Nearly 60 years later, in 2017, the 100 millionth Super Cub was built, cementing its status as the most popular motor vehicle the world has ever seen. Along the way, the Super Cub’s simple attributes of unique styling, reliability, frugality and sheer usability have never gone out of fashion. And it has quietly achieved exactly what Soichiro and Takeo wanted: to get people mobile and keep them mobile.
Up to late 2018, the Super Cub series had only been available in Japan, where it has long been popular with business users including the Japanese Post Office, and in South East Asia, where it retains an important role in people’s lives as private transport. Well aware of the number of urban European riders – across a wide range of age demographics – who look for credible retro-inspired machinery and head-turning style, Honda unveiled the Super Cub 125 in 2018 as a modern evolution of the legendary name, marking a new chapter in its long history.
For the 2022 year model, the Super Cub 125 receives further advances for its European audience. The timeless look is unchanged, but a brand-new EURO5-compliant engine and host of improvements drive it on, just as Soichiro and Takeo would have wanted.
A new air-cooled SOHC engine design, with ECU setting, intake and exhaust to match, gains the Super Cub 125 EURO5 compliance. It produces slightly more power, and is more efficient, returning fuel economy of 1.5 litres/100km (WMTC mode). The ACG output is also uprated.The classic styling is unchanged, and standard-fit pillion seat and footpegs are now added. Revised spring rates for front and rear suspension smooth the ride on rougher city streets.
- The completely new engine is smoother, more powerful and more efficient
- Revised ECU settings, intake and exhaust for EURO5 compliance
- Alternating Current Generator (ACG) gains uprated output
Efficient and durable, the Super Cub 125’s new 124cc air-cooled engine combines the bottom-end (with re-designed crankcases) of the current Japanese-market C110 with the SOHC two-valve cylinder head and top-end of the latest MSX Grom. Bore is set at 50mm, stroke at 63.1mm with compression ratio of 10.0:1. Peak power of 7.2kW (a 0.1kW increase) arrives @ 7,500rpm, with peak torque of 10.4Nm @ 6,250rpm.
Smoothing airflow on the clean side, the new airbox, designed to match the new engine, is smaller and combines with the new connecting tube and new injector position to improve driveability.
The outward appearance of the muffler - one of the many elements of the Super Cub’s ‘mythology’ - stays the same while the internals are re-worked; two catalysers were in place on the previous engine but, with the gain in combustion efficiency for EURO5 compliance, a single, more efficient catalyser is used. The ECU has new programming to maximise performance and efficiency and the Alternating Current Generator (ACG) output increased.
The gearbox remains a 4-speed unit (with neutral at the bottom) and – in true Super Cub tradition – is operated via ‘automatic’ centrifugal clutch, without the need for a clutch lever. At standstill the rider simply selects the gear required with the left hand foot lever and, as the throttle is opened, the clutch operates automatically and does so through each ratio change, up or down. Final drive ratio is 2.50 with 14T drive and 35T driven sprockets. A helical primary gear reduces ‘mechanical’ noise.
The Super Cub C125 engine returns amazing fuel economy – 1.5litres/100km (66.7km/l) (WMTC mode) giving a range of approx. 250km from the 3.7 litre fuel tank.
3.2 Styling & Chassis
- Evocative styling unchanged; pillion pad and footpegs now standard-fit
- New springs for fork and rear shock absorbers improve ride quality
- As before, all lighting is LED and Smart Key operation comes as standard
The Super Cub 125’s time-tested, evocative styling – defined instantly by the leg-guards and fully enclosed mechanical parts – remains unchanged, and is a design with one word in mind: ‘universality’. In other words, it has to be easy for a wide range of people to use. A key part of this ethos is the laid-forward ‘S-shaped silhouette’ which runs from the step-through space to rear mudguard, making access on and off easy. New for the 2022 year model is the addition of a pillion seat and foot pegs as standard equipment.
Also instantly recognisable as Super Cub is the ‘unit’ steering, which unifies the separate elements – forks, handlebars and leg shields – into one cohesive whole. On the original machine the handlebars, shaped to be like the wings of a bird, were a tactile and welcoming sales point and the modern day Super Cub C125 with its forged, tapered handlebar wrapped in curvaceous moulded resin incorporating the switchgear and instruments, pays loyal homage to the original.
