BOON Siew Honda (BSH) has the scooter market covered well. The lower range, where most of the sales are, is covered by the Beat, PCX, PCX Hybrid and Vario.
The Vario is very much stuck between the cheaper Beat and more luxurious PCX. But it bridges the gap through styling and a smattering of tech features while still remaining value-for-money.
BSH figures that new riders often are attracted to the features the PCX offers but cannot stretch to the asking price of the PCX. Most younger riders are also less attracted to the soap-bar styling treatment of the PCX and prefer an “edgier” and sportier style.
The Vario definitely scores highly on the styling front. The sharp-edged, folded paper style makes the Vario look more high-end than its price suggests. The headlights mimic Honda’s superbikes and all the lights are LED.
The LCD instrumentation is smart and displays all the necessary information clearly. The daytime running lights are also LED and look like aggressive eyebrows. The svelte rear quarters end in an attractive rear taillight array and a sporty grab-handle. The colours and stickers all reflect the young and aggressive customers that the Vario invariably attracts.
However, the Vario is a pussycat at heart. The powerplant is a liquid-cooled SOHC 149.3cc four-stroke single also shared with the PCX150. The PGM-FI engine produces 13.1 PS at 8,500rpm and 13.4Nm at 5,000rpm.
While it shares the same engine, the Vario gets off the line better due to its lighter weight (112kg). It also handles uphills with aplomb (we took it up to Genting Highlands) and cruises highways easily. Handling is nice and easy with good stability and fairly decent suspension.
The front telescopic forks and rear monoshock seem able to absorb potholes better than previous small Honda scooters. Front and rear wheels are 14 inches in diameter and the tyres, though looking quite weedy (90/80 front and 100/80 rear), grip well enough to worry the undercarriage frequently.
For braking duties, the Vario utilises a front wavy disc and a drum rear. Both work well although in the beginning you may wonder why the front doesn’t really feel strong enough.
The reason is due to the Vario’s Combi Brake System (CBS). The system ensures that activating the front or rear brake will also activate the other. By using an ingenious pulley system, the system ensures excellent stability under hard braking.
However, the system is not equipped with anti-braking system but as a side note, the rear will skid earlier than the front (if at all). The CBS system is not new technology, being employed on Honda’s large-capacity bikes such as the VFR, CB1000R, Gold Wing, among others, although in a fully hydraulic, ABS equipped format.
The CBS is an important addition to the Vario and is installed as a safety feature.
The Vario is frugal on fuel and with a 5.5-litre tank, it will cover more than 200km with ease. To further enhance fuel consumption, it is equipped with an Idling Stop switch where a kill switch would be on other bikes. The system shuts the engine down after a few seconds of idling (say, at the traffic lights). The engine will automatically restart when the rider twists the throttle. If you prefer, the Vario will idle like a normal bike if you flick the switch the other way.
Another feature the Vario inherits from the PCX is the SMART key. However, it is more complicated than the PCX system whereby you have to press the “key” button and wait for the green LED on the smartkey and touch the starter button before you can switch on the ignition. This takes a few moments and means the Vario is not a fast “getaway” vehicle.
Other smartkey systems only need the fob to be in the vicinity of the bike and a press of the ignition switch to allow the switch to be rotated. Perhaps the Vario’s system means extra security since the bike may be more susceptible to theft.
For convenience, the Vario is equipped with an 18-litre underseat storage space as well as two storage spaces and a hook in the front panel.
It comes in four colour options — the Pearl Magellanic Black, Pearl Nightfall Blue and Force Silver Metallic variants have a retail price of RM7,199 while the Repsol Edition costs RM200 more, if you fancy yourself as Marc Marquez.
The Vario comes with a two-year or 20,000km manufacturer’s warranty (whichever comes first).