If the Honda Grom designers set out to build something that was cheap, efficient, and fun, the design brief for the Navi must have been ‘Cheaper! More efficient!’ and in tiny font at the bottom of the page ‘Not quite as fun.’ The Navi was built as a go-between, with a whole lot of scooter DNA, but the muscular urban good looks everyone has been clamoring for lately.
The Navi looks like it’s related to the Grom, but its design is writing ‘fun’ checks that its ass can’t cash. Okay, maybe that’s not fair. The Navi is fun. It’s a lot of fun. It’s just not as fun as the Grom, which is a pretty high bar to clear. Nothing with a swingarm-mounted engine and CVT can hold a candle to the king of the MiniMotos. But as scooters you can buy for under two grand go, this one rips! It’s $1,807 and worth every penny.
(Full Disclosure: Honda invited me to gorgeous Costa Mesa, Calif. to ride its new-to-the-U.S.-market 2022 Navi. I paid for my own travel and accommodations, as this was a half-day program. Honda did provide me with delicious food, and paid for me to ride the Balboa Island Ferry as part of the test ride.)
Honda’s new-to-us Navi is a small 110cc scooter with a CVT with the visual cues of an upright urban runabout motorcycle. It’s plenty powerful with around 9 horsepower, and it’s light at just 236 pounds. This is an easy and approachable ride, even for beginners. There’s no clutch or shifter to bungle, there isn’t enough power to get in trouble, and it still looks cool enough that the youths will want to swing a leg over. At least, that’s what Honda is hoping.
The Navi was launched a few years ago for big bike markets where consumers shop cheaply by necessity. It was originally designed for the India market, and has spread to Nepal, Peru, and other markets in recent years. It’s a cheap bike because it’s meant for younger and poorer riders. For that reason it’s packed with practicality and purpose, not extravagant options. To save dollars on the development, this bike is devoid of over-the-top bits like ABS or fuel injection or disc brakes. That’s right, this is a carbureted bike with drum brakes and steel wheels front and rear.
Honda won’t come out and say it, but seems to be hedging its bets against a 2008-style economic collapse in the U.S. and wants to get in on the ground floor of economically sound transportation basics with a bit of flair before everything goes TU. As gas prices near six dollars in some parts of the country (my parts of the country), and average car transaction prices creep toward fifty thousand, things look a little precarious in the U.S. of A.
Honda does acknowledge that its other Minimoto nameplates, the Grom, Trail 125, Cub, Ruckus, etc. prove that there is an appetite for smaller and inexpensive motorcycles here in the U.S. market. Right now I don’t think you could just drop by your local Honda dealer and walk out with any of those bikes, because they’re sold before they even come into inventory. Honda is selling them as quick as they can build them. Hell, my local Craigslist has two-year-old used Groms listed at a thousand dollars OVER MSRP. It’s a big, wild, mixed-up world out there right now.
Honda, and just about everyone else right now, is trying to get Gen Z on two wheels. It’s not a lost cause, as riding appears to be important to a small subset of America’s youth population. And as wages continue to stagnate while inflation goes bonkers, it’s becoming increasingly clear that economic mobility is a lost cause. And if you can’t be economically mobile, you at least need to be geographically mobile. If America’s youth can’t afford a car, maybe they can afford a bike to get back and forth.
My time with the Navi was just a scant few hours, but it felt like we got a lot done. Ripping around coastal Orange County for an afternoon of perfect weather and relatively light traffic is a decent way to spend time. Navigating the urban and suburban streets of the area is best served on a compact lightweight bike, as demonstrated by this one here. If your ride is primarily stoplight to stoplight, this bike and its wonderfully simple CVT riding style are for you, my friend.
On the road I found the Navi to be a reasonably comfortable and compliant partner to dance with. I’m surely at the upper end of acceptable rider height and weight for this bike at 6'2" and 300 pounds, but it still had enough guts to get me up to speed in relative quick time. I never felt uncomfortable with the speeds achieved by the bike, as we were largely on streets with 45 mile per hour limits. It’s a little bit slower at full wring than a Grom, running along flat ground at around 50 miles per hour, and seeing as high as 55 on a downhill. If you really hustle a Grom, you might see 59.
