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Reviewed: Honda Forza 750

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Is it scooter? Is it a motorcycle? No, it’s the new Honda Forza 750!

Some years ago, somewhere in Japan, a diligent Honda employee drew a Venn diagram. In one circle they wrote ‘People Who Want To Buy A Scooter’ and in the other ‘People Who Want To Buy A Motorcycle’. For those people in the middle they developed the Forza 750 which, to all intents and purposes, is the brand’s latest entry into the big scooter class.

Honda has some form in the ‘maxi’ scooter sector. While many credit Yamaha with the invention of the category, with the TMAX of 2001, Honda was actually there a year earlier with its incredibly posh Silver Wing 600. In the decades that followed Yamaha went on to popularise this type of machine, especially on the continent, while Honda struggled to capture the public’s imagination with a stream of wacky motorcycle/scooter hybrids. Who can remember the Integra, or the futuristic Vultus or the plain weird DN-01? Now comes the next chapter in the Honda maxi-scooter story, with more conventional looks and a very competitive price tag of £9,999 too.

It may sit in Honda’s Scooter range, but many ways the Forza 750 isn’t really a maxi scooter at all. Like its off-road styled sibling, the X-ADV, it shares its underpinnings with the eminently sensible NC750 range of motorcycles. Honda has made the Forza 750 way more conventional than its forebearers and could well make sense to a wide range of riders. But what is it like on the road?

Grand touring?

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I have a confession. I really like big scooters. A spell spent living in Amsterdam helped me embrace the European way of life and opened up the joys and freedoms that a big twist and go can bring, and even though many British bikers really struggle to embrace the concept, they’ve slowly become a more common sight on our roads in recent years.

That’s in part down to the likes of the Yamaha XMAX 300 and the Honda Forza 300 (superseded by the Forza 350 for 2021), ‘midi’ scooters which have filled a sweet spot between 125s and the 500cc + maxi scooters. With 80+mph top speeds and good comfort, they offer great practicality and the ability to travel longer distances than the 125s. Having spent quite a bit of time with the Forza 300 a few years back, I was looking forward to sampling the 750. Could it be the big GT scooter that I’d happily ride to Scotland and back?

Let’s be clear, despite sharing its styling cues with the 350, the Forza 750 is not your typical maxi scooter. Unlike the class defining TMAX, which was built from the ground up as a twist and go scooter, those NC roots give the Honda a very different feel.

A common criticism of maxi scooters has often been the high price tags, but I think that Honda is being quite cute with its new-for-2021 model. Sure the 750 is almost twice the price of the Forza 350, and while it’s still not cheap it is competitively priced against its rivals. The TMAX, which most will compare it to, is £2000 more, and in the realms of more traditional motorcycles it finds itself in a price bracket with capable all-rounders like the Triumph Tiger 850 and Yamaha Tracer 9. Honda’s X-ADV is also available for an additional £850, an off-road ‘adventure scooter’ based on the same platform as the Forza 750.

Half scooter, half motorbike

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Climbing aboard the Forza 750 is when it really hits you that this machine is half scooter, half motorcycle. It’s not quite as easy to mount the Honda as it is a typical scooter. Your normal scoot places the engine underneath the rider, just ahead of the rear wheel, creating plenty of space for the rider’s feet. Under the skin, however, the Forza is laid out like a traditional motorcycle with the rider largely sitting astride the machine and the mechanicals largely taking up the ‘tunnel’ and leaving limited space for the rider’s legs and feet.

At 165cm, I am a shorter rider and found the ergonomics ok but there’s not the room to move around on that you would expect on a traditional scooter. Taller riders (not to mention those with big feet!) would be well advised to ‘try before you buy’ as I could imagine that the Forza might feel a bit cramped.

The screen is fixed and not adjustable. I found it to work well, deflecting the airflow over my helmet without any buffeting, but with the Forza 300 having a rather excellent electrically adjustable screen, it’s a shame to see a lower spec set-up on the range topping model. The saddle is pretty firm and slopes forward, which helps keep the seat height down to an accessible 790mm.

