KYMCO's Xciting 500 Scooter

Text: James T. Parks • Photography: Florian Neuhauser

The Kwang Yang Motor Company's roots in the powersports industry can be traced back to the Taiwanese company's founding in 1963. Today, it manufactures over 500,000 motor scooters, motorcycles and ATVs each year at five plants in Asia, and exports products to over 70 countries. KYMCO USA, headquartered in Spartanburg, South Carolina, serves over 600 U.S. dealer locations.

Long recognized as a producer of well-made commuter scooters and small motorcycles, KYMCO entered the maxi scooter market a few years ago with its "Xciting 500" model, a 498.5cc scooter with serious touring aspirations. It competes head to head with the Honda Silver Wing and Suzuki Bergman, both well-established players in the U.S. scooter market, but with a MSRP that's lower than either of them. Always curious to learn more about a model's features and performance, RoadRUNNER sent me and my wife Karen off on a KYMCO 500 for several days of two-up touring on Long Island, and on one day I put in some spirited solo riding on back roads in New York and Connecticut.

The first thing one notices after mounting this ride is the ignition switch. The motor scooter equivalent of a Swiss army knife, it performs numerous functions that require separate controls on other scooters. Twist the key to the left and the seat unlatches to reveal exceptionally roomy under-seat storage. Turn it to the right and the gas cap pops open from the dashboard, eliminating any need to dismount and raise the seat when refueling. Push the key in and turn it to the left again and the steering locks. Of course, the ignition key also is used to start the scooter - what a novel idea!

Once the key is in the start position, at least one of the brake levers must be engaged, as is the case with most scooters sold in the U.S., and the side stand must be in the up position, although there's no similar requirement for the center stand. If all of this sounds confusing, it is at first, but the process becomes second nature after a little practice.

Below the fuel cap on the right of the leg shield is a T-shaped handle for the handbrake, a feature commonly found on most maxi scooters. This "emergency brake" is particularly useful when parking the 500-pound scooter on a steep incline.

The seat is wide, well padded, and quite comfortable for rider and passenger, with built-in back support that helps reduce rider fatigue on longer jaunts. Top cases are available, which can be fitted with a backrest for the passenger, and a non-lockable storage compartment at the front of the seat provides a place for easy retrieval of coins and other small items. Underneath the seat is a nifty mobile-phone holder and power socket. The seat is automatically held in its up position by a strut with a gas-filled shock.

This stylish scooter is propelled by a liquid-cooled, single cylinder, DOHC, 498.5cc, four-stroke engine mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Accelerating away from a stop, the 500's power delivery is smooth and linear, even when riding two-up. There is highway-passing power to spare and the machine's triple-digit top speed can be verified only at the risk of receiving a "performance award" from the local constabulary.

At highway speeds, the KYMCO 500 feels well planted on the road. The windshield, which is nicely integrated into the scooter's swooping, aerodynamic design, provides excellent wind protection. Although maneuvering this big two-wheeler in tight spaces can be challenging, it has a definite sporting feel on twisty tarmac. However, the side-stand and other body parts will make contact with the pavement well before the cornering capabilities of the meaty 150/70-14 rear tire and 120/70-15 front tire can be explored fully.

Telescopic front forks and adjustable hydraulic rear shocks make for a smooth ride, but are still stiff enough for sporty riding. Sudden stops are accomplished with aplomb by the dual-disc brakes, each with two calipers in the front, and a single two-pot disc in the rear. A linked braking system with steel braided cables rounds out the scooter's braking system, and ABS brakes are available as an option. Riders can adjust the brake levers in four different positions to fit their hands comfortably.

Although we didn't test the KYMCO 500's fuel economy, its 3.38-gallon gas tank should produce a cruising range in excess of 150 miles. Like other maxi scooters, it has limited maneuverability in tight places and ground clearance insufficient for sporty riding; nonetheless, this model offers riders an exceptionally attractive and capable maxi scooter at a very attractive price. And that really is Xciting!