Honda has practically owned the market for pint-sized motorbike fun for decades now. Here in late 2021, the Monkey, Grom, and Super Cub consistently sell extremely well in all kinds of markets. Add in the custom scene and things get even wilder with all three of these bikes, not to mention the Honda Ruckus scooter.
Honda’s secret sauce has long been this: Give as wide a range of riders as possible what they want. If you want to attract new and maybe even casual riders to riding motorbikes, you have to meet them where they are. Folks, that’s exactly the point of the 2022 Honda Navi. For those who follow international motorcycling, the Navi has been sold in India, Nepal, Peru, and elsewhere for several years, but 2022 marks its debut year in the American market.
The Navi’s purpose is practicality, fun, and, above all, approachability. While you can certainly just appreciate the four colorways on offer from the company for the 2022 model year, it’s also wide open to customization at whatever level riders feel comfortable. Paint and graphics are cool, as are all kinds of more involved modifications. If you want to customize, the Navi is intended as a bit of a blank canvas—and it bears more than a passing resemblance to its elder sibling Grom for a reason.
Let’s start with the obvious. The 2022 Honda Navi is tiny, with a 50.6-inch wheelbase and a 30.1-inch seat height. Rake is 27.5 degrees and trail is 3.2 inches. The seating position is upright and relaxed, with mid-set foot pegs that keep things fairly relaxed and easy in the saddle. Controls are within easy reach, even if you have hands that are on the small side. Comfort levels will, as always, vary based on individual rider dimensions. As a short rider with a 27-inch inseam, I found the 2022 Navi very easy to ride comfortably. Taller riders may feel differently, particularly if your height is mostly found in a pair of very long legs.
The 2022 Honda Navi has a curb weight of 236 pounds—and let me tell you, that makes it extremely easy to move around, on or off the bike. If you’re at all unsure of your ability to smoothly and confidently wheel a bike around from the side while you’re not actually on the bike, the Navi will fix that for you. I was even guiding it around in gravel from the side with no trouble because it’s so lightweight and maneuverable. Backing it up while in the saddle, which can typically be difficult for short-legged riders such as myself, was also a breeze.
Power comes from a 109cc air-cooled, four-stroke, carbureted, overhead cam, two-valve, single-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable transmission. That’s right: It’s a scooter powertrain. In fact, it’s the same Honda scooter powertrain found in the Activa. That means that, among other things, there’s no clutch—just twist and go. However, unlike most modern scooters, that doesn’t mean the short lever on the left handlebar is a linked brake. Instead, it’s a parking brake, which you don’t want to accidentally grab. There’s a handy little switch that you can flip next to that lever that sends it sticking out further forward—effectively placing it out of easy (and accidental) reach.
The fuel tank holds a tiny 0.9 gallons—and Honda claims it offers fuel economy of around 110 mpg. Usual claims about mileage varying based on how you ride the scoot (with or without a passenger, constantly wringing the throttle wide open, etc.) still apply.
The new Navi’s suspension consists of a 26.8mm inverted telescopic front fork with 3.5 inches of travel and a rear monoshock offering 2.76 inches of travel. Both the front and the rear wheels (a 12-inch and 10-inch wheel, respectively) get drum brakes. Here’s another instance where the Navi splits the difference between a miniMOTO and a scooter: The rear brake (such as it is) is, in fact, actuated by the rear foot pedal. For those unfamiliar with modern scooters, that’s not at all how they typically work.
So, how do the Navi’s drum brakes work? Well, they definitely won’t stop you on a dime like a well-sorted set of disc brakes (even a nicely-bled single-disc setup) would. However, at least on first ride, they’re certainly livable. I clearly can’t make any long-term observations about them at this point, but they seemed adequate to the task at hand in my brief time with the Navi.
For new riders, I’d imagine that they’re quite forgiving if you have to make a panic stop and accidentally grab a handful of front brake. On most modern bikes with disc brakes, that could be a disaster. On the Navi, however, it’s a lot more difficult to upset that way.
One of the biggest selling points of scooters is not only their fuel economy, comfort, ease of use, and low intimidation factor—it's also their eminently practical storage space. I mean, I use my own personal maxi-scooter as a grocery-getter on a regular basis. While it’s no sportbike, it’s certainly more fun to take to the store than a car.
How does the Navi fare here? There’s a lockable storage box located on the lower-left front quadrant of the scoot. It’s not big enough for a full-face helmet, but will comfortably hold smaller items like a water bottle, snacks, or your Nintendo Switch when the next Animal Crossing update drops and you need some play time. Honda suggests that a jacket or some textbooks might fit. I’d add that smaller textbooks might work, but giant chemistry or culinary tomes probably won’t. I asked if the storage cubby is watertight, and a Honda representative told me that it’s water-resistant enough to protect your stuff in the rain, but that he wouldn’t advise riding through standing water. Fair enough.
Interestingly, in addition to being carbureted and having drum brakes in 2021, the 2022 Honda Navi also comes with a kickstart in addition to its electric start. That means that in the event you find yourself unable to get the electric start to work somewhere, you may not necessarily have to call for help. Since Honda’s aiming this bike squarely at college students and younger riders who may not be familiar with kickstarts, it’s not clear how helpful that will be. Still, it is an option.
Gallery: 2022 Honda Navi First Ride Review
The 2022 Honda Navi is a fun, nimble, uncomplicated, unfussy, and adorable little miniMOTO. It’s suitable for new, returning, and casual riders alike. Honda’s $1,807 MSRP in the American market simply can’t be ignored. Whether you’re on a budget, or you’d simply rather pocket your extra bike money to spend on modifying your new bike, the 2022 Grom starts at $3,399. Heck, even the 2022 Ruckus starts at $2,799, which makes the Navi almost $1,000 less expensive.
There’s also an argument to be made in favor of a carbureted bike in 2021 if you want to wrench (or learn to wrench) on your own bike, too. As more and more modern bikes require the use of dealer computers to diagnose faults, this kind of relative mechanical simplicity isn’t anywhere near as common as it once was. If you’re new to the world of bikes, and you want to get a better hands-on understanding of how they work without diving head-on into used bikes, this could be a great opportunity.
As long as your expectations are in line with what the Navi is built for—and you don’t think you’re going to take on an RC213V any time soon at the track—there’s plenty of fun to be had here.