Storage is another area where scooters are usually super practical, but the Forza again misses out slightly by virtues of its motorcycle underpinnings. Underseat storage is claimed at 22 litres (incidentally the same as the ‘trunk’ unit on Honda’s own NC750X) and had enough space for my jet helmet. For comparison, the Forza 300 has over 50 litres of storage space and can take two full-faced helmets. There’s a small (non lockable) storage space in the dashboard but unless you plan on travelling light, we’d be looking to add the colour matched 50 litre top box and panniers (adding another 59 litres) to help the Forza 750 really live up to its Grand Touring billing.

On the road

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Where most bigger scooters run 15”wheels front and rear, the Forza 750 has a motorcycle-style 17” hoop up front. Combined with motorcycle derived Showa Big Piston Forks and grippy Pirelli tyres, it creates a chassis that’s incredibly stable and accurate through the turns.

Handling is very assured and comforting for experienced motorcycle riders, who might be put off by the sometimes skittish ride offered by traditional scooters. Point to point I found that I could ride the Forza 750 as quickly and comfortably as any motorcycle down my local A and B roads.

The NC750 motor is derived from a Honda Jazz car engine, and it feels it too. It’s low revving (with a 7,000rpm red line) and torquey, and utilises Honda’s DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) gearbox. This is another area in which the Forza deviates from the scooter norm, where constantly variable ‘twist and go’ transmissions are more usual. It’s a system which has been rightly lauded over the years, especially for its application in the Africa Twin adventure bike, and it suits the Forza 750 down to the ground. It’ll feel familiar to anyone who has driven a modern automatic car and allows for the rider to make manual changes if need be. Three pre-set ride modes adjust the gear change characteristics, as well as the traction control and engine brake settings. Rain softens the delivery of the 58bhp engine, while sport holds onto the gears longer for more responsive acceleration. My feeling with the ‘standard’ setting was that I often found myself in a higher gear than I would have liked when overtaking, but the thumb operated downshift button allowed for an easy override to knock down the gearbox when needed. Incidentally, the Forza 750 has a motorcycle style chain final drive, rather than the lower maintenance belt you’d normally expect to find on a scooter.

High spec

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The Forza packs a good, but not stunning spec sheet. Personally I think that the matt blue (Matte Blue Jeans Metallic, to give it its official title) colourscheme looks fantastic, but there’s also a solid black alternative if that’s more your thing. As you’d expect from a Honda, build quality is excellent. It feels like a premium machine.

The 5” TFT dashboard is shared with other Honda models and is well appointed, but annoyingly the ‘Honda Smartphone Voice Control’ system only works with Android phones. In theory it allows you to take calls, play music and control navigation through the dashboard and left hand switchgear cube – but as an iOS user I was unfortunately unable to test its effectiveness.

The smart key system works well and unlocks the bike when in proximity. I’d imagine that this works even better if the optional top box is also fitted, as this can be coded to the original smart key and avoids the need for a big bunch of keys. There’s also a USB-C charging point (that’s the smaller connection) in the underseat storage bin to allow for charging of phones and other small electronic devices.

Heated grips are another optional extra and would be a welcome addition for many British riders.

Conclusion

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Few motorcycles are harder to assess than the Honda Forza 750. It’s aiming at a niche audience and whether it offers the best or worst of both worlds depends on what you value most in your steed.

As a light touring machine it is a really interesting proposition. Comfort from the thinly padded seat could be a little better, but it can certainly munch the miles better than any scooter I’ve ridden before, while the more motorcycle style riding experience will make it a more attractive option for older riders looking to downsize. It also has a size and presence that adds to the credibility. It looks mighty handsome, and oncoming motorcyclists were happy to wave and nod, something that’s not always the case when your ride a scooter.

If it’s a more practical day-to-day scooter you’re after, it’s harder to see the value in the 750 when the Forza 350 costs almost half as much. Sure it lacks the more substantial motorcycle style riding experience, but it is arguably more practical, cheaper to run and can still cruise at motorway speeds.

What is clear is that the Forza 750 gives Honda its most credible challenger in the maxi scooter class for decades. And while its unlikely to be the machine that transforms the British public’s opinion on big scoots, it should do well on the continent and could well capture the imagination of quite a few experienced motorcyclists looking for something a bit different, as well as veteran scooter riders looking for a faster and more luxurious machine.

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