I ride a lot of electric kick scooters here in New York City, and no one has ever smiled fondly at me as I zip around town. I get the occasional, “How fast does it go?” when I’m on the burlier scooters, but that’s it. Riding Honda’s new Motocompacto, however, was a heck of a different experience. My 6’4″ frame on this tiny, cute, seated scooter drew smiles from joggers, cyclists, and folks walking their dogs near Hell’s Kitchen. (Someone did still ask me how fast it goes.)
The Motocompacto was born out of an annual Honda design contest, says Jane Nakagawa, vice president of the research and development unit at American Honda Motor. The contest was a chance for any employee to propose a product for Honda’s lineup. Roughly three years ago, an employee sketched a modern-day reenvisioning of the original Motocompo from 1981, a tiny gas-powered scooter add-on that fits in the trunk of the Honda City subcompact car. Nick Ziraldo, design engineering manager at Honda R&D Americas, was proposing a similar idea when he saw the sketch and brought the concept to life, spearheading the project.
That leads us to the Motocompacto, a tiny electrified version of the original that can pack down to the size of a suitcase, grab-handle and all. It costs $995; has a top speed of 15 miles per hour, thanks to the 250-watt motor; and weighs 41 pounds. With a 12-mile range estimate, it’s not the type of scooter you’d use to replace your whole commute, but it’s a handy last-mile solution you can easily carry onto public transportation without dinging people along the way.
A Suitcase With Wheels
The Motocompacto looks pretty much like a suitcase when it’s all folded up. The white plastic shell seems like it will get dirty fairly quickly, but Honda made it purposefully plain so that anyone can customize it however they want. Slap a sticker on! Paint it! Honda wants you to do to its Motocompacto what many people have done to their reusable water bottles.
The unfolding process is quite daunting at first. I watched as a spokesperson began pulling out latches, whipping out the wheels, lifting the handlebar, and doing a bunch of tiny maneuvers to fully convert the Motocompacto into riding mode. They did it in less than 30 seconds—Ziraldo did it even faster—but on my first attempt, I got confused and had to ask for help. There are a lot of steps! But as the team assured me, do it a few times and you’ll quickly get the hang of it. If you don’t unfold it properly, there are sensors baked in that will indicate any issues on the display and prevent the scooter from moving.