What’s the perfect two-wheeled vehicle? No way it could be a lowly scooter, right? Well, judging from the rants posted by our wise and noble readers, it’s inexpensive, light, low to the ground, handles admirably, seats two comfortably, gets stellar fuel economy, offers good wind protection, plenty of locking storage for touring and has a simple, reliable, yet satisfying powerplant. Well, that sounds like a scooter to me, boys. More specifically, it sounds like the scooter I rode around San Diego county not long ago, the new-for-the-USA-market Suzuki Burgman 200.
Hey now! Put down the pitchforks and hear me out. I know this is a big “if,” but if you’re willing to overlook that the Burgman is a scooter (and refrain from sharing the joke about how they’re like full-figured women because we’ve all heard it and it’s not that funny), it really may be the perfect motorcycle for everything but hardcore, extra-legal uses. Suzuki, I’m sure, hopes you agree.
So let’s get to it: what makes it so good? I’ll admit it’s not the most earth-shaking scooter of its generation, but it does have some credible chops that Suzuki’s moto-PR man (and AMA Pro road racer) Frankie Garcia pointed out during our technical presentation. It’s mostly your basic Euro-market maxi-scooter, a sub-genre that offers enough storage, weather protection and power for inter-city commuting, an important segment in areas where gasoline is $8 or more per gallon and there are fewer parking spaces than liquor stores. It may be “maxi,” but it’s still much smaller and lighter than its big-brother parallel-Twin-powered 650 Burgman and other scoots in this class.
That’s because it gets a liquid-cooled, four-valve OHC 200-class (note: Suzuki’s US web site has the wrong bore and stroke numbers of 63mm by 53.4mm – it is actually 69×53.4, or 199cc) powerplant producing a claimed 18.1 horsepower at 8,000 rpm, significantly more than many air-cooled motorcycles of similar—or even bigger—displacements.
Other notable touches: Nissin ABS (the same electronics as the Hayabusa’s) is standard, the windscreen is wind-tunnel designed, the rear shocks are adjustable, and there’s room for a pair of full-face helmets under the remotely opening seat. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) uses a fixed-spring design, that Suzuki claims reduces vibration. Some dimensions: seat height is a low 28.9 inches, the wheelbase is a not-unreasonable 57 inches, and it weighs in at 359 pounds wet (2.8 gallons of fuel).
Sounds like pretty standard scooter stuff. That’s how I felt as we started the press ride, but I’ve ridden a lot of scooters, and I’m pretty impressed by the micro-Burg. It’s a remarkably well-thought-out product that can do a lot of things very well, particularly considering the bike’s price and displacement.
For newbies, it’s easy to ride, thanks to the low seat, good steering lock, well thought-out fuel mapping and low center of gravity. Despite the long wheelbase, the smaller wheels and wide bars let you make quick, easy U-turns and shorter riders (like me) should feel confident paddling around to park or start out from a stop. The brakes are plenty strong—if you use all your fingers and both brakes—and the ABS works the way it should. We all tried to get our back tires to lock, but could only succeed in getting them to make little chirping sounds. Instead of tire-smoking hooligans, we sounded like a nest of cheeping baby birdies: the price of safety, I suppose. That makes it a good choice for beginner riders, and Frankie proudly pointed out that Suzuki has four entry-level, freeway-worthy machines (check your own state’s requirements for divided-highway legality—in California it’s 150cc or larger, but other states want 250): the Burgman 200, the standard GW250, the retro-hip TU250X and the newly restyled DR200S.
For experienced commuters there’s a lot to like, too. At lunchtime, we discussed the buffeting-free wind protection and asked parts and accessories man Jeff Walters if he had swapped out the stock screens for the higher-and-wider accessory item… nope, it’s stock. Impressive, as the ride at 70 mph or greater was relatively quiet. When you reach your destination, there’s room under the seat for not one, but two full-face helmets, side-by-side even, so there’s room for a bit more stuff as well. That’s a lot of locking storage for the money, and it’s buttressed by the little glove boxes in the front.
Fuel economy and range is also good, making the Burgmini-me a decent light-touring companion. There’s a current-mpg estimate on the digital display (that’s updated many times a minute) that showed fuel economy in the 60s, even with ample use of the throttle. If we had been slaves to the green “ECO” light that appears when you accelerate more slowly and keep the speeds down, 70 or greater mpg would have been possible. We rode around 120 miles and the fuel gauges were still indicating a half to a third of the 2.8-gallon remaining, hinting at a 180 or greater mile range. That’s better than some big touring bikes I’ve tested—add in the spacious trunk and good wind protection and why wouldn’t you tour on the Burgman 200? Oh, yeah, manly pride. There is that, but swallow that and you could ride it almost anywhere. I would.
My only serious complaint about the scooter during our test loop was the seat. It’s low and comfortable enough, but it could put you in an awkward position, with your knees above the line of your hips, especially if you’re taller. There’s enough legroom for taller riders, but my butt and lower back started to ache towards the end of the ride.
For sporty riding, the Burg-boy shows off its Suzuki heritage. Garcia mentioned use of Hayabusa design language, and that may be so, but he didn’t mention that the GSX-R designers got into the chassis and suspension as well. The suspenders are crude, but the rates are well selected and there’s some damping, which masks the bulk of the engine/swingarm drive unit. Combined with some of the best cornering clearance I’ve experienced on a scoot, the package utilizes the zesty-feeling engine and low center of gravity to give you a pretty good time on twisty two-lane roads. It’s equally nimble yet confidence-inspiring on city streets, though you won’t forget it’s a maxi-scooter.
So is this a good deal? The anti-scooter brigade will howl at the $4999 MSRP, but you do get ABS and it’s less money than scooters offering less performance and utility—Honda’s Forza is not much faster and costs $6099, and the PCX150, though $1550 less, lacks ABS and will be but a shrinking dot in the Burgman’s weird, square-shaped mirrors. We saw 80-plus on the speedometer and probably could have squeezed out a few more mph given some downhill and a few miles of clear roadway.
Okay, it may not be perfect, and you may not rush out to buy one, but it’s a well-designed product that would be good enough for most of the riding I do, and further proof you shouldn’t dismiss it as “only a scooter.” Remember, it’s not the tool, it’s how you use it, and a scooter like the Burgman 200 will stand up to a lot of use. Hey, along with all that practicality (Fuel range, lockable under-seat storage and excellent wind protection), I had fun riding it.