The grips are placed in a natural, easy-to-hold position and complement the straight-backed riding position, which gives excellent all-round visibility. Aiding comfort, the seat uses thick, high-density urethane foam. It is also cut back on both sides up front, helping ground reach.
All lighting is contemporary LED while the instruments highlight the depth of the overall design with two lenses separated by dual chrome rings. The outer ring houses the sweep of the analogue speedometer’s needle plus warning lights; the inner an understated digital display.
A modern finishing touch is the Honda Smart Key which also controls the immobiliser as an extra theft deterrent, and is equipped with an ‘answer back’ function whereby the indicators will ‘blink’ at the push of a button to make finding the vehicle easy in busy parking areas. And, with a nod to its forebears (and underlining its place in Honda’s history) a historical 3D ‘Classic Wing’ logo crowns the Smart Key fob.
Fun, easy handling has always been another Super Cub strength. To this end, the tubular steel ‘backbone’ frame has a rigidity balance carefully tuned around the headstock and between the engine mounting points, to optimise performance for the 124cc engine; the redesigned engine crankcases have new mounting hangers. Both handlebars and seat are rubber mounted and the footpegs also feature rubber inserts.
Rake and trail are set at 26.5°/71mm with wheelbase of 1,245mm. Wet weight is 110kg. 100mm travel telescopic forks feature new springs improving control; the twin rear shocks (matched to body colour) also use new springs and bump-stop material for a smoother ride on bumpy roads, while elegant 17-inch die-cast aluminium wheels (with machined rims and spokes) add stability and steering precision. Tubeless tyres are fitted, sized 70/90-17 front and 80/90-17 rear.
A 220mm front disc brake and single-piston caliper are matched by a 110mm rear drum.
Super Cub facts
- Unsurprisingly, over six decades of production, the Super Cub has some remarkable stories and achievements behind it. Here are just fifteen:
- The first prototype wasn’t drawn out on paper, but using a clay model, into which Mr. Honda himself had strong input, using some ideas from a fact-finding trip to Europe in 1956.
- The first 1958 Super Cub C100’s low-floor backbone frame (for easy step-through), large leg shields (for protection from dust from unpaved roads), fully ‘enclosed’ bodywork (to hide the engine and harnesses), seagull-inspired handlebar shape and sky-inspired blue fairing laid down a universal template for decades to come.
- The size 17 inch wheels (relatively large in order to handle Japan’s uneven road surfaces) were designed and made exclusively for the Super Cub.
- It has always used a four stroke engine – even from its first 1958 incarnation.
- It had to avoid the need for a clutch lever so a delivery rider could ride one-handed with a stack of Soba noodle boxes on his left shoulder.
- Honda’s Suzuka factory was built in 1960 to help meet the demand for the hit product.
- The Super Cub has been produced in 16 factories across 15 different countries, and sold in 160 different countries.
- The Super Cub went on sale in the USA in 1959, with a sticker price of just $295. It took west coast surfing youth by storm and paved the way for much bigger things for Honda in America.
- The first European production of Super Cub started in Honda Belgium (the second ‘overseas’ factory to product the vehicle).
- It also starred in the ‘You meet the nicest people on a Honda’ ad campaign that changed the American perception of motorcycles away from being vehicles associated mainly with ‘biker gangs’.
- The Beach Boys made it even more famous in 1964 with their song ‘My Little Honda’.
- Also introduced to South Asia in 1964 the Super Cub became prized family transport that neatly dealt with the overwhelming traffic of the ever-growing major cities.
- The Japanese Patent Office awarded it a 3D trademark registration in 2014, recognising its shape and design as an iconic Honda product, and making it the first vehicle to achieve this status.
- Original sales were projected to be possibly 30,000 a month, which was amazing at the time as total motorcycle production in Japan was around 40,000 units a month, but something of an underestimate in the end.
- In typical, low-key Super Cub way on October 29th, 2017 a commemorative ceremony was held at Honda’s Kumamoto factory to mark worldwide production of 100 million units.