REVIEW: 2019 Honda C125 Super Cub – retro or no?

REVIEW: 2019 Honda C125 Super Cub – retro or no?


As a styling and market trend in the motorcycle market, retro design seems to be going on a while yet, and one contender for the hipster dollar is the 2019 Honda C125 Super Cub, priced at RM13,999. Yes, we can hear the collective gasps from the back row there, RM14K is a lot of moolah to be asking for a 125 cc urban runabout, or in this case, something more of a collector’s toy.

Here’s the thing, for many Malaysian riders, the motorcycle they first cut their teeth on is a kapchai of some sort and in many cases, that kapchai was Honda’s ubiquitous Cub. This was much the case for the author, whose uncle let him have a go on a Honda C70 back when most of you were running around in shorts.

So, after moving production of the Super Cub to Kumamoto, Japan, Honda decided what the market needed was a 125 cc version of the Super Cub in ASEAN. Which does go a long way to explaining the heart stopping price Honda is asking for the Super Cub since the model we get in Malaysia is brought in CBU.

But, as we have mentioned in several reviews of this type of motorcycle, retro is as retro does, but is there enough retro to justify the Super Cub’s existence? On the face of it, combining a classic design of a near indestructible motorcycle with modern conveniences seems to be a good idea.

Or is it? In any case, Boon Siew Honda, in their infinite wisdom and refusal to believe rumours the author only reviews superbikes, handed us the key to the C125 Super Cub and said, “we’re half afraid of what you’re going to say about this one.”

What you get with the C125 on the first approach is a properly nostalgia tinged design straight out of the 50s. Or is it the 60s? Maybe the 70s? Never mind, what this serves to tell you is Honda’s Cub design is timeless and has stood the test of ages.

At the first approach, the C125 is diminutive and we found out the ladies really grooved on the design, finding it “friendly” and “it brings back memories of my childhood/schooldays/college days”, depending on age of said lady. The Super Cub is certainly shows no aggression as far as designs go, and speed is not something that comes to mind when you look at it.

Maybe something like a Pug or Retriever, a friendly sort of animal that likes being tickled on its belly anyway. With the looks out of the way, what the rider gets is a single seat, set 780 mm off the ground, making it easy for any rider to swing a leg over. Definitely, there were days when the Super Cub was in the author’s hands during review, the ease of getting on after a long day of riding full-sized bikes was a relief.

Settling into the nicely padded seat, covered in red faux pleather to offset the Pearl Niltvana Blue chassis and white plastic bodywork, the rider is confronted with a single round dial in the instrument binnacle, inset with a LCD display. Simple is as simple does, and the rider gets a speedometer, fuel gauge, gear indicator, odometer and clock, with the idiot lights arranged in a semi-circle at the bottom.

Power comes from the 125 cc, four-stroke, two-valve, air-cooled mill, producing 9.5 hp at 7,500 rpm and 10.4 Nm at 5,000 rpm. Of note is the rotary four-speed gearbox, familiar to any motorcyclist in South-East Asia which, in this instance, was the sharpest, slickest rotary box we slammed a foot on.

We are used to riding underbone bikes with boxes sloppier than a ten-dollar whore but the unit on the Super Cub was a revelation. A lot of fun was had stepping through the gears, pushing the engine to its top speed of… 95 km/h.

On a performance basis, the Super Cub C125 does not exactly bring a lot to the table, that we will admit. But, outright performance is not everything, as we soon found out.

The Cub is, at its core, an urban run-about, designed by Soichiro Honda during the post-war years in Japan as a mobility multiplier for the small businessman. That it developed a cult following and is both transport and entertainment for generations of Asian riders is as much a happy accident as it was by intent.

Thus, speed is not the essence for the Super Cub, and it should not be. Did not mean the author didn’t have fun chucking the bike into corners at full throttle, on the ragged edge of sliding out and coming out on the other side with a grin on the face.

This irresponsible hooning of an innocent Super Cub was helped by the improved, modern, a 220 mm single disc on the front wheel grabbed by a hydraulic calliper. The rear is a still a drum brake and at certain points during the Super Cub’s tenure with us was much needed to bring things down to safer levels.

Handling is still in basic Cub fashion, with the Super Cub using telescopic forks and twin shock absorbers, non-adjustable for anything. While this does mean taking the Super Cub to the limit can be scary for the slightly heavyweight rider, the author’s young shaver, who weighs 51 kg sopping wet, had enormous fun running around with it.

Engine wise, there was enough get-up-and-go for riding around the city and once in fourth gear, adequate torque to manage most traffic situations unless the road started up an incline. For the cut and thrust of traffic jams, the Super Cub was just about perfect, quick to respond with the short 1.2-metre wheelbase making manoeuvring around stopped cars easy.

The caveat is, you must ride the Super Cub within its performance envelope and if you do so, you will have enormous fun with it. Ignore this at your own peril because the C125 is not meant to tangle with highway traffic and is best confined to city streets.

Honda Cubs are also known to be frugal with fuel and with the Super Cub, things are no different. From the 3.7-litre tank located under the seat, opened with a the push of a button at the bottom of the seat, we managed about 100 kilometres of range, give or take.

In terms of riding conveniences, we liked the keyless start of the Super Cub, a great help when you’re already geared up and realise you left the key in the pocket. However, there was precious little else, no under seat storage or handy hook to hang your teh tarik ikat tepi.

However, there is a reason why the Super Cub C125 exists and that reason has nothing to do with trendy hipster nostalgia rose-tinted glasses trying to be Insta-cool. Honda, as a motorcycle company, has previously shown it has not been afraid to make some bold decisions and the Super Cub is one of those.

As the motorcycle that started the Hamamatsu company on the path to greatness, the Super Cub does deserve a place in the catalogue, even if not many are sold. Realistically, there are many other options in the underbone market that perform better at two thirds the price.

What the Super Cub will get you is a lot of attention especially from the distaff side, as mentioned earlier. Even in traffic, other riders would go past honking and giving a thumbs up.

So, who needs a Honda Super Cub C125, priced at RM13,999? Yes, that price is a shocker and several members of the public expressed surprise at the amount of money being asked when they enquired about the cost of the Super Cub.

As a modern interpretation of a piece of Honda’s history, it is hard to fault the Super Cub. It is a fun, enjoyable, easy-to-ride machine that will bring joy. As the old advertising tagline goes, “you meet the nicest people on a Honda.”

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