The argument for getting a Honda Navi is ridiculously simple: Almost any electric bicycle will cost you as much or more money, and no electric bicycle can hit 55 mph. Plus, most scooters are slower, less capable, and — again — more costly.
You do need a motorcycle license to ride a Navi. However, because this little 109 cc motorcycle / scooter-ish machine has an automatic transmission, the steepness of your learning curve just got way flatter; mastering shifting as well as riding doubles the complexity of riding most motorcycles, particularly if you’ve never driven a manual-shift car.
Now, your humble reviewer owns a few motorcycles and has ridden many more, but nothing I’ve straddled fits the Venn diagram of the Navi. Its low weight, short wheelbase and easy-to-plunk-along motor (and of course, its funky looks) all speak to a rider who just got off a rental scooter for tooting around Cabo on vacation and thinks, Hey, that was fun. Why don’t I own one of these things?
The moto crowd will sneer and scoff, but they shouldn’t. The Navi is the ultimate two-wheeled gateway drug. And with gas cresting at $5 per gallon, what’s not to like about a bike that you’d maybe have to fill up once a week at most — with less than a gallon of gas?
Is the Honda Navi New?
Yep. The Honda Navi has been available overseas in India as well as in Mexico, but this is the first time ’Mericans can get their mitts on one.
What makes the Honda Navi special?
It’s really down to a simple formula. First, 10-inch rear and 12-inch front wheels are pretty small for a motorcycle, and they make it very easy to dart around in slow-speed city traffic, producing a quick-on-its-toes sprightliness to the Navi.
Add in a low, 30.1-inch seat height, straightforward cockpit controls, and especially the absence of a clutch lever or shifter, and a motorcycle really couldn’t be less intimidating.
How does the Honda Navi ride?
A 109-cc motor will either seem anemic if you’re already a throttle twister, or won’t mean anything at all if you’ve never ridden. If the latter describes you, know that this is a somewhat large displacement in the scooter realm, and that creates pep — if not fireworks — from about 0–30 mph. At about 45 mph and above, acceleration gets glacial. You can stretch the little Honda to 55 mph, depending on whether or not you’re steaming into a headwind — but without a fairing to help make the Honda more aerodynamic, you will be limited to local roads. And don’t even think about the interstate.
So what you’re looking at is a commuter bike for around town, and for that duty, it’s excellent. The ergonomics make the seating position pretty comfortable. Unlike a lot of scooters that require your feet to be inboard, ahead of you, like you’re sitting in a chair, with the Navi, you straddle the bike and use your right foot on a pedal to apply the rear brake (your right hand controls the front brake lever).
This classic motorcycling posture feels safer, because it lets you use your legs to grip the seat and soak up potholes and jolts. All of that gives you more control — and you'll want it, since the Navi’s suspension only has 3.5 inches of travel from the fork and 2.8 inches at the shock (and you remember those tiny wheels, right?), which means the little Honda can get bounced around on rough roads. Using your legs for balance offsets these oscillations.
Plus, it’s an entertaining little machine, easily as nimble as any electric bicycle I’ve tested. I was a human grin from stem to stern blasting along winding roads, and the Honda rides especially playfully when you’re on an “excuse mission,” like buying a pint of ice cream. That would feel like a chore in a car; on the Navi, it’s a carnival lark with an ultra-cheap cost of entry.
Also, the Navi is comfortable. You sit in a very upright posture, and although I didn’t want to ride the Navi all day — mostly because bikes without fairings tire you out with the constant air pressure — riding a few hours was, if anything, invigorating. You’re not going to rocket anywhere, but there’s also no temptation to try. You can’t fly, so you glide instead.
There are some oddities to the Navi equation. Fuel economy, as mentioned, is extraordinary...but the 0.9 gallon fuel tank is tiny. It would be swell if that tank could drink in, say, another half-gallon?
Also, where there’d ordinarily be a clutch ahead of the left grip, there’s a parking brake lever. Remember: This bike has a CVT, so you can’t park it in gear like a conventional moto to keep it from rolling when the engine’s switched off. The brake locks the bike’s front, and you need that brake to be engaged to start the Honda with its push-button ignition. Once fired to life, release the brake, twist the throttle on the right-hand grip and away you go.
Braking is a little soft if you’re used to any modern motorcycle. Drum front- and rear brakes slow the Navi just fine, but there’s not much bite to the one in the back. Down a longer hill, approaching a stop, you can feel that nearly all the braking takes place on the front tire — and if you were riding in the rain, that probably means you’d have to work the stoppers more carefully to safely bleed off speed.
A final beef: A simple gauge cluster is fine, but the turn signal indicator is too dim; in direct sunlight, you can’t tell if it’s still on, and that’s a hazard in traffic.
Does anything else stand out about this bike?
The single-cylinder motor is positioned under your butt. On most motorcycles, it’s perched further forward in the chassis, just ahead of your body. That rearward positioning gives the Navi a bit more stability than other scooters I’ve tested, so despite a wheelbase shorter than some electric bicycles, even at 50 mph, the Navi doesn’t get unsettled. I rode it on a windy day, and even with a stiff crosscurrent pushing sideways against me and the bike, it wasn’t hard to keep the Navi on course.
Also, that funky motor arrangement leaves room for a 15-liter box within the frame. That keyed, waterproof “trunk” is just big enough for bringing takeout dinner back to your pad — or, provided you don’t wear size 15 kicks, to stow a pair of shoes and a jacket, or a change of pants and a shirt. You should wear protective clothing when you ride, but that introduces the conundrum of how to carry a change of garb when you arrive. This way, you could toss the protective jacket in a backpack and carry your shoes inside the bike.
Honda also makes a rear rack and other accessories for the Navi, expanding use cases and capabilities. Not bad for a mini moto that’s super utilitarian, super fun, and dirt cheap.
How much does the Honda Navi Cost?
The base price for the Honda Navi is $1,807 for all colorways: Red, Grasshopper Green, Nut Brown and Ranger Green.
The 2022 Honda Navi
Engine: 109-cc air-cooled, 4-stroke, single-cylinder
Seat height: 30.1 inches
Wet weight: 236 pounds
Top speed: 55 mph
EPA Fuel Economy: 110 mpg