Our story and video on the Nissan Langlider explained the trend toward narrow track vehicles and the convergence of the car and motorcycle. It also covered all of the major two-, three- and four-wheeled vehicles already at, or soon to be at market, or so we thought. What we missed is potentially the most important of them all - Honda’s three-wheeled Gyro, a Japanese-only delivery scooter with two wheels at the back that tilts just like the Xingyue. It’s fully enclosed, gets 100mpg and even in Japan sells for less than US$3500.
Honda’s three-wheeled Gyro can be purchased naked or fully enclosed and is designed like a cab-chassis utility, to be fitted with an aftermarket rear section suitable for your line of business.
To say they are the most common road vehicle in Tokyo, the world’s largest and most congested urban area, is no exaggeration. The frugal 50cc engine enjoys a tax break in Japan, and in a city where vehicles rarely get near the speed limits, is more than powerful enough to get the job done. Equally interesting is the array of boxes built onto the platform, some of which offer enough carrying capacity to fit a small third world country. It’s a monumental sales success in Japan and has been produced in one form or another for 28 years, with the actual Gyro model now in production for 27 years.
Remarkably, the design is not Honda’s. It was patented in the UK in 1966 and first marketed as the BSA Ariel 3 in 1970. The company fell apart soon after that and it was subsequently licensed to Honda.
Why the design has never been seen much outside of Japan is a mystery – the two rear wheels offer additional stability at low speeds, and the CVT transmission matches up well with Honda’s now fuel-injected 50cc motor to offer a range of nearly 250km from a tiny 5L fuel tank – the Gyro returns in excess of 100mpg in any language.
So let's get this straight. The world's largest and most respected motorcycle manufacturer has a tilting, fully enclosed three-wheeler that gets 100mpg, has massive cargo space, a 30-year record of reliability and ... it's only available in Japan. Could Honda be striving to build new and better machinery for emerging markets when indeed it has a 30-year-old killer app already in the garage?