.
      Two things though, not necessarily negatives, one is that its a motorcycle with cvt, not a scooter, thus does not offer the underseat storage or weather protection of, say, a Burgman. Two, its quite expensive and doesn’t seemt to have met with a lot of acceptance, thus questionable resale.
      Otherwise I like it quite a bit, reminds me of a Triumph Tiger or VStrom in some aspects. The CVT is pretty sophisticated.
      Another thing I’ve come to appreciate about scooters is using your hands for both brakes, hands being more sensitive than feet its much easier to modulate the scooter brakes. also the low center of gravity makes lower speed corners a bunch of fun.

  9. johnny ro says:

    One problem with this is used bike prices. Another is HP prejudice.

    Combining these two problems, CBR1100XX Blackbirds can be had for less. Happy problem.

    Even so, I do want a big fun scooter. Local Yammie dealer carries Kymco. Lets go visit and see why my GS500F on consignment has not sold yet. If it did, sped the proceeds.

    Dale, I am staring at you.

  10. Ed Crawford says:

    Price might seem high but the Honda SH150 starts at $4,499. The GT 300i looks like a pretty good deal offering all of what the Honda does plus twice the engine for $5,399. I’d say $900 well spent.

  11. TANWare says:

    Scooters are a different ride than a MC. Much more relaxed IMHO. I have a Honda 1984 V65 and while the power is fun it is a very taxing ride. My Downtown 300i is almost the exact opposite, I can ride it for hours on end and feel refreshed afterwards. With the scooter you ride along with the cages rather than looking for the next cage to blast by.

    With the scooter I look for 45-55MPH twisty back roads to relax and enjoy. It can easily handle interstates but that is not where the fun is at…………

  12. GPokluda says:

    My wife owns a Kymco 250S People. Wonderful machine. Rides great and is easy to perform simple maintenance on. I have no problem throwing a leg “through” it for quick errands when I don’t feel like squeezing my DL650 out of the garage. You guys and gals who can’t be seen on a scooter need to see a therapist and get egos under control.

  13. tron says:

    I would not pay Kymco’s prices simply because I know in my area they have poor resale value and questionable dealer support.
    I bought a 400 Burgman last year when I had an injury that wouldn’t let me work a clutch (since resolved). It definitely doesn’t take the place of a motorcycle for me but it has been much more fun than I would have imagined and I like it very much for my daily commute which is all stop and go traffic. The weather protection, underseat storage and cvt transmission make it excellent for that purpose. It has also surprised me with its competence on highways, can easily hold a true 70mph with no great effort.
    Another side benefit is that although guys on motorycles tend to ignore you on a scooter, a lot of the public in general think they’re cool, especially young people and in particular young female people. I’d rather have a young female give me attention than some guy on a motorcycle.

  14. bikerrandy says:

    I have both scooters and MCs. At my age(67) the scooters are more convenient and user friendly compared to a MC. Speed is no longer an issue with me. If I want more speed I get on my VX800 Suzuki that will do up to 125 mph.

    I have a 500cc scooter w/16″ rims, detacheable saddlebags, trunk, 4.5 gal. gas tank that will cruise @ 80 mph 2 up all day with real weather protection getting 55 mpg on 87 oct. If you want bigger rims(tires last longer) on a scooter you lose the hidden storage. Can’t have it both ways.

    Nobody but Kymco gives you a 2 years warranty on a new scooter.

    • MikeD says:

      What 500cc comes with BOTH 16″ wheels ? Even the big ones on the US come with 15-14(Burgman650) or 15-15(T-MAX500)…i could be out on that so don’t quote me…(^_^ )
      Unless u are located somehwere else that is…lol.

      • bikerrandy says:

        I have a `04 Aprilia Scarabeo 500GT, which were made `04-`06. I believe the curent 500 Aprilias still have both 16″ rims too, but the model doesn’t come w/a fairing/hard bags like mine.

    • Gabe says:

      Actually, Sym offers a 2-year warranty too.

  15. Jeremy in TX says:

    These Kymcos are nice looking machines, but I can’t imagine a scenario where I would chose a scooter over a motorcycle (well, except a chopper). I just don’t see what they have to offer.

    • clasqm says:

      Oh, just see Tron’s comment a few posts up :-)

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        Aprilia Mana with cases. That is my idea of a scooter. Even then, it would take an injury for me to give up a clutch. I’m not hating on scooters, they just aren’t my cup of tea.

      • tron says:

        I think you just like the part about getting attention from the girls.

  16. Bud says:

    Today I learned that the plural of forum is fora. And saw a trailing axle fork, only the second one I recall ever seeing. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the day has in store for me!

