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Tuesday 5 December 2023


Honda Motocompacto

By Ben Purvis

Honda's Motocompo lived for just two years from 1981 to 1983 and never came close to hitting its sales targets, before being unceremoniously discontinued. However, more than 40 years on, the idea of a scooter that folds into a portable shape that fits in the back of even the smallest of cars means it remains one of the company's most famous products.

Now the same idea is back with the Motocompacto - a 21st-century take on the same idea that eliminates the original Motocompo's shortcomings and finally brings to life the idea of 'last mile' transport, allowing car-bound commuters to park a distance from their city-centre destinations and then scoot the last leg of the journey, or even giving train-users a portable motor vehicle to transport them to and from the station.

The Motocompacto's biggest departure from the Motocompo is its power source. The new machine is electric, solving many of the Motocompo's shortcomings in a single move. The old bike carried fuel, with the ever-present risk of spills and smell. The original folding mechanism, while clever, wasn't easy and even in its folded state it remained too heavy to be carried easily. The Motocompacto, in contrast, is genuinely no larger than a small suitcase, half the weight of the Motocompo and much easier to store. 

'U.S. launch for suitcase-shaped electric scooter'

One trick is the use of front-wheel-drive, with a hub-mounted motor that makes just 0.66 hp (0.49 kW) and 11.8 lb-ft of torque. It gives a 15 mph (24 km/h) top speed and, with a 6.8 Ah battery pack, a range of 12 miles (19 km). That performance isn't actually much lower than the original Motocompo, which topped out at 18 mph despite being powered by a 50 cc two-stroke single.

Folded, the Motocompacto measures just 74 cm in length, 54 cm in height and under 10 cm in width. Those figures expand to 97 cm, 89 cm and 44 cm when the bike is unfolded and ready to ride. Weight comes in at only 18.7 kg including the battery, and the charger can be stored inside, as well allowing the battery to be recharged when the destination is reached, taking 3.5 hours using a standard American 110V electrical socket.  

Initially at least, the Motocompacto is being sold only in the United States, where it costs just $995 and can be ordered from Honda and Acura car dealers. 

Demand for the bike has proved huge, leading to some problems in the sales process in America, ranging from dealers charging above the MSRP to problems with unexpectedly cancelled orders. Honda's online 'Dream Shop' was also discovered to have a security flaw that could potentially have exposed customers' partial details. That has since been fixed and Honda says that there's no indication that the weakness was exploited by scammers.