The Navi isn’t the kind of bike that you’d want to push to its limits on a curvy backroad. The tires are too narrow to really provide confident grip at max attack, but in daily traffic they do fine. The drum brakes don’t have ABS, but you’d be hard pressed to get enough friction forced into them to lock a wheel anyway. They’re a little on the soft side and don’t really inspire you to brake late. When you’re chugging along at top speed, you’ll want to keep your eyes way up to make sure you are giving yourself enough stopping distance. I had to really get on the binders once on our ride, and it was a wide-eyes moment, but we managed to get me and the bike hauled down in time to avoid a rear-ending. It’s not a sport bike, it’s a scooter. Keep that in mind and you’ll be fine.
It’s hard to look at the package Honda has delivered with the Navi and call it overpriced. It’s worth every bit of $1,807, without a doubt. If you’re looking for something cheap and sorta fun to ride on your commute to work, this is a great place to start. The only competition in this market is some used neglected garbage on your local Craigs, or some new haphazard garbage imported from a no-name China brand. The Navi comes with the peace of mind that it was built to Honda standards in a Honda plant, comes with a warranty, and can be serviced at any of Honda’s hundreds of powersports dealers nationwide.
The fuel economy, also, is incredible. The tank is quite small at just 0.9 gallons per fill up, but with a claimed 110 miles per gallon rating the Navi will go a decent while without topping off. Considering that I’m regularly paying well over $5 for a gallon of petroleum distillate these days, I welcome anything that will get me farther on a dollar. How cool would it be to fill up for the week for like $4.50?
Even riding this bike for a few hours, I didn’t find much to complain about when it comes to comfort. The upright ergonomics are good for most riders, and provides a relaxed straight-back riding position, despite my height. The seat sits just 30.1 inches off the deck, so it’s a low bike that should appeal to shorter riders as well. I had no issue folding myself up to get on this.
The little storage bin under the gas tank is a nice touch. Apparently it’s water-resistant enough to handle a rainy day, so if you’re heading to class or work, you can toss a snack and a bottle of water in there, plus your purse or whatever. It’s lockable, too, in case you need a safe place to tuck your wallet and phone while you go for a dip at the beach.
For as cheap as this bike is, the suspension is pretty good. Even as a larger guy on bumpy city streets, I had no issues with harshness or bottoming out. Everything felt well controlled and damped. Top marks.
Kickstart! It has a kickstart in addition to its starter button. Very cool.
As discussed above, the tires are a little squidgy when pushed, and the drum brakes are hardly confidence inspiring. I understand why things are the way they are. Trade offs must be made in the name of cost savings. It’s something you’ll get used to in short order, but it does warrant bringing up in a review.
The sound is lawn-mower-ish. The 109cc engine blats in a flat disharmonic tone that is hardly aurally appealing. Combined with the CVT keeping the engine at its peak for the entirety of an acceleration run, and the little thumper is amazingly one-note. You’ll want to have some music playing inside your helmet, I would think, to drown out the monotone.
The seat, while reasonably comfortable, is too narrow for my trunk-full of junk. I have certainly sat on worse seats for longer, and I didn’t find it an impediment to my riding, but I was certainly looking for opportunities to stand up at red lights.
The switchgear and gauges and plastic trim on this bike all feel about as cheap as possible. It makes sense for the price point, and everything is perfectly functional. The fit is there, but the finish is a little lacking.
If you live in California, the land of heavy traffic, lane splitting, suburban sprawl, and expensive gas, the Navi is maybe the perfect bike for your daily commute. The same goes for most cities in America. If you rarely have reason to leave the city, and the weather is amenable to it, you could probably get away with riding one of these instead of owning a car.
I really liked this bike, but given the choice between this and $1,500 or a Grom, I’d pick the Grom every time. If you’re a riding enthusiast, the Grom is a way better buy, even at almost twice the price. If you’re just looking for a fun-ish commuter that sips gas and provides the utmost simplicity, it’s Navi time.