Reviewing a scooter is something rare for me as I am not particularly fond of this type of auto transmission 2-wheeler. Throughout the years, I have reviewed only a handful of them – Honda Air Blade 125, Honda PCX 150, Kawasaki J300 and Vespa 150, all for the motoring publication I once contributed to.
One of the reasons that I don’t do much reviews on scooters is I have no intention to own one, not now or soon. Automatic transmission doesn’t really gel with my riding style, preferring the old school of manually shifting the gears. And I have been told by numerous sources that the cost of maintaining a scooter in tip top condition is even higher than conventional motorcycles.
And depending on the rider’s luck, some scooters are prone to engine reliability. I remember a case of one where the engine died 7 times at each traffic interjuncnion while I was riding it back to the manufacturer’s office for a return, having completed my review of it.
Another aspect I find weird among scooters is their front brake is usually soft while the rear is the one supplying the actual stopping power! Experienced riders normally relied on the front brake to slow a motorcycle, and only used both for emergency braking. It is the newbies that tend to activate the rear unit when it comes to braking. I guess the manufacturers are targeting new riders for their scooters than veterans. So, whenever I am doing a review on a scooter, I must remind myself that the left lever on the left handlebar is for the rear braking, and not a clutch.
Thankfully, I find the braking system in both the Honda NSS300 and its nearest rival, the Kawasaki J300, to be above the norm – they come with ABS and their front/rear brakes are effective in slowing the machines even when used individually in most cases. Having experienced the J300 on a positive note previously, I looked forward to doing the same with the Honda NSS300 when Boon Siew Honda asked if I would be keen to do it.
For starter, I am sharing details of the NSS300’s limitations first. Among them is the storage compartment. Honda designed it to store 2 helmets BUT only if they are the open face type. I tried putting my full-face helmet into the compartment and the seat was unable to shut. Putting my hunch to the test back home, I then put 2 open face helmets into the storage compartment, and was able too get the seat to click and locked.
This is a bit ironic as the NSS300, from the appearance alone, has a huge compartment underneath but to find it isn’t designed to store a single full-face helmet is a surprise. When I pick-up the NSS300 from Honda, I went with my full-face helmet. And for the entire duration I had the scooter with me, I rode it with my open face helmet as I am the type that prefer not to carry a helmet along for appointments if I could avoid it.
I guess Honda is indeed targeting the consumer riders with the NSS300 scooter as they are the types that wear an open face helmet, so the actual storage capability isn’t exactly an issue. I find it a surprise due to the J300 can store a full-face type in its compartment, as opposed to the Honda.
Still, it is not a bad thing. The storage itself is large enough to store my regular backpack when the weather is not cooperating. And yes, it has space for the flexible rainsuit that I could keep in the space meant for the spare helmet, so it is not really that bad overall.
The second gripe I have with the NSS300 is its rather small fuel tank capacity of only 11.6-litre. Okay, I know most Honda bikes are fuel efficient type but for a 300cc (279cc actual), I find this to be a little on the low side. And true enough, I could see the fuel gauge going from full to half tank just after 100km of riding. That gives an impression the NSS300 consumes fuel at approximately 5.8-litre/100km, which is hardly “efficient” but thankfully, that’s just an inaccurate display by the fuel gauge.
In reality, the scooter managed close to 280km of mileage per full tank, averaging a consumption of approximately 25km per litre, which is well within the range of most motorcycles, with the exception of its Honda cousins, known for their above 360km mileage fuel economy. This should ensure the NSS300 scooter is good for a one-way ride up north to Ipoh or down south to Yong Peng via the North-South Highway without any interruption.
With the limitations of the NSS300 out of the way, let’s get to the part where the Honda scooter really shines. The NSS300 has a maximum horsepower of 26hp for its 279cc 4-stroke liquid-cooled OHC engine, which makes for a smooth and fast acceleration from idle at the traffic lights junction against other vehicles including kapchai/moped. The NSS300 would reach the other side of the interjunction first before the other vehicles could react the moment the lights turn green.
The front suspension is 35mm Showa conventional forks while the rear is also Showa, which are dual absorbers like most kapchais. Riding the NSS300 above 120km/h on the straights and negotiating the approaching bends at the same speed posed no issue, as the rear end of the scooter didn’t attempt to slip or understeer. The rear suspension also remained firm during high speed cornering without the tendency to wobble.
And the combined front/rear suspension absorb most of the bumps on uneven terrain I had subjected the NSS300 to, particularly on the twisty old Jalan Gombak that runs parallel to Karak Highway back to Kuala Lumpur. Riding the NSS300 on twisty old roads was a challenge as the scooter wouldn’t know to downshift on tight corners. So, I had to force it into doing that by applying the rear brake approaching the corners as doing so would results in the NSS300 shifting to a lower gear for extra traction. On any other motorcycle, the process is easier as I could downshift at will without applying any brake.
The Honda NSS300 scooter is a breeze to ride not just on old twisty roads but also in the city and small towns. It cuts thru the city’s traffic congestion easily, and has adequate power to accelerate out of very tight situation – those instances where the rider could reach the next segment before heavier traffic shuts the gap to getting across. The design of the NSS300 is such that its centre of gravity is excellent to the point that I don’t feel the 192kg dry weight when manoeuvring the scooter among the city traffic.
Seamless transmission allows the NSS300 to simply ride thru any small town with ease including the tighter roads within. The rider only needs to look out for inconsiderate motorists that rush out from a junction whenever they see a lone biker approaching. Excellent brakes from the NSS300 ensure great stopping power to avoid such incidents when riding thru those towns.
The NSS300 features dual headlights configuration where both are lighted even when Normal Beam is used, switching to High Beam complements the existing normal lights for extra clarity when riding at night. For daytime riding, the normal beam from the dual headlights are adequate for other motorists to take notice.
The NSS300’s top speed? That’s something I am not that keen to find out but nevertheless, it managed to reach close to 160km/h after a while riding the scooter at its top speed. But this is just according to the scooter’s speedometer, which I am sure a speed gun would reveal a different number.