2014 Kymco Downtown 300i
Editor Score: 79.0%
In an era where motorcycles are becoming more specialized (sportbike, standard, cruiser, adventure, etc.), scooters are diversifying as well – everything from 50cc city runabouts to the 650cc-plus mileage gobblers capable of serious touring. Striking a balance between them are models like the Kymco Downtown 300i; a middle-of-the-road scoot capable of doing it all.
Models like the Yamaha Smax, Honda PCX150 and Suzuki Burgman 200 all benefit from being highway legal, but sometimes you crave something a little more – be it more storage capacity or simply more power. Conversely, the big maxi-scoots like BMW’s C650GT or Kymco’s own MyRoad 700i are big and wide, and sometimes they’re simply overkill. Not to mention they carry price tags almost double that of the 300i’s $ 5,599.
In that regard, the 300i strikes a nice middle ground. A competent and maneuverable city scoot, the 300i is my choice for a short hop to Trader Joes. Likewise, it’s also a decent companion should you need to cross several zip codes in relative comfort – depending on how tall you are (more on that later).
A 299cc, liquid-cooled, fuel injected, 4-valve, SOHC Single is in charge of pushing you forward to the tune of 29.5 hp and 18.1 lb-ft., says Kymco. She’s a little hesitant to start when cold, but she purrs right to life when adding a prod of its throttle. Power feels dulled slightly because of the CVT, but the tradeoff with the CVT is freeing up the left side of your body to do other things. That said, the Kymco isn’t slow. There’s plenty of juice to beat cars off the line, blend in with traffic, and leap ahead if needed. On the highway, I saw an indicated 85 mph on the speedo (with a tiny bit more available) before having to lift. I suspect 90 mph is all she’s got. Power is metered nicely from throttle hand to rear wheel, too.
From a visual perspective, the 300i has the appearance of a much larger scooter. However, when you compare it to its big brother, the MyRoad 700i, you’ll see it’s 5.1 inches shorter (86.6 inches vs. 91.7 inches), gives up almost an inch in width (31.9 inches vs. 32.7 inches) and a whopping 14.1 inches in height (45.3 inches vs. 59.4 inches). The 300’s wheelbase is almost 3 inches shorter than the 700’s as well (60.8 inches to 63.6).
Sitting in it, those smaller dimensions feel even more noticeable than the specs indicate. The saddle, hovering 30.5 inches from the ground, is shaped to envelop your butt, but its leading edge is wide, forcing the legs to splay slightly to touch the ground. It also tilts slightly forward, persuading its rider to spend more time than they’d like on that leading edge. It’s unfortunate, considering the padding is quite nice if you’re able to scoot back towards the pronounced backrest.
Our biggest gripe about the Downtown 300i is its cramped footwell. It’s shaped in such a way so your feet are directly in front of you, placing the rider in a standard seating position. At 5-foot-8 inches, with a 30-inch inseam, I found the tight positioning tolerable for short- to medium-distance rides. Taller riders, or those with longer legs, will wish the footwell expanded further or the seat didn’t tilt forward. Otherwise, knees will touch elbows and will simply be uncomfortable. There is a secondary, higher, position within the leg shield, but the seating position is akin to what I imagine a trip to the gynecologist is like. The elevated foot pads are nice in theory, but it ultimately makes the rider even more cramped than before. Kymco doesn’t offer any other seating options, so this is what you’re stuck with.
Assuming you fit within the Downtown’s dimensions, the rest of the ride experience is actually quite pleasant. Reach to the bars is exactly where my arms expect them, and reach to both brake levers is adjustable to fit hands of various sizes. For my frame, the large windscreen blocks a significant amount of air from reaching my chest or my chin, instead diverting air to my shoulders and into the top vents of my helmet.
The windscreen may work too well, actually; on cooler rides, the pocket of still air near my mouth causes my visor to fog, requiring a head tilt into the air stream to clear it up again. Meanwhile, the legshield performs its job admirably, assuming you keep your legs directly in front of you. Relax them a little and they’ll be in the airflow. Of course, your mileage may vary depending on body size.
Cruising along, the 300i is suspended towards providing a plush ride. Its non-adjustable conventional fork and preload-adjustable twin shocks soak up bumps without a pogo-effect that sometimes plagues bikes suspended too soft. Its 120/80-14 front and 150/70-13 rear tires are quick to turn in, should your route to the store include some twisty roads. However, at any significant lean, the softness of the suspension combined with what feels like chassis flex prevent any hopes of Marc Marquez impressions. Back at vertical, the tires track well, only following the largest of freeway grooves.
Braking duties are handled by a single 260mm disc up front, mated to a twin-piston caliper. A 240mm disc and similar caliper sits in back. No complaints here about braking power. Astute readers may notice a wheel-speed sensor ring on the front wheel. Strangely, the rear wheel is not equipped with one. Does the 300i have ABS then? Nope. According to our Kymco rep, the front wheel is the same unit shared with the standard ABS-equipped MyRoad 700i and Xciting 500Ri.
Of course, being a scooter, the 300i comes with a generous amount of underseat storage. Kymco claims there’s room for two helmets, though it never says only one can be a full-face lid. The only way to fit a second one is if it’s a half helmet. There’s plenty of space for a week’s worth of groceries (and the LED light is a nice touch), and the flip-out hook within the leg shield is handy in case you have one or two grocery bags too many. Additionally, a sealed cubby hole with 12-volt outlet is available just behind the left grip. The bin seems a perfect space to store a wallet or phone during a ride, but it’s not lockable, so don’t leave valuables behind.
For the most part, the Downtown 300i is a fine scoot. With decent power and considerable storage space, it’s a very practical everyday vehicle. Our particular tester returned an impressive 63 mpg, too. That’s six mpg shy of Kymco’s 69 mpg claim, but considering my heavy right hand, I’ll take it. A minor nit to pick is the instrument’s buttons that require an incredibly firm push to activate, which is doubly annoying when resetting the tripmeter means simultaneously holding two of them.
At $ 5,599, the Downtown 300i’s price is identical to its closest rival, the Honda Forza, while coming in $ 300 less than the Piaggio BV350. Is it worth it? Stay tuned, as we’re putting all three together to find out.
Kymco Downtown 300i Specifications
|Engine Type||SOHC 4-Stroke Single 4-Valve|
|Engine Capacity||298.9 cc|
|Horsepower||Claimed: 29.5 hp|
|Torque||Claimed: 18.1 lb-ft|
|Front Suspension||Telescopic fork|
|Rear Suspension||Twin shocks with preload adjustment|
|Front Brakes||Two-piston caliper, single 260mm disc|
|Rear Brakes||Two-piston caliper, 240mm disc|
|Seat Height||30.5 inches|
|Curb Weight||367 lbs (claimed)|
|Fuel Capacity||3.3 gal|
|Colors||Pearl White, Burnt Orange|