2013 Honda Metropolitan NCH50: Nifty and Thrifty!

Text: Ken Freund • Photography: Alfonse Palaima

After a multi-year hiatus, Honda’s 50cc Metropolitan scooter returns completely revamped with fresh styling and a new fuel-injected engine. Appearance changes include updated bodywork, a new headlamp and gauge setup, plus a different handlebar and taillight, all of which give the diminutive machine a clean modern look.

We had an opportunity to ride the Metropolitan around Los Angeles, starting at Honda’s headquarters in Torrance, CA. The route included the coastal communities of Redondo Beach, and Rancho Palos Verdes, where many of LA’s rich and famous reside.

Fuel delivery is now by Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI) with automatic enrichment. The 50cc air-cooled engine starts instantly with the push of a button, and a kick starter is there just in case. With the automatic V-Matic belt drive there’s no shifting, just twist and go. The Metro delivers glitch-free throttle response over a wide variety of riding conditions, although full throttle is needed much of the time.

The compact machine has about 4.5 horsepower and is intended for local roads, not highways, so choose your routes carefully. It purrs along with a top speed of about 37 mph, but hills often slowed the pace to 25 or 20. Economy and convenience are the reasons most folks buy scooters, and the Metro’s estimated fuel economy is 117 mpg; real-world mileage is around 100 mpg. With the 1.2-gallon tank, fill-ups will also be around 100 miles apart.

Braking is via cable-operated drums, with the right hand operating the front brake only. The left hand brake lever is linked to both the rear and front brakes. They stop satisfactorily, although cable-operated drum brakes are certainly not cutting-edge technology. Handling is light, quick, and nimble as expected from a 179-pound machine, and the scooter has a tight turning radius. But with small wheels and tires and only about two inches of suspension travel, you can really feel bumps, so it’s best to try to avoid potholes and such.

There’s a new inner storage bin that can hold a water bottle, maps, and small items. The basic dash has a speedometer with odometer, fuel gauge, and basic indicator lights, but no trip odometer or clock. The locking 22-liter, under-seat storage area opens with a twist of the ignition key. It’s shaped to stow a helmet, although my XL full-face lid wouldn’t quite fit. Larger riders may also find the Metropolitan itself quite small, but my size-12 boots did manage to fit on the floorboards. There are no rear footpegs or other accommodations for a passenger, although there is room for a tailbag on the seat. Honda Genuine Accessories offers a rear trunk and trunk attachment kit, a rear carrier, and an outdoor cover to protect it from the elements.

Parting Thoughts

The Metropolitan is available in Pearl White, Pearl Black, and Pearl Black/Red with a suggested retail price of $ 1,999. Metropolitan’s light and easy handling, plus low initial and operating costs, should make it popular with students, local commuters, entry level riders, and the racing crowd as pit bikes.