Kymco are one scooter manufacturer you should all be taking seriously, not only have their engines impressed BMW enough that they use them in their own C600 and 650 Sport scooters but Kawasaki also rebadged a Kymco Downtown 300i as ‘their’ J300. If the big boys are happy to use the expertise of the Taiwanese scooter giant and are confident enough to trust their enviable reputations on the engineering know how of the Far Eastern manufacturer I’m sure the average punter should be happy to spend a few quid on one.
Going back to the Kymco Downtown for a second, the scooter was actually, and still is one of my favourite 300 class machines (see second image), its fast, agile and practical. There’s also more than a passing family resemblance when you compare it to the new Xciting.
Understandably I was looking forward to being the first UK journalist to swing a leg over the latest Kymco offering, although I was also slightly worried that it wouldn’t live up to the prowess of its smaller capacity stable mate. I needn’t have worried.
First impressions count for a lot, if something looks the part it’s half the battle and when the Xciting arrived I wasn’t disappointed. The Kymco looks as well put together and as well finished as anything else on the market. It’s got the styling well and truly sorted, it’s modern, sharp and feature packed. For instance when did you last see a neon rear light on a bike? Never I’d imagine. Well you have now; the Kymco has three horizontal neon strips, lights that truly stand out in the dark. It also has plenty of LED’s for the indicators and front and rear running lights. Then there’s the Bosch ABS, twin front disks and radial calipers…
I couldn’t wait to see if it goes as well as it looks so I took the brand new machine for a quick spin. Immediately I was impressed, the engine has quite a distinctive note to it and it doesn’t hang around either. It’s a 399cc single cylinder, liquid-cooled, fuel injected lump. It makes 35.5bhp and is quite Xciting as it goes about its business. This scooter goes very well, it also stops well (thanks to those twin front disks), the ABS is refined enough not to be intrusive and I only felt it cut in a few times during my 800 miles or so in the saddle. In fact I liked the scooter so much that I locked my own Vespa GTS away and took the Kymco up to Scotland for a weekend at the Kelso scooter rally.
Two up riding is something that isn’t always as comfortable as it could be; often scooters are cramped or lack storage. The Xciting certainly isn’t one of those; it has enough space beneath the sofa like seat for us to fit a sports bag full of clothes under there. The seat is opened via the ignition switch and lifts on two gas struts (giving it a classy feel), it’s illuminated as well. I also had space to fit a Tucano Urbano waterproof bag (an excellent 40 litre dry sack) in the space between the seat and fairing and I was able to bungee a small bag to the rear of the scooter using the strong steel mudguard mounts as bungee points and the scooter still wasn’t overloaded. My pillion is often the worst critic for any scooter I test, she’s like ‘Princess and the Pea’ so it was a gamble to take her for a 600-mile trip to Scotland on a scooter she’d not even sat on before. Thankfully the Kymco saved me from any additional grief by providing DFS levels of seating comfort; in fact the seat is so comfortable and spacious that it felt like we’d had a fall out, we weren’t even touching and we could have easily fitted another person in between us (if you’ve ever been to Taiwan you’ll know a scooter is built to carry the whole family, including pets). So with a happy passenger we set off to Scotland, via Manchester for a family visit.
Before setting off I suckered the car TomTom to the inside of the dark sports screen and connected it to the accessory point inside the small cubbyhole behind the legshields, this is one minor grumble, the space is only just big enough to fit and charge an iPhone. Larger phones like the Samsung Galaxy probably wouldn’t fit. Only a minor grumble but the socket is only live whilst the ignition is on – so you can’t charge a phone whilst you’re camping unless you want to leave the engine running for a bit. It also means you have to trap the wire for a sat nav in the door whilst you’re riding, or leave it open. If you own the scooter you’d be able to hard wire the sat nav in though and hide the wiring.
Anyway, my pillion was happy (always a good thing) on the back as we made our way northwards, with only torrential rain and fog to spoil things for the first 140 miles. Thankfully it eased off as we left the M6 and headed on to the A7 towards Galashiels. If you enjoy riding then this is the perfect road for it, we had 60 miles of near deserted perfectly surfaced twisty roads with great visibility and fantastic scenery. The perfect place to test man and machine to the absolute limit. The Xciting had enough miles on the clock by now to be opened up a bit (just as well really). The scooter certainly has some sporting potential and handles very well. It’s got enough oomph to let you enjoy yourself but it also has plenty of stopping power as well. It laps the corners up with ease and the engine has enough mid range grunt to allow it to dispatch any stray cars that get in the way without even flinching. Scotland is one of those places where you can ride for miles without getting stuck behind slow moving caravans, Sunday drivers or school run mums. It really is somewhere you need to ride and is perfect for a maxi scooter touring holiday, even when it’s wet the scenery and roads are still stunning. As we arrived at our destination we both agreed it was a very memorable ride, the other half said she felt like she’d been on a toboggan run.
For your information we covered 98 miles from the last fill up (the amber fuel light had just started flashing), knocked 25 minutes off the TomTom time of arrival and averaged 46mpg. Obviously that fuel economy is only comparable to that of a family sized diesel car but we weren’t hanging around to enjoy the scenery, this was all about getting there as quickly as possible whilst having fun and we managed it very well. If you want to look at the sights, aren’t in a rush to get to the pub and have a pillion who doesn’t like white knuckle rides you should expect to achieve closer to 60mpg on average.
All in all we put close to 800 miles on the Xciting 400i’s digital clock and on the whole I couldn’t fault the scooter. It looks good, rides superbly, stops well, is fairly quick (93mph on GPS), and looks nice too. As with anything though there are a few minor grumbles, there’s some slight vibration at speed (I got used to it though and it wasn’t enough to cause numbness). The other slight annoyance was that the clocks are quite dull and hard to read in the daylight but at night they spring to life. The big question is would I buy an Xciting 400i? Whilst riding up to Scotland I wouldn’t have hesitated and even thought about asking the UK importer for a price for this demo model, it was the perfect machine for the job. Occasionally I’d have liked a little more top end speed but when pushed you’ll see three figures on the clock, it also gets there very quickly. I love the comfort, the styling and the handling. I also know and trust Kymco as a brand, so if I was looking for a maxi scooter at this minute in time I would part with my own cash to buy an Xciting 400i. For a great all-rounder it takes some beating. Its closest rival is the Sym Maxsym 400 at £5091, Suzuki Burgman 400 (£5999) and Piaggio X10 350 (£5591) but with a price tag of just over £5000, a two-year warranty and nationwide dealer network the Kymco would be the one I’d opt for.