Honda Motocompacto Review: Maybe you’ve ridden a desk, how about a briefcase?

Honda Motocompacto Review: Maybe you’ve ridden a desk, how about a briefcase?

In the new Motocompacto, Honda has resurrected a concept as old as I am – a compact, folding scooter that fits conveniently into the storage area of your car. In the 1980s, it was called the Motocompo — a gas-powered scooter that folded away neatly into a purpose-built storage cubby in the original Honda City (today called the Fit). Honda called it a “trunk bike.” It was meant to be a last-mile mobility device long before such things were swept up by the rising tide of electrification hype.

The Motocompacto is less specialized (and you don’t need to buy a Fit to get one) and consequently a bit more versatile. It offers just 12 miles of total range from a 6.8Ah battery. That’s a far cry from the super-efficient Motocompo’s 90-plus miles of theoretical ICE range, but at least this can’t stink up your interior… unless you run over something unpleasant, of course. 

Its small battery pays dividends in convenience. The Motocompacto can be charged from dead to full in 3.5 hours on an old-fashioned 110-volt outlet. It’s just over 38 inches long and 35 inches tall when fully deployed and offers a 24.5-inch seat height, but compacts to just 3.7 inches wide by 21.1 inches tall and 29.2 inches long when folded. In total, the package weighs 41.3 pounds. That’s considerably less than most electric-assisted bicycles.

You might not expect much of a driver interface from a machine this small, but believe it or not, the Motocompacto has a full electronic control system with a digital screen interface. It’s a one-button-does-all setup that both activates/deactivates the scooter and manages its two drive modes. Oh, yeah; it has drive modes.

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There are no “off-road” or “sport” settings here; in fact, the modes are simply labeled “1” and “2.” I suppose you could consider “off” to be a third “mode,” but suffice it to say that it’s a fairly basic interface. Mode 1 caps your speed at a walking pace and requires you to apply throttle from a roll. Mode 2 unlocks the Motocompacto’s 15-mph top speed and allows you to run it wide open it from a standstill if you’re so inclined.

Not that you’ll get blistering acceleration either way. The little motor offers just 490 watts of peak output, delivering 11.8 pound-feet of torque to the front wheel (of course, because Honda). For context, the battery-electric Mitsubishi i-MiEV was powered by a 49 kW — or 49,000-watt — motor. By comparison, the Motocompacto might as well be a set of USB accessory wheels mounted to a laptop.  

I’ve had the pleasure(?) of evaluating Autoblog’s Urb-E scooter in real-world conditions. That it has sat immobile for nearly two years in my basement speaks volumes, but in the world of dorky electric mobility, Honda is pushing the Fonz to Urb-E’s Potsie.

Next to the sleek Motocompacto, the Urb-E looks like something an engineer built their kid just for giggles. Its simple fold-out deployment is advantageous, but as I discovered, the convenience of that swinging frame comes at a significant detriment to the scooter’s ride and handling. Hitting a bump big enough to let the Urb-E’s frame swing free is a spooky experience. It also doesn’t fold to a particularly manageable shape and unless you remove the battery from the chassis entirely, carrying it around puts the fear of God into drywall panels everywhere. 

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To prepare the Motocompacto for a ride, you must mount the seat and deploy both the handlebars and rear wheel. Both are toolless processes, but not nearly as quick or intuitive to manage as the Urb-E’s simple unfold-and-go setup. Honda’s execution may be a little fussier, but the trade-off is improved portability. The entirety of the Motocompacto stows away inside the body during transport (the cavity acts as storage while you’re riding) and its battery is integral to the chassis; it cannot be removed to charge separately.

A 15-mph top speed certainly won’t set the world on fire, but when you’re riding a briefcase on a set of casters, that feels plenty brisk. The speed cap lets Honda classify the Motocompacto like those little e-scooters scattered around America’s tech towns, keeping it safely out of traffic in most municipalities. That’s a good thing since the fixed wheels won’t offer you much comfort in the event you encounter a pothole.

On smooth pavement, it’s easy to manage and genuinely fun to toss around. The low-slung body limits the Motocompacto’s maneuverability to a degree, but you’ll run out of “sidewall” on the tires long before you put the Motocompacto’s “frame” on pavement. Leave your knee armor at home; your Valentino Rossi impression will have to wait.

Off smooth pavement? Likely a very different story. We got to play around with the Motocompacto on the M1 Concourse skidpad in Pontiac, Mich. Unlike many of the roads in the surrounding neighborhood, M1’s surface is still pristine. This little scooter’s lack of a proper suspension means it’ll be unpleasant on broken sidewalks or poorly maintained bike lanes (check your local laws before riding in one). And the fold-away configuration will make it extra tricky to fit aftermarket parts, should you be wondering if perhaps some larger pneumatic tires would make for a better ride.

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At $995, the Motocompacto is in “hey, why not?” territory for plenty of car enthusiasts, which suits it. It’s more toy than tool (and there are places where you may be labeled the latter if caught riding one), but the beauty of toys is that they need no justification. It’s sleek, modern and genuinely fun. And yes, it’ll still tuck nicely into the hatch of your Honda Fit.