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words - Mark Fattore
The maxi-scooter ‘wing’ of a new concept which Honda is bringing to the market, complete with the company’s renowned build quality and a low-revving parallel twin

Honda’s all-new Integra maxi-scooter -- a moniker previously synonymous with the company, but only in the automobile sphere – shares the same basic architecture as the NC700S and NC700X motorcycles. They not only utilise the same rolling chassis, but the parallel twin engine is identical too – which means the only real point of differentiation between the Integra and the NC700s are the bolt-on bits such as fairings, handlebars, etc.

It’s quite a noteworthy achievement from Honda and, while not massively buzz-generating in the true sense of the words – it’s still a big picture concept that makes complete sense.

And it goes something like this – it’s not about keeping up with the Joneses in a howl of revs and peak horsepower, but instead tapping into a consumer shift towards more utility-type motorcycles.

From an engineering point of view, the 670cc SOHC parallel twin is the standout on all three bikes, because as our European correspondent Kevin Ash opined when he first rode the NC700X late in 2011: “The NC700 is the first modern motorcycle engine designed primarily for fuel efficiency rather than a high power density, without pandering to any outright performance pressures.

“The bike is aimed at being the motorcycle equivalent of the Cub scooter, a utility machine with low running costs, which in the modern era means exceptionally good fuel economy.”

But that said, Honda still had to negotiate a delicate balancing act to get the undersquare engine just right: sublime fuel efficiency was obviously one of the key building blocks, but it also had to produce torque and a ‘motorcycle feel’ in all the right places.

Honda did its market research, and even liaised with its car division, to settle on the new low-friction, low-revving engine, which has a bore and stroke of 73mm x 80mm and cylinders laid forward at 62 degrees.

Other key features include a single throttle body to feed both cylinders; a combustion chamber shaped like a car’s for maximum efficiency at low revs; there’s a special resin coating on the pistons to reduce internal friction losses; a single balance shaft; and the water pump is mounted on a camshaft – and near the radiator too, so warm-up time for the engine is cut down.

SPORTING OCCASION

Okay, we’ve set the scene, and there’s no doubt the parallel twin is a perfect fit for a maxi scooter, as it’s not a big revver and there’s plenty of torque between the range that Honda’s market research showed the majority of riders operate in – between tickover and about 6500rpm.

On top of that, the Integra also has Honda’s lighter and smarter second-generation dual clutch transmission, which first debuted on the VFR1200F. The DCT is also offered as an option on the NC700S in a lot of markets, but not in Australia.

There are three riding modes on the Integra: D for Drive, S for Sport (both in automatic guise) and MT for the manual transmission.

In MT, there are two paddles on the left handlebar to shift through the gears, but like my first ride on the VFR1200F I quickly became tired of this function on the Integra.

I’ve tried to make sense of it all, and I suppose the biggest spoiler it that it’s not a natural reaction to change gears with your digits – but if Mick Doohan can use a handlebar-mounted paddle as a rear ‘brake’ on his fearsome NSR500 GP bike and still win races, then I shouldn’t be complaining.

Personal preferences aside, there’s no denying the DCT is an extremely efficient transmission, and in both the D and S modes the gear changes are seamless and ultra-slick. And you’d be hard pressed to realise it’s only a chain final drive. It really is a refined powertrain.

D mode is ultra low-key, and even on a partial throttle you’ll be in top gear by about 90km/h. That’s not an issue per se, but it can get a bit prickly when you require a boost of power to pass another vehicle, or just to accelerate out of a tight spot.

But if the Integra needs to sharpen its focus from a Sunday stroll, there’s always S mode. It’s more intuitive and accelerates with heaps of vigour, and then downshifts in a manner which closely resembles a standard manual transmission so you’ll always be in the right gear driving out of a turn.

In S, you can actually feel all 51hp (38.1kW) of power, but D doesn’t provide anywhere near the same sensation.

S mode is perfect for the city and D for the highway, so the Integra is certainly a maxi scooter that handles all riding situations with absolute ease.