  17. blackcayman says:

    buy a one year old Kymco 175 that some doosh has laid down on both sides with 450 miles on it for 400 bucks like I did, replaced both the mirrors and it was ready to ride – got the wife hooked on wrist contolled power. Now she moved up to a Sportster 1200. The scooter remains for 1/2 mile grocery runs and to give the kids a ride around the block.

  18. Oska says:

    CVT trannies on scoots open up the lifestyle to many, but they are a PIA to maintain. Doesn’t anyone consider a manual transmission on a scooter a good thing?

    • MikeD says:

      CVT’s are cake compared to having to splits the cases on a GS1100G to fix “anything” inside it. Not so much with the CVTs.
      Choices Choices….Priorities Priorities…Pick one.

  19. CWOWW says:

    Some superlatives to describe this vehicle – GEEK NERD DWEEB DORK

  20. ABQ says:

    Scooters are fun and great for getting around town. The only drawback is all the plastic breaking from use. But, with a Honda Ruckus that’s not an issue. I used my Burgman 650 as a daily driver, and enjoyed daily compliments. Now that I have a “real motorcycle” I don’t ride as much. I don’t get the same sense of ease, or fun.

  21. roughcut says:

    I personally own a Kymco and for the money I do not think you can buy a better scooter. As for the point of boring or underpowered, I think several of you are missing the point. I commute all the time on my Super8 150. you would be hard pressed to get to work faster than I can on this little work horse. I can’t wait to see the People GTs in person. Scooters are the new COOL!!!!

  22. Ross NY says:

    Scooters are insanely fun, I rip on my Yamaha Zuma125 3-5x per week for work commuting or getting milk.
    Wouldn’t even think about taking my gsxr750 or the dr650 or the wr250r or the vstrom1000…
    The scooter has that purity, that simpleness.
    Hop on, hop off, no drama.
    I think I put gas in it back in the middle of May? I can’t remember ‘cos the gas gauge needle doesn’t ever move…

  23. Tom says:

    My 19yo daughter rides my old pit scoot, a 84 Honda Aero 125. We have done short rides through the country roads and passed the lakes in the area. After the first of these rides she mentioned how much she enjoys riding. “I don’t know what it is or how to explain it but… this feeling you get riding is hard to describe.” “You don’t have to explain it to me”, I said, “I know exactly what you are feeling and its why I ride.”

    At that moment my daughter and I formed a deeper bond. I read these scooter reviews and think about getting one to replace the aged Aero as its drum brakes and flexi-flyer frame really aren’t as safe as modern scoots. One issue she has is seat height on all motorcycles and these new scooters. At 5’0″ she has a hard time with 30+ inch seat height that the larger scooter have.

  24. Gronde says:

    Buy a real motorcycle and be done with it. At that weight and price you’d be stupid not too!

    • Ruefus says:

      Comments like this prove that you miss the point and reasoning of a scooter entirely. But one example is Suzuki’s Burgmans. They’ve been at or well in excess of these prices for years, and they sell very well.

      Criticize all you want. Similar to riding a Gold Wing, go ride one for 20 minutes and your mind will change. It simply is not what you think.

      • John A. Kuzmenko says:

        Bah.
        I have owned and ridden scooters before, and they’re not for me.
        When I say they suck, are boring, and look silly as the icing on the V-belt cake, at least I did give it a whirl. ;)

      • Gronde says:

        I have ridden a buddies scooter and found it to feel very flexy and junky. The scooter above doesn’t even have enough storage room under the seal to fit half a helmet! So what am I missing? You can buy an excellent motorcycle like the CBR250R for less money and it has 250 Ac’s. I think if it was a lot cheaper it would make some school girl a real nice ride if she’s willing to strap her books on the seat.

        • Ruefus says:

          Consider the mentality of a scooter. Never mind the safety aspect, just think of what you’re asking.

          She’s going to shift. She’s going to swing her leg over, assuming she’s tall enough. She’s going to STILL have to figure out where to put her stuff.

          Not going to happen. Scooters are WAY more convenient as simple transportation.

  25. ziggy says:

    Wow, what a barn burner!

    I barely survived the excitement of the latest V-Strom update, and now I am supposed to handle this fire-breathing dragon?!

    I’m calling up Dr. Foster to score a blue football and some valium tommorrow. I can’t take the excitement…

  26. MikeD says:

    I would like for Kymco to bring State side the “MyRoad700i” to compete with the T-MAX 500 and the Burgman 650.

    Plenty of pop, storage and some neat features…the day i become too lazy to shift one of these will be coming my way…(^_^ )

  27. ze says:

    beautiful scooter