As a motorcycle manufacturer, Honda has never shied away from producing various engine configurations, sometimes inserted into some very off-beat body styles. Case in point is the 2018 Honda X-ADV, retailing in Malaysia at RM61,748, sans road tax, insurance and registration.

Clad as it is in adventure bike style body work, the X-ADV is something of an oddment in the scooter world, which usually trends to futuristic designs coming off a science fiction movie set. This does make sense considering the X-ADV’s main target market of Europe, where adventure bikes of various displacements sell well, never mind the roughest surface those bikes might see are cobbled streets.

In the car world, of course, much the same is happening with cross-overs, SUVs and pickups, despite the majority of those vehicles not seeing dirt and the drivers absolutely clueless about how to use 4WD. But, the market gets what the market wants and according to Honda’s marketing department, what you want is this scooter.

Now, when you say scooter, the image that pops into your mind is some man-bunned, wispy bearded boy astride a Vespa outside some Instagram worthy scene looking ironic. Forget that his lily soft hands have never touched a burning spark plug after a plug chop test, he needs to be the best, yo!

However, it is what it is, and we now have a cross-over scooter parked in our laps, a big one too. With keys in hand, we set out to find out if a big, adventure-styled scooter is what the market needs.


Alright, full disclosure, we’ve ridden the X-ADV several times before we got this review unit from Boon Siew Honda. We had the chance to thrash it around Sepang and other undisclosed locations.

What this means is we spent a fair amount of time with Honda’s cross-over scooter, and while there are riders who may scoff at scooters saying those are for effete man-boys, scooters have a practicality and charm all their own. But does this translate into a 745 cc monster you can live with?

For those readers whose skirts get blown up by numbers, here are the facts. Liquid-cooled parallel-twin, displacing 745 cc and producing 54 hp at 6,250 rpm and 68 Nm of torque at 4,750 rpm and the inclusion of Honda’s DCT six-speed semi-automatic gearbox.

Excited? Not excited? No stirring in the groin area because it only produces 54 hp? The thing is, it is not about the horsepower but the way it is delivered and the package as a whole, which too many of you fail to understand.

With the whole being better than the sum of its parts, the X-ADV aims to be a bike that stands outside the mainstream, somewhat, but is it attempting to deliver a riding experience that cuts across the border between a motorcycle and a scooter? This is what we wanted to know.

Thus, on the first approach, you will realise the X-ADV is big and tall for a scooter, practically a full-sized motorcycle, except there is a gap where the fuel tank would be. Stepping over the centre hump – we would hesitate calling the X-ADV a step-through – the rider settles into the 820 mm tall set.

Again, this is full-size motorcycle territory and anyone thinking this is a scooter you run down to the shops with to pick up a loaf of bread would… Ah, this is where the X-ADV surprised us with its behaviour, which shall be elaborated on further in this review.

Coming back to the X-ADV, seating is fairly comfortable but we did find the seat foam to be a little on the firm side. The floorboards are wide enough to accommodate size 10 riding boots but we found the angle of the foot-forward position a little funny, requiring us to scoot forward a little to place the feet at the proper angle.

Reach to handlebars is good but shorter riders might find it a bit of a stretch. If you have short arms, you will find yourself moving forward in the seat, onto the ‘hump’ which can be a little uncomfortable.

Looking inside the cockpit, the rider is faced with a fairly tall screen, manually adjustable to one of five positions. During our riding around with the X-ADV, we found setting the screen in the third or fourth highest position worked best for our 168 cm tall rider.

As for the instrument panel, what you get is a monochrome LCD display which we found rather crowded, stuffed as it is with lots of numbers and graphs and little readouts for the ABS, DCT gearbox and what not with the idiot lights right below the panel, on a binnacle mounted on the handlebar clamp. Needless to say we did get used to it, but it meant paying attention to what the panel was saying.

Starting off on the X-ADV is a keyless affair, coming to life with a twist on the rotary selector dial. We found the dial easy to use, right to switch on the scooter, left to turn it off and a push to lock the handlebars, with access to the under seat storage and fuel filler enabled by putting the dial in the 12 o’clock position.

So, everything on the X-ADV has been made easy for the rider to use, and, yes, it was. Putting the DCT selector switch into ‘D’, there was a slight jerk as the slack in the drive chain was taken up, and the X-ADV proceeded apace.

Now, when we say “apace”, we mean bloody quick because the X-ADV does not hang about on take off. The scooter would quite rapidly accelerate through the gears, fast enough for our pillion to go, “are you sure this is a scooter? It feels like one of your sports bikes.”