Fuel consumption is nothing sort of brilliant on the Integra, and hovered around the 4lt/100km mark the whole time we had it – and not all of our riding was in energy-conservation mode. Fuel capacity is 14.1 litres.

The Integra sits on 3250rpm at 100km/h.

‘MOTORCYCLE’ HANDLING
The Integra does look quite slim with its sleek, modern styling, but on the go it feels just like any other 200kg-topping maxi scooter such as the Yamaha Tmax.

There’s the familiar sit-on-top feel with feet planted forward, but with the weight kept quite low manoeuvrability or changes of direction aren’t overly compromised. And it does have 17-inch wheels, so there’s your motorcycle-like handling right there. Low-speed agility is also a real plus, so this is a bike that anyone can handle without feeling anxious.

The bike tracks on a non-adjustable 41mm telescopic fork and monoshock rear, with preload adjustment. Travel is 120mm at both ends.

For me, the seating position never quite feels ‘natural’ on a maxi scooter – there’s a feeling of exposure -- but the slightly upward-sloping seat on the Integra does its best to place the rider in a comfortable position, and there’s plenty of lumbar support for cruising with a minimum of fuss.

If cruising is one of your specialities, you might want to think about adding some accessory colour-coded panniers and a top box. There’s nearly 100 litres of luggage capacity.

You might also want to source a higher screen, because the standard one is too low and there’s quite a bit of buffeting.

The linked ABS Nissin brakes are great units. There’s plenty of power, with a nice initial bite.

The instrumentation consists of digital, tacho and trip meters, but in this day and age that’s bare bones stuff, and it’d be nice to have fuel consumption figures, maybe a distance to empty function – you get the picture. Honda’s been letting itself down in this area for a while.

The beautifully built Integra is now on sale in Australia for $10,990, in an Ion Blue Metallic livery. The Integra is a page-turning exercise for Honda, and one – combined with the NC700S – that could be a low-emission, low-revving, fuel-saving template for the future.

SPECS: HONDA INTEGRA SCOOTER
ENGINE
Type: Liquid-cooled, four-stroke, eight-valve SOHC parallel twin 
Capacity: 670cc
Bore x stroke: 73mm x 80mm
Compression ratio: 10:7.1
Fuel system: PGM-F1 electronic fuel injection 
Emissions: Euro 3

PERFORMANCE
Claimed maximum power: 51.1hp (38.1kW) at 6250rpm
Claimed maximum torque: 62Nm at 4750rpm

TRANSMISSION
Type: Six-speed dual clutch transmission
Final drive: Chain
Clutch: Wet
Clutch operation: D mode/S mode/manual mode

CHASSIS AND RUNNING GEAR
Frame type: Diamond steel pipe
Front suspension: 41mm telescopic fork, 120mm travel
Rear suspension: Monoshock, 120mm travel
Front brakes: 320mm disc with three-piston caliper, ABS/CBS as standard
Rear brake: 240mm disc with single-piston caliper, ABS/CBS as standard
Wheels: Multi-spoke cast aluminium -- front 3.5 x 17, rear 3.5 x 17
Tyres: Front 120/70-17, rear 160/60-17

DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES
Rake: 27 degrees
Trail: 110mm
Claimed wet weight: 238kg
Seat height: 790mm
Wheelbase: 1525mm
Fuel capacity: 14.1 litres

OTHER STUFF
Price: $10,990
Colour: Metallic blue
Test bike supplied by: Honda Australia, www.hondamotorcycles.com.au
Warranty: 24 months, unlimited kilometres
Visit the Honda Integra in Bike Showroom

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Published : Tuesday, 7 August 2012
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Editorial prices shown are a "price guide" only, based on information provided to us by the manufacturer. Pricing current at the time of writing editorial. Pricing prior to editorial dated 25 May 2009 may refer to RRP. Due to Clarity on Pricing legislation, RRP for those editorials now means "price guide". When purchasing a bike, always confirm the single figure price with the seller of an actual motorbike or accessory. Click here for further information about our Terms & Conditions.