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REVIEW RIDE: Honda MSX 125 aka The Grom and Honda Wave 125i

10 Jul

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The MSX 125 aka The Grom (as it is known in North American market) looks corny and cute when it was first announced by Honda way back in 2012. But it quickly became popular in the North American market (USA and Canada) where the popularity also spread to other continents as well, especially in South East Asia region, where it is manufactured in Thailand by AP Honda.

For Malaysia, as usual, takes quite some time for anything new or exciting, to enter its market. First obstacle for the MSX 125’s entry to the Malaysian market is the selling price, which at RM11,128 w/GST, thanks to the various import and excise duties imposed, would make The Grom costing more than a standard 125cc moped from Honda itself – something in the range of twice the price, as in the case between the company’s Wave 125i and The Grom.

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Both are fuel injected, 124cc small motorcycles, with 4-speed transmission each. While the Wave 125i, being a moped or Cub, has a clutchless 4-speed transmission, The Grom features a clutch-operated version, with an operation similar to bigger bikes – 1 down, 3 ups vs. the all-forward style used by the Wave 125i.

Additionally, the Wave 125i has a faster top speed than The Grom at 120km/hr vs. 110km/hr – according to their respective speedometers after riding for quite a while at full throttle operation or riding downwards from high-level areas. Actual top speeds for both are 110km/hr and 100km/hr respectively as measured by radar speed guns – riders on either bike are unlikely to be penalized for breaking Malaysia’s speed limits for highways.

In terms of actual riding, one could easily reach 90-100km/hr with the Wave 125i and 80-90km/hr on The Grom, as according to their speedometers, under normal conditions.

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For the price it commands, The Grom offers more than just speed. It has better supporting parts over the Wave 125i – full length telescopic front forks vs. half-length type, more rigid rear absorber, and comfortable riding with its plush seat, an advantage over longer distances than the Wave 125i, and wider, smaller front/rear tyres that enable the rider to perform extreme cornering without fear of The Grom skidding or sliding the rear wheel. These features alone made The Grom justifies its higher selling price over its Wave 125i cousin.

For fuel consumption, both the Wave 125i and The Grom are almost equal in performance although the latter can be slightly more guzzling overall especially the comfortable feel of riding it gives the rider the tendency to be more throttle-happy as compared with riding the Wave 125i. The Wave 125i sips fuel at 40km/litre, and with its 5.4 litre capacity, literally takes the rider to a distance of approximately 220km before needing any refill. On the other hand, The Grom has a tank capacity of 5.7-litre and consumes the equivalent of approximately 35km/litre for a distance of nearly 200km. On a round trip review ride for a distance of 315km, The Grom only used up 8-litre of fuel.

I must admit there’s some reservation initially on my part of how well I could ride The Grom as compared to the Wave 125i especially my overall height is nearly 180cm. Any Honda Cub model is not an issue to ride for people with varying levels of heights so there’s no reservation in riding the Wave 125i to anywhere.

Since The Grom has a lower seat height than any Honda Cub, and with my tall legs – the first image I could visualize of myself riding it would look more on the awkward side. Then again, enjoying the ride is what makes motorcycling fun and it doesn’t really matter to me what others think when tall person like me riding a super cute little motorcycle like The Grom around town or going for a long haul ride.

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The above photo shows me riding The Grom.

City and town riding aside, the older twisty roads are where The Grom shines as it is able to tackle multiple S-curve with ease, thanks to its superb suspension and small but very stable tyres. It is even better than most Cubs and bigger capacity bikes in this situation. However, slick as it is on those old twisty, the moment the tarmac segment of the next S-curve is connected with a longer straight of 300-500m in length, the bigger bikes would easily out-accelerate past The Grom in reaching the next bend first.

The Wave 125i could do the same but the default tyres may not give the feeling needed to inspire the rider’s confidence to go faster at sharper corners. The Wave 125i’s default tyres are decent and grippy for such a task but their thinner profile may prevent newbie riders from having the confidence to undertake the corners with the utmost confidence.

Upshifting and downshifting the gears between The Grom and Wave 125i are totally different. The Grom behaves like any sports or naked sports featuring a manual clutch lever while with the Wave 125i, a rider just need to step forward for upshifting thanks to its automatic clutchless transmission system. But it is not the same as having a quickshifter or Honda’s own DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) like Honda’s NC750X and Africa Twin 1000 as the jerking moment upon each downshift still occurs, as the Wave 125i is basically a Cub/Moped or as Malaysians would called it – a kapchai.

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Using a manual clutch, the downshifting on The Grom is jerk-free thus enabling an experienced rider a much smoother transmission when riding fast approaching a corner particularly on twisty roads. The downside of having a manual clutch is one needs to downshift 3-step to engage Neutral when the bike is idle at traffic lights junction but the Wave 125i only need to step forward once (from 4th) to enter Neutral mode after stopping. This Honda patent was first introduced with the Fame 90 Cub of 1985, and has been featured in every kapchai model Honda has introduced to the local market ever since.

The Wave 125i has many Cub-based rivals in the competitive Malaysian kapchai segment but The Grom only has 1 – from Kawasaki’s Z125 Pro, which was developed to tap into the success enjoyed by the Honda MSX 125 globally. In terms of performance, features and handling, The Grom has a slight edge over the Z125 Pro – LED headlight, better suspension feeling (it’s Showa vs. KYB) and smooth, superbike-like engine/exhaust pipe grunt.

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The Z125 Pro sounds very much like a kapchai despite having better features than any of the Moped particularly when it maxes out at full throttle unlike the smoother Grom.

The Wave 125i has one feature that comes in handy over The Grom – a storage compartment underneath the seat, which is a surprise to me as I have not anticipated that as this is a feature only a modern scooter would have, such as the Honda Air Blade or the Honda PCX 150. In fact, I had to double-checked that the Wave 125i is indeed a Cub and not a scooter due to this “discovery”. Since scooters also feature an automatic transmission, the Wave 125i is obviously a kapchai as it does not have a hand-operated rear brake lever on the left handlebar, and upshifting/downshifting of the gears are required despite the absence of a manual clutch lever.

Any limitation to both The Grom and the Wave 125i during my review rides of both?

A few but nothing much to gripe about, really. For The Grom, it is the top speed which come up a bit short than expected. Yes, 100km/hr is a lot to some people but I am expecting it to be able to achieve at a true 110km/hr, given the fact it has much better components than any kapchai, not to mention the selling price, which is more than double in some cases over a 110 or 125cc Cub bike.

For the Wave 125i, it’s the thinner profile for its front/rear default tyres where fast cornering can be a bit daunting. It probably won’t cause the Wave 125i to flip up or skidded while negotiating a bend at faster speeds but the rider could feel the rear’s tendency to slide a bit when doing that, which is due to the rear suspension being a little too soft for that kind of feat.

Last but not least, which bike would I choose between the Wave 1255i and The Grom? If it is for city riding and daily commuting, the former fits the description well. However, if one prefers to do both as well longer trips to another state or as far North to Penang or down south to Johor Baru or across the Causeway to Singapore, The Grom is the better choice as you are unlikely to experience rider fatigue or “fried butt” in the long ride process with it.

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The photo above of The Grom was snapped using the Canon EOS 80D at Tanjung Sepat near morib in the state of Selangor Darul Ehsan.

 
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