That the X-ADV does betray sporting intentions is clear from the fully-adjustable front upside-down forks and pre-load adjustable rear monoshock. We had absolutely no hesitation throwing the X-ADV into any sort of corner, whether on the race track or the road, trusting in the scooters electronics to take care of business.

Here’s the thing, we keep using the word “scooter” when the X-ADV is a rather curious hybrid between the world of road bikes and scooters. This is because when we switched the X-ADV to ‘S’ mode where the gearbox shifts at higher engine rpm, things became rather much more interesting.

We had previously ridden Honda’s DCT box on the CRF1000L Africa Twin in Morocco, courtesy of Bridgestone tyres, and navigating the tight twisties of the Atlas mountains had the author tied up in knots. Trying to wrap our mind around the unnecessary need to change gear and lack of engine braking almost had us riding off a cliff after missing an apex.

Switching to manual mode transformed the behaviour of the X-ADV, making it behave very much more like a sports bike, albeit one without a clutch and we liked this one best. A simple up or down motion of the thumb on the left hand and the DCT gearbox would slip into whatever gear the rider selected.

This meant the X-ADV was quite ready to handle the usual mountain roads we ride for testing purposes and it did, loaded with pillion. Diving into the corners fully loaded did not phase the X-ADV in the slightest save a little tendency to bob and weave which we attribute to a little too much curry the night before.

The X-ADV took corners at three-digit speeds without a single whimper and our pillion liked the wide rear seat and grab rails. During one of our stops, she asked, “how fast were we going?” Our reply made her go, “oh, but it didn’t feel that fast.”

And this is true, because the wind protection afforded by the screen is enough to keep both rider and pillion in a reasonable buffet free zone, with only the top of the helmet and shoulders affected by the wind. With a pillion on board, the still air bubble is even bigger and led to us riding with visor open most of the time to get some ventilation.

Out on the highway, the X-ADV acquitted itself well, belying its 238 kg. Not light for a scooter but about right for a more touring oriented motorcycle, or a cross-over of a bike, should we say.

Doing the straight line speed run, there was enough grunt from the twin to propel the X-ADV to “whee!” levels with a little left over for the “oh my god we’re all going to die!” moments. Suffice it to say, keeping up and overtaking highway traffic was not an issue, neither was nipping at the heels and over taking sports bikes with more cautious riders.

More and more, as we spent time with the X-ADV, we found a lot to like about it, being pressed into service as a commuter and general running about. It did the job well and without fuss, as does most Honda products, which some riders take as being bland.

But, bland is something you cannot apply to the X-ADV as it did attract a fair amount of attention everywhere it went. While it outwardly resembles a scooter, it’s sheer size, with 820 mm seat height, meant it was the same physical size as a full-sized motorcycle.

This is not a tiny street run-about by any stretch of the imagination and we sometimes found negotiating tight city traffic a bit of chore with those wide handlebars. Care has to be taken when slipping in between cars and cutting through traffic at walking pace made us very aware of the X-ADV’s weight, despite the low centre of gravity.

If we had to fault the X-ADV for one thing, is the lack of ground clearance. 95% riders will never encounter this, but we had the chance to fling the X-ADV around Sepang for one and the author is not known for his mercy in taking a machine into a corner, for another.

Once you reach the limit, the floorboards ground out quite readily on both left and right sides and pushing the issue further will allow the rider to become intimately acquainted with the tarmac. So, choose your moments carefully and commit to the corner, the X-ADV prefers it that way.

Step-over height is also a little tall over the centre hump so leave that little black miniskirt at home. If you feel the need for a centre stand, the X-ADV has one but you need to find that precise point when lifting it becomes effortless, which comes with practice.

So, who needs a 2018 Honda X-ADV, retailing as it does in that sweet spot between RM50,000 and RM70,000? For one, a rider’s choice of proper road is extensively wide at this price point, with options such as the Yamaha MT-09 Tracer or Triumph Tiger 800 XRX.

Cast the net a little wider outside the adventure style market and the choices are numerous. However, the X-ADV is a quirky little thing, falling into the little niche between a run-of-the-mill super scooter and just brushing the edge of being a proper motorcycle with that DCT gearbox.

What we will say is this, if you like your riding a little outside the norm, want to just ride without having to worry about things like the correct gear and for general running about, the X-ADV makes an ideal only bike. You know you want one. We do.